By Hunter Wallace
Kyle Whitmore at Al.com has published a real howler of an article on the poverty of Alabama’s Black Belt:
“I know a little bit, too, about where Mike Ball is from.
And I know this: If Ball doesn’t want the government’s help in his district, the folks in the Black Belt will take it.
A federal interstate highway like I-565? They’ll take one of those there.
A cultural amenity and tourism draw like the U.S. Space and Rocket Center? Camden would accept that in a heartbeat.
Or the reason that center is there — the Redstone Arsenal? There’s plenty of room for such a military installation in Wilcox County, or Pickens, or Sumter, or Marengo …
And forget the military dollars for a second. Let’s talk about the TVA. By now, Ball’s district would probably have electricity without TVA, but until the Franklin Roosevelt’s much-maligned New Deal set its sights on the Tennessee Valley, it was dark at night as the Black Belt’s soil. Today residents in Ball’s district pay power rates much lower than Alabama Power’s customers elsewhere in the state.
Ball’s district got that from the government, and if it weren’t for government money, Ball’s district would look a lot more like the place where Spruell lives.
The Black Belt has inherited its poverty, where it has been passed from generation to generation since slaves were brought there to work its cotton fields. It might not be our generation’s fault, but we certainly haven’t done much to fix it.
Ball’s district didn’t inherit its prosperity. It got that from the government, and yet Ball whines and cries about government on the radio.
But you know, some people just wallow in being a victim, almost like they enjoy it.
It must be a miserable way to live.”
According to Whitmore’s theory, the Tennessee Valley region of north Alabama owes its prosperity to government, but nothing has been done to “fix” the Black Belt in south Alabama.
Where to start? The Black Belt was the target of the two largest government interventions in the economy in American history: abolition, which replaced slavery with the free labor system, and integration, which outlawed racial discrimination by private businesses, imposed racial equality on public schools, and led directly to black majority rule in many counties. There is no greater example of social engineering by the federal government anywhere in America.
As for interstates, I-65 and I-85 converge in west Montgomery, where 116,000 black people live, which is more than the combined total of all the black people who live elsewhere in the Black Belt. Also, I-85 runs through Macon County, I-65 runs through Lowndes County, and I-59-20 runs through Greene and Sumter County. 155,000 more black people live in Birmingham where even more interstates converge. The black dominated parts of Bimringham, Montgomery and the Black Belt – both urban and rural – are relatively devoid of commercial activity.
Like the Tennessee Valley, the Black Belt is now fully electrified, so that can’t be the difference. Both regions have equal access to the Great Society welfare state. New Deal agricultural programs contributed to the mechanization of agriculture in the Black Belt and by extension to black poverty and unemployment. This also applies to the Midwest though where lots of crops are no longer labor intensive.
The TVA and NASA have certainly contributed to the prosperity of the Tennessee Valley, but abolition and integration undermined the prosperity of the Alabama Black Belt. Both had a similarly devastating impact in the Mississippi Delta and the South Carolina and Georgia Lowcountry. Some government programs have been beneficial whereas others have just been a disaster.