While the federal government’s “war on poverty” achieved some progress towards meeting basic material needs, says Ray Nothstine in this week’s Acton Commentary, it has no answers to the deeper dilemma of dependency and hopelessness faced by many Americans.
One book that highlights the problem and that is receiving considerable attention this year is J.D. Vance’s “Hillbilly Elegy.” Vance uses his own story to depict a crisis of culture among the white working class, especially in Appalachia. When President Lyndon Johnson launched his Great Society programs over 50 years ago with an iconic visit to Eastern Kentucky, it produced forlorn images of families in dilapidated shacks. The region remains under siege by poverty.
The problem, in large part, as Vance explains, is wrapped up in cultural and family decay. Vance, who declares, “Poverty was a family tradition,” was able to break free from the cycle and escape a chaotic future by moving in with a grandmother. Stability in the home brought with it a possibility to change’s ones life trajectory.