Grinding poverty is the way of life for many people living in the poorest state of the Union, South Carolina. Here, 50% of the population is on some form of welfare whether it be food stamps or something else. Whole swathes of the state are jobless save for part-time and low-waged work that has to be supported from the food stamp budget. Many live in tumbledown shacks with no running water nor electricity, dreading falling ill as without money they cannot receive any medical help. Ah but Obamacare where healthcare is supposed to be affordable and subsidised for those that cannot pay? South Carolina opted out and even restricted Medicaid availability to the mentally ill and pregnant/nursing women and children. If you're male, mentally sound or female without children, you can die in the gutter for all SC cares.
Look into any mall and there will be scores of empty premises. This is the interior of Richland Fashion Mall in Columbia South Carolina. It looks very prosperous, doesn't it? Walking through this mall, I was almost bowled over by tumbleweed racing along the echoing corridors. It's not just this mall. This scene is echoed all around the Capital city of South Carolina - Columbia.
This is the Ole Towne Antique Mall. This closed in January of 2014. It was getting increasingly less business and the owners finally closed the doors. My first memories of this mall were of a bustling, thriving antiques collective. Toward the end, there were fewer customers than staff - so bad was the situation that honesty tables with cheap bric-a-brac were placed outside with a collection tin.
This is the historic Owen's Field airport in the center of Columbia. It's a functioning airport but this hanger hasn't seen maintainance in decades. Its crumbling state represents the whole of South Carolina - barely present with leaks and dilapidation everywhere. This is a state where the divide between the haves and the have nots is greater than ever. Those that can leave are leaving. Those that cannot afford to leave are trapped in a never ending spiral of poverty and depression that leads to drug abuse, mental ill health, crime and suicide.
This is the bookstore where I used to work. It was a miserable job that I hated but which surprisingly paid my rent and food without my having to rely upon food stamps. Income dwindled over the years until finally the store closed. This was not the first and will doubtless be the last. It was first reported here - Columbia Closings. Indeed, within the space of three weeks, two grocery stores have closed in West Columbia. This is unusual as grocery stores usually make lots of money.
People live in abject poverty when they can even own a house. This is the bathroom floor of a friend's house - she literally cannot afford the cost of the tiles nor the tile cement and grout to fix this floor. Indeed her budget is so non-existent that it would not cover paint to paint the bare walls and make the place at least look more like a home and less like a hovel. Another friend lives in a rented home where the landlord has simply nailed a plank to the floor to cover a hole where the original floor had rotted through. That house has the only reclining toilet I've ever seen. The longer you sit on it, the further back it leans.
Abandoned premises litter the countryside. This is an abandoned gas station. How long abandoned it has been is unknown. The whole of the main street in that town is abandoned. The rest of the town is filled with boarded up and abandoned places to the point that the place could easily be evacuated and razed to the ground.
Who knows what this building is or was. It's abandoned and burned out. There is no hope for this town. It is devoid of jobs, devoid of life, devoid of prosperity, devoid of hope. At this moment, it looks as though nothing will ever save South Carolina from its impending doom. Perhaps the only thing that will help is if combined, North Carolina and Georgia - much more prosperous states - annex and divide South Carolina between them thus reducing the US to 49 states.