They have nothing to fear in the sequester. After all, they have marijuana and much experience with the perils of poverty.
Residents in California's Trinity County are accustomed to economic doom coupled with the promise of pot. "Here we used to rely heavily on timber," says Wayne R. Agner, Editor of Trinity Journal. "It used to be a timber county for a long, long time. At one time, we had 30 mills, we're down to one... But we're sitting here in the middle of the Emerald Triangle where the marijuana grows. When you're talking the economy, you're talking marijuana for us too... It has been an economic stabilizer for us in terms of replacing some of the timber that is no longer here. We've gone to another form of agriculture you can say. Yes, it's an underground economy and those dollars flow through the county."
The unemployment rate in California's Trinity County has grown to 17 percent, up from 11 percent in 2003. The median income is $35,207, which is 61 percent of the state average and one of the lowest of all Bush-Obama Counties. "This is a county that has been doing without for a long time," says Agner. "We're a fairly poor county, so we've learned to roll with the punches pretty well. We just know that nobody is riding in with a white horse and with a big check. So we don't even start thinking that way."
The population is a little more than 14,000 and the county sits along the Trinity River in Northwest California. It is county with rugged and mountainous lands and without a traffic light or a freeway. It is one of three counties in the Emerald Triangle, giving medical marijuana as much relevance as the sequester when considering the economy. It is legal to grow pot in certain parts of the county and many residents see marijuana sales as a weapon against things like a sequester. For many, the other option is to move to another place to make a living. "Well if the whole family is not moving out of the county, the breadwinner is. So you're seeing some families that are apart so they can earn a living or they're making the commute. They may stay there for two to three days a week and come home for the weekends."
Agner says people are furious with both Congress and the White House. The county voted for Bush in 2000 and 2004, Obama in 2008 and Romney won barely by 55 votes in 2012. The county seems to have a higher affinity for independent candidates than many other places. Four percent of those at the polls voted for a candidate other than Obama and Romney in 2012 and Ross Perot carried the county in 1992. Before 2008, the last Democrat to win the county was Jimmy Carter in 1976.
Beyond marijuana, many county leaders see economic hope in building the tourist industry, but don't expect much help from Washington. Says Agner:"There's a lot of businesses in town that are really just hanging on by their fingernails, and it would only take one wrong thing for them to go under. And we've had a few businesses go under, that's really the economic impact. There's been some long-term and short-term businesses that just, couldn't make it any more, and they gave up and closed the doors."