"A woman who is intimately familiar with the local drug economy suggests that the exchange rate between sexual favors and cases of pop — some dealers will accept either — is about 1:1, meaning that the value of a woman in the local prescription-drug economy is about $12.99 at Walmart prices."
For the smart and enterprising people left behind, life can be very comfortable, with family close, a low cost of living, beautiful scenery, and a very short climb to the top of the social pecking order. The relative ease of life for the well-off and connected here makes it easy to overlook the real unpleasant facts of economic life, which helps explain why Booneville has a lovely new golf course, of all things, but so little in the way of everyday necessities.
Oh, and about the soda: things like that will happen when you try to provide aid in kind to very poor people. Give an only moderately poor person food stamps, and she’ll probably be willing to use all of it on food. Give a very poor person, with hardly any other source of income, food stamps and she’ll try to convert part of it into cash to be spent on other things. This doesn’t say that they’re getting too much help; it just says that they’re pretty desperate across the board, not just in their food budget.
Parton said she became involved with the operation because, "I always thought that if I made it big or got successful at what I had started out to do, that I wanted to come back to my part of the country and do something great, something that would bring a lot of jobs into this area."
Professor Krugman and those who share his orientation see the bottom half, and maybe even the bottom 80 percent, of citizens as passive participants in economic life, not people who do things but people to whom things are done, the direct object in Lenin's summary of politics: "Who? Whom?" And from the point of view of the policymaking class -- not just the progressive perches at Princeton but the policymaking class in general -- it is easy to see the great majority of the American public as something like dogs exhibiting various degrees of ruliness while waiting for table scraps. People cannot be expected to live. It is up to "the nation" to "offer" them life.
Well, yes, actually. Or if it's not up to "the nation" to "offer" them life, it's up to other people -- the technical term for them is, I believe, "employers" -- to offer them what are known in the economics literature as "jobs."
Or what, Kevin? What are people in coal country supposed to do if their job searches don't result in other people giving them jobs, despite (perhaps) years of work experience and (perhaps) reschooling and retraining after the old jobs dried up, not to mention a hell of a lot of pavement-pounding? We see that plenty are voting with their feet by getting the hell out of Kentucky coal country (or dying), and yet the unemployment rate is still disturbingly high. As for the rest, many of whom might not be able to afford to leave (no cash, underwater homes) -- what are they supposed to do? Become new-media entrepreneurs? Load up the truck and head to Silicon Valley for some venture capital?
The problem is, Kevin, if you're not a capitalist -- and most people aren't -- then yes, you absolutely are, to at least some extent, at the mercy of others if you want to find employment. Some people who haven't been entrepreneurs have the wherewithal -- the cash in reserve, the education, the salable idea, the profit-oriented mindset -- to exit the employment market and create jobs for themselves. But even then, the vast majority of new businesses fail. And you simply can't have an economy in which every single person is a sole proprietor. It's a sign of right-wingers' insane devotion to the cult of capitalist that they can't grasp this, can't grasp that we are not all absolute masters of our own fate.
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