Camden, New Jersey, with a population of 70,390, is per capita the poorest city in the nation. It is also the most dangerous. The city’s real unemployment — hard to estimate, since many residents have been severed from the formal economy for generations — is probably 30 to 40 percent. The median household income is $24,600. There is a 70 percent high school dropout rate, with only 13 percent of students managing to pass the state’s proficiency exams in math. The city is planning $28 million in draconian budget cuts, with officials talking about cutting 25 percent from every department, including layoffs of nearly half the police force. The proposed slashing of the public library budget by almost two-thirds has left the viability of the library system in doubt. There are perhaps a hundred open-air drug markets, most run by gangs like the Bloods, the Latin Kings, and MS-13. Camden is awash in guns, easily purchased across the river in Pennsylvania, where gun laws are lax.
Camden, like America, was once an industrial giant. It employed some 36,000 workers in its shipyards during World War II and built some of the nation’s largest warships. It was the home to major industries, from RCA Victor to Campbell’s Soup. It was a destination for immigrants and upwardly mobile lower middle class families. Camden now resembles a penal colony.
In Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt, Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Chris Hedges and American Book Award winning cartoonist Joe Sacco show how places like Camden, a poster child of postindustrial decay, stand as a warning of what huge pockets of the United States will turn into if we cement in place a permanent underclass. In addition to Camden, Hedges and Sacco report from the coal fields of West Virginia, Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota and undocumented farm worker colonies in California. With unemployment and underemployment combined at far over ten percent, as Congress proposes to slash Medicare and Medicaid, Food Stamps, Pell Grants, Social Security, and other social services, Hedges and Sacco warn of a bleak near future—where cities and states fall easily into bankruptcy, neofeudalism
reigns, and the nation’s working and middle classes are decimated. A shocking report from the frontlines of poverty in America, Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt is a clarion call for reform.
Chris Hedges, a Senior Fellow at The Nation Institute, spent nearly two decades as a foreign correspondent in Central America, the Middle East, Africa, and the Balkans, with fifteen years at the New York Times. He is the author of the bestsellers War is Force That Gives Us Meaning, American Fascists, Empire of Illusion and Death of the Liberal Class. He currently writes for numerous publications, including Harper’s, the New York Review of Books, Granta, and Mother Jones. A columnist for Truthdig, he lives in Princeton, New Jersey.