The desperation of less educated Whites: drug deaths, suicides, politics

I cannot be the only one who sees a connection between the rising death rate in younger, primarily less educated, Whites, mostly due to drugs and suicide, and our current political realities.

It seems to me that there is an anger and desperation felt by some within a demographic whose parents were no more educated better than they yet still had others to look down upon and lord over, a perception that their place is not just low but that their trajectory is to go even lower. This desperation that drives up the drug overdose and suicide rate is the self-same desperation that yearns to demonize and lord over an other, that is fodder for demagoguery, and is the Zeitgeist being exploited by Trump and Cruz and their ilk.

Politically the short term answer is to out-vote them but such a response fails to address the source of the desperation. No the answer is not to give them the freedom to beat up on an other. And in a practical sense we can pay more attention to rehab services and prevention. But can we, be we Democrats or be we more mainstream Republicans fighting for the soul and identity of our party, offer another path? What does that path look like?

(Mods: if this is more appropriate for GD than elections then feel free to move it. I was on the fence as to the best fitting venue myself.)

Give them jobs. Revive the WPA. Do something about the crumbling infrastructure we keep hearing about. Expand the program so that it encompasses things like elder care, daycare, and other areas including arts & entertainment. Revitalize NASA and get busy building space exploration and other equipment. Start a NOSA program for oceanautic exploration, as well.

Stop waiting for capitalism to solve problems that doesn’t concern it.

It’s not necessarily desperation, it’s a problem across the board.

For the part I believe the OP is addressing I see much of the problem, and many others, related to the idea that people can predict the course of their lives at a rather young age, and it doesn’t look good for many. If you’ve made it into a high paying STEM type career, and it suits you, then you have an incentive to lead a productive life. For many others their lives will look like years of toil with little payoff in the end. The American dream for the bottom end is a life of frustration, they won’t be able to exceed the standard of living of their parents, and they certainly don’t have an incentive to work at trying. The economic facts support this, no real economic growth for most people for decades now, even though there has been enormous economic growth in total, most of it benefits a small percentage of the population.

How much interaction do you ever have with any people in this demographic? When was the last time you worked with someone currently in this demographic? How much time have you spent in Appalachia, the South, the Rust Belt in the past 30 years? You seem to know a lot about their mindset.

I would hazard a guess that on the Maslow hierarchy of needs they are far more concerned about more basic things such as food than they are about their social status. To me, I feel that many people are very out of touch with this - someone who has never starved, never been part of the low classes, never grew up in an area where how one spoke and what one believed was looked down upon by the most educated, wealthy and powerful part of society.

As far as the drug addiction goes, if opioids are involved it may have as much to do with physical pain management given the hard life involving physical labor and limited access to quality healthcare - why not look a little deeper into this just for shits and giggles.

I would also suggest actually looking at the poverty rates in places such as Appalachia to get a better idea of the challenges this population faces from birth. Also, perhaps, do a little thought experiment and put yourself in the shoes of someone from Appalchia, or the Deep South, or the Rust Belt and think about what the odds of getting hired are at any decent kind of employment in the Northeast, or Silicon Valley.

And, perhaps, given the current political atmosphere of blaming everything on all whites, no matter how poor they are, and telling them that they should be able to get ahead, it is their fault they are not getting ahead etc. it is making them a little irritated when every other group in society is given an amount of sympathy not accorded to them.

The U.S. has made great strides in gender equality, civil liberties, and eliminating racism. However, as we have eliminated these ills, I feels that they are just being replaced buh classism. And as long as every conversation about Trump et. al. descends into jokes about how people from other parts of the country talk, how stupid they are, how backwards are their views there will only be an increase in this divide and an increase in hatred for each other in this country,

Aren’t the oceans pretty thoroughly explored already?

You are talking about what amounts to a new New Deal, and while I wholeheartedly support that, I think what we need much more, and what is more immediately relevant to the problem raised in the OP, is a new War on Poverty.

Globalization and the rise of the internet are major factors. In America, there have **always **been fat cats and blue-collar workers. Never before in history, though, has the divide been so easily observable. In the time it takes to conduct a single Google search, poor folks can see luxuries the likes of which they will never experience.

(highlighting mine)

And that makes a big difference to the young mind.

how has the internet made things worse (in this situation)?

The woes of everyone become magnified by the internet. A person twenty years ago could easily assume his problems were isolated ones–the result of his own personal failures and crappy luck. But now you can get online and instantly find your “people”–folks who are crying the exact same blues as you. No longer do your problems seem to be occurring in a vacuum. You suddenly see them as the manifestion of the system.

As to the OP, the desperation has been there for generations, but it is only now that white people–and not just poor whites either–are starting to realize it first-hand. The cynic in me says that maybe now that it’s affecting the “right” kind of people, politicians will put down their divisive rhetoric and do something. But the even more cynical side in me says that won’t happen because the system thrives on self-destructive behavior. Rich people are the ones who profit from ilicit drug trade and the war on drugs. And law-abiding people love having a scourge to point to and villify. They need a justification for why they need a home arsenal, why they need to live in gated surburban community, why they shouldn’t have to pay taxes to support public schools, and why we should all vote Jesus. And I’m guessing quite a few young whites don’t mind that their contemporaries are being culled. They wouldn’t say so out loud, of course, but in the dog-eat-dog society we live in today, one more dead person equates to one less person you have to compete against in a tight job market.

The internet has also shortened supply lines, cutting out numerous jobs, and even work locations as the brick mortar stores fall apart. One reason stuff is cheaper on the internet is less manpower involved getting the product from manufacturer to the consumer’s hands.


How do “rich people” "profit from illicit drug trade and the war on drugs? And how can it be both? Cites, please.

I would hazard a guess that you are talking out of your backside, Mr. Nylock.

Do you have reason to believe that the current generation of less educated Whites is experiencing more homelessness or starvation or food insecurity than the generation previous? Overall homelessness is down over the past decade. In point of fact poverty rates for Whites has stayed flat for decades.

Appalachia? “In Appalachia, the poverty rate remains above the national average, but has been cut nearly in half (from 30.9% in 1960 to 16.6% in 2010)” Mind you it’s complicated - “the region narrowed the gap slightly in per capita income, for example. But that’s at least partly because safety net programs such as social security and unemployment make up about 24 percent of personal income in the region, compared to 17 nationally.”

Do you have reason to believe that more young less educated Whites are doing hard or harder physical labor than previous generations of young less educated Whites had? Be real. The heroin epidemic is not because more are working harder physically than previous generations did so hurt more.

No question that rural areas lag in how many get college degrees and that rural poverty has not decreased as much as urban and suburban poverty have. And while median income has been dropping overall it is dropping a bit more in most rural (typically less educated) areas than otherwise. The recovery has been much more blunted in rural America than in urban America. Plus rural America is experiencing negative population growth with the exception of communities involved in America’s non-coal energy boom. These are huge stresses but they are not increased concerns about starvation, homelessness, or pain from back-breaking physical labor.
Please note: I am not blaming anyone for anything. I am making an observation based not on anecdotes or shits and giggles but from data. There is not more starvation or homelessness for this demographic but there are a host of other changes: less family connectivity; communities themselves breaking down as whole towns close shop; fewer who they can point to as below them; as noted by others in this thread, more of an awareness of those “above them” on the SES ladder; less hope of doing better later in life or that their children will do better than they are; and more.

I am not sure the issue is poverty per se. At least not in any absolute sense. But I am not sure how mainstream more educated America, again be they the GOP mainstream or in the Democratic Party, addresses the issue.

Mr. Nylock I do agree with you on your last point some - there is a classist divide, albeit I perceive it as more bidirectional than do you. The less educated White demographic feels that their America has been taken over by the eggheads and the various “others”, by those elites who speak without a regional accent (as Huckabee would put it, by the “Bubbles” in contrast to the “Bubbas”). I perceive the hostility as originating more from the less educated but I readily acknowledge seeing the condescension that you speak of as well.

How do you propose we deal with that divide? If we do not deal with it then we then leave the divide as that which gets exploited by the Trumps of the world. Is that your preferred option?

Sorry to be that guy but as interesting as this topic is, what does it have to do with elections? Wouldn’t this thread be more appropriate in GD?

I am open to a move Onomatopoeia … the reason I had put it here was that my question was specifically regarding how mainstream Republicans and/or Democrats should respond to the situation politically, especially pertinent to this specific election cycle as the path for both Cruz and Trump, both in the primary cycle and in the general election, rely on their appeal to that demographic, but also of broader elections impacts as well, both down ticket and in future cycles.

One answer could be that politically there is little to do but to out-vote the demographic, that policies are immaterial … at least within the cycle. And that answer has some validity (and evokes the usual sub-discussions of how to do that). Nevertheless the core causes of the … let’s just call it “discontent” … are not going away magically. The surprising sustained popularity of one candidate and the increased death rates within certain demographic groups to me seem both the symptoms of something deeper that the country’s health in both literal and figurative senses would benefit by our addressing if only we knew how. And the long term political health of both the mainstream GOP and of Democrats are also impacted.

If you approach what I said with a minimum level of reading comprehension and then go on to make arguments only tangential at best to those points then sure, I am most certainly talking out of my backside.

Guilty as charged :slight_smile:


I’m supposed to feel sympathy for people who love Jesus and love guns but hate that “socialist Obama”. The republican platform is not noted for it’s sympathy towards the down and out. So why should I feel sympathy for poor white republicans?

Granted, jobs and education and other opportunities (and activities) are harder to come by in rural America. But, most rural white people are republicans.

Only 10% of African Americans vote republican… I figured you might want a cite.

I don’t expect you to believe anything in this article, but I try to always oblige polite requests for cites.

It has to do with elections because this group seems to me, as a liberal, to vote against their own interests. Given everything already mentioned above about the problems facing this group, why do a significant chunk of them support the Republican Party? The Republicans are the party of the Koch brothers, Sheldon Adelson, Wall Street, etc. The people this thread is about, however, tend to mostly vote Republican. I think the fact that they vote Republican is a big part of the reason they face the problems that they do.