The Price of Poverty in Kentucky

Friday, June 14th, 2013

In the gripping new book “The Unwinding,” George Packer explores what he describes as an American democracy beset by a sense of crisis. Packer is a staff writer at The New Yorker and one of the nation’s finest political journalists. His “The Assassins’ Gate: America in Iraq” was named one of the best books of 2005. In “The Unwinding,” Packer examines the seismic shifts in American life that have created a country of economic winners and losers.

My colleague Renee Shaw and I have been exploring similar issues here in the Commonwealth, where we’re increasingly becoming a state of haves and have-nots. You can see the results of our reporting on The Price of Poverty in Kentucky 2, airing Monday at 8 p.m. on KET, and live on our website at It’s a follow-up to a program we aired in January. Here’s a promo for Monday night’s program:

In his New York Times review of Packer’s book, columnist David Brooks writes that the unwinding refers to “large transformations, which have each been the subject of an enormous amount of research and analysis. The first is the stagnation of middle-class wages and widening inequality.”

In our new program, we found Kentucky’s “working poor” and middle-class income earners struggling to make ends meet. In Owingsville in Bath County, where a local factory has closed, hundreds of people are on a waiting list for care at a free clinic, and a local social service center keeps busy distributing vouchers for clothes and food. Take a look:

In Louisville, a journalist with The Courier-Journal focuses her writing on how the economic meltdown changed the financial realities for many households in Jefferson and surrounding counties. We also asked professors, advocates, activists, and the president of the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce to weigh in on whether raising the minimum wage is the answer to helping the working poor.

Poverty is a complex problem with no easy answer. You can explore it with us Monday night at 8 on The Price of Poverty in Kentucky 2. And, if you have a thought or comment about poverty in the Commonwealth, please share it with me here, on Facebook, or Twitter, or by calling the KET Viewer Reaction Line at (800) 926-7765.

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