Bill Maher Nailed the Real Kim Davis Scandal

September 10th 2015

Kyle Jaeger

By now, you might have seen supporters cheer as Kentucky clerk Kim Davis approached the stage after her release from jail on Tuesday. But one of the most troubling features of the Kim Davis scandal is the fact that, while she has declined to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, the county clerk is making a whole heck of a lot of money compared to the average worker in Rowan County, Kentucky.

As mainstream media outlets continue to call attention to the clearly discriminatory practices of Davis, there is an underlying, economic issue that is similarly important to consider: rural poverty. For every day that Davis refused to do her job, she was still collecting a disproportionately high salary for the Kentucky county, a fact that Bill Maher, host of HBO's "Real Time," pointed out on Monday.

In a series of Tweets this week, Maher put the Rowan County conflict into perspective, emphasizing the fact that Davis earns $80,000 per year whereas the average salary in the county is just under $14,000 per year.

Related: George Takei's Response to Kim Davis Is Worth Your Applause

Last week, a federal judge ordered Davis' arrest following months of noncompliance as the public servant repeatedly refused to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples in Rowan County. She sat in jail for five days before a judge granted her release on the condition that she does not interfere, directly or indirectly, in the issuing of marriage licenses in the county.

Kim Davis Made a Pretty Bold Exit From Jail.

Kim Davis made a pretty bold exit from jail while "Eye of the Tiger" played as she took the stage.

Posted by ATTN: on Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Rural poverty is changing the American economic landscape.

Rural poverty is not an economic challenge that is necessarily unique to Rowan County, of course. In the 1980s, rural areas across the U.S. began to decline as deindustrialization led to dramatic losses in the manufacturing industry—particularly in the states that became known as the Rust Belt—as the U.S. Department of Agriculture noted. Globalization, increased automation in manufacturing, and the decline of the coal and steel industry changed the landscape of rural America in a significant way, leaving tens of thousands of families out of work and in poverty.

"Examining poverty over time shows that the recent economic recession has resulted in the highest rural poverty rates since the mid-1980s, another period when an economic recession and slow rural recovery resulted in rising rural poverty rates long after urban poverty rates began declining," the Economic Research Service reported last year.

USDA rural poverty

Why does poverty continue to plague these communities?

The national conversation on poverty has often focused on the impact of high unemployment rates and income inequality in urban areas, largely omitting rural poverty from the debate. Part of the reason for this, as the New York Times argued, is the seeming complexity of the issue. Whereas urban poverty is something that we can conceptualize—something that we can understand in a way that allows us to advance solutions—rural poverty appears to be something we cannot easily imagine or resolve.

In essence, rural poverty "raises uncomfortable questions about how to fix it, or to what extent it is even fixable," and so despite the fact that it has been a consistent problem, placing a profound burden on rural economies across the country, Americans tend to ignore it.

Though her supporters applauded Davis, who approached the stage Tuesday with "Eye of the Tiger" playing in the background, her opponents have expressed frustration with her service as a government official. Not only is it illegal for someone in public office to use their religious beliefs to justify the denial of a constitutional right to gay couples—the U.S. Supreme Court legalized gay marriage nationwide in June—but Davis' unwillingness to adhere to the law has also come at a cost to the taxpayers of Rowan County.

The failure of Davis to do her job has been a source of much criticism online, with opponents generating memes riffing off of the clerk's legal logic. What Maher's Tweet does is highlight the disparity of incomes in Rowan County, exposing the cost of this public official's inaction in a way that should give the average county worker—as well as workers across the country—pause for thought.

Related:These 3 Memes Shut Down The Logic of Kim Davis' Supporters

Related: Kim Davis Arrested, Taken Into Custody

Related: Here Are the Best Kim Davis Memes