Mrs Dalwhinnie and I recently drove north from Charleston, South Carolina for several hours to reach the I-95. It was the most depressing landscape of poverty I can recall seeing. Crap towns. Abandoned stores with plywood for windows. No agriculture to speak of, just endless pine forests. Hovels, shacks, bungalows, trailers. Scarcely a middle class, well-maintained house, for hour after hour. Dozens of Protestant churches for every five miles of road. A dozen varieties of Baptist churches, some little better than shacks, one Presbyterian Church for the prosperous, and a few African Methodist Episcopal, which looked positively prosperous next to the Southern Baptist. Two hours of driving on secondary roads through this desolation was utterly weird.
Anyone who thinks the US is rich compared to Canada needs to contemplate places like South Carolina before they get too confident. The same poverty exists in New Brunswick too, but I have not seen poverty so extensive as that of South Carolina. The region is a pine barrens. We have something the same as when you drive from Ottawa to Peterborough on Route 7, and come across little shacks selling blueberries. But this is the result of no soil and bare rock. In South Carolina the poverty appears to be without geographic limit.
This brings me to Bloomberg’s spending $500 million on television ads.
The claim that this would have produced a million dollars for every American is a mistake. The actual amount of Bloomberg’s expenditure would be $1.50 per American, which could get them a Coke or something, and not a million per American, as the people on TV seemed to think. Innumeracy is growing as fast as ignorance, thanks to modern education.
As we drove north on I-95 and then I-81, we did not see prosperity thicken until Virginia. The Shenandoah Valley looks as rich and productive as good soils can make it. At the upper end of it, near Maryland, were huge factories and warehouses, probably serving the Washington-Baltimore-Richmond prosperity zone. Even former coal mining and manufacturing towns of Scranton, Wilkes-Barre, and Binghampton, looked wealthy by comparison to South Carolina.
Mrs Dalwhinnie, who crossed the US in February, said that west of Iowa, a lot of the American West looks much like South Carolina: people living in trailers, scarcely any towns, Walmarts every third town serving as the only shopping available, and hard, hard lives.
These are among the people who will put Trump back into the Presidency. Life may be getting better for the lowest paid of the American population under his nationalist policies, but scarcely soon enough. For the well-off, they have only to look at their retirement savings accounts. They may not like Trump, but they like what he is doing for them.