Paul Ryan has been in trouble recently because of his comments about the “inner city” poor and their culture of laziness and dependency. Ryan’s courage in standing up to the PC Nazis is admirable. His stand may finally open up the potential for Americans to confront poverty without hiding behind euphemisms or dodging uncomfortable facts.
Thanks to Rep. Ryan, we may at last be able to confront the last taboo in political correctness. We may finally be able to address the culture of poverty that keeps white people poor.
It is unfashionable to talk about the depths of poverty in the white community, but the truth is that white people are the most persistently and deeply impoverished Americans. Poor whites are far more government dependent than their minority peers. Their poverty is more persistent, stretching deeper into history than any other group. Worst of all, their isolation, drug dependence and decaying culture renders them far more resistant to relief than other groups.
America’s most persistent poverty is found among the benighted white people of the Banjo Belt, stretching in an arc from West Virginia across the mountain South into East Texas and Missouri. Their condition is far worse than their lucky brethren in the urban ghetto. An unemployed Kentucky coal miner may have no place within a five hour drive to find alternative work. Meanwhile, a struggling young person on the hardest streets of Chicago’s West Side is within walking distance of some of the most vital and dynamic economic activity in the world.
This proximity to opportunity is a key reason why persistent poverty is so rare in urban areas compared to the countryside. The largest portion of the poor in cities are in fact recent émigrés, struggling to establish themselves. Since many of these people are not yet citizens, they have little access to the safety net, aggravating their poverty while they make their climb and skewing poverty statistics. The urban poor are many and they are a constantly regenerating pool, but they are temporary.
Compared to the miserable stretches of countryside that have been poor for as long as they have been settled , urban residents experience upward mobility at the same rate as in Western Europe. If you want to find persistent, widespread, inter-generational poverty in America, you need to find Southern mountain whites.
Though the politically correct will punish anyone who mentions it, culture plays as much of a role as geography in keeping Banjo Belt whites poor. Family structures there have always been informal, brittle and transient. The inhabitants are consistently some of the country’s most drug-addicted and the region is a center for crime, violence, drug-production and trafficking going back into time immemorial.
White cultural degradation is readily apparent from generations of their music and art. Cherished traditional songs like Little Maggie celebrate drug addiction and prostitution. The entire catalogue of Hank Williams is a litany of addiction, betrayal and misery. Johnny Cash got his big break with a hit song about a sadistic murder. The most popular sport in the region was originally developed as a competition among drug traffickers. From Lefty Frizzell to Dolly Parton and beyond, the culture elevates habits that destroy prosperity.
The problem is so bad that it has passed barely noticed into popular culture, tolerated by whites at almost every level. The unofficial theme song of the University of Tennessee commemorates drug traffickers who murder anyone foolish enough to wander into their lair. The site of thousands of young students blithely singing this song about drugs and violence should chill the hearts of those who long to see white people reach their potential.
White poverty is fed by other cultural burdens that interfere with their children’s ability to compete. Raised with an almost paranoid fear of outsiders and a resistance to change, many white children never have a chance at a decent life. A religious structure that crushes curiosity and instills a desperate suspicion of science means white children of the Banjo Belt face considerable difficulty mastering technical or scientific fields so essential to a modern economy.
Capitalism demands a global outlook and a willingness to enthusiastically embrace nearly continuous change. The cultural baggage of white people leaves them crippled in this environment, unable across generations to develop the habits and skills that breed success. White children bred in this culture are doomed to failure before they even get started.
Clearly, if the white children of the Banjo Belt are ever to have a realistic chance to break the fetters of a culture of poverty, some intervention will be required. This will be impossible so long as the dictates of political correctness prevent us from describing white poverty as what it is – an illness bred from a sick culture. The PC-police who would characterize such an assessment as anti-white bias are simply ignoring the facts. Their misguided attempt to protect the precious “feelings” of the white community are condemning a new generation of young whites to continue in a cycle of relentless degradation.
We have got this tailspin of culture, in our mountain South in particular, of men not working and just generations of men not even thinking about working or learning the value and the culture of work, and so there is a real culture problem here that has to be dealt with. No poverty relief will succeed until we address the cultural factors that keep white people poor, shiftless, and unemployable. Government programs are admirable, but until white people are ready to confront the ways that their culture enforces their poverty conditions will not substantially improve.