"Over the past 35 years the working class has been devalued, the result of an economic version of the Hunger Games. It has pitted everyone against each other, regardless of where they started. Some contestants, such as business owners, were equipped with the fanciest weapons. The working class only had their hands. They lost and have been left to deal on their own.
"The consequences can be seen in
nearly every town and rural county and aren’t confined to the industrial
north or the hills of Kentucky either. My home town in Florida, a small
town built around two orange juice factories, lost its first factory in
1985 and its last in 2005.
"In the South Buffalo neighborhood of Lackawanna, homes have yet to
recover from the closing of an old steel mill that looms over them. The
plant, once one of many, provided the community with jobs and stability.
The parts that haven’t been torn down are now used mainly for storage.
Utica, New York, a boarded-up GE plant that’s been closed for more than
20 years sits behind Mr Nostalgia’s, a boarded-up bar where workers
once spent nights. Jobs moved out of state and out of the country. The
new jobs don’t pay as well and don’t offer the same benefits, so folks
now go to the casino outside of town to try to supplement their income. [...]
"Over the past 35 years, except for the very wealthy, incomes have stagnated, with more people looking for fewer jobs.
Jobs for those who work with their hands, manufacturing employment, has
been the hardest hit, falling from 18m in the late 1980s to 12m now.
"The economic devaluation has been made more painful by the fraying of the social safety net,
and more visceral by the vast increase at the top. It is one thing to
be spinning your wheels stuck in the mud, but it is even more demeaning
to watch as others zoom by on well-paved roads, none offering help.
is not just about economic issues and jobs. Culturally, we are
witnessing a tale of two Americas that are growing more distinct by the
"The differences are manifest in education. The pathway offered out of the working class is to get a college education. Yet at the best colleges there are very few low-income students, except for a few lucky enough to grow up in New York City, Los Angeles or Boston.
"Differences are also stark around health issues, as well as social issues such as marriage, family and where people live.
The growing differences have made it easier and seemingly acceptable to
ridicule the white working class, further marginalizing and isolating
them. Go into an office in New York City (I worked in them for 20 years)
and you will hear people joke about 'white trash', 'trailer trash', 'rednecks', 'round people from square states'. Turn on the TV and you
hear more cheap jokes about how they dress, talk and behave.
the isolation has increased and opportunity diminished, some have turned
to drugs. America, and particularly the white working class, is dealing
with a drug epidemic that is killing more people each year at a
startling rate. Just in the past decade deaths from drugs has doubled.
National Review sees it as another sign of the flawed character of the
poor. This is a common and moralistic trope those battling an addiction
have long dealt with – that it is all the fault of their weakness. The
reality is often far more complex. Addiction thrives in societies
undergoing stress. How much someone abuses drugs is a measure of the trauma, pain, anxiety and isolation someone has experienced." - Chris Arnade