EDITOR: Before the election, I was watching a European TV news broadcast. This privately-owned chain had sent a crew to Boone County, Ky., to find out how the residents of the poorest county in the U.S. were likely to vote. Most people interviewed were for Mitt Romney and their reasons were mainly twofold: Romney was going to save the coal industry, Boone County’s only resource, and Obama wanted to take away their guns.
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Seventy-five years after the TVA was born, many denizens of Boone County still do not have electricity. Most are on welfare and food stamps, and practically all kids qualify for a free school breakfast and lunch. A county employee estimated that, at the end of some months, when the welfare money has run out, many school children do not eat between lunch Friday and breakfast Monday. When schools are not in session, the county runs special food programs for the children. Of course, Ayn Rand devotees will tell us that the adults and kids of Boone County are poor because they want to be poor.
The problems of Boone County are definitely third-world: malnutrition, lack of medical and dental care and facilities, roads decimated by coal-carrying trucks, a school system not worthy of Somalia and pervasive fundamentalist religions that help the authorities (meaning the GOP) keep the population under control.
The GOP has conned these poor people into believing that Romney is the man who “feels their pain,” that he’s “one of them.” They’re convinced that Romney will bring back coal and lift them out of their misery. Ironically, one of the older miners interviewed was pining about the good old days, when he made a decent wage. When one of the reporters suggested that the coal industry of old was unionized, the miner agreed, but he was going to vote “Romney” anyway. This attitude is the GOP’s greatest electoral triumph: It has convinced the poorest of the poor to vote for the oligarchs, against their own self-interest.