Current Affairs Economics Politics

DW Documentary: Poverty In the USA

Another excellent documentary on life for working-class and lower middles-class communities in the United States of America from the German broadcaster DW. Twenty-four minutes into the video the film crew visit an impoverished town in Appalachia where once a year hundreds of men, women and children line up to seek free assembly line health care from doctors and dentists over the course of a weekend thanks to the efforts of a charitable organisation. It’s an extraordinary sight for a highly developed and otherwise incredibly rich Western nation.

It’s telling that the administrators for the DW channel on YouTube had to switch off the commenting facility under the video after being overwhelmed with a veritable torrent of abusive and derogatory remarks about the individuals and families featured in the documentary. Most of which, at the time they were still visible, made sycophantic references to the US president Donald Trump while also offering up conspiracy theories and paranoid claims about the actions of “liberals” in America.

5 comments on “DW Documentary: Poverty In the USA

  1. This could have been made in the 90s. What I observed first hand when I lived in North Carolina in the 90s broke my fucking heart. The free dental weekends where tens of thousands would line up to get the first, and likely only, dental treatment of their lives. And the lines were always too long with thousands more patients than could ever been treated. Year in and year out.

    John Edwards grew up poor in NC and in 2004 made addressing systemic, institutional poverty in the US a center piece of his campaign. So of course he had to be destroyed, serving up an affair that peaked during his 08 run made it trivially easy to accomplish that.

    This documentary is from 1999 and I cannot find another one about West Virginia I am looking for that really illustrates the desperate poverty, this one is not as shocking: American Hollow 1999.

  2. One of the big issues behind homelessness in California is that housing prices have been out of control.

    What could get you in mortgage payment on small house in good condition or nice condo in much of the country? You’d be lucky to rate crappy one room apt even with shared bathrooms for up to $150/month more.

    The market for low cost decent housing in Cali and some other places is a nightmare.

    The issue of subsidized housing and rent control are complicated in the US.

    As for the clinics with people camping to get there? In Appalachia and parts of The South much of it is related to availability. Even though we have The PPACA (Obamacare), and more of these folks can get Medicaid and/or low cost insurance, it still remains a place that not enough medical school grads want to to settle unless they were raised there. Due to concentrated poverty lower than typical numbers people who were raised there get to medical school.

    As for dentistry. Whether Medicaid covers dental is largely up to the states government. ObamaCare only requires Marketplace, Employer Provided, or Private Insurance to cover dental for children-even that is a bit bare bones. This is a problem not only because more research is showing that your teeth impact the body quite a bit.

    Also Americans judge social status by teeth almost as much as The English do by accents. It’s far from unusual from somebody who grew up poor, with no dental care, no fluoride, and in a situation where “sugar is cheap calories” to still have nice looking teeth due to luck and genetics. And many progressive states have preschool, Headstart, and grade school programs where all the children are given fluoride treatments and vaccines.

    However if you do come up poor with bad teeth to show for it? That can absolutely keep you trapped in poverty in American society. Some people made harsher judgments on teeth than they’d dream of doing for skin color or even schizophrenia. Unless you can find a dental plan, a charity dental clinic or Medicaid in a state where Medicaid has robust dental? You could face a great deal of discrimination, for sure.

  3. Great spot ASF.

    Healthcare must be a Universal Basic Service, free at the point of use, funded by progressive taxation.

    There are plenty of people in the RoI facing debilitating health problems because of inadequate care. This is down to the ‘worst-of-both-worlds’ two-tier semi-privatised health system that diverts resources that could be spent on health care into the profits of private companies.

    • Is having everything free at POS for everyone regardless of income the only way to go? Germany seems to have done very well with a system based on employment portable, mostly non-profit, insurance system. Only about 15% of German health insurance is for-proft and much of that secondary/supplmental-some want to make it so all for-profit is supplemental.

      Having looked at different models, I definitely understand why the concept of a Beveridge (NHS style) system appeals to people. I used to be one of the very, very few Americans even left-of-center who wanted one. The vast majority of Americans basically want a Canadian model. However, what a lot of them don’t realize is that the Canadian system doesn’t include pharmacy, dental (the biggest station at that Appalachian clinic), or vision and hearing (my mother taught school in the inner cities: big problem there let me tell you).

      The Bismarck Model (German style) actually seems to work extremely well in the real world. It’s probably also a better fit in some ways for a very Federalized nation like the US. However, I believe the advantages would be valid anywhere. It is possible that there be more POS than is the case in Germany and the current US. However, I see making everything free at POS as inherently vulnerable to certain pressures-including the ones the UK has now.

      I know this might be a bit of a mean-puppy comment. However it’s a little ironic than Sinn Fein is the party in Ireland that seems the hottest to adopt a fully NHS style model.

  4. Is cuimhin liom mo chéad chuairt ar Nua Eabhrach (sn hOchtóidí) agus íontas agus alltacht orm faoin mbochtannas a bhí ann. (Remembering my first visit to NY in the 80s and how shocked I was by the poverty visible in that great city!)

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