A VORTEX OF SHIT, PART I

For the last several months, one of the worst places I have ever been in the United States has been in the news. Not surprisingly the reason isn't positive. Scott County in southern Indiana (anchored by the metropolises of Austin and Scottsburg) was the site of a rapid spike in HIV infections from prescription opiate addicts sharing needles in that little slice of Real America. If you've never been to Scott County, you've been to Scott County. Just think of whatever nearby dilapidated, tumbleweed-strewn rural dump is nearby and you're there. Think of a big trailer park, but dirtier and poorer. Think of small towns that have no reason for existing anymore. That's Scott County. Everything necessary to create an HIV outbreak is there in spades: lack of healthcare, lack of public health services, lack of education, lack of employment, lack of money, and lack of anything to do but make and shoot the kind of drugs that destroy people from the inside out.

After some of his trademark waffling between right wing talking points and massive public and Federal pressure, Indiana Governor Mike Pence recently approved a temporary needle exchange program for Scott County. Then after he swore repeatedly he would veto it, he signed a law to the same effect. For a moment it seemed like a rare example of Republican lawmakers making a decision based on evidence rather than ideology. Not to oversimplify the issue, but everyone who isn't weapons-grade stupid or steeped too thoroughly in War on Drugs propaganda to see over the edge of their paranoia understands that things like needle exchanges are sensible policy. People addicted to things like heroin and meth are going to do things like heroin or meth every day regardless of whether they have proper sterile paraphernalia available. There is no opiate addict on the planet who ever said "Looks like I'm out of clean needles. Guess I have to quit using." Until some kind of treatment program intervenes (which in the United States usually takes the form of getting incarcerated, at least for poor people) to break people from addiction, addicts use drugs regardless of any externalities. Even anti-drug crusaders are capable of understanding that things like HIV and Hepatitis outbreaks are expensive public health problems that cost far more in the long term than a bulk-bought $0.49 syringe.

Don't worry, though. The yokels of Scott County have found a way to fuck it up. Even when events conspire to accidentally produce good public policy from the Governor and state legislature, leave it to the ingenuity of the kind of people in positions of power in America's rural sinkholes to ensure that no sensible ideas are enacted on the ground.

Why does it always have to turn out this way? Aside from the obvious lack of a stable economic base, why must places like Scott County suck so completely and consistently? Many Americans insist that not terribly long ago small town America was actually a fairly pleasant place to live. The same is said about any number of medium sized Rust Belt cities that have been on the decline since the 1950s. Obviously these places are poor and that's a big problem. But lacking great wealth doesn't mean everything has to be terrible. Your school district might not be rich, for example, but it doesn't cost anything to teach students that the Earth is not 6,000 years old. It costs nothing to teach real Sex Education rather than abstinence-only detritus.

I have been thinking about this a great deal lately, and I have an idea that doesn't invoke religion, the Culture Wars, or the Republican Party's messy divorce from reality. But that will have to wait 24 hours.

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112 Responses to “A VORTEX OF SHIT, PART I”

  1. cromartie Says:

    Even anti-drug crusaders are capable of understanding that things like HIV and Hepatitis outbreaks are expensive public health problems that cost far more in the long term than a bulk-bought $0.49 syringe.

    Even pro life crusaders are capable of understanding that things like unwanted pregnancies and overpopulation are expensive public health problems that cost far more in the long term than bulk bought condoms.

    ftfy

    Onto the topic at hand, I'm sure your answer will be better than mine, but the reality of politics in American isn't really all that different than the promise of a chicken in every pot and two cars in every garage.

    We don't vote for people who keep the lights on. We vote for people who promise to build new, shinier lights .

    We don't vote for people who promise to give more to everyone. We vote for people who promise to give more to us individually.

    I've had to spend considerable time in the South lately. And even though I'm in the cleanest, shiniest part of the South (the part where there's a health food store across the street from the gun range), what is very clear is that it was and still is a value system whose core foundation is duplicitousness. There's how we act to your face, and there's what we say about you once you're out of earshot. I'll give New Yorker's this much. If they don't like you, they're going to tell you to fuck off. That will almost never happen in Alabama.

    And that really cuts to the core of the Republican constituency. Our "value system" constitutes how everyone else should behave. And, as such, there's no real problem with legislating accordingly. You shouldn't do drugs. You shouldn't have pre-marital sex. You shouldn't rely on the state. So I'm not even going to acknowledge that reality. You did it to yourself. Why should I help you?

    But if I do it, I'm a sinner who is in need of forgiveness or, am trying to starve the beast or, and this is my favorite, everyone else is doing it to so why can't I?

    And that is a big part of why we are where we are today.

  2. wetcasements Says:

    Welcome to Methberry.

  3. HoosierPoli Says:

    Another drug war triumph!

  4. Katydid Says:

    To add onto cromartie's excellent post (I'm living in the south, I've noticed this behavior, too), much of the USA has the idea that Mayberry actually existed, just as seen on tv. There's also this deluded belief that "the heartland" or "the country" is always better than the coasts and urban areas. I've got Pandora on my work computer, and right now, there's a John Denver (who's been dead at least a decade)song about "city folks ridin' in a black limousine, a lot of sad people thinkin' that's a-mighty keen".

    There seems to be a rightwing insanity that creates these straw men ("city folk" all ride around in limousines? Always? Even the poor ones? How come I've never seen this even though I work in a city? Hey, where's my limo?!?) and making judgements about it "sad people think it's keen"), which of course the RILL MERKKKUNS laugh at because THEY know better!

    Much like Lake Woebegone, where everyone is "above average in every way", there's a real delusion that they're just the cream of the crop–even if they're the ones cooking meth in their basement, well, they HAD TO, you see, because they're special, not like those losers who should be punished!

  5. bjk Says:

    So why haven't these people left Scott County? If there is nothing to do there, then do all the gov't programs that keep them there (disability, unemployment insurance, food stamps, section 8, etc) really doing them any good? It's almost as if free money arriving in the mail every two weeks is bad for moral character. I'm sure Ed's next post will be about the moral worth of work, no matter how menial.

  6. Dave Dell Says:

    Once again, the comments on this site are worth the time to read all of them. I don't think I can say that about anywhere else on the inter-toobs.

  7. Major Kong Says:

    @cromartie

    I spent 8 years of my Air Force career in various places in the deep South. I'd say your experience sounds fairly typical.

    "Polite" and "nice" are not always one and the same.

  8. Emerson Dameron Says:

    @Katydid:

    Grass always greener, etc.

    http://popehat.com/2012/03/12/the-difference-between-us-and-them/

    There are certain affluent "liberals" in cities such as my Los Angeles home who do indeed exhibit a certain "telescopic philanthropy" that makes them more sympathetic to South Africa than South Central.

    Why this warrants turning the 909 into Mississippi out of spite may always escape me, though.

  9. wetcasements Says:

    'So why haven't these people left Scott County?'

    I'm guessing there used to be decent opportunities in the area for working in agriculture or light industry.

    Of course, corporate mega-farms are now heavily subsidized at the cost of family farmers, and manufacturing has all been shipped to Mexico and China.

    So, poverty is structural whether in the so-called "heartland" or in West Baltimore.

  10. Hazy Davy Says:

    Tease

  11. NonyNony Says:

    Many Americans insist that not terribly long ago small town America was actually a fairly pleasant place to live.

    If you were white and owned your own farm or owned a shop there sure – but they have always been hellholes for people who deviated from the norm or lost their jobs. It's why people flocked to the cities once sanitation and the germ theory of disease made cities survivable.

    So why haven't these people left Scott County?

    Where would they go? Imagine yourself as a high school dropout meth addict. Where the hell are you going to go? It isn't like you're going to find a job if you move away (there are precious few jobs for high school dropouts these days, let alone meth addicts) or be able to keep it if you're dealing with addiction. At least if you stick around your old friends and family are there and they might take care of you.

  12. c u n d gulag Says:

    I'd say that I can understand why the older folks stay there, but why do the young folks stay? Why don't they move?

    Oh yeah, no jobs in the big city either!

    Christian conservatives and corporations have done far more damage to America than any imagined "Fifth Column" that the anti-Communists feared, back in the day!

  13. c u n d gulag Says:

    @wetcasements,
    Is Methberry anywhere near Sibling-Schtupp?

    Btw – Kudo's on Methberry!
    LOL!!!

  14. Katydid Says:

    @Emerson Dameron; I'm not sure how your statement responds to mine. Could you elaborate?

  15. J.D. Says:

    @bjk

    Your question is the same basic socioeconomic question asked of any poor area. If bad things happen in slums (whether rural or urban), why do people live there? The answer isn't that poor people are violent or have drug problems; the answer is that people who are violent or have drug problems are poor. Societal ills are concentrated in poor areas, because that's the only place the people who cause societal ills can afford to live. Hard-working poor people who are trying to do the right thing can't afford to live in wealthier areas, so they're stuck living in bad areas next to the people who make those areas bad.

    Applying this concept to this situation, people in Scott County don't leave Scott County because, generally speaking, they couldn't afford to live anyplace that isn't as shitty as Scott County. Anyone who can afford to live in a better place has almost certainly done so by now.

  16. Nick Says:

    The "why don't poor people just move somewhere better?" question reminds me of that meme featuring Mitt Romney asking why poor people don't just buy more money.

  17. Jerry Vinokurov Says:

    The answer is actually really simple: cruelty. The "powers" in Scott County value being cruel to their powerless constituents over anything else, and that preference is revealed in their policies.

  18. charluckles Says:

    A sense of hopelessness and a lack of constructive things to belong to and believe in.

  19. mojrim Says:

    The basic question posed by Ed has a painfully simple answer which also covers the greater "why?" of poor, southern, white voting patterns. One thing anthropology has taught us is that, being social creatures whose survival is predicated on tribal membership, we cling harder to tribal mores during times of existential insecurity. If you want people to start waving bibles and witch-hunting the [gays, addicts, poors, etc…] you need only yank out their economic base.

    A bad habit is merely a survival trait that has outlived its usefulness.

  20. deep Says:

    “If they would rather die, they had better do it, and decrease the surplus population!”

  21. Connie Says:

    The idea of a safety net (disability, food stamps, section 8 housing, etc.) is an illusion. There are stories of all this easy money but no citations. My attitude is now pictures or you are making up stories to punish those fall on the wrong side of money.

    Here is my picture:
    After my husband died I was left homeless and jobless, struggling to get a diagnosis in a health care system that focused on catastrophic illness, not figuring out why you hurt all the time. I do have food stamps – $189 a month. The clerk said the amount is to be supplemental but that is what I love on. After two years of being homeless my name rose to the top and I'm in subsidized housing. First place was bedbug central, which I can handle. What I couldn't do was live there after a knife fight errupted outside my door.

    Section 8 is a two year lottery process where I live and once you do get the certificate no one will rent to you because of the housing shortage.

    I worked over thirty years, paid taxes, and really believed in the safety net. Thanks to the dominionists who rule the congress that net doesn't exist.

    Believe me or not, I do not care. My story is my truth and what others think of me is none of my business.

  22. Andrew Says:

    @Connie: Really? A drive-by shooting happened directly in front of my building and I continued to live there for some years. If your door is locked, what do you care what happens on the other side of it? And I was paying market rent. I would have put up with a lot worse for a subsidy.

  23. Skippper Says:

    So why haven't these people left Scott County?

    I hope this was meant as a joke and that no one really takes it seriously.

    Move where? How? With what. So you're stuck in East Bumfuck, Iowa, and you have no job, no money, and a beat up unreliable car. What do you do? Drive to North Bumfuck, where there are no jobs and a lot of people with no money and no reliable car? Even of there were jobs available, how do you get one? You don't have an address. Get an apartment? How? You don't have a job. Even if you find an apartment, how do you come up with the first, last, and security — the $72 in your pocket isn't going to cover that.

    Or you could move in somewhere like San Francisco, where there may be a few "menial" jobs hanging around, but you need to make at least $125,000 a year to even break into the apartment market.

    So, even if your comment about moving was a joke, it wasn't a very funny one. If it wasn't a joke, then I pity you.

  24. Mo Says:

    Connie – have you read Linda Tirado's book? It made me angry.

    Smug dopes like Andrew also irk me. He seems to have conveniently forgotten that one cannot live 24/7 inside one's apartment, but has to exit and return at various times. The outside social environment matters. Guess it wasn't Andrew's kid that was killed by a stray bullet coming through the wall.

    Universal Basic Income, anyone? Tax on Wall Street trades to help fill the kitty?

  25. Andrew Says:

    I assume the knife fight was momentary, as was the drive-by shooting. I too would prefer to live where those things don't happen, but there's a difference between saying "I prefer to live where those things don't happen," and "I CAN'T live where those things do happen." Of course the social environment matters, but in a capitalist society, poor people live in poor surroundings. I wish the social safety net was better, but it's not, and it's not going to be.

  26. Mo Says:

    Has anyone here besides me read The Persistence of Poverty by Charles Karelis?
    It seems to tie in with Richard Thaler's recent book Misbehaving: the Making of Behavioral Economics.

    Thaler shows a curve demonstrating Loss Aversion that looks very much like the little curve drawn on page 126 in Karelis's book about the relationship between consumption and misery – the part below the horizontal axis is much longer and deeper than the curve above.

    There's a connection between these two books, but I'm just not smart enough to nail down the details. Still just a gorilla in the mist instead of one in the room.

  27. Major Kong Says:

    My in-laws live in a part of Southern Ohio that is part of Appalachia. Culturally and economically it's very close to West Virginia.

    While they manage to get by, there's very little opportunity down there. None of them will leave, however.

    They think Columbus Ohio, where I live, is some tough, gritty concrete jungle straight out of "The Warriors" or "Taxi Driver".

    Apparently the local news down there makes a big deal out of whenever we have a shooting, so they think they'll be attacked by gangs the moment the cross the city limits.

  28. Mo Says:

    And Nickel and Dimedwas published 14 years ago.
    Not exactly swift on the uptake, are we?

    Flatlined wages and rising housing costs, to which both Connie and Andrew can apparently testify.

    It really is time to wring the 1% of the loot they've siphoned off from the rest of us.

  29. Skippper Says:

    To be a conservative you have to believe that condoms cause sex, sex education causes sex, clean needles cause addiction — but guns don't kill people. That is major fucked up thinking.

  30. Davis X. Machina Says:

    We don't vote for people who keep the lights on. We vote for people who promise to build new, shinier lights

    Not any more. We're reduced to voting for people who promise to turn someone else's lights off and let us watch.

  31. J. Says:

    Living in Vermont — a rural state where many of our small towns are still nice places, and many of our state-level policies are pretty much as progressive as the US gets – I've often wondered about this. What is it that makes gun-loving blue-collar rural white men here willing to vote for Bernie Sanders rather than the likes of Mike Pence? I feel like there has to be more to this difference than just Vermont's lack of Jesus and proximity to Canada.

  32. Bitter Scribe Says:

    In a Dilbert strip enumerating the advantages of being dumb, one of them was, "You have a solution to every problem." It was illustrated by Bob the Dinosaur thinking, "If people are starving in Africa they should move to France."

  33. Andrew Says:

    No, I'm pretty sure it's all down to lack of fundamentalist religion and proximity to Canada. If you know any Canadians, you probably know how much better they live, and you might want some of that for yourself.

  34. Anubis Bard Says:

    The American myth of "Just Deserts" (i.e. when it comes to the hierarchy, you end up where you deserve) combines with downward social mobility to create a nicely toxic Great Chain of Being Fearful and Contemptuous. Take a cross section up or down the totem pole and you'll find people peeping upward with lustful envy and pissing downward with contemptuous fear. And there is no one so lowly and despised that they can't despise the parasites and scum beneath them. Including the worthies of Scott County, Indiana, of course. How can you stake your claim to being a member of the elite if you don't wreak virtuous misery on the poor and misbegotten?

  35. fasteddie Says:

    I was thinking it had to do with magnetic fields South of I-80 turning brains to mush, but then Wisconsin and Michigan began their competition to become North Mississippi. So my new theory is all about inbreeding.

  36. Emerson Dameron Says:

    @Katydid:

    My bad. It started as a response to this:

    "There's also this deluded belief that 'the heartland' or 'the country' is always better than the coasts and urban areas. I've got Pandora on my work computer, and right now, there's a John Denver (who's been dead at least a decade) song about 'city folks ridin' in a black limousine, a lot of sad people thinkin' that's a-mighty keen.'"

    I got into the phenomenon of est-addled Boomer lefties such as John Denver praising the noble savagery of the sticks, then rewrote part of it, then deleted some stuff, and accidentally left your name at the top.

    It was early.

  37. Brian M Says:

    What makes the Bob the dinosaur quote so sad is that the French certainly don't want the starving Africans. Just like the Thais, Malaysians, and Indonesians are doing anything short of shelling the listing, leaking refugee rafts to prevent immigration by the desperate.

  38. Brian M Says:

    fasteddie: At best, Michigan and Wisconsin could become North Alabama. My home state, Indiana, already has the North Mississippi title nailed!

  39. Khaled Says:

    @Major Kong-
    My wife's family is from the Coal Region in PA. Remember, PA is Philly, Pittsburgh and Alabama in the middle, right? So the schools are terrible, there are no jobs, drugs and crime are on the rise. And when my nephew went to Philly with his dad, my FIL and MIL were all nervous for him since he was going to ride on the subway in the city. My nephew also asked my wife when she was driving around Pittsburgh when we lived there if a couple of black kids standing around was a "gang". "No," my wife said, "they're waiting for the bus".

    Rural people have been fooled into thinking that the city is a large war zone, with drugs and crime rampant. Look at all of the conservative statements about Chicago being a "war zone" despite the murder rate being lower than it was during the mid 90s. Never mind that opiate use in the rural areas is waaaaaaaaaaay higher per capita in those areas. My store for Chain Drug Store in Dayton was in the side of town where drugs are sold. And so whenever a car with Indiana plates showed up in the parking lot, and some white kids got out and came into the store, we followed them around to keep them from stealing shit because they came into Dayton to buy heroin. I actually got more angry at them then I did at our regular shoplifters. They came into the "bad neighborhood" to buy drugs and do drug shit with their kids along with them, and all of the good people in the neighborhood had to put up with their shit along with the dealers and the criminals in the neighborhood. If people stopped coming into the neighborhood to buy drugs, the dealers would move on.

    Pointing out that someone else got something that they might not "deserve" is the Republican game plan. Ronnie Raygun blamed "Welfare Queens in Cadillacs" and Paul Ryan and the Rand Pauls of the world blame "government" for keeping people poor, despite Mr Ryan getting SS checks while he was growing up, and last time I checked, they received checks from the government right now. It really is a "I got mine, Fuck You" attitude. Remember what Romney said…. borrow money from your parents to start a business kids!

  40. Scotius Says:

    This Cracked article from a year ago does a good job of summing up why it's so hard to make it living in a rural or exurban area. Even if if you grew up with a reasonably stable home life and make it to working age without any debilitating health issues or addictions, it is really hard to make a decent living or save up to move somewhere where you can make a decent living.

    http://www.cracked.com/blog/the-5-worst-things-about-getting-job-in-small-town/

  41. Andrew Says:

    I agree with you as for rural areas, but aren't exurbs within (long) commute distance of cities and suburbs with well-paid jobs?

  42. Scotius Says:

    I probably shouldn't have used the word exurbs. I was thinking of areas that are not really rural, but that also do not have any city centers or major sources of employment. It just seems that a lot of suburban areas are as devoid of opportunity as their rural conunterparts.

  43. Barry Says:

    "What I couldn't do was live there after a knife fight errupted outside my door."

    Andrew Says: "@Connie: Really? A drive-by shooting happened directly in front of my building and I continued to live there for some years. If your door is locked, what do you care what happens on the other side of it? And I was paying market rent. I would have put up with a lot worse for a subsidy."

    G-d f_ing d*mn.

  44. Heisenberg Says:

    @Connie: "The idea of a safety net (disability, food stamps, section 8 housing, etc.) is an illusion. There are stories of all this easy money but no citations."

    Ok, here's a citation for you: http://apps.npr.org/unfit-for-work/

    From liberal bastion NPR, it's a pretty remarkable account of the massive rise in disability since welfare reform in the 90s. As a liberal, this gives me a disturbing feeling of cognitive dissonance that I haven't yet resolved.

    "The federal government spends more money each year on cash payments for disabled former workers than it spends on food stamps and welfare combined."

    "In Hale County, Alabama, nearly 1 in 4 working-age adults is on disability. On the day government checks come in every month, banks stay open late, Main Street fills up with cars, and anybody looking to unload an old TV or armchair has a yard sale."

  45. Andrew Says:

    So you can honestly tell me that you would prefer living on the street over a subsidized apartment where once, just once, a knife fight broke out on the other side of your locked door? Connie never said there were daily or weekly knife fights.

  46. Barry Says:

    Andrew Says:

    "I agree with you as for rural areas, but aren't exurbs within (long) commute distance of cities and suburbs with well-paid jobs?"

    You notice that a lot of the talk involved things like no car or a sh*tty car?

  47. Andrew Says:

    Lack car is a problem, admittedly, but even a shitty car might be able to make the commute from an exurb to a well-paid urban or suburban job for a few months, at which point you might be able to afford a slightly less shitty car. Plenty of $2-3K cars run reliably, particularly in California where the weather is mild. I carpool daily with a woman who has an early-90s Camry, and it runs flawlessly. I doubt she could sell it for $1,000.

  48. mothra Says:

    Andrew:
    Connie is a single female. Pretend you are a single female. Still want to live (and come and go from) a violent apartment complex? Didn't think so.

    Also, while exurbs might be within a long commute of jobs in cities and suburbs, those jobs are not necessarily all well-paying (particularly if you, the employee, has little or no education or training) and also, one needs a good, reliable car to go on long commutes in most of this country. Any idea how much it costs to buy a good, reliable car and keep it running?

  49. mothra Says:

    Adding, I want to live in Andrew's candy-colored world. Barry said it best:

    God Fucking Damn.

  50. Andrew Says:

    No one, including Connie, said the apartment complex was violent. One knife fight does not a violent complex make. These sorts of things can happen anywhere. Also, please explain how being male would protect a person from being stabbed.

    I don't know what it costs to keep an older car running, but you can buy one like my carpool mate's for $1,000 or less, and it's fine. Change the oil now and again, and it will last long enough for you to buy something slightly better when the time comes.

  51. Andrew Says:

    Also, I never said Connie would WANT to live where one knife fight broke out outside her door, just that it wasn't true that she COULDN'T. Big difference. We all do things we don't want to do. I'm at work right now, for example.

  52. Major Kong Says:

    My "airport car" that I recently purchased cost me $2500 and runs flawlessly.

    I'm not going to say that every $2500 car is going to run great. A lot of them are going to be pure junk. I happen to know cars pretty well and can usually pick out a good one.

  53. Andrew Says:

    My world is hardly candy-colored. I grew up in rural poverty, and my mother and I relied on the very thin safety net available to us. My mother, for all her wonderful qualities, was also lazy and entitled. She literally spent more time researching and participating in programs to help the low-income than most people spend working so that they won't BE low income. She had a master's degree and marketable skills (teaching), and eventually she got a good job, but her work habits and behavior on the job left a lot to be desired, and she eventually lost her job, ugly things were said, and she never worked again. Fortunately, by then her father, who was quite wealthy, had died and left her well taken care of (a trust, thankfully, or she would have blown it).

    I know I have an easy life. I haven't always, so the contrast is always ever-present in my mind. I support a safety net, but when someone who gets a housing subsidy complains that the subsidized housing is worse than living on the street, and they can't POSSIBLY live there because of one violent incident, I start to think that that person might have some difficulty parsing reality. I know lots of non-poor people who have the same all-or-nothing way of thinking, too.

    Cognitive behavior therapy teaches us that while we may have a STRONG preference NOT to live in an apartment complex where violence occurs in the hallway, we CAN in fact live there, and also that there are no guarantees that were we to move somewhere else, it would be any better.

  54. Elle Says:

    Also, I never said Connie would WANT to live where one knife fight broke out outside her door, just that it wasn't true that she COULDN'T.

    If Connie says she couldn't live there, she couldn't live there.

  55. Andrew Says:

    That's simply not true. She decided that the alternative was better, and that's her right, but it doesn't mean the decision was factually correct. People are wrong sometimes. Aren't you ever? I know I am.

  56. Elle Says:

    What on earth are you talking about, Andrew? You've decided that something someone has said about their own life isn't "factually true", based on literally nothing at all.

    I don't tend to call people liars when they disclose painful experiences from their past, so I can't say that I have ever been mistaken on that front, no.

  57. Andrew Says:

    The word "CAN'T" has a specific meaning. If you say that you cannot live somewhere, but in fact you can live there, you are factually incorrect. Of course it's her life and her decision. No one is disputing that. But changing where you live based on a single incident doesn't seem wise to me. There's a difference between saying it's Connie's decision to make and saying that any decision she makes is the best possible one for her in her circumstances, right? Haven't you ever made a bad decision? I have.

  58. Elle Says:

    If you say that you cannot live somewhere, but in fact you can live there, you are factually incorrect.

    Of course, but there is nothing to suggest that is the case except for your wild and insulting surmising.

    An object lesson in why the discourse around social housing is so full of flim-flam, to be sure.

  59. Drew Says:

    Andrew, you're arguing semantics, not substance.

  60. Andrew Says:

    I surmised nothing. Connie mentioned a single violent incident and then said that she could not live there because of it. If you're going to be poor in America, you need to be made of stronger stuff. I wish that weren't the case, but it is.

  61. Andrew Says:

    Semantics are important. Words have specific meanings. Using them correctly helps make your point. Like Connie, I lived in a building where a single violent incident occurred during my tenancy. Unlike Connie, I kept living there. If Connie meant to say that knife fights outside her door were common, occurred without warning, and often involved innocent bystanders being injured or killed, she should have said so.

    People from all walks of life make better life decisions when they respond to probabilities, not one-off events.

  62. Elle Says:

    As you know nothing about the incident or Connie, that is surmising.

    Your persistence in maligning an individual who came into this comment section to share something of her own life and experience, by way of illuminating this discussion, is loathsome.

  63. Andrew Says:

    I maligned no one. What I know about the incident is what Connie presented. Based only on HER testimony, it was not impossible for her to continue to live there, even though she said it was. If the situation was in fact worse than she describes it, then it may have been reasonable for her to go back to being homeless, but we can't assume what she didn't say, can we?

  64. strawberryshortfuse Says:

    Most local LE wants these people (not that they consider them such) to die. Makes their jobs easier, enforces their worldview–what's the downside?

  65. Elle Says:

    Connie, I hope you're not still reading this comment thread, but if you are then I'm sorry that the social safety net failed you so very badly.

    I also hope that you have lots of people in your life whose reasoning power, social acuity, and human feeling exceeds that of gefilte fish.

  66. StrawberryShortfuse Says:

    You must really take after your mom, Andrew.

  67. Andrew Says:

    I don't. That was my whole point. I work hard at my job to avoid being poor.

  68. Scotius Says:

    Wow, Andrew. You sure did a great job of sidetracking this thread. It would be really great if you could get your mother to comment here as well. I'd love to see how her recollections square with yours. Still, congratulations on staying out of poverty.

  69. Andrew Says:

    She's been dead 10 years. I have a feeling she would disagree mightily with my assessment of the situation, though.

  70. democommie Says:

    Well, I'm coming in a bit late so I'll just say this.

    Andrew:

    It appears that you were saved by an asshole grandfather–I'll take my life as is, no saviour asshole grandfather.

    AND I'll accept Connie's statement that SHE couldn't live there as TRUE for HER.

  71. quixote Says:

    Honestly, Andrew. Perhaps Connie doesn't want to take over Ed's comment section with a book-length ms. So she gives one example. So you assume that's it? Have you heard of "jumping to conclusions"? Plus, as others have pointed out, she's female. Woman are targeted more than men. Plus she has to worry about rape. And then, if you know anything about housing one rung up from homelessness, you've heard about plenty of people, including men, who'd rather be on the streets than down the hall from the predators who collect in that housing.

    I'd say an apology is in order. I'll be curious to see if you're the kind of person who is capable of it.

  72. el mago Says:

    sacre bleu mae, I wasn't going to enter this cat fight, but yeah. Always try to post later rather than sooner to avoid scrutiny or something.

    First to AnubisBard: Yeah, there are just "deserts" around here, but I think you meant "desserts". And yeah, the pole is slick with piss.

    Skipper seems to consistently nail it.

    This bjk person's comment dropped my jaw early a.m. when I realized he was serious and not satirical or ironic.

    Andrew please just STFU. Thanks.

  73. Andrew Says:

    Stating that there were daily violent incidents takes no more space than stating that there was one violent incident. I responded to what was said, not what wasn't. What social safety net can guarantee that there will be zero violent incidents where you live?

  74. Andrew Says:

    What made my grandfather an asshole? Making money and keepimg it, or leaving it to his impecunious daughter in a form that prevented her from pissing ot away?

  75. Scotius Says:

    Andrew,

    My mother died ten years ago too. I would never dream of using her as an example of how not to behave especially when she is no longer around to defend herself. You are one vile little shit.

  76. Andrew Laurence Says:

    I've learned lots of things about how not to behave from people who happen to be no longer living, and I'm very grateful to them for the lessons. I'm nearly 50, so a lot of the adults in my life while I was growing up are dead. So what?

    Am I the only one here who is capable of disagreeing with someone without resorting to a hominem attacks?

  77. Katydid Says:

    @Emerson; thanks for the explanation. I normally enjoy everything you write, but I simply couldn't understand what you were saying, and was worried it was because I was reading too early. Appreciate the clarification.

  78. Freecookies Says:

    They always did suck. But the good times papered over the dumbness and the meanness of rural Murica. They were always dumb and mean.

    Now they just happen to be poor dumb and mean now.

    I dunno how you stop them from being those three things. If you have a practical idea, please publish it.

  79. PhoenixRising Says:

    "it's a pretty remarkable account of the massive rise in disability since welfare reform in the 90s…"

    There is nothing in the least bit remarkable about the destruction of a social safety net that doesn't require disadvantaged citizens to demonstrate WHY they aren't capable of making more than welfare on the free market pushing growth in those same people using a different form of safety net.

    What's remarkable is that, with as stringent as the requirements for SSDI are, such a large percentage of people formerly on welfare are eligible for it.

    It's almost as if those of us who said, There's really no need to disrupt cash welfare quite so much given that anyone who can work instead already does, had a point in 1996.

  80. Kaleberg Says:

    Rural poverty is particularly grinding. When you are poor in the city, there is often at least the illusion of an escape route. In the backwater, there isn't even an illusion. It seems worse in the mid-west too. I live in a rural area, but we still have some stuff going for us, like a national park which creates a spectrum of jobs, a working harbor that creates a few well paying jobs and some natural resources like trees and ocean fish that create some seriously dangerous jobs that at least pay something. Corn fields really don't create all that many jobs, especially with modern farm equipment. It gets kind of scary.

  81. comrade paul Says:

    There is a market solution to this. Give exclusive rights to the d-bags who run Scott county for the hypodermic clean needle exchange franchise. Money talks louder than ideology in America.

    It took a true socialist to come up with this plan. You're welcome.

  82. cromartie Says:

    Ah yes, the classic "I can do it, so you can do it to. Just get off your lazy ass and do it." routine.

    It allows you to be smugly self righteous with all the benefits of also being completely devoid of empathy and without the need to actually have the intellectual capacity of understanding the perspectives of others.

    That's one standard issue asshole, but once you mix in a healthy dose of pissing on the grave of your mother, why, that's a whole special level of assholeitude right there.

    I won't speak for Ed, but you get my vote for Asshole of the Day.

  83. April Says:

    It's not just money (unless we're talking millions or more). Several years ago I moved to a new location. I had a stable, well-paying job, a paid-for car, enough money for the first/last/deposit but because I had a trash credit rating (long story – was my stupidity and trusting, not out-of-control spending that got me there) I could not rent a house anywhere in the city. I even offered one landlord 6 months rent in advance. No dice. I ended up living in a no-tell motel for a year until my credit rating got better.

    Nowadays you have to be practically perfect in every way to survive. I can't even imagine what it's like for people who don't have the advantages I have.

  84. GertieGreen Says:

    I went to college and lived in southern IN for 7 years. I worked in Scott County as a social worker for three of those years. It is all Ed describes. And, people do leave. They frequently go back and forth between Scott Co. and rural Kentucky (or "Tucky" as the little kids called it.) I imagine it was just as depressing because, within a year, they'd be back.

  85. A Different Nate Says:

    @el mago: "Just deserts" is correct, the second word deriving from the same source as "deserve".

  86. Townsend Harris Says:

    @wetcasements
    Mayberry's become Methberry?
    And Opie has opioids.
    Thanks.

  87. greatlaurel Says:

    @andrew Obamacare required insurance companies to provide access to mental health care. Your unresolved issues with your parents, especially your mother, are showing. Counseling would help you address these underlying issues that come out when you attack an older woman on a website. These unresolved issues seem to be preventing you from having any ability to empathize with other human beings.

    For your own sake, you really need to get some help resolving your issues. Grief can cause some very bizarre behaviors. Help is out there.

    Good luck.

  88. greatlaurel Says:

    @connie Thank you for sharing your story. I hope you are in a better situation now. Good luck and best wishes to you from a fellow traveler.

  89. StrawberryShortfuse Says:

    "Hmmmmm, a bunch of internet strangers are telling me I'm behaving like an asshole in the comments section of a blog I follow. Must be because they're not very good at debating. I mean, what other possible explanation could there be?"

  90. Andrew Says:

    @greatlaurel: I've had health insurance with mental health coverage since before Obamacare was enacted. I have no unresolved issues with my mother. They were all resolved the moment she died. I attacked no one. I merely pointed out that I thought Connie's decision to leave her apartment, where she was relatively safe, for the streets, where she's not at all safe, seemed foolish to me, but I acknowledged that it was her decision to make. I further pointed out that no level of social safety net could have provided for an environment guaranteed free of knife fights.

    I don't have trouble empathizing with other people. I do have a problem with people who blame everyone else for their poor decisions, but I still wish them well.

  91. coin operated Says:

    Late to the game, but the little Oregon town I just left (we affectionately refer to it as Springtucky, with all that the name implies) is a picture perfect example of the Cracked magazine article Scotius linked to above.

    http://www.cracked.com/blog/the-5-worst-things-about-getting-job-in-small-town/

    Think of it as the 'hub' town to a multitude of adjacent smaller farm towns, and getting a job was just as complicated as the Cracked article pointed out. It was a tough road for my recently separated daughter…nobody would touch her because she was a single mom and daycare hours don't exactly coincide with McDonald's hours. It was only because she had a unique skill that she got a job baking vegan goodies during daytime hours…but it took her damn near SIX MONTHS to find it.

  92. Scotius Says:

    @coin operated
    I don't think that people who live in cities really appreciate how difficult it can be to find decently paid let alone fulfilling work in much of the country. I am now living in the Bay Area just east of San Francisco. I work in IT and my salary is 3 times what it used to be when I lived and worked in Maine. That is not because I am 3 times smarter and more qualified than I was in Maine.

  93. Andrew Says:

    No, it's because the market-clearing salary for your position is three times what it is in Maine. I'm from Maine, too, but left in 1983. I also live in the East Bay and work in IT.

  94. Greg Says:

    That Marketplace/TAL piece (both of which are APM, not NPR-produced) got a lot of richly deserved flack. Hana Joffe-Walt went way down in my estimation. I have limited experience in disability law, but I know that it is much harder to prove disability (particularly physical) to qualify for SSI than the article made it seem. Like any human endeavor there is certainly fraud and waste, but the chief reason that disability has risen is because it's pretty much the only game in town anymore for people who can't work.
    Also, calling NPR liberal shows you aren't much of one; I find myself rarely able to listen to their interviews without yelling at the reporter's pitifully right wing faux "centrist" understanding of the subject matter.

  95. Gator Says:

    Greg: "Also, calling NPR liberal shows you aren't much of one; I find myself rarely able to listen to their interviews without yelling at the reporter's pitifully right wing faux "centrist" understanding of the subject matter."

    This x1000

  96. Robert Says:

    NPR – Nice Polite Republicans. Regarding disability and the demonization of those who receive it, I worked for the VA for twenty four years. I would be anticipating retirement next March, but chronic illness has prevented that. SSDI has kept me alive and housed, and some weeks I can even leave the house once or twice. Anyone sneering at "welfare cheats" will definitely get the sharp edge of my tongue.

    Andrew, if you're still reading, know this. I have two sons who I love dearly. If either of them ever bloviates as cruelly as you have here, I will consider that I have failed as a parent. You sound like someone who reads "A Christmas Carol" backwards so it has a happy ending.

  97. Andrew Says:

    @Robert – I think everyone here is maligning me unnecessarily. No one has actually argued with the substance of what I said or pointed out where I might have gone wrong, just accused me of not caring about poor people. I do, but I'm not sure what more the state could have done to protect Connie. If someone could point out something I missed, I'd be most grateful. If I wanted to read ad hominem attacks and be told to STFU, I'd stick to Fox News.

  98. Anonymous Says:

    Andrew keeps coming here and keeps finding himself in the center of shitstorms in which he complains that he is being unfailingly polite but everyone else refuses to address the substance of his arguments.

    See this old thread, for example:

    http://www.ginandtacos.com/2015/03/03/market-efficiency/

    Why does he keep coming back to bang his head against a brick wall, and then complain that it hurts? I don't know. Make of it what you will.

  99. Andrew Says:

    It doesn't hurt. In fact, it doesn't bother me at all. If you can't or won't respond to the substance of my argument and keep a civil tone, then I will assume that your argument, if any, is unpersuasive.

  100. democommie Says:

    Dear Andrew:

    An asshole grandfather would be the one who let a fucking CHILD suffer because he was pissed at HIS child's behavior. I know this to be true, I had an asshole grandfather who still considered his married daughter chattel.

    "It doesn't hurt. In fact, it doesn't bother me at all."

    Sure.

  101. Andrew Says:

    @democommie: I'm afraid I don't understand at all. You're just not making any sense to me. My grandfather's money was his to spend/save/give away as he chose. Raising and providing for me was my (as it happens, unmarried, unpartnered) mother's problem, not his. And I didn't suffer. I never missed a meal and in fact have been overweight since age 5. And we never lived on the street or in unsafe housing, not for one day. My grandfather paid half the tuition for me to attend a private school in grades 7 through 9, and the school picked up the other half. He didn't have to do that. The school, as it turns out, was terrible, like something out of Pink Floyd, but no one could have known that in advance.

    The opinions of random strangers on blogs who can't even keep a civil tone really, really don't matter to me. I don't care whether you believe that or not. Really.

  102. Robert Says:

    Shorter Andrew – "I'm going to keep on claiming that I don't care about what you say about me until you believe me, because I don't care THAT MUCH."

    Since you're not caring so hard, please detail the incivility in my comment. I really don't care, so I'm asking you to tell me.

  103. Andrew Says:

    @Robert: You accused me of bloviating. Not exactly a word you want to use if you're interested in debating the merits.

  104. Robert Says:

    I wasn't debating the merits, I was openly criticizing you. From my perspective, your callous and dismissive treatment of Connie, while consistent with your clearly expressed opinions, had no merit. Instead of employing vituperative and obscene language, I restrained myself so as to give you no purchase for your petty caviling.

    Now go away, or I shall taunt you a second time. As Montaigne so eloquently expressed in his essay on the education of children, while it is important to learn to recognize false syllogisms, it is subtler to laugh at them than to answer them.

  105. Bosh Says:

    Well why shittiness exists is complocated, but why shittiness is becoming increasingly rural while lots of cities get gentrified is easy: zoning. If you make zoning laws that amount of class segregation, in that it`s basically illegal to build affordable housing in a lot of areas so poor people have to go elsewhere to find rent they can pay.

  106. wetcasements Says:

    I moved to my (retired) father's small town a few years back thinking that, hey, a change would be good for me and the old man is getting up there, so living close to him would alleviate the stress of him having an accident (he's actually in great shape for his age, but you never know).

    Our thinking was — I have an MA from a pretty good state university and a decent resume. I don't plan on being CEO or anything, but I've taught at various levels and worked as a secretary and would even go back to something like data entry if it meant I could get my foot in the door somewhere.

    Over 100 resumes and cover letters later, let me just confirm that an advanced degree is the _kiss of death_ when you're trying to find work in a small town. I thought the "overqualified" thing was only in movies but no, just try and find decent work in Methville with any kind of semi-decent academic pedigree. In fact, it actively will work against you, because you're now a threat to everybody at a given company or office who graduated with a communication degree from Third-or-Fourth Tier State.

    So what about goverment jobs, like the library or the post office or the court? HAHAHAHAHA fuck you! You didn't get your MA at the local kinda shitty college, you had the temerity to study _out of state_, let alone _out of the county_, let alone _on the other side of the country_.

    So I ended up working in a factory for a year, then moved to South Korea. Dad is actually very understanding and now actively wants me to stay here forever, seeing as how I like my job and have guaranteed health care as a legal alien and there's still a modicum of respect between workers and employers.

    Life is funny. And small towns in America suck balls. As long as they discriminate against supposed "outsiders" like me, I'll happily refer to them as the small-minded hillbillies they truly are.

  107. A VORTEX OF SHIT, PART II | Gin and Tacos Says:

    […] (Check in with Part I here) […]

  108. Barry Says:

    Andrew Says:

    "So you can honestly tell me that you would prefer living on the street over a subsidized apartment where once, just once, a knife fight broke out on the other side of your locked door? Connie never said there were daily or weekly knife fights."

    G*d F*cking D*mn

  109. democommie Says:

    "My grandfather's money was his to spend/save/give away as he chose. Raising and providing for me was my (as it happens, unmarried, unpartnered) mother's problem, not his."

    Yes. Exactly. Your grandfather was a fucking asshole. He let YOU suffer because he hated his daughter (apparently). He also seems to have had a crisis of conscience and left her a wad when he died–instead of simply giving her an allowance to help raise you.

    Your grandfather was a fucking asshole. If you think that I shouldn't say that, because I don't know your grandfather while it's okay for you to be prick about Connie's situation then you're a moron as well as being a self-absorbed whanker.

    As to the "merits" of your argument, they don't exist.

  110. Andrew Says:

    @democommie: So if someone decides to keep his own money for his own old age, he's a fucking asshole? Grandparents are not financially responsible for grandchildren. I don't know where you got the idea that he let me suffer, as I've already explained that I didn't suffer. As for his supposed crisis of conscience, I'm fairly sure he meant all along to keep his own money for his own needs and then, when he was dead and didn't need it any more, pass any that was left to the next generation. This seems normal to me, and if I had children or grandchildren, that is what I would do.

    You can say whatever you like about my grandfather. It bothers me not one whit. I just don't think you're correct, and I did know him, which you most likely did not.

  111. democommie Says:

    Andrew:

    "This seems normal to me, and if I had children or grandchildren, that is what I would do."

    Then you're an asshole, too–not that I really had any doubt about it.

    Buddy: Rule #1. When in a hole, lose the shovel.

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