In the Land of Self-Defeat

What a fight over the local library in my hometown in rural Arkansas taught me about my neighbors’ go-it-alone mythology — and Donald Trump’s unbeatable appeal.

Comments: 280

  1. Mainly good people trying to make due with less, and they expect their government to do the same. Makes perfect sense to me. BTW, my MIL has a MLS and it’s not a useful degree, and one of many that should be scaled back, like pharmacy PHD degrees to count pills at CVS and ring up sales.

  2. @stan Yeah, but it's an incorrect logic. Governments with a central bank do not work like households. State governments do of course. But it's an insular view - I agree it's understandable but it is not the path to progress. Now progress may be overrated but these people are on Facebook, doing what they're doing, enjoying the benefits of technology, medicine, etc. when it suits them. If they rejected all modern amenities and then said "let's lead a simple life" then I'd at least praise them for being consistent. But no, they want the advantages of progress and take advantage of it while decrying the methods that made it possible. I don't think people like Warren and Sanders are trying to earn their votes. I think these two and most of the D candidates are doing what is right by everyone. All good policies will help everyone: rural or urban, whether they want it or not.

  3. @stan - wow, I don't even know how to respond to such views. Counting pills . . . well, a pharmacist has to know a patient's complete history (to safeguard against, for example, interactions of various drugs; to ensure correct dosage, consider various side-effects; safeguard against abuse, etc. ). A pill taken incorrectly can kill . . . so, yes, I want my pharmacist to be well qualified. And, those folks ringing-up sales, are likely clerks . . .

  4. @stan One of my family members is a pharmacist employed by CVS. If you think that his job simply entails counting pills and ringing up sales, you're sadly misinformed. Pharmacists are health care providers who have an extensive knowledge of the medications your doctor prescribes. That advanced degree enables pharmacists to understand and work with an increasingly complex, varied formulary. Employing people to do that job without a sufficient education is asking for trouble. I'm curious, if you went to a pharmacy and the person (with no degree) who filled your prescription gave you the wrong meds, and those meds had a deleterious effect, would you sue the pharmacy for malpractice? Seeing as how you think the pill-counter doesn't need an education to administer to your health care needs?

  5. Every American deserves political representation, but our system that gives greater political weight to the less successful and increasingly less relevant segment of the country is.... an odd choice.

  6. @Hunter S. Battles of rural vs. urban are as old as the Republic. The Constitution requires at least one representative per state, and no more than one for every 30,000 people. As the country expanded and more states were admitted to the Union, rural states started proportionally losing representation to the larger urbanized states. A political battle royale developed that got so bad that in 1920, the House for the first and only time in its history failed to reapportion itself following the decennial census as required by the Constitution. The problem was finally "solved" by the Permanent Apportionment Act of 1929, which permanently fixed the number of representatives at 435 but ensured an ever widening "fairness gap" between rural and urban representation. The Act obviously needs to be re-visited, but one can only imagine the pitched partisan battle that will ensue in these distrustful, polarized times.

  7. I think there is an argument to be made that people who are openly toxic towards education do NOT deserve political representation. If you hate knowledge and can't vet news sources, why should your voice matter? America is failing as a "democracy". We'd do better in an "elite republic" where a minimum threshold is established for individuals to influence our outcomes.

  8. Super insightful to understanding the attitudes and situation of people who live in these rural towns and communities.

  9. If the Democratic Party knew what was good for it, it would focus on the myriad ways that Republicans are no longer the party of fiscal responsibility. If they pounded home Trump's $28 billion in farm bailouts (et al), the good citizens of Van Buren County might do a bit of thinking...

  10. @J B The conservative movement stopped being about "fiscal responsibility" the moment Barack Obama was elected president. That began their gradual transformation into the party of ethno-nationalist authoritarianism. Or maybe it just stripped bare what was always there.

  11. @Jay You are too kind. The conservative movement was never about fiscal responsibility. It was always about redistributing money from those who need it to those who already have it. Look at the subsidies for giant farm companies and oil and gas companies and mining companies promoted, preserved, and extended by "conservatives" while they cut food stamps and school lunches.

  12. @Jay, point is, most Trump voters clearly don't mind the "ethno-nationalist authoritarianism" one bit, so perhaps the Democratic Party should stop focusing on it...

  13. The idea of $25 per hour as a high wage speaks paragraphs. It’s not just that the people portrayed here don’t want handouts (any guesses on how many get disability or other payments) but seems they don’t want to help themselves period.

  14. Right? I graduated in 2001 with a degree in physics and music and got an entry level job paying $36k a year base salary with bonuses that added around 10k a year. My third and final year I made $72k and that was in 2004. $25 an hour for someone with a master's degree does not seem far fetched or unreasonable, especially considering that now I'm a freelance musician and pull in and $50/55k a year. When will people in these rural communities finally realize they're making slave wages and demand a more equitable society instead of dragging everyone into the gutter with them?

  15. @Hunter S. Average disability paycheck is around $1200 per month - the equivalent of $10/hr. Most people I know on disability receive $800-1000/month. So $25/hr would seem like a lot to them. Not saying that I agree with the whole “me first” way of seeing things. Merely answering your question

  16. @AnnieG And here is the kicker - this is from the SSI site: If you do not make more than $25,000 a year and file as an individual or your household income is less than $32,000 per year and you file jointly, you will not have to pay taxes on your Social Security Disability benefits. If your income exceeds those limits, a portion of your disability payments may indeed be taxable. The same is not true if this is "earned" income. It's hard to feel anything but rancor those who take, and then spit on those who make the provision. That person on disability may actually come out ahead of the librarian making $25 an hour.

  17. how can you get your neighbors to see the huge amounts of cash the Trumpists are spending to farmers, to corporations and the wealthy through tax cuts and failure to negotiate medicare drug prices?

  18. @Bernard D: It appears that you can't. When your only news sources - local and country wide - don't run articles or stories about what's going on, you don't and can't make informed opinions. I occasionally do a quick Internet search of random red state newspapers and tv station websites to see if they are reporting what we in most of the rest of America see and read. Yesterday, I randomly picked Billings, MT, and Boise, ID. Not one article on either side about any of this. None. Nada. This is why people voted for and continue to support Trump - they really have no clue about any of this except for whatever their local paper or tv station chooses to run, which is nothing. Fox isn't the only problem now, so is Sinclair, Tribune, Liberty, and Hubbard networks spread out across the South and Midwest.

  19. @Bernard D How indeed. They think spending money on education and libraries is a waste, which explains why they also can't think how Trump's money to the wealthy and cuts to healthcare affect them.

  20. @Sheila Conglomeration of broadcast stations favors big right-wing companies with deep pockets taking control of the airwaves. It used to be illegal to own more than 12 radio stations and 5 TV stations in the whole U.S. Big business managed to get rid of that, mostly through Republicans but also through Democrats. Now my small city has 4 radio stations owned by one giant out-of-town broadcaster.

  21. Time to stop subsidizing rural America, They don't want government support? Well I don't want to pay for it. A simple fix: states get back from the federal government in services what they put in. Everyone is happy right?

  22. @Katie Except for the children and the impact it has on their lives. Maybe only 5-10% would ever go to the library, but that is still something. A well-run library is a wellspring of art, traveling exhibits, senior talks. It can be the town's community center. I hope it does....

  23. @Katie Time to stop thinking in terms of us v. them. Time to stop thinking that individuals control their own fates. Time to understand the social and economic relationships that bind us all yet advantage some over others. That goes just as much for an eastern suburban professional like me as for the subjects of Ms. Potts' article.

  24. @Katie Is this irony? You are saying the exact same thing the folks in the article are saying, They don’t want their tax dollars spent on anything other than the most basic of services (police…) because they don’t want to help neighbors even if that helps of neighbors will ultimately help them or their families. “… but what I’ve learned since I came home is that they remain opposed even when they themselves stand to benefit.” By subsidizing, supporting and/or reinventing industries in rural areas, we will all benefit. Americans need to be in this recovery to a fair largely middle class America together.

  25. The attitudes reflected in this article of those folk who live in this community, helps explain why the young ones split town at their first opportunity.

  26. Everyone fled San Francisco and Brooklyn too. Everyone from Brooklyn now lives here.

  27. As I saw on a bookmark once: libraries will get you through times of no money better than money will get you through times of no libraries.

  28. @the quiet one That is a very wise bookmark. Libraries are the vital institutions of civilization closest to the people. They must flourish if we are to continue as civilized nation (though there are doubts as to whether we still have that status.)

  29. @the quiet one I like libraries too, but did they need a new building? You see similar divides in many towns where the school budget is most of the town’s budget. Elderly on fixed incomes with adult children feel their taxes are too high. They have a point. The elimination of the SALT deduction was outrageous. It’s double taxation. I want the deduction back.

  30. @the quiet one A working man who pulled himself up from nothing to become one of the wealthiest "robber barons" believed one of the many things he could do to help others (once he sold and embarked on spending his fortune) was build public, free lending libraries. When I was growing up, my town had a Carnegie library with polished brass hand-rails on the steps. In the late 60s it was torn down to build a new, bigger, more modern library, which since THEN has been replaced as well. But I still remember that Carnegie library, and the brilliant children's librarian in the children's room, a sunny basement room (surprising) with amazing murals. Not valuing libraries is like not valuing literacy.

  31. Very disheartening. Colin Woodard describes the absence of understanding of the "common good" in some regions of the USA in his book "American Nations." I am sorry for the residents of Van Buren County and others like it, and very glad that I don't live there.

  32. I love that book! Thank you for mentioning it.

  33. @Jane Smiley the Concept of Common Good is prevalent in Europe and missing in the US to a frightening degree.

  34. How do these people feel about paying back the huge budget deficit Trump and the Republicans have run up? The benefits went mostly to the rich, yet we, our children and grandchildren will be paying for it.

  35. @Cindy Mackie - The federal government does not have to pay back the deficit or debt, As an example, look at the enormous war debt the greatest generation left to the following generation. As a percentage of the economy that debt was almost 40% LARGER than the debt today. What about that terrible burden? Well, from 1946 to 1973, the GDP averaged a 3.8% growth and real median household income surged 74%. How did we do that? Did we pay down the debt? NO! During that 27 year period the debt grew 75%. We invested in America. We grew the economy so that debt became insignificant. On the other hand, we also had a big war debt after WWI. Then we balanced the budget for 10 years and reduced the debt by 38%, In October of 1929, it was only 16% of the GDP. AND THEN WHAT HAPPENED? It's about time people learned that the finances of the federal government are far, far, different than those you discuss around the kitchen table.

  36. @Cindy Mackie They don't have a clue about Republicans running up the debt. They don't have a clue that the debt is rapidly increasing in a time of economic prosperity. Fox news and Republicans don't discuss debt anymore and won't until Democrats get back in power. They will then focus on social security and medicare. No way we repeal those tax cuts.

  37. @Ben I’m hoping that if we have more Democrats in office they can at least change the proportion of the benefits to lower income people. The middle class drives the economy by buying stuff. Our economy is beginning to falter because the middle class is struggling. I think things might have gone differently if the average family had hundreds or even thousands more to spend on the necessities of life.

  38. This is why we need to change the way our votes are tabulated. Popular vote should determine the presidency, not the Electoral College. Representation in the House needs to match populations more accurately. And we need to take a second look at "two senators per state." It made sense when they created the Constitution. It no longer does. North and South Dakota have twice as much power in the Senate as California. That is absurd. People in rural areas should certainly have a voice. But not one that exceeds their numbers.

  39. @SR - The rule about 2 senators per state is what makes the electoral college so out of whack, since EC votes are determined by the number of representatives plus the number of senators per state. But the effect of 2 senators per state is far worse than most people realize. For example, in 2016, Senate Democrats got 30 million more votes than Senate Republicans, yet Republicans kept the majority. In 2018, Senate Democrats got 11.5 million more votes than Republicans, and Republicans gained even more seats. We wouldn't have Moscow Mitch blocking every bit of legislation that comes across his desk, or blocking the seating of a SCOTUS candidate nominated by a Democratic president if not for the disproportionate power the 2 senators rule gives smaller states.

  40. @MegWright A start would be to lift the limit on the number of representatives in the House. I say we let every thirty thousand people have a representative. Doesn't fix the Senate, but it would rebalance the EC.

  41. @SR Not to mention, the US Senators no longer even represent the people of their states. They represent multi-national corporations. Marsha Blackburn, US Senator from Tennessee, proudly claims that she does not accept campaign donations (from individuals.) She only takes money from corporations based outside the state of Tennessee. It's worked out well for her - she's a millionaire with a lifetime job in the Senate.

  42. Doubly frustrating - rural folks who have outsized voting power and whose undersized income means they would pay for little to none of it, in taxes, in the end.

  43. it seems that many small town folks yearn for a past that was never as good as they imagine and cannot be recreated in the present. They look to the past for solutions to problems that never existed before. They want to force everyone else into their nostalgic view of the world rather than accept that nothing will get better without change.

  44. A sign of the sadly broken social contract. It's every man for himself.

  45. What a sad story.I grew up in a working class neighborhood west of Boston.So grateful to my older sister, who took me to the town library in first grade.Starting in second grade, I went to the library every day after school, and walked the 2 miles home.During college in Boston, the college library my refuge,and the Boston Public Library awesome! I'm 62 and live on the coast of New England, the town library still my refuge. I think of all of the children that will be deprived of books. My 2 adult sons thank me for introducing them to the library when they were in pre-school.Thank you librarians everywhere!

  46. @Nora Thank you for that great response. Our local libraries are a wonderful resource for all of our communities. Sad that some don’t seem to value their contributions to the common good. There seems to be a short sightedness to the community referenced in this op ed.

  47. @Nora Our local library's most popular group is the ESL classes, passport applications and test proctoring and can be a safe refuge for both kids and adults.

  48. It deserves to be mentioned that towns in New England and the Upper Midwest have made provisions for centuries to provide public libraries and schools for their citizens. Community groups would start lending libraries that were later permanently housed and expanded over decades then centuries; most Upper Midwest states platted under the Public Land Survey System had a "school section" in each township, the funding and management of which was overseen by the township board. Meanwhile, with a few exceptions like Nashville ("the Athens of the South"), the agricultural Confederacy staunchly resisted Yankee airs like widely accessible libraries, community schoolhouses and universal literacy. If your society was based on a racial caste system, you would never undermine that hierarchy by teaching every cabbage who fell off the truck how to read and do arithmetic. These people claim to be adhering to some DIY bootstrap ethos but their stingy selfishness and closed society has roots in the violent exclusion necessary to keep chattel slavery going in North America for 250 years.

  49. This piece sadly describes selling out ethics for trinkets. It is also ironic that the people in these regions get more federal assistance than the "East Coast" areas they resent.

  50. @James McCrane And that the areas they resent are where their government aid comes from.

  51. They resent those of us who live on the West coast equally or more so.

  52. "We're eating our seed corn". Libraries are the other source of eduction for our kids, besides attending school. At the library they can read books that interest them, access materials like magazines and subscription-based information sources that available on the internet except if you pay for them. Someday, the children we are failing to support will be pushing our wheelchairs and making decisions about our health and welfare. Isn't that worth the cost of a library and an active librarian?

  53. Libraries in rural areas were founded by educated women who donated their labor. My grandmother co-founded the first library in Constantia, New York and staffed it when she wasn't washing, churning, cooking, or taking care of the chickens. Maybe people still have that mentality. Perhaps they should volunteer more. Volunteers have made a huge difference in animal control facilities, another social good people don't want to pay for. $25.00 an hour is a lot of money for that area, I would agree.

  54. @CM The study is called Library Science. Librarians require Masters' degrees and certification. The mean salary for a librarian is about $60,000.00/year. $25.00 an hour for a Librarian is a pay cut; $19.00+ an hour is an insult. My wish for Ms. Singleton is to receive and accept a position where she will be respected and appreciated. I'm glad your grandmother helped found a library; it's not your grandmother's day anymore.

  55. Tragic. Sad. Why? I'm trying so hard to understand the reasoning behind this. It seems as if all sense of decency and the common good has left these communities. Did the people who left take these things with them. How do they square this with their religious beliefs. Jesus took care of others. The Sermon on the Mount? Did they miss this in Sunday school.

  56. @GM "How do they square this with their religious beliefs." Religious beliefs apply only when then support your preferred religious beliefs. That's been proven innumerable times in recent years.

  57. Sounds like the true-life version of Left Behind.

  58. @GM : "Did the people who left take these things with them?" Yes. To some degree, the nation is self-sorting. People who believe in right vs. wrong are driven out of such places, as surely as those who were opposed to lynching and the exploitation of sharecropping were driven out of the Deep South a hundred years ago.

  59. Frustrating. I have a lot of respect for people from all walks of life. But sometimes I feel as though if, as a group, these people are determined to bring the country down to their level—my sympathy runs thin. I guess I'm at the point of agreeing with these people's position: It's every person for himself. Don't fret about the community or the social fabric; just look after your own. So I'll tale their advice. I won't worry or care about them, against the better nature of my conscience.

  60. My sympathy has run much thinner for rich people who won't pay their taxes.

  61. The was a fascinating read for me. Those who feel like they are part of something bigger seek out the means to be part of that thing, and abandon rural America. Those in rural America don't feel like they are part of the something bigger anymore and are content to hunker down and take care of themselves. It's really kind of sad to watch these rural communities disappear, but it appears to be at least partly their own fault. Certainly the belief that Republicans will help them in some way is ridiculous. From my perspective Republicans are accelerating the transfer of wealth from people in rural America to people that don't need it. Donald Trump is the tip of the GOP spear being driven into the heart of America, but he has convinced many that he is their savior.

  62. @Clint this makes me believe that these people are the ones who expect a “free ride.” They won’t move to get better jobs, won’t educate themselves, rely on resentment of those who make stronger efforts to succeed. Maybe opioids are just an easy way out for some.

  63. Don’t forget republicans are helpful in these rural communities as long as there a chance to make a quick profit in fully exploiting the mineral wealth of these communities by promoting the stripping drilling fracing and polluting of these wonderful rural areas for the robber barons who are happy to extract the value and leave a trail of waste and move on. this is what put these people in Van Buren in this predicament m. The Driller’s came in made their money taking out the gas and now won’t pay their billls Thank you Republican Party for abusing the land and the people who reside there.

  64. I think that is probably the best insight about the general rural mentality that I have read. Thank you Ms. Potts. But I can't get over how sad it makes me feel. They sound so hopeless. As an urban resident, I always assume rural communities are so much more tight knit and communal; now I can toss out that assumption. From a place like Oakland, it is hard to fathom a community bickering over, and denying, a $25/hour salary for a highly educated professional. $25/hour here is a decent middle class wage, but you sure won't laugh on your way to bank. I hoped that by the time I finished Ms. Potts piece that she would offer some morsel of hope or advice on how we rectify this gaping chasm in our national society. Perhaps there is no way to resolve this conundrum if the suffering rural communities don't want help from anyone. I think the saddest part of this is the fact that America has more money and resources than we know what to do with, but at the highest and lowest levels of society, selfishness and a rhetoric of scarcity have become the indisputable norm. I can't think of a better reason to seriously focus on how to redistribute income and wealth so that rural communities can stop resenting the rest of us, and maybe feel empowered to care enough about their own communities to put some value on a local library or providing a decent living to the people who help to make life better for everyone. Much food for thought.

  65. @Mark Hawkins and how poorly is oakland mismanaged? how many residents rely on public assistance to even live there? most people do not want their locale to end up being like oakland and san francisco and too many towns and cities run by democrats and those who think they know more than anyone else. just about every state city and town run by democrats ends up the same way. and regardless of how rural people think [or more accurately they way liberals THINK they think] they are not in any way as condescending as democrats and liberals are 100% of the time when discussing people who are neither.

  66. @Robert Freeman I'm not sure why you're so angry with my comment besides that you have an anti-Democrat ax to grind. I never held up Oakland as a paragon of perfection. We've got plenty of problems. I don't blame rural residents for them, nor do I begrudge providing rural communities with whatever assistance they need to survive and thrive. I don't believe I was being condescending; I was expressing empathy and remorse that we can't figure out how everyone in America can have a better life, with more wealth sloshing around than we know what to do with and more billionaires getting richer. There is plenty of money to make life decent for all Americans - it just isn't being properly allocated. So now that you've spewed all that negativity at me... did that solve anything? And FYI, I'm proud to live in a city like Oakland (with all it's flaws) that does care about it's residents and tries (not always successfully) to provide assistance to people in need. It's called community, not utopia.

  67. @Robert Freeman " most people do not want their locale to end up being like oakland and san francisco " So why are so many people moving to these cities? Please explain.

  68. What this article demonstrates is the wisdom of Tip O'Neil's observation that all politics is local. For all practical purposes we currently do not have the usual national parties. On one hand there is the Trump Party, with the President himself essentially a symbol for those folks talked about in this piece and a cult for Members of Congress. On the other hand we have a semi-coalition of specific agendas, more adept at forming a circular firing squad than in weaving a narrative that is plausible to those potential swing voters necessary for victory in 2020's Presidential election. The election will boil down to whether or not the Democratic candidate can get enough voters in Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and, maybe, Florida who did not vote for Clinton to vote for him or her. It is entirely irrelevant if another million people in California vote for the Democratic candidate or another million vote for Trump in Alabama. And that number must be big enough to overcome not just the 2016 gap in those states but any increased difference due to 2020 Trump voters who did not vote in 2016, because they assumed he would lose, and 2020 Clinton voters who did not vote, because they assumed she would win. Endless aspirational plans and guilt trips will not work. The reason Biden has overwhelming Black support is because Blacks have heard for generations political promises that were never fulfilled. Better a realist who wins and accomplishes something, than a utopian who loses.

  69. "The typical private-sector wage in Van Buren, $10 to $13 an hour, was right for the county, many people said. Anything more than that was wasteful, or evidence of government corruption." Not even a living wage, especially if the librarian is paying off student loans. Just like the ghost towns of old that dried up and died as their one source of income left town, these people are dooming themselves into irrelevance and eventual death. It's too bad, really, since so many younger people would probably love to live smaller town and rural life if they felt more welcomed and had the hope for a good job with decent wages. To me, this is the end product of forty years of failed GOP voodoo economics and 23 years of non-stop hate media. SMH.

  70. the sad thing is that it doesn't have to be this way. Lancaster PA could have wound up the same way but folks took the opposite approach and with some creative partnerships and investments is thriving.

  71. @Sheila I was thinking the same thing. People are angry the area is dying and are steadily working to kill it. Maybe the library wages are too high for the citizens, even if it is a reasonable wage demand. But the result is a death spiral - lower wages, fewer people left to pay taxes, fewer resources for those left, poor schools, and kids leaving the area for anywhere else, as the wage curve approaches an average of zero.

  72. @Sheila Sometimes I get so frustrated by the attitudes shown in rural communities like this one that I would envision cutting off all state federal aid beyond the taxes they pay. In client states like Arkansas, the rural parts would wither away to the point that they could eventually be recolonized by young people attracted to the beautiful rural areas with minimal cost real estate without a dominant 'conservative' population.

  73. According to statistics from FY 2015, probably the most recent available, Arkansas received 35.9% of its revenue from the Federal government. It ranked 11th in the nation with Louisiana at #1. I don’t think I need to say anything more.

  74. @TV Pretty much it's true that the Red States are subsidized by the Blue States.

  75. I'd be curious to really know how much a county and those in this article in reality rely on Government support -- my experience is that a lot, if not most, of these vocal anti-government, Trump supporters, are often the most reliant on government welfare and aid.

  76. @Otis-T - I had rural in-laws who got $300,000 a year in farm subsidies. They hated government, and insisted they'd never taken a penny from the government. They really didn't see farm subsidies as coming from the government, apparently. Or else they convinced themselves they "earned it" so those subsidies didn't count as "taking."

  77. @MegWright They were rich farmers, too, like others who benefit most from farm subsidies.

  78. @MegWright Wow, did they think the money from government subsidies came straight from the printing press to them rather than from taxpayers? As a taxpayer, I find that more than a little enraging. I understand the need for taxes and don’t resent paying my share, sure wish I could wall mine off from selfish subsidized rural farmers though.

  79. I see a similar attitude in my state but there is still room for hope. Government services are unpopular as proposals but wildly popular once they pass and people can feel the effects. Obamacare supplied healthcare for 30 million people and public opinion became more positive at the same time. Even proposing getting rid of the national healthcare system in Canada would end a politicians career. I hope the technical age provides an incentive for remote workers who would move to these areas for cheap housing and a more "natural" lifestyle. This would revitalize these community in a thousand different ways.

  80. This sounds just about right in describing the attitudes of many , mostly rural, Americans to me. I used to work for a company in Alabama, the dialogue was something like this: We need better schools to advance economically Better schools mean more taxes No thanks - we will stay as we are! It is OK - The booster club will raise the money for a 7000 seat football stadium. At some point this country is going to have to address the disportioncate rural voting power.

  81. @Dennis - The little town/county where I live (26,000 pop.) raised property taxes a few years ago for the purpose of upgrading our schools (physical structure, computers, labs, etc.). What did they do with that windfall? They spent 1.1 million $$ to install artificial turf on the high school football field. And yes, this is a very red county, confederate flags fly from pick up trucks, and trump carried it easily.

  82. At this point, I worry that if I got a flat tire in rural America I'd get shot if I knocked on a door for help. These areas are starting to seem mightly inhospitable--I wonder if they'd even loan a cup of sugar or an egg to their next-door neighbor.

  83. @Allecram My husband and I built a 750 square foot vacation cabin in Eastern Washington about 7 years ago. Our right-of-way crosses our neighbors' property. When we were planning to build, we suggested to our neighbor that we relocate the right-of-way so that it didn't go right past their front door. The unequivocal answer, without any option to discuss alternatives, was NO. We were thoughtful in the placement of our structure to minimize visual impact, yet our neighbor has made it clear that they have nothing but resentment for our presence. Cup of sugar or an egg?? Dream on.

  84. @Allecram We will absolutely lend you a cup of sugar or some eggs (if you are lucky they will be farm eggs from someone's chickens or guinea hens). Our neighbor uses our field to grow produce and they give us eggs in return. Symbiotic. Also, please note that if you have a flat tire, put your hood up. That is the signal for one of us inhospitable Arkansans to pull over and see if you need any help.

  85. @Allecram Best not to go wandering around SE Kentucky offroad in later summer. If you stumble on to a marijuana patch, the consequences could be severe.

  86. This makes me so happy I do not live in rural Arkansas. I do live in rural Minnesota, and see the same arguments popping up every time taxes or government spending comes up. For the most part, those of us with a more liberal view of government services, and government's ability to do good for "the people", still carry the day in most civic arguments. For today.

  87. Two thoughts. The view from rural Maine is very much the same. Also, the conventional view of libraries is outmoded. The library is where rural folk go for computers, printers, and internet connections.

  88. @John Contreni Libraries are heavily used here in urban Seattle as well. For books, classes, and just as nice places to spend time with other people.

  89. @mattp same here in urban Portland - the library is packed.

  90. At some point in time in over-represented areas of the country, no voters=no power. Its already happened in Virginia, in the last election Republicans were shocked about how few voters there were in SW Virginia counties. Can't blame it on Democratic manipulation, these are Republican counties. Rural voters who won't pay for public services wind up with poor health care (what health care professional would move there to work?), and an early death. Average lifespan in SW Virginia is 65 years, while in Northern Virginia (very Blue) its 85 years. Most of the time, dead people don't vote!

  91. My impression is that rural people tend to be religious. I wonder how they reconcile the attitudes in this article with Christianity. I would like the author to have interviewed a local pastor.

  92. @KarenAnne, I'll add that in decades past, some churches (such as in the small town in North Carolina where I grew up) used to have sizable libraries themselves. My mother and aunt ran their church's -- a pretty sophisticated operation of books for all ages, with frequent purchases of new materials and a space for visitors to use a typewriter; they were part of a larger church association network of libraries, too. I don't know of any churches who do this anymore. My point is not that these church libraries replaced public libraries; church members used both, happily. Instead, I see this change as a decline in attitudes about sharing within our communities and appreciating reading and thoughtfulness.

  93. That's funny. If they are typical "evangelicals" I would question if they are really hearing or living Christ's message... I used to feel comfortable and thought I understood the rural people. I look like one though I'm not. Clean cut, pick up, vonunteer firefighter, liked country music. But since the Trump Transformation of America I have seen rural people as only interested in disrupting norms as its own objective. They are not interested in learning or growing or changing. The world is passing them by. Instead of changing with the times they just want to year everything down. It's complicated. Perhaps a changing of the guard, passing of the Boomer generation and younger people will eventually make things better

  94. @KarenAnne That and the fact that churches aren't taxed.

  95. A library is the community center for many towns. Free libraries are one of the best aspects of the US.

  96. @penney albany There are libraries that are not free and open to the public? Strange thought.

  97. @penney albany I don't spend much time in my local library; I go there frequently to return / check out books, but I don't linger. It's one of my favorite places in town. It's quiet. The library workers are helpful and also peaceful, creating a calm oasis. Whenever the library needs something, like a boost in the head librarian's salary, or a new facility, there are online arguments that include voices like those of the town in this article . . . "No one needs a library, we all have internet," "how hard can it be to check out a book?" etc. So far the pro-civilization voices have prevailed, and for now we have a lovely place for people to print out resumes, kids to compete for who reads the most over the summer, seniors to share their travel slide slows, and those of us who just pop in and out to slow our roll. Priceless - and I fear the day people who don't truly understand the concept of value outnumber those of us who do.

  98. @penney albany Agree, but they are not free, I pay for them every year out of my property taxes.

  99. Excellent article! Sums up the issue very well. Dems need to take notice of what rural Americans really need before making huge proposals that increase spending or even redistribute the spending. They also need better media penetration to make people realize whats going on.

  100. @Udayan "redistribute the spending" Funny how this never included redundant military expenditures. or tax cuts for billionaires.

  101. @David Henry Not so simple. We already redistribute the spending. Someone above noted that South Carolina receives 8$ for every 1$ they pay in federal taxes. We need education: Medicare (the most liked medical insurance) and Social Security (the majority's retirement plan) are socialist plans predicated on all contributing for the good of all.

  102. Ms. Potts somehow managed to write a huge feature without understanding her hometown resident's single defining feature: pride. Many Americans take pride in self-reliance and self-resilience. Sometimes that can take the form of stubbornness, but there is a strong ethic in not depending on handouts from others. And the more East Coasters (for that's what Ms. Potts is now -- clearly) push "what's good for you," the more others will push back. As a better writer than I once put it: "People don't like to be meddled with. We tell them what to do, what to think. Don't run, don't walk. We're in their homes and in their heads and we haven't the right. We're meddlesome." Perhaps, if Ms. Potts wants to write a book about her hometown fairly, she should drop the New York, east coast condescension and try using that empathy the left is always so quick to consider themselves as having.

  103. @Cameron Well, let us not meddle with them. Leave them to their lives. More energy thus can be given to working towards votes and elected representatives who value the 21st century.

  104. @Cameron You put it very well, and the key concept seems to be "handout." From where we urban folks sit, virtually all collective ways of solving problems seems to count as a handout to these folks. If your pride won't let you build a metaphorical levee because to you it's a handout, or invest in Medicare for all, then your community isn't going to do very well.

  105. @Saffron3 And that would probably be acceptable. But it's impossible for the left to do so -- centralization of control and the leveraging of Federal power to maximum effect is too enticing a mechanism for achieve Great Leaps Forward. Ultimate authority in the United States is not vested in either the Congress, the President, or the Supreme Court, but rather in a 3/4 majority of the state legislatures. Democrats would do well to remember that.

  106. Fantastic read! 100% agree. Its not a blue vs red argument, it IS a Rural vs Urban argument and that argument is only becoming stronger. I encourage the writer to research hospital closures in rural areas. By 2030 rural American will be 1/3rd the size it is today. Undoubtedly, this will mean more homeless in Rich cities and more handouts to anyone who wants to live in rural areas. To me, I think Democrats should just let these rural areas go. If they don’t want a new “libray” so be it. Tax dollars collected from Rich cities should be used to create better infrastructure withIN the cities and nearby areas not rural areas (that don’t want it).

  107. I live in a rural area (after years of living an urban life). The author paints a fairly accurate picture of life in a rural town, the effect of silo mentality on a population, and the role of social media in amplifying counterproductive viewpoints & reducing social discourse. In these communities exists a pervasive feeling, as jobs leave, infrastructure crumbles, that tax dollars are benefitting people "different" from rock solid "American." Furthermore to these people, committed to the social traditions of their communities, politicians seem to cater to alternative life styles (LGBTQ issues, anti-American, anti-religion) and benefit greatly from their connections to the wealthy & famous. I find it difficult to argue that today's politicians truly have their country rather than their wealthy donors, loudest constituents, and future lobbying and book deals at heart. All the above being said, I can't help but wonder: if the candidate for the $25 per hour salary had been male with a wife and 2.7 children, would less uproar been raised. Librarians are really like teachers for adults who are trying to obtain information or learn a new skill. How did the librarian salary compare to a teacher's salary in Van Buren County? It appears the librarian was doing 2 people's jobs. How much did those jobs pay when separate? How much would the county save by paying 2 salaries but 1 benefit package? It sounds to me like the case was not well presented.

  108. THEY feel disrespected? What sort of respect do they show anyone they perceive as different from them in any way? How many people in that county rely on Social Security, Medicare, Disability, Food Stamps (Walmart counts on that one for their employees) and other programs from the federal government? It's those "lazy people" in blue states who are paying more than their share to support those programs. That aspect doesn't get mentioned, as usual, in stories about the Trump voters and how neglected and ignored they consider themselves to be.

  109. @1DCAce - Over the years I've seen many posts by rightwingers who "know" that the red states are supporting the blue states. I don't know how you convince a Fox-viewer otherwise, because it's certain they won't do their own research on the subject.

  110. @1DCAce Perhaps we could offer these folks a pay-as-you-go system where the Feds give them nothing and let them use what would have been their Federal income tax monies to fix and manage their own roads, schools, etc.... But where does that leave the children who will someday grow up and need jobs, or want to go to college, or want to create art or start a business? A lifetime without libraries and decent schools is not something I would wish on the children of even my worst enemy.

  111. @Pundette Exactly. Plus they have no problem with the debt and deficit that Trump has quadrupled - do they even understand government spending?

  112. If the librarian accepted the job at $19 per hour, then $25 would indeed have been overpaying. It may be a small example, but public employee salaries and pensions actually are bankrupting many towns and cities, and citizens should not accept having to pay more than their markets will bear.

  113. @Kim I hope she gets her raise by moving away. Trouble is, she will take her spending power down the road, further eroding the town’s economy.

  114. Like a pharmacist, a librarian must perform her/his tasks to perfection. If the books are wrongly classified when they are new, or if they are chaotically shelved, or if the wrong names are shown to be borrowers, well, you get the picture.... The library, like the pharmacy, must be (practically) perfect in every way, or it will soon be too imperfect for efficient or safe operation. That’s why both librarians and pharmacists must have advanced educations. They’ve been trained to be particular.

  115. trump is a perfect reflection of these peoples' "me first" attitude. I'm okay with just sitting here and suffering instead of doing something to help myself as long as everybody else suffers too. There is no reaching these people. They have made a lifestyle of victimhood and don't seem interested in the work needed to make things better.

  116. @WhichyOne Maybe it's Trump's constant gripes of victimhood that attracts these people. It makes him seem like one of them, even as different as he is from them.

  117. Thank you. I am tired of tying myself in pretzels trying to be "tolerant" and "not judgmental." I'm sorry - people who think (if you can even call it that) like this are wrong. They are wrong, willfully ignorant, unkind to and inconsiderate of their fellow citizens, and they are dragging this country down with them in a race to the bottom to see which American community can be the first to officially achieve Third World status. To live in a world with access to education, science, medicine, etc. and intentionally turn away from those things is to return to the Dark Ages. I've had it. The time has come to say to these people that they are wrong - factually and morally. This is America, so their opinions should be heard, but as many other commenters have said, they should not be given disproportionate weight to pull the rest of us - those who love our families AND the people and world around us - down into a disease-infested, illiterate, parched, ravaged America where babies routinely die of diarrhea. I am no longer the least bit amused to see the movie "Idiocracy" come true. Abolish the electoral college, reconfigure the representative system of the Senate, and put the reins of this country back into educated and compassionate hands.

  118. South Carolina is a Trump state, but it leads the nation in the ratio of federal spending to federal taxes. South Carolina receives almost $8 in federal spending for every $1 it pays in federal taxes. Go figure.

  119. Look it up and you will see the preponderance of the states that possess the most “get the government out of my life” residents are the biggest dependents on the federal government. And all us blue staters are paying for them but you would never know it from how much they resent us.

  120. @bullone No wonder Lindsey Graham keeps getting reelected; he brings home the bacon - blue state bacon. Even with all that blue state largess, these Southern states are still basket cases.

  121. @bullone The answer to your question is that the Republicans who have a stranglehold on our state go to great lengths to make sure that the citizens are kept in the dark as to where the money to keep things going comes from. They cut taxes at the state level, and shortchange the counties and municipalities, so that the ire of the citizens is directed at those entities when they have to raise taxes to pay for necessary services.

  122. ''It’s an attitude that is against taxes, immigrants and government, but also against helping your neighbor.'' Funny how that plays out when you're the one needing help. People who help themselves usually have no trouble getting help. The inverse is especially true.

  123. @Mrs.ArchStanton How libertarian. The pertinent issue is helping others when they need it, in case you may need help from them in the future. Social science has indeed identified cooperation and empathy as singularly human evolutionary advantages, over stronger and fiercer species.

  124. When I first came to Alaska in 1969, the spirit of the place caught me like no place ever had. There was a neighborliness, a sense of common purpose, and a readiness to help anyone in need. I came to learn that it stemmed from the hardships that everyone endured: the bitter cold, the darkness, and the isolation into which you could all too easily slip if if you tried to go it alone. With a tiny population in an enormous state, people were a rarity, each one was valued. The struggle to gain statehood had been part of an ongoing effort to connect ourselves together, and Alaskans used to be proud of their governmental institutions, of the things they could accomplish together and the betterment it brought to our lives. That was long ago and few people can remember those sentiments. Alaska is very much like Clinton County now: people have a deep streak of independence - and selfishness. They protect their prerogatives, guard their possessions, and are rather uncaring about others. They have little use for government now, and if the nihilistic policies of Governor Dunleavy are not universally applauded, they do find wide approval. I saw these changes slowly overtake my State in the course of two decades, and I felt increasingly estranged. I left, but I still look back.

  125. @T.J.P. I was thinking the same thing while reading this article, particularly the references to 'overbuilding' during times of oil money flowing in, then ending up with money owed on infrastructure when prices crash. This piece almost reads like a microcosm of some aspects of Alaska. A big difference, however, is the 'evangelical base' which Paul McGlasson references in his comment posted a few comments above this. In the more rural areas of Alaska, people still tend to be tolerant and helpful for the most part (there's always the outliers). My adopted hometown of Fairbanks is wonderfully eclectic and accommodating of many diverse attitudes. Some Evangelicals, who are the primary backers of Governor Dunleavy, can be found in the town of North Pole (15 miles south of Fairbanks) but the vast majority of them live in the Matanuska-Susitna Valley area just north of Anchorage, and on the Kenai Peninsula just south of Anchorage. This is the most populated area of the state ! So in our case the Evangelical presence is definitely NOT a rural phenomenon. They do tend to have large families, all members of whom receive the (in)famous Permanent Fund Dividend, which might explain their support for our very divisive Governor.

  126. This is a fabulous story, but reading it, the only thing I can think is that somehow, somehow, somehow, we must take power away from these people who really don't understand how their ideas and votes are harming those of us who believe in government. If they don't want libraries in their own counties, that's fine, but can we please keep them from harming the majority of us (see e.g. Trump's election) who would prefer to have more government.

  127. @Hazlit The way to "take power away from those who don't understand" is to empower to understand. For at least the past 30 years, so-called conservatives in power have turned their back on what used to be a "conservative" value -- providing a good quality public education so that one's children could compete in the world - and have replaced it with disdain for the very idea of becoming educated. Their plan has succeeded.

  128. It's easy to believe in government in Canada. Government in the US goes to the highest bidder. It's basically a feudal system, whichever party is in power.

  129. @Hazlit I too believe in government, and the possibilities and potential of, an efficient, working government. Sadly, with all the waste and corruption (think Pentagon), there's an ounce (maybe a pound?) of truth to the otherwise ignorant "government is the problem" mindset in rural America. It feels like things have been "going south" ever since Reagan uttered those words.

  130. Civil society is built upon the notion of a social contract. I give my time, expertise and energy to operate an element of the machinery of society ( be it a bank, a factory, a school, a store, a farm, the police, the fire brigade, the government, a hospital, a social service, the armed services ). In return I get that which I need to sustain a satisfactory quality of life. For so many people: - There is nowhere to contribute anymore, because the factory is in China; - They are forced to give so much time to (sometimes multiple) poorly paid jobs all they see is a never ending treadmill of subsistence existence. It's perfectly natural that people for whom the social contract delivers few benefits will develop a personally-focussed self-protective world view. Perversely this happens to be exactly the same world view as ultra-rich Republicans owning businesses benefitting from global markets and cheap labour in China who see their own country as a fiscal tax drag to which they have no sense of loyalty. This issue is whether the Democrats can actually understand that dynamic and its root causes well enough to develop policies to fix it. Trump and the Republicans understand the dynamic well enough to exploit it and will never solve it because it undermines their election prospects.

  131. The question that needs to be asked is what have the GOP or Trump done for this community? Has he cut taxes for regular people? Has worker pay gone up from the corporate tax breaks? Has industry stepped up and invested in Rural America, due to environmental deregulation and tax cuts? Has the trade war brought new jobs or restored American manufacturing? Has Trump's hard-line stance on immigration improved working wages? Lastly, has Trump made your life better, not just more entertaining? The reason these communities are imploding is we have a capitalist economy and companies and industry have realized they cannot make a profit in rural America, no matter how low the taxes are or how lax the environmental laws become. There are many reasons, but the main one imho is they cannot find enough qualified and motivated workers, because the schools and universities are not producing enough quality graduates. The other one is these communities have become so isolated, moving there would mean losing most of your experienced professional work force, who will seek other jobs before moving. The truth is uncomfortable. Trump provides an escape from the truth by blaming others, i.e. minorities, elites, immigrants, etc. But he offers no real solutions. I hope some day people begin to look in the mirror and try to understand what's really happening and why. It won't make them vote democrat, but it might make them hold the GOP accountable.

  132. @Brian "There are many reasons, but the main one imho is they cannot find enough qualified and motivated workers, because the schools and universities are not producing enough quality graduates." It's hard for US workers to compete with foreign workers willing to work for 2 or 3 bucks an hour. Looks to corporations' bottom line for the answer.

  133. @LynnBob - I worked in manufacturing at one point in my life. You will not find the skillsets needed for industrial manufacturing anywhere in the world for $2 to $3 bucks an hour. Machine time and raw materials are the two greatest expenses and those costs the same anywhere in the world. Labor is a small fraction of the total cost, and it's much cheaper to pay a qualified and experienced technician a fair market wage than it is to hire an unqualified, underpaid person, who will waste machine time and material producing rejects or damage your machines. Companies need CNC techs, QA experts, tooling makers, manufacturing engineers, transportation, infrastructure, etc. China trains tens of thousands of professionals each year. We do not. Mexico trains them too. So does Canada, Europe, etc. So why do you think the jobs aren't in Arkansas? The solution would be to invest in education and job training. We used to do this, and 50 years ago, this town would have been proud of its library or schools. But this article pointed out, there is no public interest in libraries or schools, or any of the things that would help the economy. I think the GOP has brainwashed people for so long, they have no idea how to create jobs or improve the economy.

  134. Excellent article and it hit home with me because my own parents voted against higher taxes for schools when they no longer had children in those schools. It is a sad and short-sighted view: Now that I (or my kids) don’t need it we will reject all proposals that include ponying up money for something we do not utilize (i.e. schools, libraries, community facilities, etc.).

  135. We pay the highest school taxes in the nation, and our schools are falling apart.

  136. Thanks, Monica Potts, for this column. It resonates with me, living in a town where everything is breaking or broken, where so many are angry at local government spending of any sort, even though federal government spending is all that is keeping in business our hospital and any grocery stores other than Wal-Mart, Sad thing is, as such towns go bankrupt and young people keep moving away, they'll be snapped up by speculators and continue to enrich those who have been at the top of the socioeconomic pyramid for generations.

  137. Arkansas' "balance of payments" with Washington is available on the Google machine. And it isn't pretty, not even with the gas Ms Potts mentions. Anyone know how much this particular county of independent minded Trump voters gets or receives net from the rest of us? Where would they be without outside government to subsidize them?

  138. @Jeff Atkinson I'm sure Medicaid dollars going there are massive. As well as SSI.

  139. Looks like for many years Arkansas has been a net gainer in elation to the federal govt. of more than $1000 per capita.

  140. It sounds like the residents of Clinton would favor policies that would transfer wealth from urban to rural areas. Cue the wealth tax, courtesy of Elizabeth Warren.

  141. @Dave Reed You should read the article again, because I think you missed the main point, unless you are deliberately trolling progressive voters. The article explains quite explicitly that the author's neighbors strongly disagree with accepting "wealth from urban to rural areas" on principle. Further, you misunderstand the motivations of the progressives you are trying to troll - we accept this transfer of wealth if it helps raise the level of opportunity in rural areas. Who knows where the next Einstein will be born, or the doctor who finds a cure for diabetes? We understand that many benefits to the common good can only be sponsored by the government.

  142. Great article. Explains what those of us in cities don't understand about rural towns. Thank you.

  143. When and where and why did this anti-government animus spread in rural America, so well-described here? In large part, it began as a conservative evangelical white reaction to the civil rights movement. Ms. Potts mentions that her neighbors are super-religious, and my guess is mostly white. In reaction to the late 1960s civil rights era, evangelicals developed a strategy. Don’t attack civil rights directly, that is too OVERTLY racist. Instead, attack big government, which is after all needed to ENFORCE civil rights, or they mean nothing. That is COVERTLY racist. Keep government small, even virtually non-existent, and “those people” won’t be able to infiltrate our communities. Let government grow, and we will all be forced to live together. As this article suggests, this perverse logic ultimately leads to self-defeat. In seeking to withhold services from “them”, poor, white, evangelical areas withhold services from themselves. Resentment grows, and instead of offering a way forward, Trump just feeds the resentment. At its root, these problems grow out of a distorted vision of Christian faith. While there are numerous ways to attack these problems, for myself I hope that slowly but surely the true grace and love of the gospel seeps into the hills and valleys of rural America, making straight the crooked, and giving hope to the despairing.

  144. @Paul McGlasson Paul, To answer your lead question, refer back to this quote from the article. "The most dominant news source here is Fox News, which I think helps perpetuate these attitudes".

  145. @Paul McGlasson >>I hope that slowly but surely the true grace and love of the gospel seeps into the hills and valleys of rural America, making straight the crooked, and giving hope to the despairing.<< will never happen... hate is as old as man ... hate has only gotten stronger with time not weaker. Those people will never change. They will only breed more like them.

  146. AMEN you got that right

  147. Very good article. With 40% unable to cope with an unexpected $400 expense, all the rhetoric about this being a rich country is false for that 40%. We won't know what we have lost until it is gone (until at least the roads are no longer paved and the sheriff is part-time. Short-sided. Until we can also have discussions that are more than sound bites: we pay less taxes, but Europeans pay more taxes, have better health care and free college educations. When we add health care premiums to our taxes along with college educations for our children...we pay more and get less. And.. we don't even recognize how this affects our choices for ourselves and our children.

  148. The attitudes described here more or less apply to the entire old south, with the exception of some urban zones like Atlanta and Charlotte. This is not surprising nor is it shocking and I doubt that there are really big lessons to be learned in regard to national politics. The south is last in educational attainment, last in the percentage covered by health insurance, last in median wage earnings and, in some instances, last in life expectancy. Where it leads is in imprisonment numbers, weak laws protecting home owners (non-judicial foreclosure), high interest payday and used car lenders and the number of people with negative items on their credit reports (47% in one recent year). Probably in "dollar stores, too. They have vowed not to change, no matter what. I am Texan by ancestry and spent more than half my time in Texas or very rural Oklahoma between the ages of zero and 22. The anti-government, anti-tax hardline somehow comes at birth and intensifies. "Progress" very much depends on how things are presented and whether room is allowed for education about needs. As it stands, it very much looks like much of Arkansas is determined to chase decline down the road until they capture it. As for tax increases, the hard right former mayor of Tulsa, Mick Cornett, wrote in his recent book that even Republicans will approve them if they know what they are for and are limited to that purpose. If you throw something unexplained out there (25 an hour) people will push back, hard.

  149. This is an insightful and worthwhile analysis. I grew up in a podunk in central Ohio in the early 60s, where I completed 4th-11th grade. We then moved to the state of Washington, where I have resided ever since. I am in the unique position of having experienced both the self-limiting mentality described by this author, and the abundance and limitless opportunities of life in the Pacific Northwest. Here, I am surrounded by progressive, highly-educated people who are committed to environmental and social justice. Everyone I know despises Trump and the Republicans who support him. We want prosperity, happiness, and health for all people and living things, including Trump supporters. Do not all states have access to online news sources and libraries? Do we not all have exposure to entertainment media that depict a wide range of lifestyles and viewpoints? It is very hard to understand the "low information voter" consciousness, reliance on Fox News, and people who consistently vote against their own best interests. Thank you for trying to shed light on this intractable situation.

  150. @Web of Life The answer to your last paragraph is no. A large part of flyover America does not have access to high-speed internet or smartphones.. And they won't. It's not in the Local or State or especially Federal budget. And they don't want it because all the news and information they need is on AM radio. That amongst other things make just holding on to what they have is all there is. There is no feeling of page. Just holding on as their kids move away and people tell them what to [email protected] of Life The answer to your last paragraph is no. A large part of flyover America does not have access to high-speed internet or smartphones. And they won't. It's not in the Local or State or especially Federal budget. And they don't want it because all the news and information they need is on AM radio. That amongst other things make just holding on to what they have is all there is. There is no feeling of privaledge. Just hold on, as their kids move away and people tell them what to do.

  151. @Web of Life Ohio has changed a great deal in the last 50 years from when you lived here as a child, as you might imagine. It is a diverse place, no single strand of thought dominates. Yes, the state supported Trump. And Obama in the two previous elections. And Sherrod Brown in 2018. Good news from your birthplace - women here are rapidly backing away from Trump and can't wait to vote for Joe Biden, the strongest candidate for the Midwest.

  152. I see all of this in the small town I grew up in and left after high school graduation. This story really captures the mean-spirited selfishness that has replaced the optimism of small towns and rural areas in Trump country. Part of this comes from the aging population left behind, bitter their children moved to cities but unable to afford to move themselves. It’s useless for Democrats to try to reach these people, who only listen to Fox News. Maybe things will change in future generations, but without libraries, it doesn’t look good.

  153. I can't throw stones at poor people. What is mean spirited and selfish are people like Bezos and the Walton family who hire them, exploit them, won't pay them a living wage and won't even pay their taxes.

  154. When I read stories like this I want to kiss the ground here in New Jersey. I am so thankful to be a "lazy urban professional" even though that will mean paying Medicare (and likely Medicaid) and social security for so allied Americans crying in this article.

  155. "The most dominant news source here is Fox News, which I think helps perpetuate these attitudes. " THINK helps perpetuate these attitudes? In these people's view, government is always the problem. I guess even when your state gets 35% of its revenue from the federal government.

  156. People turn toward their leaders/teachers as a guide for how to behave in the world. Rural America sees mean-spirited criminal bullies in power and are emulating their behavior. Meanwhile, my liberal democratic neighbors in my old falling-apart NYC apartment building take care of each other. We help when someone is sick, look in on older tenants and in general behave the way neighbors should. We deserve to be counted when we vote.

  157. @figure8 In fairness, not all of rural America is like the people in this story. The small Colorado town my sister lives in is the complete opposite of this town as is the rural Vermont town where my friend lives. The town I grew up in is half and half.

  158. Our household makes at least 10X the median income of the place described in this article and we use our local library all the time. We borrow DVD movies for free; read books for free; send our kids there on a rainy day to explore and discover new things for themselves; etc. We took our young kids to book readings there. Most of these are driven by the desire to expand one's mind. People in rural places who want to expand their mind go to bigger places with higher concentrations of like minded people. People who stay behind have no need for a place to expand their minds. I would mind my taxes supporting all the US rural counties less if my vote counted for more. But their small numbers outweigh mine by a long shot, so if withdrawal of federal funds caused those places to be abandoned, I'm fine with that.

  159. Here is where the author goes wrong, when she wondered "[W]hat my neighbors were willing to do for each other, what they were willing to sacrifice to foster a sense of community here. The answer was, for the most part, not very much." No, they actually sacrifice a lot for community, but not the government-sponsored kind. Instead, they have families, and church faith communities. These families and communities are strong,and stand by each other. They do not want a government to do the work that families and churches typically do for each other, because they have seen the more the government involvement, the weaker families and churches become, and the weaker communities become. Moreover, given the choice between a higher-paid librarian or an additional part-time sheriff to battle the drugs polluting rural America, most everyone chooses the sheriff.

  160. @Snowball Unfortunately, they do not realize that sheriff is a short-term, but library a long-term solution for rise in drug abuse.

  161. @Snowball Why should any church goer help anyone else in these communities when they should all pull themselves up by their bootstraps and support themselves. Paying for a sheriff is spending money on the symptoms, not the cause. Spending money on education is a better long term solution.

  162. @Snowball , Schools are a much better investment if the goal is to keep kids from starting to do drugs.

  163. (Clinton has a medium income of $34,764 and a poverty rate of 22.6 percent.) Shouldn't that read median, not medium.

  164. This article is just deeply depressing. These people live in a world that denies reality and facts, and have no interest in living otherwise. There is literally no way to get through to them, and our system has given them outsized power. The only solution can come by somehow getting a Democratic super-majority, so we can fix the system. And I'm not sure if that is even possible.

  165. I suspect that most ambitious and bright young people eventually leave places like this, resulting in a diminished pool of talent and curiosity. Perhaps the library is largely irrelevant now. But it's sad that the sense of community is also disintegrating. Years ago, Appalachians (the rural Americans I'm most familiar with) prided themselves on their sense of community, their willingness to help a neighbor. It was a thread in their narrative of self-reliance. Now (both in this story and in the Appalachia that I visit these days) it seems more like a war zone, like the mentality that exists in some of the most impoverished countries I've visited. There's a pervasive, crushing sense of hopelessness. No one makes good decisions under these circumstances, which leads to a vicious cycle of self-defeating choices. I understand the anger that my urban friends feel towards these people. For my part, I'm just sad: I remember when rural America was poor, but still carried a modicum of pride and a sense of responsibility to something larger than oneself.

  166. @hammond I agree. There was a time when rural America and conservatives prided themselves on their education and faithfulness to their core values. They pulled through and you could have a decent conversation with them. That's what I miss abot the good ol days.

  167. Nowhere in the USA has the sense of community died more than in San Francisco. I was shocked and appalled when I visited the city 18 years ago, and it's much, much worse now. It's proof that "progressives" have failed just as miserably as "conservatives."

  168. @Stephanie Wood The tech industry brought the wealth that is creating inequality and division to San Francisco.

  169. There should be no free public anything. Schools and libraries should be state supported, but the people who use them, who have more skin in the game, should pay to use the facilities. $0.05/child/day for school, like the subway when I was a kid.

  170. So what happens to children whose parents can’t pay your 5 cents per day? They just don’t get educated? We all pay for education, usually through property taxes. An educated populace is essential to the future of any county, or country. It should be free to the beneficiaries.

  171. So you think it costs $18 a year to educate a child? If only those with kids in schools should fund education, using your logic, my taxes should not pay for roads and highways, because I don't drive; or go to the Department of Defense given my pacifist views.

  172. You are getting older. Those children getting an education are going to pay for your social security. *If* they have good jobs. They’re going to be your doctor when you have cancer. Most importantly they’re going to be changing your diapers in the nursing home. That’s when you’ll be hoping they took health class, a civics class that taught responsibility as well as rights, and read and discussed empathy and the social contact in literature/humanities. If it’s every man for himself, and low quality education, I have concerns about the care you’ll receive from people you don’t care about right now.

  173. Why would any company put higher-paying jobs in areas where people are so vindictive and narrow-minded? May I remind people who think that government should be run like a business, businesses can lay people off and close facilities to cut expenses. Governments still have to serve the people and in fact often have to put forth a greater effort when times are lean. Governments can cut some things, but will do everything possible to preserve essential services.

  174. @John these people don’t believe in government serving people. This is what roger ailes’ foxnews has taught an entire class of people.

  175. They've been taught and have adopted the "Austerity-zero sum" philosophy. The one where fat cats in suits in coast cities tell them on TV there isn't enough to go around and so big cuts are essential, over and over, for years, no matter what, as those fat cats get fatter. They haven't bothered to learn how corporations and special interests lobby hard to escape contributing with complicated tax breaks. How extractive industries don't only extract natural resources (often owned by the People) but also extract from the government, endless subsidies. I bet they don't realize that those tax breaks and subsidies are actually government spending. And they believe it when the recipients of those benefits tell them there isn't enough to go around. They should really make more use of their library to learn about how they're being played.

  176. Really nicely done. I get the opportunity to travel to very rural parts of the country on occasion, and this captures the ethos pretty well. There are elements of racism mingled in, but it is largely a rural, poor, white, defensive mindset. This rural community has an ego too, and they feel Trump is protecting that delicate ego in a bigger world they do not participate in. I do not wholly agree that it is all built on an anti-spending philosophy. If Trump started talking about using tax dollars to build infrastructure in their towns, I think they would say "look, Trump is the only one who cares". If a coastal Democrat wants to invest in their communities, it is wasteful government spending. It is much more about personal identity and the dignity that they feel Trump imbues them with. In that sense, national democratic candidates need to show up and talk with them, not just aim policies from a distance. Go to rural Arkansas, go to "town population 1,500", show up. Ignore the campaign number crunchers that say there is no return on that investment of time and money. They are wrong. Explain yourself, take questions, and invest time. You may not get any votes there at first, but if you keep showing up, you will get some.

  177. Andrew Gillum did this in the 2018 Florida gubernatorial race. He campaigned in the most fervent GOP areas and he nearly won the race, which was historic in its own right.

  178. @Tom Davis “almost” only counts in horseshoes.

  179. I live in a small section of a rural, GOP-voting California county. Recently the community was asked to vote for an added $93 per year per lot in real estate taxes in order to keep our excellent fire department, which just lost a hunk of its government funding. We live terrified of fire, and the very day the vote was announced, a local blaze injured three fire fighters and melted a new fire truck. But no properties or lives were lost. This great crew makes us safer. Even folks who granted the truth of this voted No. More than 50% of the community. I haven't quite figured this one out.

  180. @SFR -- "in order to keep our excellent fire department, which just lost a hunk of its government funding" The little guy expected to make up for the big guys who stop paying? The little guy has no money. You can't expect someone to vote for paying the librarian twice as much as they get themselves. Those opposing $25/hr are likely earning more like $12 themselves. Even the big auto companies around here pay $15 to new hires for those hired in the last ten years. The focus has got to be on the Federal and State money disappearing. It is gone in tax cuts, and in military spending for trillion dollar wars. When states say they don't have the money, they often mean they no longer get the Federal funds they once got. State shortages don't have to be state tax cuts, any more than it is fairly a local money burden. The big money can only be reached from the highest levels of government. They Bogart the tax base, and the tax base hides from other potential claims behind them from other potential taxes. We have the same problem with our school districts, our declining cities that have lost property tax values, and our universities no longer getting state funds. The money disappeared in DC, and it disappeared as much for Obama tax cuts as for Dubya tax cuts. It is the East and West Coast method of "stimulus" that stimulates only themselves.

  181. @SFR -----"which just lost a hunk of its government funding" Why did they lose that funding? And the answer was to put it on the backs of the taxpayers?

  182. @SFR Maybe because the fire trucks could be used to put out fires at the houses of non-white community members? This could explain your situation, but certainly not Van Buren County's, which is 96% white.

  183. What this article demonstrates is the wisdom of Tip O'Neil's observation that all politics is local. For all practical purposes we currently do not have the usual national parties. On one hand there is the Trump Party, with the President himself essentially a symbol for those folks talked about in this piece and a cult for Members of Congress. On the other hand we have a semi-coalition of specific agendas, more adept at forming a circular firing squad than in weaving a narrative that is plausible to those potential swing voters necessary for victory in 2020's Presidential election. The election will boil down to whether or not the Democratic candidate can get enough voters in Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and, maybe, Florida who did not vote for Clinton to vote for him or her. It is entirely irrelevant if another million people in California vote for the Democratic candidate or another million vote for Trump in Alabama. And that number must be big enough to overcome not just the 2016 gap in those states but any increased difference due to 2020 Trump voters who did not vote in 2016, because they assumed he would lose, and 2020 Clinton voters who did not vote, because they assumed she would win. Endless aspirational plans and guilt trips will not work. The reason Biden has overwhelming Black support is because Blacks have heard for generations political promises that were never fulfilled. Better a realist who wins and accomplishes something, than a utopian who loses.

  184. "People like my neighbors hate that the government is spending money on those who don’t look like them and don’t live like them — but what I’ve learned is that they remain opposed even when they themselves stand to benefit." Right, sure. My guess is many of the people living in these areas are older and less healthy, with obesity and smoking rates, etc well above the norm and requiring much higher health care over the long term. They certainly don't pay for all of these additional expenses . . . on the subject of going it alone.

  185. My library is the smallest item on my insanely high property tax bill. Yet, it manages to do so much with so little. The director earns more than $25/hour, according to statistics from the state, our town of 15,000 has 110,000 library visits a year, 118,000 books checked out both in house and online, and over 6,000 people attending programs. That makes it a great bang for my tax buck.

  186. I didn't know people had insanely high property taxes in the Midwest, what are you paying?

  187. The sorts of views Ms. Potts describes among her Arkansas neighbors are very familiar to me. I get why and how those folks hold those views, and why and how they don't see how counterproductive, and most of all, how hurtful to their children's and grandchildren's chances to have productive and fulfilling futures, those views are. But most of all, they can't look outward and understand history well enough to see that if everyone held such views and attitudes, we wouldn't have a country today. In fact, the U.S.A. would never have existed at all.

  188. The mid-sized, blue collar, Midwestern city where I grew up has seen much better days, but it still managed to pull together the funds to build a state-of-the-art modern library to replace the dilapidated one that had reached the end of its life. The new library opened this year, and it's bustling with activity every day. A community that gives up on its library has also given up its hope for the future.

  189. When I started reading this piece I thought the author was writing about my home - Washington County, Maine. The parallels are unnerving. We recently elected a Democrat to Congress, but a large part of that was that the Republican incumbent refused to come out here to campaign. Even the income figures are similar.

  190. I'm not really sure what the problem is here. These people voted for and received the local government they asked for, isn't that the democratic process everyone in this country is clamoring about?

  191. I think it is time all the States got together and talked divorce. America is just too large and diverse to function as a single country anymore. Let's divide up the USA into maybe a half-dozen independent nations. Then the the people of Arkansas won't have to put up with snooty Californians and New Yorkers who have been subsidizing their existence since year one.

  192. I agree. We’re not the same country. I don’t want to live in country that doesn’t value education, learning and libraries. People don’t want to live in these places anymore.

  193. @John F I’m pretty sure those talks are already underway. China can have the west coast and Russia the east, and the middle will be where all the resettlement camps are Located. United we stand. Divided we fall.

  194. @John F I agree. Within a few years a state like Arkansas would be at the doorstep of the United Nations begging for money for food. Lets really run this experiement in political science.

  195. I am a lazy urban professional who gets to the office at 5:30 am, and puts in 9 hour days. I used to put in 12-14 hour days plus evenings and Saturday mornings, but I have cut back. I had nothing to fall back on from my family, and didn't want to live under a bridge. So I studied during my 20's, when others were out partying. I continue to study. I do not regret my decisions, and I don't ask anyone to feel sorry for me because of the hours that I work. I take care of my family, pay taxes (and more taxes), and generally feel that I have made the right decisions for me. I suspect that the people that Ms. Potts describe probably feel that they have made the correct decision for them and their families. I have made my decision, and they have made theirs. One gets the feeling that Ms. Potts feels that this rural county has made the wrong decisions, but I believe they have the right to choose their own destiny, and that we should not judge.

  196. @Tom Another problem with rural areas like this is they are rural. The topography often makes the road system difficult to navigate. Unless an area is close to interstates it makes getting a product from factory, if there is one, to market difficult. In our area interstates 80 and 81 cross and continue on. Along those corridors industrial areas have sprung up because it is a short jump to the interstate and connections to the rest of the country. Navigating 100 miles of single lane, twisting, uphill and downhill to reach a good highway is not something a manufacturer would want to do. This is not the government’s fault and solutions seem difficult.

  197. And look who they elected....

  198. The most important part of this article is the mentioning that rural voters have a greater impact than urban ones [due to the electoral college and two Senators per state regardless of population rules among others]. These people are our fellow citizens but at the same time are a threat to our country's well-being.

  199. @Concerned Citizen Honestly, having California and New York bossing us around would be better than Kentucky and Moscow Mitch.

  200. The truth is that these people understand that taxes in small rural areas pay for things, and in Washington, over the last 70 years, Congress has failed to tax for all the legislation that it passed that needed funding, thus governing by lobbyists, and political ideology. Had Congress taxed for the build up of the Cold War, the Vietnam War, the increases in entitlements, the over 70,000 pages of the IRS Tax Code, all the Tax Cuts, that most of the Presidents have enacted, and the almost 20 years in the middle east, it would of made all people pay attention. The Vietnam War wouldn't of lasted as long, nor the almost 20 years in the middle east. The rural area has been where most of those who went in the military came from, died, and were injured as well. The issue of healthcare is one area that all Americans need, but few can pay for. Medicaid that serves 75 million with no premium per month for any of them, mostly poor, middle class with lots of children, and nursing home residents, is set to run out of money to pay all the bills in the next 3 years. Has Congress, on either side of the aisle, told the taxpayers how they plan to shore it up, absolutely not. So, in one way, these people no matter how poor, and without very many college degrees are aware of what is going on, it is just that they are more likely to be influenced by partisans on both sides of the aisle.

  201. @MaryKayKlassen None of this is true, but okay.

  202. Ms. Potts misses two (2) fundamental points that serve to invalidate her thesis: 1) Money does not grow on trees. Extracting unnecessary tax dollars from hard working people does engender resistance from them. 2) Given the choice of government spending or private spending, the simple answer is that those who have the funds want to have independence to spend the funds as they wish (e.g., charity). Government tends to try to extract these same funds and tot then redistribute these funds in ways that often promote dependence.

  203. @dmanuta, So then, states like Arkansas and its rural counties are net "takers," meaning the blue states pay more in taxes than they get back while the red states get more than they pay in. Therefore, we should agree that since they don't believe in taxes, these small rural towns and counties shouldn't be taking that money the blue states keep sending. I can agree with that. (I should note that in many cases, the red states _are_ refusing to take blue-state money. How many red state governors refused the Medicaid Expansion money that was part of the ACA? Sure, their constituents suffer, but they get what they vote for.)

  204. @dmanuta The money doesn’t need to grow on trees, it needs to be clawed back from the 1% who have skimmed it away from the rest of us. How can you not know this?

  205. I agree with your conclusion that rural voters will almost never vote for a Democrat (librul), They are essentially anti-everything. Progress means that they sink farther backwards, so they try to hold fast to the "good old days", and believe in their self-sufficiency. When you're poor, you learn to scrape by and make do, and since you have to live like that, why shouldn't everyone? But I don't think this how they would really like to live, it's just the reality of their world that makes them have to live like this. They've developed a "self defense mechanism" of denying themselves and being okay with that, rather than getting their hopes up and expecting better days that never come. However, I believe that if the government began investing heavily in getting new industries and companies to build in these areas, creating lots of good jobs, this withdrawing into themselves would recede. And if they had healthcare they could afford, they would avail themselves of it, even if at first they fought against it. But as you note, the majority of people in rural areas are hardened Trump voters, and for Democrats to think they'll win any of them over is foolish. Democrats should pursue an agenda that helps the majority of Americans, even if some of them say they don't want that help. A lot of rural people fought against the TVA and Interstate Highway system too, but almost no one would give up electricity or ease of travel. You can resist progress but you can't stop it.

  206. While I am saddened to hear the despair in these voices and can agree that we are reaping the whirlwind of 4 decades of unfettered neo-liberalism. The world-view that claims "there is no such thing as society" proclaimed by Mrs Thatcher and echoed by Ronald Reagan and is force -fed to rural audience by the likes of Rush Limbaugh and Newt Gingrich, has succeeded in consolidating this anti-state and anti-tax mythology and turning people off government as a source of support. It's true that offering more benefits will not appeal to people who feel disrespected and massified by a rigged "system." Instead of more service bureaucracies and hand outs, where liberals (like me) pretend not to notice how demeaning many of these systems are ,what about taking them at their word, They want (and in my view have the capacity, if given space and a minimal of resources) to find their own ways of life and have it respected. Semocrates could start a cultural revival by offering those who want to go it alone programs and community organizing training to acquire the skills and mobilize the creative capacity to do it themselves. We have no problem doing this kind of work in developing societies but we don't use them here. There are many models out there but the Democratic candidates are still peddling the old welfare methods --as the GOP calls it "free stuff" to a population that doesn't value what's on offer.

  207. I'm paying the highest taxes in the country, but where is the money going? Certainly not to the poor and homeless who need it.

  208. Another version of "cut off your nose to spite your face"? Coupled with economic depression and addiction, much of rural America can seem so lost and defensive . The government-funding model does seem to make things worse, not to mention the example of Walmart as a "lean and efficient" business. That made me laugh. Gee, how much are those owners of Walmart worth again? More locally-viable forms of capitalism are needed, but corporate capitalism wouldn't allow it.

  209. I pay almost as much in taxes as the average income in Van Buren. And I support Medicare for all (who want it) because I understand how fundamentally broken our healthcare system is. Maybe if these folks went into the library and read some books instead of watching foxnews, they would understand it too.

  210. “The way these folks described the world to me, their basic concern was that people like them, in places like theirs, were overlooked and disrespected,” Then do something about it instead of whining. It's the 21st century. Start a business. Invent a new manufacturing process. Design new algorithms. It's hard to do sitting on the tail gate of a pickup drinking beer.

  211. having spent considerable time in the rural south, I was surprised to see no discussion of religion here. churches structure everyday life and shape informal support systems in many white rural communities. you have a problem, you take it to church. rural religious communities fear the encroaching corrosive influences of the outside world. the federal govt will always be "outside." remaining insular is the aim.

  212. Robert Reich has written extensively about the common good. In his view, which I share, we as a people need to respect the common good because it is the means by which we can realize our potential as a just and habitable society. It's a matter of respectfully working together. From these stories about a chunk of rural America, it appears that there is no recognition of the common good there, only a selfish fixation on oneself. That bodes ill for those folk. They will be forgotten, which in their self-pity they seem to wear as a badge of honor. Only a sense of comity will save them. They can begin to find that at the library.

  213. I'd like to ask some questions: Where's the local healthcare? Still got a town doctor? Where's the local hospital, or is that gone and there's a regional medical center about a hundred miles away? Is everyone in debt to it? Lot's of stories of how badly people are being treated even with insurance, without a Medicaid extension (lots of luck!) the middle-class is going to die of their health care costs. How's the US Mail? What would they do if it cut back to 5 day a week delivery? What about UPS and Fedex, they there in force or just show up as little as possible? What do these people do with eBay? They sound like they gave up after Ronald Ragan sold them his bill of goods, gov is bad, taxes are the devil's sin, stand on your own two feet only and never ever go in debt. Anyone even trying to do local stuff and go the full eBay route? Any local people trying to use that low accepted wage to make something and sell it outside Arkansas? Like wooden products? You get my drift, are they trying, or just dying? Anyone

  214. Yes, yes. Looks like our only hope is that eventually the smarter people will get out of these benighted places and improve themselves. Stop watching Fox and start voting Democratic. It'll take time, but it seems to be happening. Doesn't seem to need much more analysis. Just time, if we have it.

  215. I've been voting strictly Democrat since I got disgusted with Reagan (ie, most of my voting life), and it hasn't done me a scrap of good. It's gotten me higher taxes and pay cuts. I feel like I'm voting Republican. Oh, I forgot, America really has a one-party system jury-rigged for the rich. It doesn't really make much difference who I vote for. It's all basically the same, both parties are redistributing my money to the rich.

  216. I've lived in a community like Clinton for over a decade. I've watched my neighbors decide on preschool education for their kids or a new Ford Escape. With almost no exceptions, they opted for the Escape. The boys who grow up and graduate from the local high school go either into the military, whatever construction contractor job they can do or spend their time idle with little direction. The children are overwhelmingly overweight by the middle school years. It's no surprise given that nearly all their parents are overweight. The rural way of life insulates these folks from the outside world -- or so they think. But that's alright for them because they have the least to lose in the world economy.

  217. Why are you "...trying to win tRump voters over..."? Don't bother. You see how entrenched their attitudes are. You could give them everything and they would still blame you. Motivate your own constituency and work to bring independents on board. If you have no constituents there beyond Trump voters, work with the youth. I've managed to change a couple of minds but mostly not and it does carry risk.

  218. Silicon Valley, San Francisco and Montclair have convinced me that liberals and conservatives have a lot more in common than they are willing to admit, mostly a holier than thou attitude, and a willingness to embrace a feudal system in which money and resources are distributed upward to further enrich the wealthy.

  219. Good story. One angle I think you should look at is the effect of public pensions on the local budget. These pensions cost local governments little in the past, but are ballooning now and forcing a reduction in other services. This is happening in the small town I grew up In Illinois. People still don’t see that connection. It’s happening in the bigger cities, too, but the tax base is large enough to address it, for now. Another of looking at this — what we used to pay in taxes gets us a lot less in services now, and people see and feel that but don’t understand why this is happening and sometimes misattribute the causes, and therefore the blame.

  220. Your local Walmart also costs Americans billions in tax dollars every year, and so does your local church. So does my local Whole Foods store.

  221. Yep! Time for states like Ark to pay their fair share for all the services they receive paid for by those big, bad liberal states. I grew up in a blue collar town that was supported by a large mining industry. There were good jobs, good services for everyone. The labor union guaranteed that. As technology replaced about 5000 of the 7000 workers, the town became poorer, the politics became more conservative, and those good paying job disappeared. The union got weaker. I listened to talk about how nobody wanted to pay taxes for things like education, libraries, golf courses, or minorities (of course the people still wanted to fish and hunt, but the taxes for the Division of Wildlife never seemed to be questioned). The people left in rural America will continue to vote for Donald Trump out of spite, out of fear, out of ignorance. After 62 years on this earth, I don't need to hear anymore about their anti-tax, anti-immigrant, anti-education philosophy. I have had enough.

  222. I don’t know these people are who call themselves Americans. Perhaps it is I who has such a different perspective on just about everything Republican. Maybe there’s another Country somewhere in the world where I can fit in. My family has been here since the 1600’s and I feel like a stranger in a strange land. Oh well, death is not that far away, and travel plans to Europe will distract me for awhile. One day he Sun will explode and the earth will be vaporized. Hopefully, a few Democrats will be on their long journey to a life supporting planet. That’s my dream for the moment.

  223. I live in New Jersey, and I don't think the Democrats are worth saving any more than the Republicans. I hope no humans make it off this planet. My sympathies are all with the other species. I hope some extraterrestrials rescue the animals, and leave the humans behind to vaporize.

  224. This article also show how in our modern internet connected era, it’s much easier to be disruptive and regressive than it is to be constructive. Anyone can start a face book group that assembles like minded folks against anything. It’s a rare talent than can overcome this and actually build good things in the public eye. Rocks are easy to throw, even more so on line.

  225. Per capita health care costs in the US are nearly double the per capita costs in Canada and Canada has better overall outcomes. Yes, the US has some excellent doctors and hospitals but this top tier level of care is available to only a small percentage of Americans. The US military budget is extremely expensive and all that equipment may create a dynamic which tips the scales, if only very slightly, in favor of unnecessary wars. On the other side of the balance sheet the Reagan, Bush and Trump tax cuts accrue to the wealthy at the expense of social programs such as education for those who can't afford private schools. Trump is correct when he rails against the globalist trade agreements. The US has been exporting good jobs for 4 decades as manufacturers seek to lower labor costs. Americas working and middle class has been forced a rung or two downwards on the social ladder. No one, not even Trump, is doing anything about it. But Trump has conned that group into thinking he really does care about them. With government costs rising and tax revenues declining, it has become extremely difficult structurally for the US to do anything to restore the working and middle classes to their former positions. Of course none of that prevents Trump from telling the red state voters what they want to hear, even if most know his "promises" are false.

  226. Thanks to the Times for this piece. The people of Van Buren County Arkansas resemble rural folks I've known and their story deserves telling. As told here, it's a story of people withdrawing into themselves, narrowing the boundaries of their world, rejecting a good deal of what's outside. Land of self defeat? To me, it seems like a story of people and their communities participating in a slow spiral of dying during which they just want to be left alone.

  227. Well, at least this writer actually spoke to some Trump voters. Democrats will simply have to succeed despite them, and then follow through and deliver for all Americans. We've done it before. We'll do it again.

  228. No doubt many of these Trump voters depend on social security and medicare, but don't consider themselves to be receiving welfare. At the end of the day you can't help people who don't want to help themselves. That is why towns like these are dwindling as smart people move out.

  229. Why should people have to help themselves? They are paying the government to help them. The government here in New Jersey taxes so much of our money, where is it going? To help the rich. THEY are certainly helping themselves - to OUR money.

  230. @Stephanie Wood Trump's tax plan! MAGA right?! VOTE BLUE

  231. I have read too many comments here that denigrate the people of the county being chronicled. Instead, all of us, especially political candidates should "meet people where they are", not how you would like them to behave. This is the essence of leadership.

  232. @USNA73 Leadership involves a talent to carry your ideals to other people. Meeting them where they are is allowing racism, bigotry, ignorance and lack of education to continue putting them at a disadvantage as the world changes around them. We clearly don’t have leadership in the WH now - not by any means. I don’t see leadership coming up in any candidates. I want someone to present a positive vision of what we can become as a nation, and that involves taking people from where they are to where they wish to be.

  233. @ellie k. No, you do not need to condone ( allow) anything. You must however respect the emotions and circumstances though. I share your longing for a candidate who can do what we describe.

  234. I appreciate this article because the author is an Arkansan and is reporting from the ground. I lived in Arkansas for many years and we still have many friends there. I know about the $10-$13/hr, which no one outside of the South seems to understand. That's also because Arkansans are generous with their time and effort and they'll give you the shirt off their back. In my experience Arkansans are genuinely practical in their thinking, and they often raise valid questions and appreciate respect. I don't always agree with the prevailing ideology but these are my friends and colleagues. This is also a state that figured out how to expand Medicaid and kept it after the entire state government flipped to Republican. Those of us outside Arkansas would be wise not to be judgmental and dismissive if you've never spent time there.

  235. I'm guessing they are also not paying $2500-$3000 a month in rent in Arkansas, or paying $14,000+ in property taxes.

  236. I lived most of my life in communities like this. In 1970 I took off and when on the road for a retail company as a shopper then selling magazines. 7 years later moved to west coast and have never gone back. These people are "good hearted and mean well and try to do the right thing" , but the their definitions of "right thing" is so based in racism, religious extremes and trumps base of hate beliefs. Their children will grow and are growing up to hold the same viewpoints and they will never know why they feel or believe this way only it is "how it has always been". Anyone who does not look, walk, talk, believe or drink like them are left wing elites and then they don't know why they say that but it has been pounded into their minds from trump, their churches and other people like them.

  237. It makes you wonder how such sparsely populated places have so much political power. Republicans have rigged the game that's how. Thank you to Ms. Potts for this excellent first hand analysis. These people talk about how independent they are while living on the Social Security check the get every month and having Medicare pay their medical bills. But they are ashamed of their circumstances and yet the only thing they can think to do is to try to bring the rest of their fellow Americans down to their own miserable level. It's a sad story. If only they would show some initiative and get out of town.

  238. @jonr Sparsely populated areas have so much power by design of the founding fathers. 200 years ago most people were farmers. No one then could have predicted the demographic changes. The rural towns were often built to support the farmers or coal miners or lumber jacks that lived and worked in the area. Those jobs have been highly mechanized and don't employ many people anymore. Manufacturing is mechanized and automated, it doesn't employ as many people anymore. This is where we have the problem. But it is a political problem that rural areas have so much political power at the expense of everyone else. That said, I live in a county that doesn't have the usual public library. The library ran for years as a volunteer operation, now it has some funding through property tax from certain areas. Outside of those areas, we pay a yearly fee. We also have minimal police protection.

  239. I believe it was Jake Tapper who succinctly summarized the attitude of the people described in this article: "I want my government benefits, but I don't want you to have your government benefits -- and I don't want to pay for any of it."

  240. It seems a bit of a stretch to generalize from the battle over the librarian's proposed raise to the "worldview that is becoming ever more deeply ingrained in the white people who remain in rural America." What the proposed $6 an hour raise means to you obviously is a far cry from what it means to many of the people living in Clinton. As a reference point, I am a nurse in Georgia who just received a merit raise that still leaves me shy of what that librarian would have been making. I also think it a little harsh to say these folks don't like to help their neighbor. I think it more accurate to say that they don't like to do it by means of government programs. Finally, there is nothing new about this "worldview" in rural America. My first job in the late 1970s took me as a newspaper reporter to rural Georgia. I, like Ms. Potts, was appalled at how short-sighted, stingy, and close-minded the townsfolk were. In retrospect, the lion's share of close-mindedness was mine. I would have been a much better journalist had I suspended judgment long enough to listen to their views and contemplate how those views came to be.

  241. I appreciate all the thoughtful comments. Personally, though, I think the real waste of government funds is Trump's weekly travel to play golf (paying all the expenses of the entourage at these expensive resorts). AND the protection of the Trump offspring as they travel the globe doing their father's business.

  242. Attitudes in small town America have greatly changed in the past 20 years. Coinciding perfectly when Faux News was first beamed through television into every home. And Hate Radio showed up on the airways, 24-7. Today, these same conservatives (to a large degree) openly scorn reading books, if they ever read them at all. Is it any wonder libraries are threatened? This country is in deep trouble, and impeaching Trump, while hugely necessary, is only scratching the surface.

  243. So they identify with a president who received all his wealth through tax fraud committed by his father, who built on that inherited wealth by hiring undocumented workers, by stiffing contractors and suing local governments for tax breaks, who stumbled into multiple bankruptcies and lost other peoples’ money? No wonder they have problems.

  244. @Chris James Those stories are in the NYT, the Economist...etc. not on FOX. Those stories you tell of Trump would be considered either lies, or evidence of him being a good businessman.

  245. @Chris James They don't care about any of that. Their own taxes Trump everything.

  246. @Chris James, but...but Trump is a white guy who promises to keep everyone else not like him in their place. That is _all_ these folks care about.

  247. I don't think it's irrational to be concerned about government spending if you are in an area where there is economic decline. I also understand that people are suspicious of ambitious government plans that might increase their taxes. You can never be sure if you're going to benefit from those programs. Republicans promise lower taxes, period. That's a simple message. Even though their last tax cut was poorly designed, they have a long history of being for lower taxes so they still have credibility. I guarantee that Donald Trump will talk about lower taxes a lot in the 2020 campaign. On the Democratic side, Elizabeth Warren and others are forthrightly saying we need to raise taxes. They say it's just on the wealthy, but can you be sure about that? It's a big advantage for Republicans, and not just in places like this one.

  248. @DALE1102 Except the Republicans mean, always, that the tax cuts are going to 0.1% and big corporations, like those that have left these small towns. I lived in Texas, in the 80's and 90's, near a town called Comfort. What was inspiring is that Comfort is near San Antonio. Comfort had suffered migration to San Antonio. I recall driving down the main street and seeing nothing. Empty stores, empty parking spaces, and not a person in sight. If I turned onto a side street there might be a house where someone lived still, but then there might not. Then, and I am sorry but I don't recall exactly when, entrepreneurs began opening small single owner antique shops, or country collectable shops. Then a restaurateur bought an old home and with the slight of hand turned it into a turn of the century charming house that served very good food. Soon there where woodworkers who made everything from signs to beautiful furnishing of Mesquite wood. A dress maker who specialized in turn of the century clothing! My friends and I would travel there just to see what was new. The thing is that we had been traveling to Fredericksburg, Texas just a couple years earlier. Now I see on Google Maps there seems to be mown lawns, traffic, shops, and a community. I don't know that for sure since I haven't lived in that region since 1994, but it sure looks like a nice small town to live in. That happened because people helped one another and made a community through community effort.

  249. @DALE1102 We are, what, $23 trillion dollars in the hole and "lower taxes, period" makes sense to anyone over the age of 12 ... how?

  250. @Marty It doesn't make sense to anyone but what it does do is make many persons who are feeling as if or have fallen further and further behind feel as though everyone else should suffer the same. I know you've heard before: "Misery loves company" Meanwhile all those rich politicians (mostly Republicans) will go off to their gated communities and check their portfolios while planning vacations plans outside of the nation at the expense of those persons who voted for them. I have no illusions that the politicians who make it to Washington D.C. live within the same neighborhoods of those who vote for them. Heck, they won't even go close without armed body guards.

  251. For a town that thinks ~$25K/yr is a reasonable wage, there surely are a lot of recent model pickups sitting around.

  252. When I finished reading this, I was left wondering if the residents of these rural counties even consider themselves Americans anymore. Or if they would gladly break away from the rest of the nation if given the chance to conveniently (and cheaply) do so. They don't seem to embrace any of the positive things that define the country, only the negative. They appear to despise anyone living in cities — the vast majority of Americans — despite taking a disproportionate percentage of federal subsidies provided by those urban taxpayers. In fact, they claim to hate the very handouts many of them need to survive. They place no value in education despite the fact that our economy demands a degree to have even a chance at economic stability. They don't even value relatively low-cost ways to educate themselves, like libraries. And they clearly don't value any sort of cultural diversity, despite living in a country shaped by people from around the world. A place, by the way, where whites will soon be in the minority. They don't even seem to like their own neighbors — who are just like them. Seems hopeless. No wonder the population in these areas is declining. And I write this with sadness, not anger.

  253. @James Look to our state of Michigan and the correlation between counties with highest rates of ‘welfare’ and opiate addition and those voting for trump. Let’s give them even less federal money and services, and give it to those wanting government programs and a democracy for the rest.

  254. Reading this, together with David Brooks' column today, leaves me thinking that perhaps we should call the bluff and give these people what they claim to want: Let the states and cities provide the social safety nets and reduce the federal role. Federal taxes can go down and the local entities can choose the taxes and services that they want and think they can afford. The only place that won't work is in environmental regulation, because CO_2 and toxic waste generated anywhere will contribute to the general destruction of the ecosystem and threaten the entire biosphere. The result is likely to be further decline in the economies and populations of the rural areas that adopt the attitudes and policies that the article describes, but ultimately the outmigration will change the politics nationally in what I regard as favorable ways.

  255. This is one of the best written, most insightful articles to grace NY Times in a long while. In our time of fractured politics, Monica Potts has given us an in-depth and brilliant political ethnography from her hometown. As someone who grew up in deeply-conservative Orange County in the 1970s, I recognize the people and the sentiments who are bewildered by the pace and the depth of economic and political changes swirling around them. If we're ever going to get beyond our hyper-partisan times, we need to have empathetic, or at least non-judgemental, accounts of how different political communities feel and behave. The story of the library and the wage of the librarian is a great choice so we can access the nuances of why a community would rally against paying the librarian $42,200 a year: the community's median income is $34,764. With the collapse of the local economy, local residents are not in the mood to hear the virtue of libraries and expanding one's intellectual horizons. The value of Motts' article as a participant observer isn't found in a neat and clear political or policy answers: its value lies in the thick and rich exploration of a lived reality of a small community--one that is connected to many, many others with similar realities and predicaments. If you don't like their political choices, then it's up to others to step up and talk to them and propose better ones.

  256. @UC Graduate They have a right to their choices, but whatever happened to personal responsibility? They don't want help, and yet they don't help themselves. Read the title of the article. It is apt.

  257. @RamS We all have the right to our choices. People do make choices that are perhaps self-destructive in some way, but an empathetic approach to their actions can shine a light instead of intensifying the darkness. In inner-city America, countless poor Americans make self-destructive decisions as well. In America today, the political party we belong to seems to determine who we see as the ones who are shirking personal responsibilities versus those who are victims of circumstances. We, Democrats, are willing to use structural and nuanced explanations for inner-city poverty and HIV, for instance, while wagging our fingers to rural whites being decimated by the opiate crisis. All of that to say that more empathy may be the only way out of our current mess. My sense is that Democrats can be more empathetic than Republicans and this is a strength of the party.

  258. So...these rural areas overwhelmingly vote for Republicans. But they're also aging out and as younger people leave for better opportunities closer to urban areas, the number of "red" voters is in decline. Seems like an offset situation to me. And I'm guessing over the long term, there will be fewer and fewer Republican voters and more Democrats, if this trend extrapolates correctly. It would be interesting to see "heat' maps showing where the blue vs. red voters are in Arkansas during the 2020 election.

  259. @hdtvpete Wherever the blue and red areas of Arkansas are today, the fact is that the State is now overwhelmingly red. Bill Clinton could never hope to carry the state today, either as for governor or as president.

  260. I have noticed that it is common for people on the political left to proclaim their dedication to democracy when laws they favor are not enacted by legislatures or candidates they favor lose, regardless whether because of wise Constitutional protections of the minority or because of corrupt gerrymandering of voting districts.. The author of this opinion piece implied her supposed sympathy for democracy when she wrote her lament that: "our political system gives rural areas like Van Buren outsize voting power." But those on the left who proclaim such dedication to democracy, including the author here, are disingenuous. They only want democracy when it would result in them getting their way to have laws and candidates they favor. When democracy produces the opposite result, they strongly oppose democracy. The author here gives strong evidence that this is so for her. She indicated her disdain for democracy when she wrote: "45 states restrict the way local governments can collect property taxes on their citizens in some way: In Arkansas, property and sales tax increases, the main source of revenue for many local governments, have to be approved by voters." To the author, it is very objectionable that the people should have democracy when that consists of the right to vote on the size of their own taxes.

  261. @Errol Democracy implies equal voting power. So indeed, when one small group has “outsize voting power” it means democracy is not really working.

  262. @Errol We don’t live in a democracy, or Trump wouldn’t be president, having lost the popular vote. And it’s very hard to argue for a town-by-town vision of democracy when it’s not a closed system. The communities described above can cut themselves down to the bone and STILL benefit from the contributions from other states. If you’re going to open up the floodgates on self-rule, then city slickers will start seriously objecting to annual donations to communities determined to cut off their noses to spite their faces.

  263. @Errol RE: [Ms. Potts] indicated her disdain for democracy . . . ." Strawman argument and non-sequitur. Democracy hardly means you must like the decisions that come down from any central authority. Nor did Ms. Potts even suggest, let alone implicate, that the solution here is to abandon the political precept. In fact, her last comment quoted is not a rejection of democracy but, instead, shows clearly a loss of faith in republican (the principle—not the party) representational governance through the use, and overuse, of ballot initiatives. We should be serious about being a republic, and an expansive democratic republic at that (and please none of that ridiculous pablum that we are not a democracy—in the Athenian sense. Yes, and that’s good but equally good that we democratically widen the franchise as to who is allowed to vote for their own representation so our republicanism is democratic and not oligarchic). So, once we’ve elected our representatives to make the laws, let them legislate. If we dislike what they do, including tax increases, then, in that spirit of republicanism, we vote against them and maybe even turn them out of office. So, why can't local communities and their voting citizens determine property taxes this for themselves, all the more as property taxes are a local matter? If you are for citizens voting on property taxes, note then your defense of state ballot initiatives undermine local autonomy and democracy here.

  264. This is an excellent description of the situation in many rural areas in America today. I wish the author had addressed the issue of health care in her county. I am almost certain that most of the citizens—children and seniors in particular—are eligible for and receiving Medicaid. Those who aren’t likely receive highly subsidized “Obamacare.” People indeed vote against their interests, but they’re also blind to the amount of help they themselves receive from taxpayers outside their state. Fox News and today’s Republican Party have done irreparable damage to an entire generation of citizens who once cared about each other and future generations.

  265. Anybody who wants to move in this place is shortsighted. Make your kids read the piece and tell them " study if do not want to finish your life there"I forgot to make une more point. Counties like this should not have a voice in the selection of the president, This article proves that the electoral college must go.

  266. I live in a poor county that until this year when we topped 100,000 year round residents was classified as “rural .” Now we are in the hook for a lot of costs that Florida doles out to rural counties. The obvious solution is for the Republican’s in Tally (who represents these counties (and control the legislature and Governor) to up the outdated baseline. They could care less. Like Trump, they rely on ignorance to stay in power. Sorry about your library, but cutting out a lifeline for young people is not going to stem the slide of this Ozark burg. Their young people will flee.

  267. It's worth noting that Tim Widener makes $46,500 a year benefits or about $22 an hour working for the government aka The University of Central Arkansas. That's a lot more than the $10-13 an hour he seems to think all government workers should make.

  268. @Jason Hahn It's also obvious that though he has no trouble saying no to others he has trouble saying no to himself, though satisfying himself in some ways is not as easy as it once was, his reach not having grown, though he has.

  269. Probably his nearest health clinic is tax supported Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC) or Rural Health Clinic. If they can actually recruit and retain physicians who will live in a community that does not support school and library levies. Ironically they probably rely upon foreign trained physicians rotating through every 2-4 years based on Visa availability.

  270. Mr. Widener is also the poster boy for the grossly obese. It won't be long before he has a myriad of health problems and ends up collecting disability payments from the government. All these people who don't think the government should help others eventually become the recipients of government benefits - Social Security, Medicare, etc.

  271. Here's my idea for making libraries work better in small communities. I'm guessing the town of Clinton has a school. And the school probably has some sort of age-appropriate library. But that library is only accessible to students, during school hours. This has always bothered me, since I was a child peering in the windows of the neighborhood school library during the summer months when the school was all closed up. Schools are public buildings and should be more accessible to the public ! So here's my idea : Design (or retrofit) schools so that the school library is both accessible from the outside AND can be locked off from the rest of the building. This would allow community access during times the school is not open. (Some consideration would need to be made for restroom access, but that is doable). Recruit volunteers (retirees, students who can earn credit, etc.) and / or pay a small stipend to locals who can help staff the library. Look into adding 'bookmobile' service to increase available materials. And, of course, a sale table of donated books, with proceeds going to support the library. (It's amazing what treasures can be found on a book sale table !) This would be a good use of school property and as a side effect would, by its nature, bring community members together, despite differences, to support it.

  272. @irene Uh, no. As a professional librarian with over 40 years of experience in public and academic libraries, I can tell you that librarians with an appropriate degree and certification are needed in different types of libraries. The school libraries are geared toward the educational curriculum being taught, while public libraries' collections are chosen with a more general audience (and a wider range of subjects) in mind. School collections are age and grade appropriate; public libraries serve pre-school to senior citizens, and their print and media collections reflect the difference. Professionally educated and trained librarians know how to choose appropriate materials according to the library's purpose. We know our patrons, and we select, maintain, and weed collections appropriately. We teach adults and students how to use computers to find the answers to their specific questions. We connect people to the information and knowledge of past civilizations and our present society. All that cannot be done by volunteers, no matter how well intentioned. Librarians are worth more than $19 an hour no matter where they work in this country.

  273. @Literary lady Librarians are essential for a well informed population with critical thinking skills. They are worth every penny and more.

  274. There's nothing illogical or irrational arguing that a librarian's salary in rural Arkansas should be $19 instead of $25 and hour. It very well could be that $19 an hour is a fair salary for that area. By the way, I don't think cops and firemen should be making six figures in NJ. I think that's too much for what they do. I know firemen who are constantly telling me about their investments and checking the stock market all the time. What's disturbing about the article is the people's reliance on Fox News. They can't see that the Republicans are making their lives worse, not better, and they don't understand that if it wasn't for FDR, they would have no Social Security or Social Security Disability, as I'm certain so many of those folks rely on both. The Fox propaganda network would never enlighten them as to these facts. Medicaid and Medicare are also big time Democrat policies, and Republicans, if they had their way, would decimate Van Buren County by getting rid of Social Security, Social Security Disability, Medicaid, and Medicare. If only they knew.

  275. A higher salary gives the community that much more when the individual spends that additional money in that same community. These people complaining about someone else's higher salary are shooting themselves in the foot. Where do they think their own pay comes from?

  276. @Sirlar Ummmm...not clear on why firemen/women shouldn't be owning stocks. Aren't investments how one improves one's portfolio for their children's educations and their retirements?

  277. @Sirlar {just a defense for the men and women in uniform) - I winced at your statement "[b]y the way, I don't think cops and firemen should be making six figures in NJ. I think that's too much for what they do." In any state, they do A LOT- go through a lot of training and put their lives in danger every time they go out and do their jobs, while saving ours. I don't begrudge them their salaries nor their investments...and I would bet that their benefits are put to good use (I know some retired firemen who work cleaning up during 9/11 who are now pretty sick). The rest of your statement re: Fox News, however, is spot on.

  278. It seems as though we could do with a form of the draft, not to an army, but to something like FDR's Civilian Conservation Corps. It gave workers money and purpose, but more importantly, it had a unifying effect allowing people from different backgrounds to live and work together. Instead of the army being the only option for tuition help, graduates could use their skills for the good of the infrastructure, medicine, childcare and education in exchange for a year or two after graduation. So much of the discord right now seems to be from isolation and tIt seems as though we could do with a form of the draft, something like FDR's Civilian Conservation Corps. It provided salaries and purpose, but more importantly, it had a unifying effect allowing people from different backgrounds to live and work together. Instead of the military being the only option for tuition help, graduates could use their skills for the good of the infrastructure, medicine, childcare and education in exchange for a year or two after graduation. Much of the discord now seems to be from isolation and the fear of others, coupled with the lack of a common news source. Leaving home and getting a larger world view is good for so many of these issues.

  279. @Sean Quail The may be the first "original idea" I've heard in months on these boards. Like the electric school buses out of Bernie's mouth. Someone with some power needs to look into this. Did the Interstate Highway System start the seperation of our counrty?

  280. @Sean Quail National service that doesn't involve shooting at someone. A good idea, but hardly original: under FDR it was called the CCC, and it aided all kinds of people in all kinds of ways while the U.S. was in an economic sinkhole. My grandfather, a rancher in eastern Colorado, fed himself and three other mouths with his CCC job in the 1930s. After WWII, when he was prosperous, he never voted Democrat ever again. Not much chance of reviving anything like the CCC in our times. Those rural folk wouldn't vote for FDR these days (the current incarnation is Elizabeth Warren).