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The Despair of Poor White Americans (theatlantic.com)
86 points by SonicSoul on Aug 6, 2016 | hide | past | favorite | 128 comments



Not one mention of religion in the article. Not one mention of the 2010 or 2014 elections and what happened in DC. No talk of the difference between the reporting on the Tea Party and what actually happened, No EPA, no school lunch program talk, and no talk about every Atlantic article that demonizes some aspect of the rural areas including farming.

Its pretty simple why Trump won the GOP nomination: a lot of folks are not happy with the actions of politicians and want a definite change. If that doesn't work, they'll try someone more radical.

or

if you keep demonizing a group, expect them to send an actual demon eventually

Read this one for the other side of the coin: https://www.amazon.com/Flyover-Nation-Country-Youve-Never/dp...


The primary explanation for the success of Trump is that he is a competent representative of a section of the population, that is currently unrepresented in the party spectrum. "Competent" means he has an organisation, is seen as potentially electable, and accurately reflects the concerns of his own voters.

This is also the primary explanation for the rise of right-wing European nationalists, and the Brexit vote. Their success is a restructuring of the party landscape, to conform more closely with the attitudes and aspirations of the electorate. Two-party systems tend to exclude new parties, but if enough voters are dissatisfied, then sooner or later there will be a shift in the political spectrum.

Trump has clear policies, which certainly on immigration correspond to the positions of populist parties in Europe. He does not have a full policy platform, but that is not necessary for a populist party to be successful. It only needs to address the issues which anger its electorate. And that is the reality which needs to be considered: a section of the population is angry at the political class for ignoring their concerns and fears.

Simply disparaging Trump and his voters does not offer an alternative explanation for his success, or for comparable populist success in other countries.


To be clear, the 'realignment' in Europe and to some extent the US is a function of the dissolution of the classical left.

'Left Wing' used to be a 'labour movement', i.e. workers rights, unions, social welfare etc.. In the UK the left is called 'the labour party'.

But modern left wing parties are 'intellectually left' or 'socially progressive'. They are interested in gender issues, abortion, identity etc..

The 'academic left' wants gay marriage, abortion, to promote ideas such as 'white privilege', they are often not 'pro law enforcement' or 'nationalist' (in the classical sense), they are 'anti Christian' - or rather secular when it comes to Christianity, but are actually supportive of almost all other forms of religious expression (i.e. Islamic head coverings etc.), going even so far as to create another religion: 'Kwanza'.

But 'regular lower-middle class white folk' are usually 'somewhat religious', they have varying opinions on abortion but are generally weary of it, are somewhat tolerant of gay culture but weary of gay marriage, are generally 'pro police', and somewhat nationalist. Ok with immigration but are very weary of illegal immigration, whereas the new left tries to equate 'illegal' and 'legal' immigration as the same thing. They generally support more classical values. Boy/Girl Scouts. Joining the service as an act of duty. Valuing family. Christmas. Etc..

The leadership of left-wing parties around the world is utterly disconnected from their voters, which is changing the landscape. In the UK particularly.

In America - this effect is dampened by newcomers. Almost all African Americans and most Latinos vote 'default Democrat' and those two groups are growing quite a lot along with most other new immigrants, especially those who are visible minorities.

'Working class' America is shifting rightwards due to the lack of representation among classical Democrats.

Combine the fact that you have 'big corporate' Republicans as well as Dems in the centre, you have remaining the 'gun toters' and 'tea partiers' which can have a nastier element on the fringe, and you get Donald Trump.

There basically is no party to represent regular, working-class-ish white people, which is a huge demographic.

It's a crazy time.


"The leadership of left-wing parties around the world is utterly disconnected from their voters,"

I should say 'some of their voters'.

There are large swaths of younger, urban voters who are supportive of 'new left'.

As we learned with Brexit, it's not as big as one would think.

'New Left' has more in common with the Green Party than it does regular, lower middle class voters, which is he ideological shift I'm trying to articulate.


I'm obviously not from the UK, but I was listening to something about Wales and their vote. Is that part of what your talking about? I don't think I get UK politics particularly since I don't understand the whole Labor leader dynamic.


UK is mostly similar to the US, but without a gun-rights, anti-abortion or evangelical vote.

Old left = unions, basic social services, getting women into education in the workplace - but still ok with religion.

New left = environmentalism, gender feminism/'white privilege'/'male privilege', all migrants are legal, free university, gay marriage, very weary of Christianity

Old left = working class, factory workers etc.

New left = urbanites, minorities, young people in or just out of school

Obviously they are not entirely different things.

But the 'new left' is not 'class based' as it used to be.


In the US at least the social left has gained momentum and power because society was changing but Republicans despite the loss in 08 and 12 kept pandering to the religious/social right instead of moving to the center on those issues so kept loosing support.


> Simply disparaging Trump and his voters does not offer an alternative explanation for his success, or for comparable populist success in other countries.

I cannot speak for other countries. I think trying to link trends across countries always generalizes over local cultural differences.

I think that you are missing the history and treating Trump as just another pick. This is an accumulation with some very specific disappointments from the elation of the 2010 (primarily) and 2014 elections with the national party putting the hammer to many of the elected representatives.

This is a personality vote, not a policy vote. He is actually more liberal than many of his supporters and the whole eminent domain thing is problematic. The wall offends the media, but its not the sum of it all.


> if you keep demonizing a group, expect them to send an actual demon eventually

Best line I read on HN today. This explains so much about everybody... Thank you.


I didn't like Trump at first. Now I like him. I think he would probably do better than Obama, though that is a pretty low bar. I don't think he is a demon at all. Even if he turn out to be evil, am pretty confidant he is the lesser evil between him and Hillary.


That book looks interesting but it also seems like it is mostly anecdotal. I'd prefer something similar but with hard numbers behind it. Is my impression mistaken?


Its mostly anecdotal, but in a lot of ways that's part of the problem. Most of the selected books with stats are by people who haven't lived in rural areas for a while. Its basically archeology by number more than direct study. Plus, we're talking about culture, hard numbers are not the whole story or even the majority of the story. This quantify and categorize everything culture is part of the problems with understanding.

Now for my pet peeve from writing grants in the 90's: The federal government is pretty damn lax about getting rural numbers from studies. Its either a nationwide study or urban areas only. The stuff they get from rural areas is the stuff that doesn't require someone in DC to actual do anything beyond taking basic numbers and putting into a spreadsheet.


This quantify and categorize everything culture is part of the problems with understanding.

I don't see how one can claim to understand something without quantifying it. What is often referred to as understanding should IMO be called empathy instead, because it's necessary but not sufficient for finding solutions. Actions can be motivated by empathy, but they need to be supported by quantitative evidence.


> I don't see how one can claim to understand something without quantifying it.

How much do you love your partner or nearest relatives in numeric terms? How do you work out disagreements. I think we have slipped a little far from the path of actual understanding to know what we need to measure and how.


That's not what I would call understanding. And we do use quantifiable or at least rational means to resolve disagreements. That's the only way to be sure of being equitable.


Pattern recognition. Trust your brain to sense, judge, and intuit the correct answer. You can identify correlations without turning a computer on if you have enough qualitative 'data'.

That's what being an educated person is all about.


That doesn't sound like it could possibly scale. I sure wouldn't trust anyone's individual brain to intuit correct answers for an entire society without having quantitative data.


I think the problem is is when their arguments are presented, such as the write up for that book, they are filled with logical fallacies, hyperbole, poor morals and ineffective policies.

Just a quick list from that page -

"Dana Loesch believes in Christianity, patriotism, traditional marriage, and the right to bear arms, among other “quaint” ideas. For the elites in DC, Los Angeles, New York, and Silicon Valley, that makes her as bizarre as a three-headed dog." - Nice use of "elites". If you disagree with her, you must be one of those crazy elites. Also, nice fallacy equating her views with patriotism and Christianity, again if you disagree you must not be a true patriot/Christian.

• In Flyover America, people believe criminals should be punished. Coastal America focuses on “rehabilitation.” --Unless you believe in revenge and career criminals, rehabilitation is a far better way to deal with convicted criminals. Also, nice use of quotes on rehabilitation. If you just want to punish them and not try to stop their cycle of criminality, what sort of people are these? Not good ones.

• Flyovers think the Declaration of Independence was crystal clear: “All men are created equal.” For Coastals, Black Lives Matter—but anyone who adds that all lives matter must be a racist. ---First, hilariously myopic because the Declaration of Independence was written when slavery was in full gear and women has very few rights. Hence "all men". Also, if you don't understand what people mean when they say "Black Lives Matter" you are really lacking empathy and saying "All lives matter" is missing the point so hard, that yes, it borders on racism.

• Coastals think they understand firearms because they watched a TV movie about Columbine. Fly- overs get a deer rifle for their thirteenth birthday. --I'm pretty sure the debate is over military style weapons with large magazine and high rates of fire, not deer rifles. But nice strawman.

• Coastals talk about blue-collar workers in the abstract. Flyovers have a relative who works the night shift in a granola bar factory, where the big perk is taking home a bag full of granola bars every Friday. ---No one on the coasts have shitty jobs. Nope.

• Coastals think every problem—from hurt feelings to the cost of birth control—requires government intervention and huge federal spending. Flyovers know that money isn’t magic fairy dust, and many problems can be solved only by individual character and hard work. ---Many problems can be solved only by individual character and hard work, except of course for all the problems "fly-over nation" has. Or is she saying that those people don't have character and are lazy? Hard to tell. Or maybe she's just demonizing the government to pander to her audience.

How can you be angry at Walmart if you’ve never shopped in one? --How can I be against the use of nuclear weapons if I have never survived one? The answer is called education, research and data. Surprisingly, you can learn things and form opinions without having to experience the thing you are researching.

How can you hate the police if you’ve never needed help from a cop? --- I think she's trying to say "How can white 'elites' on the coast hate the police if they don't need them". Which of course, more logical fallacies. Talking about police corruption and wanting to do something about it is of course is the same thing as hating them, right? Right?

How can you attack Christians if you don’t have a single friend who goes to church? -- How can you attack Muslims if you don't have a single friend who goes to mosque? Oh wait. She probably wouldn't want that question turned around on her. Also, who's attacking Christians? 70% of the country is Christian. What is she afraid of? Is this is a war on Christmas thing? Manufactured outrage created by media companies to get ratings.

If you aren't willing to step up to the table with rational, well reasoned arguments that improve the country as a whole why should people bother to listen? Asking how can they judge walmart if they haven't been in one? It'd be laughable if people didn't take it seriously.


"Also, if you don't understand what people mean when they say "Black Lives Matter" you are really lacking empathy and saying "All lives matter" is missing the point so hard, that yes, it borders on racism."

That is a meaningless statement. One could just as easily reverse it:

Also, if you don't understand what people mean when they say "All Lives Matter" you are really lacking empathy and saying "Black lives matter" is missing the point so hard, that yes, it borders on racism.


Not really. Saying All Lives Matter is like going to a Breast Cancer charity event and protesting, "ALL CANCERS MATTER!" You're missing the point of the movement/event. Because of course, on paper, all lives matter, but in the real world we're pretty far from that. ALM is a just a dismissive response and action against a movement that's trying to bring attention on where we want to be from where we currently are.


The value of a Black Life needs to appreciate. Black lives matter isnt a function of All Lives Matter. All Lives Matter is not a thing...there is nothing there, so its not like BLM was a reaction to it.

BLM is a reaction to the higher-order values that ALM flows from. The sort of values which function to ignore injustice and perpetuate white supremacy. Of course all lives matter. Which is why I say to you, Black Lives Matter! It correctly identifies a problem so that leaders in white and black and diverse communities can actually do something about it. It's not abstract; people are dying.


No you couldn't.


> How can you be angry at Walmart if you’ve never shopped in one?

> --How can I be against the use of nuclear weapons if I have never survived one? The answer is called education, research and data. Surprisingly, you can learn things and form opinions without having to experience the thing you are researching.

You go for the absurd from the quotes on a jacket meant to sell books. Whose opinion and research are you getting? The people she is talking about are the ones writing up that research and opinion. Someone actually needs to directly observe.

> How can you hate the police if you’ve never needed help from a cop? --- I think she's trying to say "How can white 'elites' on the coast hate the police if they don't need them". Which of course, more logical fallacies. Talking about police corruption and wanting to do something about it is of course is the same thing as hating them, right? Right?

Nope, that's not what she's saying and I would direct you to read the actual book, not the cover blurbs.

> How can you attack Christians if you don’t have a single friend who goes to church? -- How can you attack Muslims if you don't have a single friend who goes to mosque? Oh wait. She probably wouldn't want that question turned around on her. Also, who's attacking Christians? 70% of the country is Christian. What is she afraid of? Is this is a war on Christmas thing? Manufactured outrage created by media companies to get ratings.

Nope, that's not what she's saying and I would direct you to read the actual book, not the cover blurbs. Whose attacking Christians? She gives specific cases in the book.

> If you aren't willing to step up to the table with rational, well reasoned arguments that improve the country as a whole why should people bother to listen? Asking how can they judge walmart if they haven't been in one? It'd be laughable if people didn't take it seriously.

This pretty much is the sum of things. Answer everything with hyperbole and dismissal so you don't have to take a look at other people's point of view.


So, I'll grant you that the book may not be saying those things. But if that's how its being presented, and the author approved that representation, why would one bother to pick it up and give it a try?


I think a person not trying to call the author a racist or disparage the topic would find the description par for the course in that category of book regardless of author or ideology. Publishers do know how to sell books. I think a person who goes into the book with a must-find-fault attitude wouldn't gain anything from the experience, just as for any other book.

As to why? I don't know how much control she has over that, not that I disagree with it in the first place. I know from a couple of author friends on the bottom rungs of the ladder that blurb and cover are very often not approved by the author. If you routinely judge books like that then you might instead want to read the first chapter or listen to the audio sample.


Yes, I think there's a failure to understand on the "flyover" side as well.


How do I know you've never lived in flyover land? Because your mouth. Sit the fuck down.


So many people in Silicon Valley are preoccupied with developing the next killer application; meanwhile, there are tens of millions of poor Americans, white and otherwise, whose potential goes to waste due to social, cultural, geographic, educational, technological, economic, and other constraints. Within their world, they don't see opportunity; they see economic and social decay; and they despair. It's a huge waste of human capital.

Talk about BIG challenges: how could this be fixed, assuming it can be fixed?


I grew up white and very poor. We often had to choose between food and electricity. We had people giving us clothes. Our house was filled with filth and roaches and head lice. We didn't go to dentists and doctors. (Main reason why I wasn't diagnosed with Cystic Fibrosis until age 13)

In my situation, problem was caused by two main issues:

* Alcoholism. My dad functioned well, so it wasn't necessarily a matter of drinking up all the money, as much as getting to the drink was a primary objective, leaving little room for motivation to do more in life. He was quite intelligent, but didn't care. (I've personally taken a few trips down that road myself, but have fortunately gotten out of it, and am currently 15 months sober)

* Mental health. My mom had serious undiagnosed mental health issues. Like talking to people who weren't there, the inability to function as seemingly routine tasks, explosive temper at virtually nothing. Like the alcoholism, I can see elements of this in myself as well.

I'm obviously on HN because I'm a developer, and doing well for myself, but these issues are still there, and I still feel "poor". My family still is, and I put as much distance between me and that situation as possible. I could possibly help them be a little less poor, but it's not a money thing. It's a mentality thing.


> 15 months sober

Congratulations!


Thank you. Each day is a new opportunity to have to start over. Don't get me started on tech conferences, lol....


Yes, double congrats.

And 'tech conferences'? Loserville. No offence. I like techies, and like talking tech. But getting drunk with nerds is not fun.


Trust me, I'm probably Exhibit A why getting drunk with nerds isn't fun.


Thing is, Silicon Valley isn't really going to fix those problems. In fact, we're only really going to make it worse through automation and job destruction. Ultimately, making menial labor obsolete is a good thing, but the transition is tough.

And entrepreneurship isn't going to soften the tumble. It requires intervention of a different kind.


It requires exactly the transition that Marx posited - redistribution of wealth to those who's livelihoods have been automated away. Taken to the limit of automation, that's pretty much anyone who's living is dependent on labor (this includes programmers).


No. He key idea of Marx was that the person adding value should own the means of doing so. Which, if you think about it, is exactly what's happening. The key element of value creation is the mind and that is owned by the person. Marx has nothing much left for people who _do not_ add value simply because back then that meant being "the problem". He who does not work must not eat. But what if there simply is no need to work? You should not try to apply social theories of late 18th century to the one of early 21st.


There's a very easy way it can be fixed. Those people can leave their world and go join a better one.

They can migrate to the American southwest and do agricultural labor, competing with the illegal immigrants doing jobs that "Americans just won't do". They can migrate to the distant outskirts of high productivity cities (e.g. NY, SF), then commute in and provide domestic labor to high productivity individuals. There is plenty of opportunity out there; if there weren't then people from around the world wouldn't be desperately attempting to enter the US.

Hundreds of millions of Indians, Chinese and others engage in internal migration, moving themselves to where the jobs are. Americans could too.

This is just not a fix that Silicon Valley can do; if a man doesn't want to fix himself, then Peter Thiel can't build an app to do it for him.


"competing with the illegal immigrants doing jobs that "Americans just won't do"."

So your answer is to work on farms for $5 an hour with no benefits, no worker protections?

Is that satire?

You do realize that Americans will 'do those jobs' once wages and working conditions rise to the acceptable, but they will never be so long as mass illegal immigration is kept in place?

Illegal immigration is a very corrosive trap: once one farmer, in economic trouble hires illegals and cuts his costs, all of the others have to follow suite - it's a thin margin game. And then it's a trap the industry cannot get out of.

Most farmers would happily employ Americans for higher wages and better conditions if economics allowed for it. But so long as there are tons of illegals, and 5% of farmers who will take advantage of it - the rest have to follow suit.

Open border / illegal immigration is a very corrosive thing.

Also - the Asians that come to America are not 'mobile'. They don't go to Alabama and Georgia, generally. They go to areas where there are many other Asian people, which is rational on their part. I don't think it's fair to compare people who have lived in some area for 5 generations to newcomers.

Jobs for the less skilled are not plentiful in America. There is a lot of opportunity for the upper 50%, but it's not the same for others.


Yes, the pesky economy preventing good wages. The "economy" is not a magic thing that can be turned better or worse at will. It is a complex machine driven by feedback and some basic rules. Jobs for less skilled are not plentiful anywhere any more because automation and that's the problem. Work goes away. People drink themselves silly and get a ton of children in trailer parks because it is possible. You no longer need to work 12 hours a day so you do not die. It's not nice, it's not easy but it is possible. I do not have a solution but if we are to solve this, we have to look at the fundamental problem rather than complain about the "economy".


I didn't complain about the economy, I complained about illegal immigrants, which create a systematic problem.

Also - the greatest wave of automation happened long ago, in the industrial revolution. We managed to find jobs for people then, we will now.


Do note that oppressive land-use regulation and NIMBYism has made this avenue harder and harder over the years. The cities with jobs and functioning societies have closed themselves off, or at least raised the buy-in to very high prices. This isn't the only barrier stopping people from internal migration, but it certainly is a fairly important one.


If you're poor in an area with a low cost of living, you'll just be poor in a different area, only now you have a new set of concerns. I also think you discount social networks (the real kind) among migrant workers that facilitate those jobs.


Are you suggesting a root cause for why they haven't en masse made the migration? Without that, I can't see how this amounts to more than a moral argument.


Or even small challenges. There are so many little fixes to be made, bureaucracies and applications that could be streamlined or informational asymmetries that could be smoothed.

Even someone applying for food stamps has to jump so many hurdles, sometimes including in-person interviews! As if someone who has difficulty affording food every day has an excess of time and reliable transportation. (Then again, these people aren't easily monetized, unless you're comfortable exploiting them. c.f. check cashing.)

I'm hopeful for initiatives like the US Digital Service. And I wish our culture stopped glamorizing startups for being worth a lot of pretend money, and instead valued them on how much they did to advance us as an equitable society.


Many startups may be worth "pretend" money, but many are worth real money. And even the ones that are worth "pretend" money create jobs, not just for engineers.

> And I wish our culture stopped glamorizing startups for being worth a lot of pretend money, and instead valued them on how much they did to advance us as an equitable society.

It is not the job of businesses to pursue social engineering goals like an equitable society. That is the job of government, and government needs money to do those things, which can come from taxing successful businesses.

People who suggest that businesses ought to pursue social goals don't fully understand what would happen if they got what they wished for -- a world where social goods and services are privatized -- provided by unaccountable private companies instead of elected governments.

For example, consider the state of public transit in Silicon Valley. There isn't much of it, and what there is sucks. So companies have started paying for their own bus routes, which are only open to their own employees. Taken together, those bus routes would comprise a very comprehensive public transit solution. But the general public can't use them. This is what happens when companies do the government's job.

Consider also the backlash against Bill Gates' education initiatives in Seattle: http://www.prwatch.org/news/2016/04/13085/charitable-plutocr...

Besides, if we rely on corporations for social progress, they could easily promote right-wing policies, which is the opposite of what you seem to want.

It's really much better when businesses stay out of politics entirely and maximize their wealth creation, and the government redistributes that wealth to the extent necessary to accomplish its social goals.


The main issue is education. its unbelievable that you spend like 8 hours a day for 12 years doing something and in the end you can't really do anything well. The advent of the Internet has really changed things up but we are still wasting people's lives away.


I would argue that federalizing education has made the problem worse, not better. Much of what passes for elementary and secondary education is silly fluff compared to what was required two generations ago.


States have a lot of control over education funding, which is far more determinative of the quality of their education systems than the guidelines the federal government imposes. Every state has to deal with the same federal guidelines, but some have far better education systems than others -- due to funding.

Want to see education improved? Have the Feds take over funding, and give each school the same amount of money. The quality of schools in poor neighborhoods would increase dramatically, and the quality of schools in rich neighborhoods would decrease. Maybe then, the rich would be convinced to support increased educational funding.

In other countries, people don't think about the quality of the local school district when they buy a home, because the districts are all similar in quality. Again, a matter of funding.


Education is bad for you as a technology person. You're a member of a privileged guild.


Crack down on the businesses mass-importing slave labor from outside the US. Unskilled labor isn't being replaced by robots and outsourcing, it's being replaced by imported labor that can be kept in line with various legal and extra-legal threats.


No, it's actually being replaced mainly by foreign competition. In the case of jobs that cannot be outsourced, like agricultural jobs (you can't harvest American crops without being in America), illegal immigrants have been doing that work for a very, very long time -- way before the manufacturing jobs started disappearing for white people.


Silicon Valley has already "fixed" this by creating a locus of economic and mental capital, unparalleled in the United States in the last few decades, attracting job-seekers from all rungs of the socioeconomic ladder from CEOs and CTOs through front-line workers in the service industry.

In the process, it is struggling with the area's incumbent zoning laws, not enough new construction, high cost of living, and, higher than average gap between the rich and the poor. They've concentrated so much capital and opportunity that it doesn't translate well to other places, despite attempts to incubate the same thing in Austin, Seattle, Raleigh, and the like. And if you were referring to "app-based" solutions as opposed to proven injection of capital, you're in uncharted waters.

Before Silicon Valley, the miracle non-extraction-based economic engine of the country was Detroit; before then it was Akron, Pittsburgh, Chicago, Buffalo, Rochester, and New York. If history is of any lesson, in the future we'll fondly remember Silicon Valley's "IT boom" of a couple decades, before the circumstances and realities of the situation changed and the next big thing after automobiles, rubber, steel, railroads and meatpacking, electricity, and shipping (respectively) came along.


> attracting job-seekers from all rungs of the socioeconomic ladder

We've had quite a lot of articles on HN about how bad the filter of using certain University enrollments to select a companies job seeks is for diversity in general. Economic diversity is also problematic when you only hire from top 25 schools.


Not every company has that filter. Many don't care if their employees went to college at all.


Does Google, Apple, Facebook, and Microsoft care? I know Microsoft targeted specific schools for specific areas. Google is biased towards PhDs from certain schools according to many articles. All that may have changed, but the big corps have their influence on the majority of hires.


Most of the companies which target specific schools do so only for new grads. Once you have a decent résumé in the industry, it doesn't really matter where you went to school, or even if you did.


> Most of the companies which target specific schools do so only for new grads.

Ok, so their new hires go through a filter that has some serious diversity problems. This means that the culture of the company skews towards the demographic they are hiring.

> Once you have a decent résumé in the industry, it doesn't really matter where you went to school, or even if you did.

How exactly does one get that decent resume when the bigger players are off limits? How does the culture of the company favor more new hires from selected institutions versus these upstarts. Let's also remember that our industry has a rather large ageist streak. A person who starts at Google is going to have a lot better prospects than someone working their way through smaller, probably local to their state, players.


You don't need to work for the big players to get a good resume. I know plenty of people who are in very high demand who have never worked for any of the big companies.


Silicon Valley employs very few people relative to the number of people employed by the industries it is disrupting.


I don't believe that. Do you have any data to back that up?


Kodak at its peak needed 10,000 workers to generate a billion dollars in revenue. Google needs less than 1,000.

The Bay Area only represents 4.5% of US GDP, so the impact on employment is small so far, but as software eats the world and companies become less like Kodak and more like Google, that's going to put a lot of people out of work.


> Talk about BIG challenges: how could this be fixed, assuming it can be fixed?

A military coup followed by a dictatorship, in which massive, forcible wealth redistribution would take place.

Silicon Valley, as the country's second greatest concentration of wealth, would not survive this.

The solution is dictated by the boundary conditions. Politics is a desperate struggle for who gets what.


All of the fixes people normally think of have already been operational for these people. They live in the richest country in the world -- a country with free and compulsory public education, and a social safety net that is better than most people think (not as good as Europe's, but a lot better than nothing). And yet, these people have nothing to offer to anyone -- no job skills of any kind, in many cases.

We can't bring the manufacturing jobs back for these people, either. Let's dispel the notion that the collapse of manufacturing jobs in the rust belt, where many of these people live, was the result of political choices. It was inevitable -- the rise of China, southeast Asia, and Latin American countries has revealed the truth that US manufacturing was not globally competitive, but merely sheltered. NAFTA sent some jobs to Mexico, but in the absence of NAFTA, those jobs would have gone to Asia instead. If the US government had decided to protect US manufacturing jobs at all costs, we would have quickly learned what "all costs" means -- the cost of protecting those jobs would have risen quickly over the years until we could not have afforded it anymore. The tariffs required to do so would have been an enormous drag on the economy, and on the well-being of most Americans, and therefore unsustainable economically and politically. So the political choices involved in the collapse of manufacturing jobs could at best have delayed the inevitable.

So, whatever we can do for these people is by degrees -- improve the free public education they already have, improve the welfare benefits they already have, maybe cut their taxes, if they earn enough to pay taxes. We can't bring the jobs back, and it's naive of them to believe candidates who promise that they can.

But maybe we shouldn't feel sorry for these people, who grew up in the richest country in the world, with free education, and have nothing to offer to anyone. A lot has been done for them already, and unlike almost any other group in this country, they cannot point to any injustices visited upon them as an excuse for their current state of affairs. Let's keep in mind that they were never enslaved, and that they were sheltered from competition from non-whites and foreigners for decades. They have managed to fail in a country designed to promote the success of white people, often at the expense of other groups. Their lives are significantly better, more comfortable, and more secure than those of people in many countries of the world. Billions of people live in poverty these poor white Americans could never imagine. These Americans have housing, enough to eat, clothes to wear, cars, TVs, video game consoles, government-provided health care (Medicaid) and welfare payments in many cases -- all the trappings of middle-class life in many parts of the world. What else do we owe them? Self-actualization?

Frankly, I'd rather give my money to some of the billions of people in the world who live in ramshackle houses with dirt floors, no electricity, no education, and no way out. These white Americans have enough that I don't see how they are entitled to any more unless they earn it themselves.


That's good and all to be disdainful, but if you live in the US you should care. People not being successful and happy here negatively impacts our country's capabilities. So it negatively affects you.

Also you are glorifying and over generalizing the opportunities to the Americans you disdain. Just because one has electricity does not mean one has opportunity. I think you'd be surprised to find that many Americans have no realistic way to know where to earn something themselves. 2 Hrs from NYC can be just as cut off from opportunity as 2000 miles.


Suppose you were to take an Indian a Chinese, or a Mexican and drop them in the US. Drop them 2 hours from NYC (Princeton or Long Island?), give them permission to work, and nothing else.

Do you think this person will be stuck in poverty forever, given that he's cut off from opportunity by a 2 hour train ride?

Also, I find your claim that people in New Haven or Poughkeepsie (approx 2 hours away) don't know they could find work in NYC simply implausible. I've had random conversations in broken Hindi with auto drivers; when they ask where I'm from and I tell them "New York", they immediately recognize it. Random people in South America, SE Asia, etc all seem to have a pretty good picture of what NYC is. Yet somehow someone from Allentown, PA doesn't?


As someone from Bangladesh, I think it's utterly ridiculous that you keep talking about how much better poor Americans have it than Indians or Chinese. So what? What does it matter that people from countries were things are desperately bad are willing to trade places with people who are in a pretty bad situation in a great country? It's utterly irrelevant.


It's hardly irrelevant. My claim is that the Indian, Bangladeshi or Chinese will better themselves and move up in the world, while the American refuses to do so.

That implies that it's the American's choices, rather than his circumstances, which cause him to be poor. How is that irrelevant?


The _average_ Indian, Bangladeshi or Chinese will move up in the world? I get the impression that you are comparing the exceptional people from those countries to the lowest performing Americans. Also, if the average person from those countries is so much more industrious than Americans, why do they need to come to America to enjoy a good life?


It's totally relevant, because it demonstrates that there are people in the world more worthy of help than poor Americans.


> I think you'd be surprised to find that many Americans have no realistic way to know where to earn something themselves. 2 Hrs from NYC can be just as cut off from opportunity as 2000 miles.

They have TV, and the internet. It's not like they are cut off from civilization, with no knowledge of life outside of their immediate surroundings. They know that places like NYC are where the rich people live, and where the jobs are. They just can't do those jobs.

I'm sure we would be better off if all of these people were successful and productive, but it's unrealistic to assume that would happen, for the reasons I've enumerated in my comment. The bottom line is that they have had many advantages, and they have failed in a country that was designed to help white people succeed. Every country has people like this. Look at England.

People tend to assume that if someone is poor, they must be a victim of injustice, and that opportunities need to be created for them. That is sometimes true, but not always. This is one of those cases where it isn't.

What solutions do you propose that could turn these people into successful, productive, happy members of society?


> They have TV, and the Internet.

Not often. Regardless, my solutions would start with chipping away at the disdain, indiffernece, and exploitation by privileged Americans. Wealth inequality creates a lot of the problems. Offshoring wealth to Ireland by Apple, FB, etc. to avoid taxes if you want to get even more granular.


> Not often.

Actually, almost everyone in America has TV and internet access, including the very poorest.


Kindly explain to me how I am misreading this article:

http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/teens-baltimore-poorer-health...

"DR. ROBERT BLUM, JOHNS HOPKINS URBAN HEALTH INSTITUTE: Well, first of all, just to put that in perspective, if Baltimore were a country, we would be 75th in the world for infant mortality, below every industrialize country and many low and middle-income countries."

That is an American neighborhood. Tell me how Medicare and welfare payments make everything alright again?

--

I don't know if you've looked at how much gov't assistance is paying out, but it's not enough to live on. There's a plethora of data contradicting everything you say, but it doesn't fit with your moralizing narrative.


it's not enough to live on. There's a plethora of data contradicting everything you say,

Why don't you cite some of it, then?

I can certainly cite plenty of data showing he's mostly right. For example, the poor mostly do not work, they mostly have good quality housing, and they have lots of food.

http://www.census.gov/content/dam/Census/library/publication...

http://www.census.gov/prod/2008pubs/h150-07.pdf

https://www.brookings.edu/2015/01/08/weight-and-social-mobil...

Concretely, what do you think he's wrong about, and where is the data supporting your claims?


Because the parent comment made the original assertion, and that's how the game works. "The earth is flat, prove me wrong!" no thanks.

Also, your second link is literally 642 pages, please point to the relevant part.


The second link is the American housing survey, and it describes in detail a huge number of qualities of housing.

For example (table 2-2, page 48), 2.75% of poor households have a sagging roof. 66% of poor households (table 2-3, page 50) have at least 2 rooms/person and 94% have at least 1 room/person. 3.5% (table 2-4, page 52) lack a complete kitchen.

I don't know of any single characteristic to cite to prove that the conditions of poor people's housing are good; but whatever specific characteristic you want info on, you can probably find it in that document.


Just a statistical note: infant mortality is accounted for differently in many countries. Due to how the US counts it, parts of Europe and other countries will often have a lower number. You would think it would be apples to apples, but it's not.


Your article does not explain why the infant mortality rate is so high there. I suspect that the behavior of people in that community, which the article states includes high rates of violence, including violence against children, is the primary cause of infant and non-infant mortality. You could build a world-class hospital in the middle of that community, and give away health care for free, and that community would still have high rates of mortality.

> I don't know if you've looked at how much gov't assistance is paying out, but it's not enough to live on.

Clearly it is, because these people don't have jobs and are able to afford housing, cars, TVs, Playstations, etc. How else are they paying for these things? Do you think they stole them? Clearly, the money they receive from the government is enough to live on. Maybe not enough to live comfortably, but enough.


Oh, you "suspect" that. How conclusive! Look at the data, and quit the horseshit about "these people" and their misguided priorities.

Food deserts. Lead paint poisoning. Lack of access to healthcare.

http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/opinion/editorial/bs-ed-hea...

"Take, for instance, Sharlene Adams who recently needed a blood pressure cuff. To buy one required no less than four bus rides, a stop at her doctor's office for his signature, a visit to two different pharmacies and a side trip to borrow money to make the required co-pay. The 55-year-old eventually got her hands on the $40 item in East Baltimore 5 1/2 hours after starting on her quest, the Maryland students documented."


Lack of access to healthcare actually probably has very little effect. See figure 8:

https://jama.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=2513561

Or see the Oregon experiment: https://www.nber.org/oregon/

Food deserts are actually the result of people's consumption choices - poor folks choose not to buy healthy food, so no one sells it to them. Making healthy food available does not change this behavior.

http://theincidentaleconomist.com/wordpress/giving-people-ac...


proximity to good food is necessary, but not sufficient, for healthy meals. People's consumption choices are also informed by (for example) whether they have the skills to cook the food that's available to them


There is plenty of data, in the article you linked, demonstrating that the behavior and priorities of these people are indeed misguided and violent. That's not what I suspect, that's what I know, and there is no shortage of data to back this up.

The thing I suspect is that the violence these people visit on themselves contributes more to their situation than lack of access to government services. I didn't say that more government services wouldn't help at all.

By the way, the Baltimore Sun article you cited is not about poor white people. It is about poor urban blacks in West Baltimore. That's not really relevant to this discussion, because blacks have faced enslavement and discrimination for centuries in this country. Discrimination against blacks, especially in hiring practices, has helped the poor white people we are talking about. Having to now compete against non-whites for jobs is a significant component of the poor white anger in this country, although many don't want to admit that.


> But maybe we shouldn't feel sorry for these people, who grew up in the richest country in the world blah blah blah ...

So, whites deserve nothing from the institutions of their own country, except the "privilege" to be permanently tainted by a kind of Original Sin, and neglected in favor of literally every other ethnic group? Got it.


I didn't say anything remotely like that.


Sure you did. Your third and fourth paragraphs essentially say, "These people, by virtue of being white Americans, do not deserve help from our country's institutions, because they are evil. Everyone else on earth is more deserving of help, and therefore, our country should give money to foreigners instead of its own people."

And people wonder where working-class rage comes from...


You're way off.

First of all, I said that these people already get plenty of help, and are not entitled to even more help.

Second, I did not say that "everyone else on Earth" was deserving of help. I said that some people are, because they are poorer than the Americans we are talking about.

Third, I did not say that our country should give money to anyone. I said that I would prefer to give my money to the poorest people in the world, and they are not Americans.

Fourth, I never said that anyone was evil. I did not even imply it.

I suspect you are intentionally making an uncharitable interpretation of my words, because no reasonable person would interpret them in such a twisted way.


Fair enough, not trying to put words in your mouth, but here's the thing: the "white privilege" narrative that you rely on here IS actually a way of declaring a group of people as being morally unworthy. Granted you didn't use the word "evil" but if a group is permanently tarred with the accusation that their group interests are not legitimate and never will be, it's not a stretch to suggest that this group is being accused of a kind of eternal "Original Sin" from which they can never be cleansed.

And anyway, it's clear from your explanation that if these people were not white, you might have some sympathy for them. How else are we to interpret statements like: "they cannot point to any injustices visited upon them as an excuse for their current state of affairs" and that "these people have nothing to offer to anyone" a few lines after you elucidate how the US Govt did nothing to protect American manufacturing jobs? What exactly do foreign manual laborers "have to offer" that white Americans don't, aside from being cheaper?


> the "white privilege" narrative that you rely on here IS actually a way of declaring a group of people as being morally unworthy.

No, it isn't. It is simply a recognition that some people are treated better than others because of their race. It says nothing about the legitimacy of a group's interests, and it certainly has nothing to do with the concepts of evil or sin.


Well, the very idea of group interests MEANS that group will treat some people better than others. So, are white people allowed to do that, or not?


Can Silicon Valley take care of its own long term needs?

Basic math and science research now is the soil Silicon Valley needs in the future. But government budgets are cut, and there's a philosophy that predominates that government is not the answer.

So Larry Page has Google do research and development. But there is the beginning of a stockholder rebellion. The trend is toward focus on short term ever-increasing stock returns each quarter. The powers-that-be want funding for basic math and science research trimmed down to nothing - both government and corporate.

Plus treaties like TPP are being pushed. If Silicon Valley profits on the increased spread of information, the TPP tries to tie down information in rules which seem out-of-date.

Also telcos (read AT&T and Verizon) are using their last-mile land/airwave monopoly power to redirect bad DNS calls to ads, hijack sessions and place cookies on them, they want to use their monopolies to charge upstreams fees etc.

Then there's the Eastern District of Texas patent racket.

An example of this discussed recently - in the years after World War II, the transistor was implemented and Moore's Law took effect. As everyone knows, that has slowed down in recent years and soon the current methods will hit a brick wall.

If you look at constant non-military R&D dollars coming from the federal budget, they are less this year than they were in 2003. The population is growing, the economy is growing and becoming more complex, but federal R&D dollars are shrinking.

Also, you talk as if wasting human capital was not an intention of our current mode of production and economic system. Look at this 1999 Businessweek article, "When is the jobless rate too low?" ( http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/1999-10-31/when-is-th... ). The worry by the people controlling the economy starts when unemployment gets too low, not when it's too high. Of course, if it starts climbing up to 25% like it did in 1932 in the US, turmoil starts to take hold, so in that respect they're against high unemployment on the other end.

Why do you assume wasted human capital is the concern of those making the economic decisions? By the people making the economic decisions, I mean the people pressuring Larry Page to cut Alphabet/Google R&D, who pressured Facebook to go public, who beat the drums for years for Apple to have a special dividend etc. Wasted human capital, unemployment - the existence of a reserve army of labor is a cornerstone of the existing economic system.


What about MOVING?

Do you know what stops the very poor in such a rich country from simply moving to a better state or city with more jobs and resources? Is it fear? sadness? lack of confidence? lack of expense to move? too much attachment to the place they grew up in?

Studies have repeatedly shown that metropolises are the future. Big cities have the jobs, healthcare, education, networks to help everyone, especially the needy. Why aren't more needy people moving?


Here are some factors you may not have considered:

1. It may be very hard to interview for a job at your destination. It's disingenuous to tell someone on the poverty line "Move, start paying out a ton of cash, and hopefully pick up a job". It's even harder to do that if you don't have the family structure to help you out.

2. Many people may have equity tied up in homes in dying communities. Yeah, it's not worth very much - but it's paid for, and way cheaper than rent in a much more expensive city.

3. The skills you have may not be in demand in cities. If you're a steel worker, moving to New York City isn't going to help you out very much.


good points. so

1.) If you were born in the country, you gotta have at least 1 relative that lives in a rich state. (if you don't even have that, there are lots of charities and programs in cities like LA, SF, New York that can give you some initial help). And why would it be disingenuous? If there is a good chance to get out of poverty, why not at least try once?

2.) You can sell the house or get a line of credit against it and use it to see if you can move

3.) so learn a new skill then move, or just do manual labor for a while in the big city


Big cities also have an entirely different culture from rural America. It includes higher crime rates, higher prices, more commute time, and less sense of being connected to a community. I have lived in several cities (Seattle, Chicago, Dallas, Charlotte) and ended up hating all of them.

They are especially brutal if you move to them with little money and no connections to decent jobs. Then you have the worst of both worlds.


Right so it's just not liking big cities or manual jobs. Well, when you're dirt poor, you suck it up, and go to the city, do manual labor, save up money/learn skills until you can get out of being dirt poor.


I said nothing about manual labor. I have done a lot of it myself, and find it to be far more rewarding than the so-called "knowledge work" that I have also done.

The work ethic in what is called "white trash" societies is very strong. Most are unafraid of manual labor. But moving everyone to cities is not the answer, since it ignores a lot of things that rural people find valuable.


Moving tends to be very expensive, and even harder if you're poor. The rich can afford to get a hotel for a few days and look at housing in a new city, interview for jobs, etc. The poor can't afford to take any time off work, can't afford to travel to and from the new location, etc.


It can be fixed with biotechnology.

1. A device that allows knowledge uploading would make most of education obsolete - everyone could know everything there is to know (which is not the same as understanding, but I don't think it's possible to teach understanding anyway, only help someone understand).

2. An equivalent of a drug gland from the Culture series would fix most mental problems, especially motivation and lack of self discipline.

3. An implantable electric powered CO2 to glucose/triglycerides converter would decrease basic survival costs by orders of magnitude, at the same time freeing lots of agricultural land for other use. With no risk of starving everybody would be much more entrepreneurial.

1 requires sf technology, but 2 and 3 is 'just' an engineering problem.


The two most insightful quotes are:

"The barely veiled implication, whichever version [for the explanation of the fall in economic fortunes what the article calls 'less privileged white Americans'] of you consider, is that the people undergoing these travails deserve relatively little sympathy—that they maybe, kinda had this reckoning coming. Either they are layabouts drenched in self-pity or they are sad cases consumed with racial status anxiety and animus toward the nonwhites passing them on the ladder. Both interpretations are, in their own ways, strikingly ungenerous toward a huge number of fellow Americans."

and:

"But far more striking is the general aura of decline that hangs over towns in which medical-supply stores and pawn shops dominate decrepit main streets, and Victorians stand crumbling, unoccupied. Talk with those still sticking it out, the body-shop worker and the dollar-store clerk and the unemployed miner, and the fatalism is clear: Things were much better in an earlier time, and no future awaits in places that have been left behind by polished people in gleaming cities. The most painful comparison is not with supposedly ascendant minorities—it's with the fortunes of one's own parents or, by now, grandparents. The demoralizing effect of decay enveloping the place you live cannot be underestimated."

Together, these factors form an unfortunate situation.


"Nothing happened to them. There wasn’t some awful disaster. There wasn’t a war or a famine or a plague or a foreign occupation. Even the economic changes of the past few decades do very little to explain the dysfunction and negligence—and the incomprehensible malice—of poor white America. So the gypsum business in Garbutt ain’t what it used to be. There is more to life in the 21st century than wallboard and cheap sentimentality about how the Man closed the factories down."

We just don't need that many people to make all the stuff. As I point out occasionally, in 1900, about 90% of the workforce was "making stuff" - agriculture, mining, manufacturing, and construction. That was down to half by the 1960s. Now it's down to 15%. US manufacturing output is at an all-time high. US manufacturing jobs peaked in 1979.

That's what happened to white America.

[1] http://www.bls.gov/emp/ep_table_201.htm


Globalism definitely has nothing to do with it right ?


US is manufacturing more stuff than ever before, with just a fraction of workers that would be required to achieve the same output 100 years ago. I'd say technological progress has way bigger impact here than shipping jobs overseas.


Depends on the industry and the relative content of labor in the product, to name a couple of variables. US furniture making for example has been decimated by moving manufacturing to low-wage nations. It has not had a lot of success (as far as I can tell) with reshoring as off-shore labor and transport costs go up.


This is a good point. Increases in productivity mean we can manufacture more goods per worker, which means we need fewer workers.

If increased productivity is a worker's enemy, that worker really doesn't have much to offer.


Imagine how many jobs we could create if every US state had to manufacture its own cars!


This is the problem with using averages to compare people. You can't take all the poor whites, all the middle class whites, and all the rich whites and dump their incomes into a spreadsheet and average it out and say "White Privilege" like the media has done for 7 years now. All the major new outlets from BBC, ABC, CNN, to MSNBC, CBS, and PBS have run stories that basically ask us to look away from "The Poor" and only look towards "The Minority Poor". The same way "black lives matter" asked us to look away from all the people killed by militant police and only pay attention to blacks killed by police. I find the same people preaching "unity" are the ones that are separating and dividing.

When you analyze ethnic or racial groups you need to split up the members of that group into sub-groups to really know what's going on. We need to focus on real social science and not extremist media narratives.


I think that one of the reasons for this is that many poor whites don't seem to stand up for themselves in any other way than attacking other disadvantaged groups, from racial and sexual minorities to retired people on government pensions. This is of course not the case for all working class and poor whites, many of whom support movements for the minority poor and minorities killed by police, and don't see attention given to minority problems as attention taken away from white problems.


People bitch about groups of people they have little in common with. The urban poor bitch about the wealthy and the rural poor. The rural poor bitch about the wealthy and the urban poor. The wealthy bitch about the poor.

None of those groups are actually bitching about skin color, just using it as a crude grouping mechanism for people that are unlike them.


Mike Rowe (of "Dirty Jobs" fame) has set up the Mike Rowe Works Foundation. He is doing great work encouraging and helping working class and impoverished people. He teaches "holding a job 101" lessons that people higher in the socioeconomic scale learn with their mothers' milk. Show up on time in the morning. Be the kind of employee and colleague that others can come to trust and rely on. It doesn't have to be fun or Meaningful: They call it "WORK" and they pay you to do it!

This guy is a hero in my book: He is not just talking about this problem. He is actually doing something about it. I wish it had been Mike Rowe instead of Donald Trump that had caught the zeitgeist and ridden it to national prominence.


People don't like talking about this because the "poor brown people" archetype fits with the economic double talk that claims "American industry is better than ever" and that we have meaningful economic growth.

The reality is that we've been hollowing out the US for many years and significant portions of the population, regardless of race, are living very poorly.


This is a heady conversation, that's simply categorizing a group of people by race. The only thing that this group has in common are economic status and the color of their skin. They toss in college degree to sound scientific but it's such a large swath of communities and cultures that to organize everyone by being white is literally what everyone is trying to avoid. It's needlessly being racist in the guise of science.

Organizing poor Americans by the color of their skin is like categorizing houses by the color that they're painted.

It doesn't have to do with anything.


If you define "white" as "the level of melatonin in a person's skin" or some mishmash of ancestry, sure, being white isn't helpful to describe a group.

This article isn't about that. It's about a culture (that is bound by tradition and heredity of which one sign is low melatonin) predicated on the philosophy that all one needs to succeed is a strong work ethic.

In a lower-class minority culture, you're taught that success is possible, but needs to be fought for. In lower-class white culture, success is transforming into a stolen birthright.


Poor white people have an interesting issue - society tells them that they're have especially failed (for lack of a better term) as they have white privilege.


"white privilege" is the relative advantage conferred by appearing white or having white heritage. Nobody (certainly not society at large) thinks that white people have a birthright to success.

actually, lots of people subscribe to the delusion that gov't programs for minorities are so overcorrecting that being born black is now a meal ticket. Insane.


It does in the sense that they tend to live in different communities with different cultures.


There is a major difference between poor white people and poor non-white people in America.

The poor non-whites have been discriminated against. That discrimination hurt them, and it helped the whites who did not have to compete against them for jobs and government resources.


I would argue we could solve this if we had a better education system. It seems that they go through the schooling system for 8 years and learn nothing that helps them get an upwardly mobile job.

Maybe part of the problem is that our schooling system is designed for salary class professionals looking to go to college – because those are the people who design curriculum.


Those kids are rocking some killer up cuts, funny how fashion comes full circle.


When Martin Luther King was assassinated in 1968, he was working on the Poor People's Campaign[0], an effort to alleviate poverty for all Americans. Meanwhile, Richard Nixon was campaigning on "Law and Order" (ask yourself: what's the order?) in preparation for the War on Drugs as part of the Southern Strategy[1]:

> Republican strategist Lee Atwater: You start out in 1954 by saying, "Nigger, nigger, nigger." By 1968 you can't say "nigger" — that hurts you. Backfires. So you say stuff like forced busing, states' rights and all that stuff. You're getting so abstract now [that] you're talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you're talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is [that] blacks get hurt worse than whites. And subconsciously maybe that is part of it. I'm not saying that. But I'm saying that if it is getting that abstract, and that coded, that we are doing away with the racial problem one way or the other. You follow me — because obviously sitting around saying, "We want to cut this," is much more abstract than even the busing thing, and a hell of a lot more abstract than "Nigger, nigger."

Ronald Reagan campaigned heavily against "welfare queens,"[2] associating poverty and government assistance with urban blacks. In so doing, he persuaded working class whites that cutting social programs and tax rates for the wealthy would benefit them.

As a resident of West Virginia, I must express the deepest sympathies for the suffering of my neighbors. But I can't help but sigh when I see a Confederate flag or Make America Great Again sign. And I see many every day. Trump offers the poor whites of America nothing but relative status at the expense of others.

Hackers should stand firmly against the sowing of tribal division. We understand that the strength of capitalism is that it's not a zero-sum ideology. We are enriched by imagination, creativity, production. We are impoverished by conflicts over the distribution of the pie as it is.

Are poor whites worse off than poor blacks than poor hispanics than poor native Americans than poor Asians? What a distraction. This question serves Machiavellian leaders and sensationalist media whose power is dependent on everyone hating each other.

How can we make America--and the entire world--prosperous for everyone?

[0]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Poor_People%27s_Campaign [1]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Southern_strategy [2]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Welfare_queen


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We detached this subthread from https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=12239724 and marked it off-topic.


tl;dr; I have no factual objections to anything you've said, but I object to who you are!


tl;dr I had many factual objections to what you've said, but I didn't felt like a dis on poor people was really worth a refutation.

But if you insist, most people are not profit maximizing automata, nor are they totally economically and emotionally free to follow any whim.

They have roots, family ties, people to tend to (old parents, little kids, etc), and don't just blow it all of for the off chance on landing another McDonalds gig or strawberry picking job in another state. We're not talking computer scientists here, for what they offer it's a buyers market, or worse, out there.

Tons also live month to month (if that), and couldn't afford the move and relocation, they'd just end up homeless in another state.

Those immigrants you mention come either are middle class or upper themselves in their countries (so come to the US with a cushion already + college studies etc) or are from piss poor regions fuelled with crime and desperation, so even a McDonalds gig in the US is an improvement. And even them, usually end up just in the same category as those white poor in the US -- the millions of poor latinos, blacks etc.

"Move to find some opportunity in another" is not some general plan for tens of millions of those poor people, nor is global immigration any helpful analogy.

It's not that different than saying "Those poor people in South Dakota or Alabama think they have it bad? Look at all those Syrians immigrating to a better life".

Which is an insensitive thing to say in the first place, doubly so if those who say it don't share either's problems at the moment.


Ok, so according to you people choose to be poor because they value other things more than wealth. It sounds like you view their consumption choices as merely being a different lifestyle, kind of like me having a tiny amount of living space and being very mobile.

So I guess the real reason Silicon Valley isn't "solving" the problem is because there is no problem to solve? I wish someone would tell this to Trump and Bernie!

Tons also live month to month (if that), and couldn't afford the move and relocation, they'd just end up homeless in another state.

This seems unlikely. Illegal Mexican immigrants have far less, yet don't usually end up homeless.


>Ok, so according to you people choose to be poor because they value other things more than wealth.

Yeah, the same way e.g. some people "choose to starve" because they value their notion of dignity more than e.g. getting paid for sexual services, even if they have the looks and they could always resort to that.

People thinking it's just some kind of "choice" really don't understand the problem.

First, let's ignore the (important) fact that the supposed "road to riches" by skipping town/state etc is statistically nothing to write home about even for those that do make the choice. Millions of immigrants that didn't do anything for themselves can attest to that, and the same goes for the rural poor going into the city.

The real problem is the disproportionate amount of such hard choices imposed upon the poor compared to the cushioned people. For some, that's par for the course of being poor, and goes without saying. I'd say that those can't even see the problem.

Cushioned middle/upper middle class/rich people get to value the same things (family, regional ties) just as much or even more, without having to make any sacrifice, just for the sake of (predominantly) being born into such privilege.

They play life in easy mode.

As Anatole France put it, "In its majestic equality, the law forbids rich and poor alike to sleep under bridges, beg in the streets and steal loaves of bread".

(Even worse are the occasional outliers, those who managed to get out of these circumstances -- always a small minority will manage of course -- and attribute it all to their hard work and great choices, and blame the lazy and stupid poor majority for not following on their path).

It's not the poor people's fault that they don't try 2x to 10x harder -- in fact tons work harder than any finger pointing, "hard working" middle/upper class person who criticises them.

Proud of their 60 and 80 hour work weeks programming or doing some office job? Cute, have them try balancing two shitty manual labor low wage gigs, perhaps plus kids and commuting, and also having nothing much to show for it.

Here's how a huge part of the "other half" lives and what they have to put up with, if anyone cares:

https://www.amazon.com/Nickel-Dimed-Not-Getting-America/dp/0...

http://thewireless.co.nz/articles/the-pencilsword-on-a-plate

>This seems unlikely. Illegal Mexican immigrants have far less, yet don't usually end up homeless.

For a lot of them, that's because they value those things that prevent them from getting rich: family, relatives, etc, so get a support net from that. But even so, from what I can find:

"Forty percent of the United States homeless populations are under the age of 18, and Hispanics make up 20 percent of the total homeless population".

Or:

"African-American and Latino New Yorkers are disproportionately affected by homelessness. Approximately 58 percent of New York City homeless shelter residents are African-American, 31 percent are Latino, 7 percent are white, less than 1 percent are Asian-American, and 3 percent are of unknown race/ethnicity.". http://www.coalitionforthehomeless.org/basic-facts-about-hom...

Or:

"People of color – particularly African-Americans – are a minority that is particularly overrepresented. According the PBS Homeless Fact and Figures ’07, 41% are non-Hispanic whites (compared to 76% of the general population), 40% are African Americans (compared to 11% of the general population) 11% are Hispanic (compared to 9% of the general population) and 8% percent are Native American (compared to 1% of the general population)." http://www.nationalhomeless.org/factsheets/minorities.html


Since you seem to consider family ties and community to be something vital, is it also a problem to be solved when a wealthy person like myself has essentially none of these?

"Forty percent of the United States homeless populations are under the age of 18, and Hispanics make up 20 percent of the total homeless population".

Again, my claim is that most economic migrants - with far more disadvantages than any American - do not wind up homeless. The fact that 20% of homeless are Hispanic does not mean that 20% of Hispanics are homeless. P(A | B) != P(B |A).


>Since you seem to consider family ties and community to be something vital, is it also a problem to be solved when a wealthy person like myself has essentially none of these?

Still missing the very point though.

For the rich person it's NOT a problem, because they can always chose to keep their family ties. If they want to severe them, it's because they don't care for them. And if they want to foster them more, they can.

A poor person, on the other hand, might care very much about their family or community ties, but still have to make the hard choice to severe them, because else they'll starve, can't make ends meet, etc.

It's the difference between a whim and a hard choice. Poor people don't get to have whims. Or rather, they do, but they pay for them disproportionately.

It's like comparing the choice of some privileged SV startup kid to relocate to Thailand and work from the beech, to some Syrian or Mexican immigrant.

Not even the same ballpark.

>Again, my claim is that most economic migrants - with far more disadvantages than any American - do not wind up homeless.

Hispanic immigrants (and other poor immigrants) are used to be sleeping 10 of them in the same small house (or room) -- and thus not be counted as "homeless".

Also (due to their strong family/community culture derided here as inconsequential in the pursuit of wealth) have extended families taking care of new arrivals (cousins, etc). That's a safety net that the white american's don't much have.

At least the poor Mexicans can leave their family/community and have some extended family/community help them for a couple of years where they end up (which is why most end up in the same few states). That has been documented thoroughly, and has been the case with immigrants (and not just hispanics either) back to the late 19th/early 20th century even.

In contrast, the poor white americans leaving their home state to find work elsewhere would face a different situation -- not only leaving the only community they knew, but not getting into any extended support network on the destination either.

Even so, the stats still showed more hispanics between the homeless than the national average of hispanics in the population. And we have to account also for the undocumented, which doesn't show anywhere, either as homeless or not. There are calculated to be around 11 million "illegal immigrants" -- with a large percentage of them non registered in the system yet.


If I could downmod you I would. What is wrong with migrating to a city that has more jobs, support, help than staying in a small town that is dying?


For a great deal of people, a concept of "tradition" and close, emotional ties to family and heritage far outweighs any economic opportunities. Furthermore, I think a lot of these people secretly know that they just may not be that competitive in an urban job market and prefer to live a rural life. Many Americans view this as a fundamental part of their freedoms (of which I say the Constitution and government have never even tried to interfere... but that's another discussion) - freedom from others' will, freedom to do what you wish on your property whether it be to shoot intruders or to hunt on it, and to privacy.

My in-laws live in rural Appalachia in northeast Tennessee near still-operating snake handling churches and restaurants that probably wouldn't pass a health inspection in a city, and while none of this appeals to me, it's clear to me that nobody living there wants anything to do with city living in terms of personalities and life experiences. This kind of mentality towards life tends to lean conservative politically as well. Sure, people watch TV and see some of the things happening in cities, but if you watch the news you'd think that there's nothing good happening there.

For an idea of how some folks like this might live (most aren't like this honestly, manual labor and blue collar jobs with 2+ hour long commute jobs are common), check out the movie the Wild and Wonderful Whites of West Virginia. Some are on disability, some have inheritances that were squandered, some may etc. and the poor in rural areas may actually be better off than urban poor in many factors for quality of life. Subsistence farming is an option in rural areas, after all.




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