Monthly Archives: December 2017

Why trailer parks are all over rural America, but not Iowa

By Andrew Van Dam

Rosa V. Castro lives alone in a double-wide trailer La Presa, Tex., a community near Laredo. (Salwan Georges/The Washington Post)

Trailer-park America is vast — about 18 million people lived in a mobile home in 2015. In most counties, trailers outnumber apartments. In some, mostly in Florida and Georgia, they even outnumber standard single-family homes.

For the most part, the outline of this often-marginalized swath of America conforms to stereotype. It’s rural, and it’s poor.

The highest share of mobile homes are in the rural South and Southwest, in Sun Belt retirement communities, and on Indian reservations. They attract residents of every race and origin (with more American Indians and fewer African Americans than the population at large) and, outside of cities and densely populated coastal areas, they’re everywhere. Everywhere, that is, but the Corn Belt.

For the purposes of this post, mobile homes or trailers are built at a factory and towed to their final destination. They are distinct from RVs, which are not used as stationary residences, and modular homes, which are manufactured in pieces and assembled on site.

It’s an oddball correlation. What is it about corn that made it the antidote to mobile-home living? Is it just a coincidence?

Well, we think we’ve found the key factors, but we’d love to hear your explanations.

1. Farmland isn’t likely to run dry or move to Mexico

The Corn Belt’s deep topsoil, a legacy of the tallgrass prairie that was plowed over by early white settlers and eventually replaced by maize, creates an economic base that isn’t as likely to evaporate (at least within the next century or so) as it is in …read more


Meet the Republican congressman who defies Trump the most

By Jeff Stein

Rep. Walter B. Jones (R-N.C.) poses for a portrait in his office on Capitol Hill on Oct. 25. (Andrew Harnik/AP)

There are 291 Republicans in Congress, and only one voted against the GOP tax bill because he thinks it will increase the U.S. deficit.

A 12-term congressman from the eastern banks of North Carolina, Rep. Walter B. Jones Jr. (R-N.C.) says his fellow House Republicans have used cherry-picked data and fanciful projections to delude themselves into believing that the plan will not balloon the federal deficit.

“I guarantee you, if Mr. Obama was the president and he put this tax bill in, those deficit hawks in my party would get out of the nests and start squawking,” Jones said. “But here they are, and because it’s a Republican president possibly adding $1.5 to $2 trillion to this country’s deficit, they’re going to stay in the nest and not squawk about it.”

Jones’s vote against the legislation, which passed last week, makes him unique among his party in putting the preeminent concern that had dominated GOP policymaking for years — the mushrooming national debt — ahead of the tax package.

Jones’s rejection of his party’s top legislative priority carries big political risks for a congressman whom the right has already spent more than a decade trying to take down, but it fits his pattern of bucking GOP orthodoxy on everything from campaign finance to the Russia investigation to the war in Afghanistan. Jones’s mistrust of party leaders has grown since meetings with grieving families shattered his faith in the Iraq War, which he had aggressively supported.

“In terms of his skepticism of authority and power in Washington, I think part of his wiring changed,” said Rep. Mark Sanford (R-S.C.), who has been close with Jones since they first entered Congress in 1995. “He started looking at …read more


How to fix the American diet, according to the man who coined the term ‘junk food’

By Caitlin Dewey

Michael Jacobson, who recently stepped down as executive director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, spent 46 years lobbying food companies and the federal government to improve the country’s nutrition. (Photo by Chris Kleponis/Courtesy CSPI)

The nutrition crusader credited with popularizing the phrase “junk food” looks exactly as one would expect: bespectacled, vaguely professorial — and very, very thin.

Michael Jacobson, who retired in September as executive director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, hasn’t eaten a hot dog or drunk a soda since the 1970s. That was when, at the behest of consumer advocate and activist Ralph Nader, the recent MIT graduate began researching the food industry and publicizing his findings about the safety of food additives and the health costs of poor nutrition.

Since then, Jacobson has helped lead the fight to ban trans fats from the food supply, push the government to standardize nutrition labels, and expose the dangers of everything from movie-theater popcorn to sulfites and artificial colorings.

In the early ’90s, the food industry dubbed him “the great ayatollah” — because of his zealous opposition to soda, Quarter Pounders and sugary cereals.

But the foods Jacobson included in his traveling “Junk Food Hall of Shame” in 1979 — full-sugar Froot Loops and Coca-Cola, Pop Rocks, fried potato chips — are now banned from schools, discouraged by the government’s Dietary Guidelines, and increasingly shunned by an ever more health-conscious public.

Jacobson sat down with The Washington Post to talk diet, nutrition and what comes next for food policy in the United States. This conversation has been edited for clarity and length.

Let’s start with something basic that a lot of people are worried about this time of year. I want to eat healthy, but there’s so much conflicting information out there. What do you think Americans should …read more