Since 1990, earnings for men without a college degree have fallen 13 percent. During the same time period, median household income increased by 2 percent.
Middle-aged American whites without a college education are the only age-and-ethnic group that is dying at higher rates than they were 15 years ago.
White men without a college degree are more likely to say the country's best days are over and hard work no longer guarantees success.
Whites with a high-school education or less are reporting more pain, taking more opioid painkillers, abusing alcohol more, and killing themselves more.
In Butler County, Ohio deaths from drug overdoses actually outnumber deaths from natural causes.
So it’s not surprising that non-college-educated whites favor Trump over Clinton by a margin of 65% to 25%. Their condition has not improved under eight years of President Obama. Why should they trust Clinton to do better?
Progressive activists often take a symbolic stand, engage in moral witness, or cast a protest vote against the rigged system? Why shouldn’t poor whites do the same?
Granted, Trump is not proposing measures that will benefit the poor directly and immediately. But when white liberals support progressive taxation, they vote against their economic self-interest. Why shouldn’t poor whites take a stand on principle and try to shake up Washington?
Those thoughts have prompted me to look more closely at the divide between those with and those without a college degree. I recently took note, for example, of a public radio report about resentful female prison inmates without a college degree attacking inmates who have a degree. And I’ve reflected on my own “white trash” roots and my experiences living and working with low-income communities.
This nation’s prospects for fundamental social transformation will be enhanced if we build a broad coalition that includes poor white people (most of whom have no college degree). But middle-class attitudes of superiority and their disparaging opinions about poor whites aggravate the class divide.
In her poignant, personal essay, “Fences: A Brexit Diary,” in the New York Review of Books, Zadie Smith wrote:
One useful consequence [of the Trump campaign is] to finally and openly reveal a deep fracture in [American] society that has been [decades] in the making. [Those gaps] are real and need to be confronted by all of us….The left is thoroughly ashamed of [the poor]…. We have a history of ridiculing the poor… for “shafting themselves,” for “voting against their interests [or not voting at all]” …The majority of those [“uneducated” voters] who [support Trump do] so out of anger and hurt and disappointment…. [They are not] in any way exceptional in having low motives…. We might...ask ourselves what kind of attitudes have allowed a different class of people to discreetly maneuver, behind the scenes, to ensure that “them” and “us” never actually meet anywhere but in symbol. Wealthy [America], whether red or blue, has always been able to pick and choose the nature of its multicultural and cross-class relations, to lecture the rest of the country on its narrow-mindedness while simultaneously fencing off its own discreet advantages.
With those thoughts in mind, I’ve recently posted to Wade’s Wire:
Today Terri Gross, “Fresh Air” host, conducted a 36-minute interview with J.D. Vance, author of the best-seller, Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis.
A lot of people feel that you can’t trust anything Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama say, ...because they sound so filtered and they sound so rehearsed. Donald Trump, if nothing else, is relatable to the average working-class American because he speaks off the cuff. He’s clearly unfiltered and unrehearsed….
[Obama and Clinton have] surrounded themselves by very elite people who went to very elite universities. And because of that, both in the way they conduct themselves and the things they seem to care about – they just seem very different from the people that I grew up around. And that makes it very hard for me to feel that Clinton – Hillary or Bill Clinton are very relatable.
From The New York Times
“The Millions of Americans Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton Barely Mention: The Poor”
By Binyamin Appelbaum
AUGUST 11, 2016
WASHINGTON — The United States, the wealthiest nation on Earth, also abides the deepest poverty of any developed nation, but you would not know it by listening to Hillary Clinton or Donald J. Trump, the major parties’ presidential nominees…..
Yahya Abdal-Aziz, an Australian correspondent, sent me an excellent article from the September 2016 issue of The Atlantic, “The Original Underclass.” By Alex MacGillis and ProPublica, [the article includes:]
As Isenberg documents, the lower classes have been disregarded and shunted off for as long as the United States has existed. But the separation has grown considerably in recent years. The elite economy is more concentrated than ever in a handful of winner-take-all cities....
So why are white Americans in downwardly mobile areas feeling a despair that appears to be driving stark increases in substance abuse and suicide? In my own reporting in Vance’s home ground of southwestern Ohio and ancestral territory of eastern Kentucky, I have encountered racial anxiety and antagonism, for sure. But far more striking is the general aura of decline that hangs over towns in which medical-supply stores and pawn shops dominate decrepit main streets, and Victorians stand crumbling, unoccupied. Talk with those still sticking it out, the body-shop worker and the dollar-store clerk and the unemployed miner, and the fatalism is clear: Things were much better in an earlier time, and no future awaits in places that have been left behind by polished people in gleaming cities. The most painful comparison is not with supposedly ascendant minorities—it’s with the fortunes of one’s own parents or, by now, grandparents. The demoralizing effect of decay enveloping the place you live cannot be underestimated. And the bitterness—the “primal scorn”—that Donald Trump has tapped into among white Americans in struggling areas is aimed not just at those of foreign extraction. It is directed toward fellow countrymen who have become foreigners of a different sort, looking down on the natives, if they bother to look at all.
On August 14, the Los Angeles Times reported on a recent survey of American attitudes about the poor and poverty. …
When asked if poor people “prefer to stay on welfare” or would “rather earn their own living,” Americans by a large majority, 61%-36%, said they believed the poor would rather earn their own way.
only a third of self-described conservatives say that the poor do not work very hard.
On the August 16 PBS Newshour, Jeffrey Brown interviewed Nancy Isenberg, author of White Trash: The 400-Year Untold History of Class in America.
Isenberg argues that “upward mobility” in America has largely been a myth. During the colonial period, the Founders advocated “horizontal mobility” by allowing the poor to migrate westward to the frontier. And in recent decades, we have more “class-zoned neighborhoods” than upward mobility….
When Brown asked her how we could lessen class divisions, she recommended setting aside the myths, confront the reality of class oppression, and think more deeply about how it affects who we are and how “we judge people by the way they’re dressed, by the way they talk, by the unwritten codes of class behavior.”
Fuller defines rankism as “abusive, discriminatory, or exploitative behavior towards people because of their rank in a particular hierarchy.” In a TEDx Talk, Fuller considers rankism’s evolutionary roots and asserts that we can overcome it by affirming “dignity for all.”
In addition, I’ve previously posted the following related pieces to Wade’s Weekly: