There’s one American community that I can guarantee you no presidential candidate will visit: Beattyville, Kentucky. Beattyville, for those of you who are unfamiliar with it, is America’s “poorest white town,” recently profiled in a disturbing Guardian feature.
Beattyville has long been at the center of a perfect storm of social, political and economic conditions that have ravaged the community, Guardian writer Chris McGreal discovered. Coal mines shut down and jobs disappeared; educated and ambitious people moved away; drugs in the form of opioid pain pills, the notorious Hillbilly Heroin, ravaged the community; and now the only thing preventing total economic collapse is the welfare system.
Despite these problems, or perhaps because of them, no presidential candidate is going to visit Beattyville. Both the Republicans and the Democrats are going to avoid Beattyville like the plague.
The people of Beattyville will see neither the compassionate liberal Hillary Clinton nor her main rival for the Democratic nomination, U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont), the self-proclaimed champion of the working class. To make matters worse, none of the Republican candidates, all of whom claim to be fighting for Main Street and its people, will be seen on Beattyville’s Main Street.
Why the Presidential Candidates Ignore the Poor
The reason the presidential candidates will stay out of Beattyville is because it reminds Americans of painful realities they do not want to face. It also refutes the mythologies of both political parties.
Democrats will stay away because they do not want to admit that poverty is color blind. The reality of white poverty in Beattyville makes a mockery of the leftist mythology of white privilege and racism as the basis of poverty and inequality. Beattyville’s population is around 98% white, but it has a poverty rate of 44% and an average household income of $12,361 a year—median household income in the U.S. is around $53,046, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
For an interesting take on this peculiar brand of hypocrisy, see Rod Dreher’s recent American Conservative piece. Note: One of the best ways Bernie Sanders could respond to all of the mostly white journalists who have been trying to label his campaign as “racist” because most of his supporters are white would be to visit a place like Beattyville.
The Ghost of John Maynard Keynes in Beattyville
What’s worse is that Republicans will avoid Beattyville and the subject of white poverty for the same hypocritical reason it punctures some of their cherished myths.
The totally dysfunctional economy in Beattyville proves that the market does not always solve economic problems or meet everybody’s needs. The reality of poor whites lining up at the food bank and depending on food stamps to survive refutes the mythology of the welfare queen and the cherished white middle class fairy tale that only African Americans need welfare.
This is why Republicans U.S. Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Dr. Ben Carson and former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, all of whom are competing to be the Christian candidate, will avoid an overwhelmingly Christian town in the heart of the Bible Belt. It is also why Donald Trump, who is trying to portray himself as the defender of the white working class, will stay out of a white working-class town.
The Republicans do not want to face any evidence of their failed economic policies nor do they want to see any proof that John Maynard Keynes was right and Milton Freidman was wrong. The largest employer in Beattyville is the school system, and the only thing preventing total economic collapse is a variety of government payments, including food stamps, Medicaid and low-cost subsidized mortgages
The reality in Beattyville seems to prove Keynesian economics, which is something that would make both Republicans and centrist Democrats like Hillary look very stupid. Keynesian economics is the belief that government spending could drive the economy and make up for the deficiencies of the free market.
Another problem is that there is a good chance that the media would simply ignore or downplay a candidate if he or she went to a place like Beattyville. The harsh reality there would put off a lot of viewers and scare away a lot of readers. It might also offend ideological sensibilities on both sides of the aisle, so it must be avoided at all costs.
What this means is that the terrible problems in places in Beattyville will simply be allowed to fester until they boil over and explode, much as the problems in Ferguson, Missouri, did. The only way the poor blacks in Ferguson got attention was to basically burn their own town.
Judging by the candidates’ responses, it will take a violent upheaval of some sort on behalf of poor whites simply to attract the attention of the media and the political elite. One just hopes our leaders respond to that upheaval with compassion and common sense and not with bayonets and tanks.