I'm JM Fisher, Writer & Host Of The Weekly Cynic Podcast.

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Poverty, Welfare And Gentrification


From my aerie in the historic district, my office windows overlook sidewalks of charming brickwork, these red rectangles, vestiges of Victorian industry, inspire tourist’s photographs and the fevered, profit mongering dreams of gentrifiers.

Throughout the day, neighbors and sightseers stroll these brick walkways, their hands gripping containers of coffee purchased from the local café, whose owner was recently profiled in Bearded Artisan Monthly for their acclaimed refurbishment of a 200-year-old roaster of rare and venerable origins that had been abandoned to the wilderness of northern Maine. 

But, there is a particular, late morning group of pedestrians that intrigues me: a trio of young truants. By eleven, when most people their age are grumbling and yawning through math class, these lads are slouching about the sidewalks, their bulky hoodies bunched around their heads like the cloaks of medieval monks while they stare down into hands clamped with smartphones…

Guysguysguys, I sigh, stupefied by their delinquency. Do you understand how the world is changing?


Yes, the adolescent rebel truant transcends America’s socioeconomic strata’s.

From the farm kids who play hooky because, once again, the steers went on a fence rampage and are now scattered throughout the land, stomping and munching on grass—yes, this was a legitimate “excuse” in my childhood realm—to the Yacht Club punks clad in Ralph Lauren polo’s shirking their boarding school economics course of Ruling Class Domination to commandeer Daddy’s Rolls Royce, the teenage urge to flaunt truancy is a symbol of our American ethos. 

Of course, for these two examples of America’s socioeconomic classes, squandering a few days to weeks of Government mandated education rarely infringed their longterm prospects as there was foundational, generational security: the family farm and the Scrooge McDuck coffers.

But, thanks to 40-years of Crony Capitalist boom/bust cycles and aspirational class influence, the family farm is imperiled.

The Scrooge McDuck bloodlines saw a minimal decrease in their vaults, but that was quickly rectified with Government bailouts and Scrooge’s minions of Washington DC lobbyists who strengthened relationships with the parasitical political and banking class that ensured Scroogie’s family years of profitable policy-making, corporate mergers and stock by-backs.

Recessionary proof, once again.

JM! I need to interrupt!

Huh, yes, Blue Check-Mark Advocate?

Those young lads you see, they’re not part of either class! They’re the forgotten class of perpetual poverty, broken homes, single parents working multiple, minimum wage jobs, all of them trapped in generational despair!

Uh, thanks Blue Check-Mark Advocate…

And, another thing, JM! People like yourself who move into historic districts of depressed areas, remodel homes and businesses, ultimately raise property values, which sends signals to predatory developers with ties to bankers, who swoop in, raise rents, establish coffee shops like the one right down from you, then art galleries start opening, even distilleries! And, before you know it, the most vulnerable are eradicated!

Uhhhh, I was—

People of color! Immigrants! Sex Workers! Those ‘lads’ shouldn’t be demonized! They shouldn’t be stigmatized because they’re from public housing! 

Whoa. Whoa, Millennial Blue Check-Mark Advocate, let’s halt this agitated digression of yours…

I’m not really sure what race these truants identify as, and because I live in a diverse city, those of poverty, the vulnerable, transcend all ethnic and cultural stereotypes. I’m sure you’re one of The Yacht Club Punks, ashamed of your privilege, rebelling against your generational, upper-crust whiteness—you’re the trope from The Hidden Tribes study—who’ve never experienced rural poverty. 

Generational rural poverty.

White trash, is the term.

Wait, is that racist?

And, Blue Check-Mark Advocate, if you’re feeling numb or suffocated by the garish displays of white gentrification here in the historic district—also, it’s simply revitalization, because a consortium of local entrepreneurs are investing their time and money—I would advise you to Uber yourself out to the countryside. After navigating through the touristy pastoral landscape of post-cards and misty-eyed romanticism, you will encounter dilapidation, rot and hopelessness. Here, generational, primarily white, rural poverty subsists on the meager earnings of odd jobs, rudimentary mechanics, black market scheming and circumventing government rules to maximize their payouts of welfare and disability. 

Back in the day, in these rural areas, factories and warehouses afforded this demographic of the working poor a steady paycheck. Also, those factories and warehouses spawned a symbiotic, economic ecosystem of small, independent businesses like diners, general stores, transportation and machine repair shops. 

During America’s Deindustrialization phase—an economic and political theory spawned by that other symbiotic ecosystem of Academia, Think Tanks and Washington DC Policy Makers—those factories and warehouses were uprooted for inexpensive foreign lands that would ensure even greater profit margins. Once those factories and warehouses vanished, all those intertwined, small, independent businesses plunged into bankruptcy. 

After these industries faded, along with their tax bases and societal bonds, such as trade unions, working poor America was consigned to a crumbling, underfunded system of healthcare and education, while their personal and cultural lives devolved into alcoholism, opioids, video games, and yes, staring into the screens of smartphones.

The same philosophies and policies that relegated rural, working class America to the doldrums of welfarian drug addiction, were also instituted in your beloved Cultural, Metropolitan Capitals, Blue Check-Mark Advocate. 

Yes, those same luxurious standards of government welfarian living could be symbolized by modern urban reservations—er, apologies, I mean, tenements.

The Ruling Class, in order to maintain perpetual control over a certain swath of the populace, no matter their culture and ethnicity, realized that addicting them to a subsidized, substandard version of living was very effective.

And, as Technology advanced, The Ruling Class partnered with Silicon Valley to produce smartphones, just another distraction and narcotic to keep them content and docile.

Oh, let’s not forget the symbiotic, economic ecosystem of Social Workers, Advocates, Allies, Activists, Academics, Non-Profits, Think Tanks, NGOs, Politicians, Shills, Charlatans and Hustlers that have dedicated and predicated their careers on ending poverty and welfare.

Like everything else on Planet Earth, exploit it and monetize it.

Offended by my cynicism? Don’t worry, the remains of the Middle Class will soon be dependent on Universal Basic Income.


So, what about that trio of truants from earlier in this piece? What will become of those young lads I was talking about before I was interrupted and spiraled into a tangent…

Well, it’s possible their parents or parent, found out about their little game of school skipping and gave them a heckuva scolding, instilling them with a sense of diligence and responsibility. 

Maybe they connect with an inspirational teacher.

Or, a mentor. One of those old school Big Brothers or Big Sisters. Someone who steers them to a vocation or kindles repressed artistic abilities.

Hopefully, a vocation that’s not sacrificed to the future God of Artificial Intelligence, which would only toss them back to their cycle of poverty and government dependance.

But, sometime soon, I imagine, their possessions will be stuffed into their mom’s jalopy as they embark on another series of visits and stops with relatives and friends.

Those truants will become just another transient student statistic.

Alright, let’s be honest, if none of those scenarios actually happened or will happen, their departure is inevitable.

A few weeks from now, the old brick warehouse where they live with their mothers, will be sold. Their long-time, apathetic landlord will be dazzled by an offer from a Big City property developer. Over those next few weeks, tenants will receive non-renewal notices from the Big City property developer and once everyone has been expelled, those shabby, dry-walled partitioned apartments will be obliterated for luxury loft living spaces.


A year from now, as you and your partner are walking through the historic district, admiring the architecture of all the newly remodeled homes, you will stop before the old brick warehouse and stare into those spacious, dramatically lit loft living spaces where all the young, Yoga slimmed tenants sit and stand, mesmerized by the screens of their smartphones…

Ah, gentrification.

Die. Salinger. Die.