Most of this current president's
I read two essays on the coal country in eastern Kentucky and West Virginia. I am guessing this a region that this president won by a huge margin over Hillary Clinton, who spoke the truth about coal jobs not coming back.
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Rural areas like McDowell County, where Walmart focused its expansion plans in the 1990s, are experiencing accelerating depopulation that is putting a strain on the firm’s boundless ambitions.This president can bullshit all he wants, and 63 million people can vote for him, yes. But, then there is the real world.
Hit hard by the longterm decline in coal mining that is the mainstay of the area, McDowell County has seen a devastating and sustained erosion of its people, from almost 100,000 in 1950 when coal was king, to about 18,000 today.
This wasn't even a regular Walmart store, which can seem huge to visitors from most other parts of the world. This was a supercenter!
“It’s all about jobs,” says Melissa Nester, publisher of the local newspaper, The Welch News, which sells 4,500 copies three times a week and doggedly refuses to have a website. “Dollar stores have picked up some of the trade left by Walmart, but they haven’t created many jobs.”The reality of life in a corner of the US that is being rapidly left behind. These are the "forgotten" people that this president bullshitted to.
At its peak, Walmart employed 300 people in the McDowell County supercenter. That was down to about 140 by the end, but it still made it the largest employer in the area.
After jobs, taxes are the next things to go. The town of Kimball in which the supercenter is located used to receive $145,000 a year in taxes from Walmart, and when that went it had to cut back its workforce and put all remaining staff on a four-day week.It does not take much for economic conditions to quickly spiral down. Rome was not built in a day, but it did not take long for the decline and fall, right?
The county government also lost $68,000 in taxes, most of which went to schools, and all its staff were given a 10% pay cut.
Linda McKinney ... "mourns the communal aspect of the supercenter, its quality as a “social hub”."
McKinney rattles off a list of all the community facilities that disappeared from the region in recent years as the population declined and the culture of mega-chains like Walmart took root.A complementing essay at a different publication looks at another aspect of this economic geography: What can a community college do to help people?
There used to be 28 churches of her United Methodist denomination in the county, now there are six; there were seven bars in Welch, all but one have closed; there were three cinemas, now it’s down to one; there are no community centers left; many of the corner shops have gone. “There’s nothing here,” McKinney says.
As manufacturers shed workers and businesses gravitate to urban areas, they often leave economic devastation in their wake. Thousands of people reliant on a dominant industry, in this case coal, are thrown out of work and their options are few. In the hills and hollows of Eastern Kentucky, communities must also contend with low levels of education, high rates of poverty, weak infrastructure, and an opioid epidemic.If you are like me, you are thinking this: A community college cannot do much to address such complicated issues. True, But, they try their best.
Meanwhile, state and regional leaders wrestle with a pressing challenge: Can they bring decent jobs to an area that lacks the infrastructure, education levels, and geography to support large manufacturers and skilled jobs? In 2014 the average annual wage for a coal miner in Kentucky was $72,000. Nothing has come along since to replace that.Nothing will come along to replace that $72,000 job. Of course, that is not the truth that this president and his minions talked about, right?
Keep in mind that there are other jobs. It is just that those other jobs barely pay minimum wages.
"A lot of what you see in terms of opioid abuse, a decrease in life expectancy, a lot of that is being driven by the hopelessness of seeing jobs, but not good jobs," says Nate Anderson, who spends a lot of time in Kentucky as a senior director at Jobs for the Future, a nonprofit organization that promotes skills training and job opportunities for low-income people. "No one wants to spend their entire life in retail earning next to nothing. They want opportunity and that’s gone."So, what can be done?
Anything that can be done will have to start at step number one, which will never ever happen. That first step is this: Political leaders need to start talking the truth to people. Because that will not happen, and because even partial-truth will only make losers out of candidates, well, ... we are where we are now!
The second best thing to do: Take courses in economic geography and save yourself a whole lot of trouble!