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Hookworm, Pellagra and COVID: Diseases of Dysfunction

Hookworm, Pellagra and COVID: Diseases of Dysfunction

Leaders all over the South were scrambling to find a cure for the dreaded pellagra until they discovered what that cure might cost them. That’s when the campaign of denial began. A century-old fight over public health feels fresh as a morning headline as we wrestle with a new threat, with equally simple remedies that upset Southern values. Disease is personal. Pandemic is politics.

Joseph Goldberger was sent to the South in 1914 on a mission from the US Department of Public Health to investigate an outbreak of pellagra. Pellagra is a terrible illness, starting with skin lesions, then advancing to diarrhea, dementia and in about 40% of cases, death. The disease, already well known among poorer populations in Southern Europe, had been documented in the South in 1908. By 1912, more than 30,000 cases had been identified in South Carolina alone.

Now we know that pellagra is caused by a niacin deficiency, usually rising from a corn-based diet. Native Americans used a process called nixtamalization, soaking corn in ash or lime to convert it to hominy, which released more of its nutritional value. Without that step, corn can be a weak source of nutrition. Pellagra was common among poor Southerners, mostly tenant farmers, the incarcerated or mill workers. Tenant farmers were expected to devote all of their available land to cotton, with landlords blocking them developing food plots. This left them dependent on the cheapest available source of calories, a diet of cornmeal, molasses and salt pork. Similarly, mill workers were often limited to whatever food was available in the company store, at the cheapest price, mostly corn with little variety

Goldberger was initially welcomed. Southern leaders expected him to blame the disease on an infection, or even better, on a contaminant in corn imported from the Yankee Midwest. Instead, his experiments backed up his initial suspicion that pellagra was a nutritional deficiency. Goldberg published his findings in 1915, demonstrating that pellagra was a consequence of a poorly diversified corn diet, and could be remedied by adding a few fresh foods. His conclusion wasn’t novel, matching the recommendations of earlier researchers in Europe, but his report sparked angry denials.

An earlier commission of Southern researchers in 1909 had reached an erroneous conclusion more welcome to Southern planters and mill owners – pellagra was an infectious disease, spread either by flies or adulterated corn. It could, therefore, be remedied by educating the poor toward better sanitary habits and/or regulating imports from the hated North. Goldberg’s discoveries instead tied the disease to Southern economic practices that were producing wealth for a few powerful people. Wealthy Southerners worked to promote their preferred diagnosis.

In response to Goldberger’s research, planters and mill owners launched a campaign of pellagra denial. His conclusions were framed as an attack on the “Southern way of life” by “damyankees.” Seale Harris, Director of the Alabama Medical College, published an editorial that appeared in Southern newspapers deriding the “pellagra scare, which was not justified by facts, does the South a gross injustice” and “misrepresents the realities of the South.” For years he spread denial of Goldberger’s findings, claiming that the majority of physicians disagreed with them. Southern politicians ignored Goldberg’s recommendations and flipped their earlier position, insisting now that pellagra wasn’t a problem at all. As Goldberger’s conclusions were incorporated into official Federal policy, the Georgia Senate passed a resolution denouncing the “slanderous” accusation that pellagra was an issue in the South. Unsurprisingly, the disease spread wildly over the next two decades as poverty worsened. By 1928, pellagra which was now a fully preventable illness, was one of the leading causes of death in many Southern states.

The pellagra outbreak was only alleviated by the arrival of a new menace, the boll weevil. Weevil infestations performed the work that policy-makers resisted, changing the economic landscape of the South. By wrecking the cotton industry, it removed poor tenant farmers from cotton monoculture and shut down many of the worst mill towns. After a brief resurgence of the cotton industry in the early 30’s, the Depression and the New Deal finished the work of reshaping Southern economics. By the 1940’s cotton was no longer king and pellagra was fading from memory.

The playbook deployed to blunt pellagra remedies didn’t emerge from nowhere. Southern leaders had honed this machinery of evasion and denial just a few years earlier, defeating a Northern effort to eradicate hookworm. Like Goldberger, Charles Stiles had been sent to the South by the US Public Health service in 1908, to investigate “the disease of the cracker.” Stiles was the first to identify hookworm in the US, finding it in 1902 in samples from Texas and West Virginia.

Hookworm infestations seldom kill, but can cause severe anemia and cognitive defects. Combined with pellagra, the impact of a hookworm infestation could be devastating. Though the reach of pellagra was relatively limited, in the early 20th century up to 40% of population in the South carried the hookworm parasite. The worm’s complex lifecycle depended on access to humans, usually through bare feet, and transmission through untreated sewage. Sufferers could experience cognitive decline, lethargy, and strange urges to eat unusual things. They were often derided as “dirt eaters.” Hookworms were particularly successful in the kind of poor, sandy soils where landless whites and blacks were often relegated.

While state governments in the South dithered, the Rockefeller Foundation in 1909, organized the Rockefeller Sanitary Commission to eradicate the parasite. Working with Stiles, the commission adopted an innovative plan meant to go beyond eradicating hookworm. In order to give the effort a sheen of local support, the RSC would only operate in states that established a health commission, and in counties that also established local health infrastructure. They worked through those health commissions to educate, dispense treatments, and press for improved sanitation infrastructure.

At first the RSC was well-received by local people. Several states and counties set up bureaucracies to assist the commission in their goal of identifying and treating hookworm infestations. However, as the focus turned toward broader public health goals, like clean water, sewer infrastructure and poverty, resistance grew.

The “National League for Medical Freedom” had been formed in 1910 to protect the interests of snake-oil salesman and quack doctors against a growing national movement in favor of tide of food and drug regulation. They worked hard in Arkansas to stir up opposition to the creation of a state public health unit, essential for participating in the Rockefeller hookworm program. When the Arkansas legislature finally passed a bill approving the project in 1911, the physical bill was stolen before the Governor could sign it. After the Governor signed a copy of the bill, the state attorney general intervened to determine the law invalid.

A newspaper editorial in Raleigh captured the prevailing mood:

Many of us in the South are getting tired of being exploited by advertisements that exaggerate conditions . . . Let us not canonize Standard Oil Rockefeller by putting laurels on his head because he seeks to buy the appreciation of the people whom he has been robbing for a quarter of a century.

Passing out medicine or encouraging people to wear shoes was tolerable. Pressing Southern governments to continue to fund public health infrastructure created some resentment. Pointing out the connection between absent public infrastructure and squalid health conditions was more than the South’s wealthy were willing to tolerate.

The Rockefeller Foundation wrapped up their work in the South in 1914. Hookworm infestations had been greatly reduced, and new public awareness of the importance of shoes and proper waste disposal helped around the margins. But as with pellagra, failure to adopt the kind of comprehensive public health and sanitation infrastructure voters took for granted elsewhere let hookworm remain. By 1930, hookwork infestations had rebounded, remaining widely prevalent in the South. Like pellagra, hookworm would only fade when the decline of cotton and the rise of federal health and infrastructure intervention changed the economics of Southern life.

One might imagine that the wealthy would have as much interest in public health as anyone else. What good is it to be rich if you have to live in a disease-ridden backwater? However, there’s another dimension to consider. Not all industries need a healthy public for success. Some paths to wealth and power hinge on a divided and impoverished public, unable to organize to promote their interests. Extractive businesses that profit from wringing money from an asset, like cash-crop farming, mining and oil gain far more from keeping their costs down than they would from any form of improvement in the world around them. The economy in the South remains defined today by the prominence of extractive capital over innovation or knowledge industries.

Powerful government entities, under the influence of a liberal democracy, provide a gateway to badly needed organization for workers and the poor. The more powerful a democratic government becomes, the more leverage that government carries against the wealthy. Living in a disease-ridden environment is of little concern to many wealthy families if it secures their relative power against the emergence of real democratic organization. For many influential Southerners, the spread of COVID is less worrying than the spread of democracy.

Government investment in public health is a particular threat to predatory wealth because of the mindset it imbues. The more the public learns about hookworm, pellagra, teen pregnancy or COVID, the greater the awareness of our inherent, inescapable interconnectedness. Public health initiatives hinge on teaching basic biology. The more people understand our biology the harder it is to keep us divided and therefore politically weak.

COVID-19 arrived on our shores as an illness that could infect anyone regardless of class, wealth, education or influence. As a result, it hit hard in its earliest days in our wealthiest places, our cities with the strongest connections to the world. In the spring of 2020 New York, Los Angeles and Boston faced a terrible toll of infection and death while the quiet South watched with detachment. That detachment wouldn’t last.

COVID-19 is no longer a disease that could touch anyone equally. Like hookworm and pellagra, solid public health infrastructure can allow people to avoid this plague. Periodic lockdowns, mask rules, vaccinations and contact tracing will limit COVID’s reach until it’s constrained to our cultural and political backwaters. COVID-19 is on its way to becoming our newest pellagra, a disease we only worry about when we venture into the poorly governed hinterland.

The business lobby is pushing to gut COVID-19 related public health initiatives. ALEC has formulated a collection of model bills aimed at rolling back local public health powers that took a century to establish, and which have still barely taken hold in the South. These efforts are little threat in states with Democratic majorities, but in the South they are almost certain to become law, succeeding once again in wrecking efforts to place the well being of citizens ahead of predatory business models. Under the guise of “liberty” these campaigns are working to undermine the entire public health edifice.

Our newest outbreak of a deadly COVID variant began in the Ozarks, moving now down the Mississippi into Louisiana and spreading across the Deep South. Duval County, Florida, home to Jacksonville, is now logging more new COVID infections each day than New York City. That’s not a per capita metric, but the raw number of infections. On a per capita basis, the Duval County’s infection rate is roughly 1000% times higher than New York City. San Francisco is averaging fewer new cases per day, in raw numbers, than Mobile County, Alabama. Across the South, as more infectious variants take hold and infection numbers skyrocket in rural areas, the region’s “liberal” cities remain havens. Austin, Houston and San Antonio are seeing slower spread than their suburbs, and much slower spread than their poorly vaccinated surrounding rural counties.

Disease is personal. Pandemic is politics. Texas’ Neo-Confederate Lt. Governor summarized the South’s approach to public health in a starkly candid manner back in March of 2020. He explained that good citizens were willing to sacrifice their lives to protect business interests, which are naturally much more important than any ordinary person’s survival. Public health activism is always a threat to predatory business models. Whether the disease is pellagra or COVID, once the unwashed rabble begins to understand how we’re all connected, the threat to those extractive businesses cannot be contained.

Predators are thriving in this environment of weak public health. Professional grifter Joseph Mercola moved his phony medical practice from Chicago, where his business was threatened by relentless regulatory scrutiny, to the huckster paradise of Florida back in 2015. Safe now in the arms of Dixie, Mercola can rake in millions on phony COVID cures and vaccine denial becoming one of the country’s most prominent and successful COVID predators. His new home, Lee County , Florida, is logging more new COVID cases each day than Philadelphia and Boston combined. As the years pass, we can expect COVID to be a disease that bubbles along in America’s backwaters, continuing to threaten more settled areas by allowing new variants to emerge.

A medical research team discovered a hookworm infestation among poor residents of Lowndes County, Alabama in 2017. Infected residents were living in areas with no central sewage treatment and no functioning septic tanks. In response, the Alabama Department of Public Health issued a wholly predictable denial, insisting that no problem exists. Though many millions of dollars in relief money has been raised from private donors in an effort to remedy what should be a government problem, to date conditions have not improved.

The connection between hookworm, pellagra and COVID in Southern politics demonstrates a stark reality. Politics is always a matter of life and death.

COVID-19 hotspots, July 27, 2021

28 Comments

  1. Turns out big business is moving forward to require vaccination even before full FDA approval. Why? Not because of any newfound love for Democrats or President Biden; rather, because predictability and stability of operations are highly related to profitability in a capitalistic society.

    Whether coincidental timing or not, today energy sector giants Chevron, Hess, and Valero joined a longer list of dot com giants and banking companies in requiring employees to vaccinate. It is sad that science alone didn’t motivate quicker action of individuals and businesses to comply with common sense safety recommendations, but time is running out and, obviously, so is patience.

    The pitiful image of grown adults rudely berating public health professionals and school boards over masking requirements because of their petulant concerns about “personal freedom “ paints a sorry picture of the mighty United States of America that no foe could achieve.

    The final straw for most rational people? Risking the safety of our children. The shame of this will be recorded in history books – those that don’t fall prey to bogus banning. Unvaccinated people comprise nine out of ten hospitalized patients….those who ingested Ivermectin or those who simply ran out of dumb luck from being infected.

    These are interesting, sad, telling times in this formerly great country.

  2. Speaking of lawsuits, things could get interesting in TX. Some Blue county officials are defying Abbott’s ban on mask mandates:

    https://www.texastribune.org/2021/08/06/texas-greg-abbott-covid-restrictions/

    Abbott is right about one thing- people who can get vaxxed need to get vaxxed to end this thing. But he is so wrong on so much else. Mask mandates are no where near as severe and disruptive as actual shutdowns, and to group the two together like that is pig ignorant. Also the kids under 12 can’t get vaxxed yet, and since enough adults didn’t get vaxxed in time to have herd immunity when school starts, the school districts need to be able to require masks if their situation call for. It looks like HISD could defy this order, and I will applaud them if they follow through. You need standing to get into court. There’s unfortunately no guarantee of judges putting the health and safety of children above the cynical political ambitions of Greg Abbott, but nothing happens if you don’t fight it in court.

    Mayor Turner is also mandating masks for city employees, so he can sign on too. It would be great to see other cities and large school districts join in. This order is wrong and it’s time for good trouble.

    1. Turns out big business is moving forward to require vaccination even before full FDA approval. Why? Not because of any newfound love for Democrats or President Biden; rather, because predictability and stability of operations are highly related to profitability in a capitalistic society.

      Whether coincidental timing or not, today energy sector giants Chevron, Hess, and Valero joined a longer list of dot com giants and banking companies in requiring employees to vaccinate. It is sad that science alone didn’t motivate quicker action of individuals and businesses to comply with common sense safety recommendations, but time is running out and, obviously, so is patience.

      The pitiful image of grown adults rudely berating public health professionals and school boards over masking requirements because of their petulant concerns about “personal freedom “ paints a sorry picture of the mighty United States of America that no foe could achieve.

      The final straw for most rational people? Risking the safety of our children. The shame of this will be recorded in history books – those that don’t fall prey to bogus banning. Unvaccinated people comprise nine out of ten hospitalized patients….those who ingested Ivermectin or those who simply ran out of dumb luck from being infected.

      These are interesting, sad, telling times in this formerly great country.

  3. Good morning. Long time no see. Did you guys come up with any more suggestions as to what can replace white supremacy as the unifying force for our country? I was fascinated by the idea when I first read about it here but I’ve been away for a while. The main thing I get is that it has to be based on mythology, in line with “thinking fast.”

    1. I guess we have to use slow, deliberate thinking to come up with a good mythology that will require little thought in and of itself, or maybe one day we will be struck by the perfect mythology out of the blue. Maybe it’s already out there and we just haven’t noticed it.

    2. Welcome back.

      Went into this at some length. Interested in your thoughts.

      “In a post-racial America, what are the values that should define “us?” What symbols, rituals, memorials, songs and other cultural artifacts would best cement those values into place? Who are the heroes to emulate and the villains to reject?

      “Answers to these questions will emerge from an evolutionary process of trial and error, a process which is already in motion. The public will embrace or reject different expressions of our common values and aspirations until a new unifying mythology takes shape. Normally, a new unifying ethos only coalesces in the cauldron of a crisis. Perhaps two economic collapses and a lethal pandemic have been crisis enough, but probably not.

      “What follows is an outline for a new mythology, based in large part on the aspirations present at our founding. Only history will tell us what new unifying ethos will emerge, if one emerges at all, but we will each have a hand in influencing that evolution.”

      https://www.politicalorphans.com/outlining-a-new-mythology/

  4. Backing Chris thesis of some time ago, we have a case study developing where big business is doing what governments will not.

    Google, Facebook, Netflix, BlackRock, Morgan Stanley, Lyft, Uber, and Twitter all have implemented some form of “if you are not vaccinated, don’t come into the office”, which I am pretty sure will morph into “you want to work for us, you will be vaccinated”.

    I look forward to the day that getting a high paying office job requires a person to be sane and vaccinated. At least in places not named texas or georgia.

    Imagine it is March 2022, and we are now into the Omega mutation, with who knows what medical effects that version has. What happens if Intel says “you will be vaccinated to work here”, and the madman abbot says “Nope, Intel, our state laws supercede your corporate bylaws”, and Intel announces they are pulling their R&D out of Austin for a blue state.

    1. While Republicans are more than willing to sacrifice the lives of their own voters (insofar as it doesn’t impact their electoral prospects, anyways), their collectives spines still turn to a blithering mass of jell-o when it comes to confronting big business.

      Remember Florida’s infamous “anti-tech” (and virulently unconstitutional) bill that was supposed to protect political candidates and “news” outlets from being banned by social media platforms? The one that anyone with half a mind and their grandma knew was going to be struck down? Yes, even that legislative mass of red meat got an exemption for Disney as soon as its lobbyists caught wind.

      Throwing other people’s lives to the infectious wolves is one thing, but putting their own prospects at risk? Surely you jest.

      1. This passage from the substack article:

        “ The battle over government is not about the size of government, but the role of government. Republicans want the government to serve as a bulwark against the growing political and economic power of a diversifying America that they view as an existential threat to their primarily White, Christian base.”

  5. This is another fantastic piece. I don’t know where you get the time to do this type of historical research that no professional journalist ever seems to find.

    To deepen the discussion, there’s always been a philosophical divide (in the West) between medicine and public health. Medicine is far more respected, lucrative, and dominates any national discussion of health matters, despite the fact that public health initiatives typically save far more lives, at much cheaper cost (and I say this as someone firmly ensconced in the medical world…).

    Why is that? I would posit the main reason is not profit motive (i.e. it’s more profitable to sell a medication to treat a disease rather than prevent the person from getting the disease in the first place). It’s because, in the Western tradition, medical conditions are blameless: the cancer patient is not at fault for getting cancer. The trauma patient is not at fault for falling off his ladder. Because the western medical tradition has mercy as its first principle, we don’t put people on the hook for the causes of their disease. They’re all treated with equal compassion and competence (in theory…)

    In contrast, public health is all about changing the causes of disease. If someone has pellagra, medicine may answer why (niacin deficiency), and that may lead to the immediate answer to treat it (eat more foods / supplements with niacin) as long as it remains morally neutral and not blaming anyone for coming down with it. But from that point on, it’s public health that takes over to ask *why* people aren’t eating the proper foods, and how to change the structure of society such that they actually start eating the proper foods.

    As a result, no power structure is ever threatened by medicine, which is about treating disease in isolation, and doctors are generally held in high esteem. But they *are* threatened by public health, which is all about changing society to prevent disease, and it’s why public health is relegated to underfunded government offices and easily intimidated civil servants.

    To the extent that people go after doctors, it’s when they start asking public-health-type questions. It’s fine for doctors to spend billions on research to improve the survivability of gun shot wounds. It causes an uproar when doctors start asking their patients the simple question “Do you keep a gun in your house?” The former doesn’t blame anyone for the gun shot wound, not the patient, not society, not anyone. In that world view, gun shot wounds just magically fall out of the sky. The latter question makes it painfully obvious that a parent keeping a gun in his/her house is at least partially responsible if/when their kid dies from playing with their gun, and implies social changes around gun ownership to prevent that from happening.

    I 100% agree with you about the lifecycle of the political response to public health initiatives that threaten the powers that be:

    1) initial curiosity and acceptance of public health actions until it becomes clear the solution will threaten their profit or control over society

    2) Try to blame something else besides what the public health officials are saying. Conveniently, fixing this “other” cause usually helps strengthen the powerful’s grip on society (e.g. blaming yankees)

    3) When the disease rages on despite fixing this other cause, deny, deny, deny that the problem even exists, while secretly making sure that they themselves don’t fall prey to it.

    4) Once the problem no longer affects them, blame the “poor character” of the people still afflicted, who conveniently tend to be poor / minorities / other disenfranchised.

    I agree we’re somewhere between #3 and #4. I believe, for example, that Marjorie Taylor-Greene, anti-vaxxer extraordinaire, probably got the vaccine herself, which is why she refused to answer when a journalist asked her if she’s vaccinated: she ain’t putting herself at risk, she’s just looking to keep the votes of the dumb rubes that put her in office.

    In some ways then, the smart thing for Democrats to do — and I believe they’re doing it — is to make it emphatically clear that there will never be another shutdown or quarantine due to covid no matter how bad it gets. After all, that’s what businesses fear; they’d rather lose another 100k Americans than face another business disruption of that scale. And in exchange, southern and rural business leaders might drop their opposition to the vaccine, and drain the oxygen from the anti-vaxx movement. After all, the covid vaccine is no more a threat to business interests than the polio or smallpox vaccine. It’s only the quarantines and business restrictions that followed covid that they really care about.

    This may sound like capitulation to a hostage taker, and in some ways it is, but there are plenty of other arenas in which to fight the entrenched powers. Why not compromise here, and let them get their way, if it allows us to prevent hundreds of thousands of deaths?

    The problem is, if we don’t do this now, we’ll slip to stage 4, and at that point, not only will businesses not have any interest in helping the vaccination effort, neither will the national public. Vaccines will no longer be free, with $50 incentives and a ride to the local vaccination center. Once it’s no longer seen as a public health problem by even northern city dwellers, it will be relegated to the expensive, inefficient, barrier-prone medical system. And there, vaccines are expensive, available only to insured people, and will require taking off a full day of work to take the bus to see your doctor to get it.

    This is already happening. TV news shows always emphasize that the vast majority of people in the hospital now are the unvaccinated. I think this is with the intention of scaring unvaccinated folks into getting vaccinated. But it also has the opposite effect on vaccinated people, who are starting to ask “If only unvaccinated people end up in the hospital, then why should I care about this any more? If vaccines are now widely available, free, and people don’t want it, then f*ck them. If it’s a problem of mouth-breathing wingnuts in JesusLand, then we’re no longer in this together, so why should my tax dollars go to solving their problem? Just open those flights to Europe already and let’s get on with our lives.”

    1. Ran out of space to deal with that (blaming things on the dirty, ungovernable rabble), but it’s part of the timeless pattern of Southern public health denial. Influential Southerners love to play the white trash card, pretending it’s not a problem they built.

      There’s a cycle to these public health problems that starts with an assessment. Does this health problem impact powerful people or not, and can it be addressed with personal money instead of creating a public health infrastructure? Notice there was little or no backlash over polio or smallpox vaccination campaigns? They were simple to run, managed by outside infrastructure, and dealt with a health threat that was equally, or almost equally a threat to wealthy people. And these were not problems that wealthy people could buy their way out of.

      If solving the problem would demand changes to the economic order, or granting additional power to a governmental infrastructure, wealthy Southerners will turn to the playbook. They’ll start with denial of the problem. As denial gets less and less plausible, their approach will be first to blame the enemy, usually some outside source of the problem, or an outside “agitator” making the problem seem worse than it really is. Then they’ll define the whole question as a matter of Southern or white identity.

      Once they’ve found a way to solve the problem for the wealthy, or cut the wealthy out of danger of the problem with some work around, then you get to the final phase – making the problem just one more characteristic of the indolent white trash or the negro. And of course, by then, the problem will in fact be a thing that exists only among the poor. So you’ll get all kinds of rhetoric about the stubbornness of the ignorant cracker, when what you really have a problem the wealthy refused to address that trickled down.

      This happened consistently with hookworm and pellagra. Once they settled on blaming this problem on poor personal habits, they doubled down over and over.

      Here’s a sample, from a Waco newspaper in the 20’s denying that pellagra is a nutritional illness:

      “Notwithstanding that the diet of the people in the Southern states has varied little or none during the past one hundred years, nothing resembling pellagra was ever known till some ten years since. It has been called the poor man’s disease because it is far more common among the poor. In the city of Waco it has been confined almost exclusively to those parts of the city where open closets are the rule, and where the cottages are not well screened. It has raged among the Negro population in the Brazos bottoms who dwell in cottages without screens and where even closets of any kind are the exception. I believe that all classes of the poor people of Texas are better fed today than at any time in the history of the state, hence I contend that the disease is not due to an unbalanced diet.”
      https://uab.contentdm.oclc.org/digital/collection/PELLAGRA/id/20/rec/2

      An Alabama doctor shared this ridiculous story at a meeting of the state health board in 1927:

      “a lady in the best of circumstances and with proper diet lived next to an infirmary and was visited by one of the inmates who had pellagra. This lady developed an uncontrovertible case of pellagra. A girl from one of the best families in town was wont to associate with pellagrins. She contracted the disease and died”
      https://journals.wichita.edu/index.php/ff/article/download/151/158/164

      That one is a classic. Not only is it false, and not only does it blame the disease on dirty crackers, it reinforces the notion that associating with white trash can kill you.

      Right now with COVID, we’re just finishing the middle phase of the cycle. Most wealthy whites have now been vaccinated and feel safe. They’re starting to make the turn, which I predict we’ll start hearing about by September or so, where the problem is recalcitrant poors. In this case, brace to hear a lot from Fox News this fall blaming the continued spread of the disease on black people who supposedly won’t get the vaccine.

      This is a well-worn playbook.

      1. I don’t see how that fits in this case though. Fighting covid costs rich whites nothing. Masks and vaccinations are really easy to do but the poor whites still revolted against them. The whole program was being run by the federal government and all they had to do was let them do their job.

      2. LuckyTed-

        I beg to differ. The last time businesses agreed that covid was a big problem, the public health system shutdown the country and (more importantly), their businesses. Despite soothing their pain with trillions of free money, most businesses had a near-death experience last summer/fall, and they will never risk that happening again, even if it means another few hundred thousand Americans dying.

        See the last part of my post above, but this is why I think that the Democrats always threatening to shut things down again is counterproductive. All it’s doing is making big business dig in their heels more, and say “Well, if we side with the govt that covid is still a big problem, they’ll shutdown again, so I’d rather be on the side of the idiots saying covid doesn’t exist. At least my business will survive.”

    1. The only place I could see that being a factor is Georgia. They’re heading into the worst phase of the pandemic for them and it will fall almost entirely among white rural voters.

      Most of the deaths will be in Southern states that aren’t competitive. Republicans elsewhere, like Iowa and Wisconsin, aren’t taking the antivax stuff all that seriously.

      1. Bobo, I am talking about total deaths / cases. The site I linked refreshes a few times a day. Have a look at it around 6:00 or 7:00 EST, and see how many new cases and deaths are occurring. Hundreds a day are still dying, but not thousands.

        Using Georgia as an example, that state has over 3800 new cases yesterday, but reported only 10 deaths. Naturally, Florida and Texas are the big winners.

        https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/country/us/

        Now, the death/ case ratio is of course dropping because vaccines are working as designed, and those vaccinated may get infected but are not dying. The Baltimore Raven QB is sidelined with Covid for the 2nd time with a positive test right now, with the 1st positive last year. Chances of him having any lasting effects due to Covid are about zero because he is vaccinated.

  6. Read years ago in an old garden book publish I think in the mid forties that in the south people had strong bones and teeth despite not having access to milk. That was a major problem for the northern poor. Turned out a staple of the southern diet was collard greens which is a good source of calcium.

    Also read in countries that grow bananas that the southern fruit company lobbied successfully for our government to overthrow democratically elected governments and install dictators favorable to the fruit company. All land was used to grow the fruit for export and none for growing food for the locals. People were starving in a rich farming land. This kind of thing is why the rich have to be constrained. When things get too bad, bad things happen like the French Revolution.

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