3:28 a.m. August 3, 2013

Hard Times Come Again (And Again)

While researching inequality in the South, this tidbit came to my attention: 98 percent of NC's new jobs in 2011-12 are in a few cities and suburbs.

That's right, out of every 100 new (often low-wage) jobs in a "recovery" year, rural areas in North Carolina have seen two. I don't have the same data for other states, but from what I've seen so far, I doubt it's much better.

It's not like things were great before. Urban poverty is its own nasty beast, but there's (usually) a more robust social safety net in cities. Rural areas have less violent crime, but no public transit, way fewer non-profits, and local governments with barely enough cash to keep schools open, let alone invest in improvements or social services.

This is one reason I balk at cries from some leftists to entirely defund religious charities. Often they're the only charities in rural areas, and the mainline ones, to their credit, don't proselytize while they're handing out food.

The problem's especially acute in the Southeast, and not just because of economic accident and globalization. The aversion by the aristocrats and their still-powerful descendants to building things that might benefit the plebs goes back generations. The Confederate constitution actually banned most governmental infrastructure spending, and a strain of that culture's survived to the modern day (try South Carolina's roads at your peril).

Racism only worsens this particular brand of neglect, and starting in the '60s, the left largely abandoned fighting rural poverty in favor of mocking hicks.

But there are coastal enclaves with quaint, artisanal fun. Nothing bad comes of the increasing desperation of a vast swath of the country, watching its opportunities vanish and nursing a grudge in desperate need of a target.