As I sat watching the CNN documentary news recently, a segment on Beattyville, Ky. came across the screen. The title read, “Trump gives America’s ‘poorest white town’ hope.” This town rated as America’s poorest area from 2008 to 2012. Beattyville residents voted 81 percent for Donald Trump. Over half of the people there rely on food stamps.
Many depend on Obamacare. Over 50 percent are on Social Security disability. The town is 96 percent White. There are no Blacks. Beattyville is not far from the town where President Lyndon Johnson declared his infamous “War on Poverty” in 1964.
According to stereotypes these folks were ignorant White racist, crackers that supported Trump because of his demagogic views. According to Hillary Clinton, they were part of the “basket of deplorables.” Wrong. Their primary gripes included neither the words “nigger” nor “race.” They talked about the lack of jobs and hopelessness as reasons for their plight. They said that President Trump gave them hope that previous administrations did not deliver.
My mind raced back to Baltimore City and the similarities most of the 63 percent of Blacks residing in Charm City have in common with this eastern rural Kentucky town. For young Black men joblessness hovers at 37 percent. Poverty spills to almost one quarter of the city’s population. A sense of hopelessness exists. Over 90 percent of residents voted for Hillary Clinton.
Does President Trump possess the power to create jobs and bolster hopes of Beattyville residents? For that matter did former President Obama maintain that power? The answer is no.
Trump gives hope on the false premise that eliminating bad trade agreements e.g., (North American Fair Trade Act (NAFTA), Trans Pacific Pact (TPP), and slashing taxes and regulations will bring back jobs to the U.S. Obama said that making trade deals such as NAFTA and the Trans Pacific Pact would help keep profit makers happy in all countries involved, and assure long-term growth and jobs. Obama kept some regulations–not enough–to quench the thirst of corporate greed. Although he did not slash taxes, he delivered revenues to businesses to large to fail. Meanwhile, Beattyville and Baltimore residents continued to wait.
One solution is to increase the number of social gains and entitlements such
as Social Security, unemployment compensation, etc., that helped working people. Take the private out of Obamacare and replace it with single payer free health insurance for all. Put folks to work to renovate the failing infrastructure. Make public key industries that are presently in private hands
Start one local solution by making $15 an hour minimum wage and a union now a law.
Kenneth O. Morgan is an assistant professor and coordinator of the Urban Studies Program in the Department of Criminal Justice and Applied Social and Political Sciences at Coppin State University in Baltimore.