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Heartbreak and tears in the town where Donald Trump's booming America is bust

Sixty per cent of people in Tchula, Mississippi, live below the poverty line. Credit: On Assignment

What is it like to be in a community with no hope in a country where the economy is booming?

How do you cope with living in the poorest town in the poorest state in America, while some of your fellow citizens enjoy unfathomable riches?

I visited Tchula in Mississippi to find out.

Robert Moore travelled to see how lives are being lived in one of the poorest towns in America. Credit: On Assignment

Sixty per cent of people live below the poverty line.

The town is overwhelmingly African-American.

At first glance, it looks like many other small towns in the United States.

There is a hardware store where people gather to gossip.

There is a railway line running through the heart of the town, where the freight trains whistle past but never stop.

The trains pass through the heart of Tchula. Credit: On Assignment

There is a mayor who has ambitions but no funds.

But when you stop and talk to people - and actually listen - the heartbreak becomes much clearer.

And you are left knowing that the richest country in the history of the world - to use the phrase beloved by President Trump - is failing.

Failing to help those who are in the greatest need.

While America's billionaire class is expanding, this land is a world away from wealth. Credit: On Assignment

Failing to create a level playing field that allows everyone to have an equal chance of achieving the American Dream.

Kenyata Conecin is a single mother of three children.

She has a burning desire for her kids to succeed.

She goes to work at 4.30am and juggles two jobs.

Bringing home less than $15,000 (£11,600) a year, every month she has difficulty paying her bills.

Tears ran down Kenyata Conecin's face as she described the reality of her family's life. Credit: On Assignment

Kenyata wept as she told me of her struggles, of how she only wants dignity for her family and to be able to give her children a chance in life.

Above all, she says that America is just not fair.

For millions of people like Kenyata, the American Dream has become the American Nightmare.

The run-down caravan homes of Tchula. Credit: On Assignment

The data backs up her belief.

New figures released last month show that income inequality in the US is now at the highest level since records began more than 50 years ago.

In other words, the rich are getting richer, while the poor are getting poorer.

We are seeing rising homelessness and poverty rates, expanding tent cities and lengthening queues at soup kitchens.

And all the time, America's largely white billionaire class is expanding.

The mansions of America provide the glory trappings for an expanding elite. Credit: On Assignment

This is already driving the populist politics of the 2020 presidential campaign.

Even with stock markets soaring - they hit a fresh peak on Monday - and with unemployment at record lows, Democratic candidates are arguing that major structural reform is needed to address the wealth inequality that now plagues America.

Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren are arguing for a wealth tax and for a rise in the minimum wage.

They believe that American capitalism needs new rules if it is to succeed, including higher taxes and more regulation.

That argument is going to rage all the way to voting day, 365 days from now.

That’s right, election day in America is exactly a year away.

Donald Trump will make the strength of the US economy a central part of his bid for re-election. Credit: AP

Kenyata says that the only way to break out of the poverty trap is to move elsewhere, and to escape with her children from the crushing lack of opportunity in Tchula.

Tens of millions of Americans are in the same situation, desperate to have a better chance of moving into the middle class, but without the money or resources to leave their impoverished and jobless communities.

As the country approaches its next political crossroads, that’s the real American story of 2020.

Despite all the noise coming from Washington, it’s not about impeachment.

It’s not even about Donald Trump.

It’s about inequality, fairness, and whether the poorest Americans can still believe that the American Dream is within reach.

  • Robert Moore’s film about America’s rising inequality can be seen on ITV on On Assignment on Tuesday at 10.45pm