If I have to listen to one more Brooklyn- or DC- or Bay Area-dwelling Hot Take artist explain that Democrats lost this election because they didn't do enough for (or pay enough attention to) Rust Belt, low-education white people I am going to put my foot through…I don't know, Ezra Klein's head. Post-election narratives rarely do more than provide an oversimplified explanation – in the form of a conveniently untestable hypothesis – but in some cases they actively distort the truth.

Explain exactly how the Democratic Party wrote off white Rust Belt voters. By trying to make sure they had health care access when their employers stopped offering benefits? By supporting unions that might actually provide them some job security or wages over $10/hr? By supporting and trying to increase minimum wage? By trying to protect the social safety net, including unemployment benefits and workers comp, that Republicans have been hacking away at for decades? That's an odd definition of "ignored." The implication that if only the Democrats had worked a little harder these voters would have been satisfied is ridiculous.

Of course the counterargument is that trade agreements made in the 1990s with the blessing of Bill Clinton are a major cause of manufacturing job losses. This is true, although it conveniently ignores that Clinton was almost the only Democrat willing to back an idea the Republican Party brought to the table. Why are the Republicans not the ones culpable for NAFTA, if this narrative makes any sense?

The entire Trump movement is about anger, and in truth it is easy to understand why these people are angry. I live in the Rust Belt. I have spent all but a sliver of my life here. Outside of a small number of major cities that have weathered the storm (but have their own serious problems) economically, people live in small towns or minor cities that have declined steadily since 1960. People who have spent long lives in these places remember when things used to be better – when the city wasn't half-empty, when there were enough jobs, when the jobs that were available didn't pay squat with terrible benefits, and when the side effects of poverty and neglect hadn't turned the physical city into a decent setting for a modern post-apocalypse film. They are mad and they have a reason to be mad.

The reality is, the version of their communities that they remember is NEVER coming back. It's not. It's gone. It's never coming back because we cannot recreate the context that allowed it to happen – a post-World War II environment in which the U.S. was the sole industrial power on the planet that wasn't teetering on collapse and / or reduced to rubble. Eventually the rest of the world caught up, and we felt the beginning of the decline in the 1970s.

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The embrace of neoliberal trade policy in the Reagan and post-Reagan years only accelerated trends that were already established. All the while the GOP didn't lift a finger to ameliorate any of this. They offered tax cuts (which would magically create jobs, but didn't) and helpful reminders that if you're poor it's because you don't work hard enough.

These places are dead and dying because economically there is no longer any reason for them to exist. They were established at a time when their location near resources or now-outdated transportation links made them important. Now, and no politician will ever admit it in public, there simply isn't any reason for Altoona or Youngstown or Terre Haute to exist anymore. The jobs are never coming back. Nothing is coming back. The Democrats have not given the white Rust Belt working class an answer to their problems because there is no answer. Nothing will resurrect these places, all of which have long since crossed the point of no return in their economic and population decline. Automation, union-busting, outsourcing (much of it within the U.S., to impoverished Southern states) and race-to-the-bottom subsidy wars among state and local governments are ensuring that the situation isn't about to improve.

And here's the kicker: Trump didn't offer any solutions either. All he did was offer them something to blame. They liked hearing someone lie to their faces and promise that the jobs are coming back, and they liked even more having someone tell them that it's OK to direct all their anger at the people they don't like anyway: the immigrants, the Hispanics, the urban poor (the rural poor are still virtuous, of course), the gays, the liberals, the youths who can't wait to turn 18 and get out, the academics, the media who don't tell them what they want to hear…you name it. That's all Trump did. He pointed at the scapegoats and promised that he would make it OK to direct anger and scorn toward them.

The false narrative implies that the problem of the Midwestern white working class is solvable. It isn't, short of a time machine that can take us back to 1953. It further implies that Trump offered some kind of solution that Democrats are too pompous or too inarticulate to offer.

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This is a half-truth; Trump didn't offer any answers beyond vague, empty Strongman promises that he will reverse economic reality by the force of his personality alone. He offered them a distraction and an ironclad promise that if their lives aren't going to improve – and they won't – at least they can content themselves with lashing out at a convenient list of people who are somehow Different and therefore deserving of scorn under any circumstances.

Given that reality, the Democrats' failure was in not offering a scapegoat. Maybe it's time to dust off the Joe Hill / Mother Jones / Eugene Debs playbook. If scapegoating is the only thing that wins these people over, then the best strategy is to point them in the right direction again and remind them that Capital is the enemy of Labor. End the worship of and fixation with Job Creators and the idea that the boss is your buddy and your role in the economy is a matter of personal responsibility, fully within one's own control.

Is that going to work? Doubtful. Racism is an easier, more effective play. Anything that requires people to think is going to lose out to anything that plays directly into their basest prejudices. I don't know how you beat the path of least resistance.
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The older I get, the less I believe that is possible.

115 thoughts on “THE NEXT BEST THING”

  • The crowds of pissed off people is, as we say in Software, a feature, not a bug. All the Republicans are going to do is keep stealing from the public to enrich themselves. The best thing that could happen to this country would be for The Hamptons to fall into the sea. A Hurricane wouldn't be enough, because they'd just rebuild overnight on the government dime.

  • Here's as much credit as I can give to Trump voters, Ed — they also know it's bullshit, and the jobs will never come back.

    Racial animus keeps them warm at night, even if they can't afford to pay the electric bill.

  • A map showing solid red right down the middle, in corn and cow country. Where immigrant labor provides all the hired help, but a couple of Cliven Bundys per square mile have all the votes. The Great Plains.

    Wait 'til the global warming drought really spits into its hands and gets down to business…

    The Fruited Plains

  • It seems like a failure of something — imagination? creativity? — just to give up and say, everyone has to crowd onto a tiny fraction of the land we have, whether they like it or not, because we don’t know how to make low population density places work anymore.

    Isn’t one of the most important freedoms the freedom to live in a place that makes sense to you? There’s a lot of habitable land outside of metropolitan areas, and a lot of people who really don’t want to live in a city or a suburb.

    Call me crazy, but I think small-town America is too valuable as an alternative way of life to sacrifice it on the altar of economic efficiency. (Not that we haven’t almost done that already. Maybe it’s too late; if not, it will be soon.) I’d rather see us subsidize it than keep cramming more and more people into smaller and taller boxes, with no chance of opting out.

  • Coises – "Though every prospect pleases, and only man is vile?"

    We're already subsidizing them, btw. Agriculture subsidies, plus freeloading cattle grazing.

    Release the wolves.

  • Have you actually been to Terre Haute? It has its problems, like shrinking population, dirty politicians, etc. But TH has its advantages, such as affordable real estate, the Wabash River and ISU.
    I grew up here and have now moved back here from Beijing, a city big enough to be a small country, where i lived for 30 years. I'm enjoying the no parking hassles, blue skies and fewer crowds of small city life.

  • Bernie had the scapegoat all ready to go, and he was a credible messenger. Clinton WAS the scapegoat. She took our sins upon her and was sent to wander the wilderness.

  • Ed, this was SPECTACTULAR. You captured perfectly and coherently what I've been thinking for awhile now.

    @Wetcasements, I have to disagree with you. Based on the emails I've been getting from relatives and former co-workers and former college roommates, there's nothing stopping the factory jobs paying $500,000/year in Nowheresville, population 10…except the EEEEVUL Demoncraps (sic). These people want to believe it, and embraced the man willing to lie to their faces.

  • We can add Barack Obama to that list of DC-dwelling pundits who think the Clinton campaign should have worked harder to secure the Rust Belt:

    Asked about the failure of the Democratic party's campaign under Hillary Clinton, Mr Obama criticised the "micro-targeting" of "particular, discrete groups", arguing there should have been an effort to reach out to the entire country.

    Does that count as one more? Can we watch Ed go medieval on Ezra Klein now? ;-)

    Seriously though, there's a middle ground between Clinton (assume voters will eat their vegetables because they know what's good for them) and Trump (lie relentlessly and blame the blacks/immigrants/gays/feminists).

    Clinton's six-figure speech fees from Wall Street weren't illegal, but they made her a terrible choice to sell the Democrat program to a skeptical audience. The "basket of deplorables" remarks didn't help either. And IIRC, the candidate didn't make a single campaign stop in Wisconsin, which she subsequently lost.

    Clinton had lots of good and worthy policies, but she failed at selling them to the electorate.

    Now, and no politician will ever admit it in public, there simply isn't any reason for Altoona or Youngstown or Terre Haute to exist anymore. […] Nothing will resurrect these places, all of which have long since crossed the point of no return in their economic and population decline.

    Maybe the best that some post-industrial towns can hope for is smoothly managed decline. That would be a lot better than what they're getting at the moment.

    But writing off entire states would be foolishness. The Rust Belt still has natural advantages — not least resilience to climate change, with plenty of water and no fear of rising sea levels. Reviving the economy of, say, Michigan would be a huge challenge, but harder things have been done. The sad thing is that nobody is seriously going to attempt it — even if Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders was in the White House, Congress would suffocate any ambitious plans for renewal.

  • "Call me crazy, but I think small-town America is too valuable as an alternative way of life to sacrifice it on the altar of economic efficiency. "

    That would require the American public and their elected officials to prioritize something as more important than money.

    If you believe that that will happen in your lifetime, then I WILL call you crazy.

  • There is one analysis I read that makes sense, and that is that Obama has been shy to take credit for stuff he does. Health care–and I mean all the side effects of ACA, like cost controls, are not copped to, and student debt relief programs, whic most people don't know about. BTW, my niece is the benficiary of one of these, and she voted for Jill Stein. She said she wanted to have a vote she could feel good about in 30 years. I sincerely hope that when Trump gets rid of her program, she still feels good about he vote 30 years from now, when she is still a debt slave.

  • If scapegoating is the only thing that wins these people over, then the best strategy is to point them in the right direction again and remind them that Capital is the enemy of Labor. End the worship of and fixation with Job Creators and the idea that the boss is your buddy and your role in the economy is a matter of personal responsibility, fully within one's own control.

    You'll see the Brits give up their de jure hereditary aristocracy before the average American will even admit that we have a de facto one. The occasional self-made billionaire is enough to convince them that they, too, can beat the odds.

  • Emerson Dameron says:

    I get the feeling a lot of the hot takes are long-simmering Clinton fatigue projected onto the pure-hearted salt-of-the-earth folk.

    We could use a progressive movement in America that is more than a circular firing squad of passive-aggression.

  • Among the things Democrats have done for the Rust Belt, which people evidently aren't thankful for, was saving the auto industry.

    It should be noted that "Hamilton" wasn't the first place Mike Pence has ever been booed. He was against the auto bailout but had the brass balls to show up in Fort Wayne to take credit when GM announced that it was making a major expansion to its manufacturing facilities there.

    Nonetheless, it's a fair bet that most of that plant's workers just voted Republican.

  • The other side of the Trump coin is decades of GOP propaganda contending that public employees who make solid middle class salaries and have pension plans are the GREEDY MOFOS, while the people at the top who hoover up all the money for themselves aren't. Like Ed, I'm a public university faculty member who routinely gets accused of making a six-figure salary (I don't) for working 17 hours/week (12 classroom + 5 office hours, which is loony on its face). So somehow the model in which people trade a little salary for some job security and reasonable benefits has become profoundly horribly greedy and selfish, while the model that starves and kills and exploits people so a few can have everything is ethical.


  • Just came upon this quote from George Orwell, from "Looking Back on the Spanish War" (1943):

    "Too ignorant to see through the trick that is being played on them, they easily swallow the promises of fascism, yet sooner or later they always take up the struggle again. They must do so, because in their own bodies they always discover that the promises of fascism cannot be fulfilled."

    Wonder, though, how "taking up the struggle again" will be done in the Rust Belt. Another demagogue when this one fails them?

  • "Should have done more to win over the Rust Belt" doesn't mean having some sort of policy that would improve their lives. It means showing the hell up to let them know about it.

    As I said in the original election thread — Trump was lying to their faces, and they knew he was lying to their faces. But they also knew that he could be bothered to show up in the first place, which Clinton could not.

    And as cathartic as "There's just no reason for these towns to exist anymore" may be to say in the cold light of the morning, it's not an acceptable answer for all of the people that live in those towns. All of the people that vote in those towns.

  • There is an answer and Trump did provide it and you hit it in the post. Trump is going to take us back to 1953, by first taking us back to 1939.

    The militarytimes are reporting Trump's apparent plan to increase the size of the military by over 100,000 soldiers, airmen, sailors, and Marines. An addtional 80 surface ships and subs and 100 new combat jets.

    Trump is also choosing right-wing bomb-and-kill happy generals to SecDef and National Security Advisor.

    I'm certain Trump thinks (if he does at all) he will get Reagan-esque bumps and praise for the 1/2 million to 1 million new jobs created by this and damn the defecits created but, with his super secret ISIS plan and the 47 traitors in the Senate angling for War with Iran, we are going to get two new conflicts in Syria and Iran but, with everything else added in we are looking at a nice, big worldwide conflagration.

  • Like everyone else, I've read a dozen or more post-mortems like this. This is (by far) the most succinct, credible, and convincing one. It occurred to me that no one, in writing about the election, mentions the word "capitalism." Jobs go overseas because of the First Law of the Thermodynamics of Capitalism. The rich have their very own political party because, under capitalism, money itself manifests or selects for people, laws, and institutions to promote its accumulation.

    Per Ed's thesis, it's almost as if Trump is selecting racial and religious bigots (Pence, Sessions, Flynn) because he consciously *knows* that scapegoating is his primary strategy. Is that possible?

  • Maybe losing the Michigan primary to a 74 year old Socialist should have been a wake-up call to the Clinton campaign, but they were typically oblivious. As far as I'm concerned, the Dems ran a clueless and entitled seeming candidate and a tone-deaf campaign. The fact that they couldn't wipe out a candidate with all of the GEB's faults says it all.

    But hey, the GOP controls the whole goddamn shooting match now, from the statehouses to Congress to the White House, so let's see how that works out. I think the whole country's about to get looted again and we'll see Louisiana levels of corruption in the Federal government soon, not to mention another economic crash, which is pretty much baked in at this point.

    Good luck blaming THAT on the libruls, Rush.

    Vive la guillotine!

  • @Ellis Weiner– "Per Ed's thesis, it's almost as if Trump is selecting racial and religious bigots (Pence, Sessions, Flynn) because he consciously *knows* that scapegoating is his primary strategy. Is that possible?"

    Well, ask Steve Bannon!

    Yes, of course it's possible. If Sessions couldn't get confirmed by the Senate for a federal judgeship THIRTY YEARS AGO because of allegations of racism, but now is being nominated for Attorney General I'd say it's the plan. It's not like they have anything else to offer us proles, 'cause yeah, those jobs aren't coming back.

  • Matt Yglesias wants to have a word with you about urban zoning policy, housing creation, and affordable housing.

  • Pennelope Pennebaker says:

    Bruce called it back in 1985.

    "Foreman says these jobs are going boys and they ain't coming back to your hometown"

  • Arjun Jobil,
    I'm guessing 30 years in Biejing payed well enough for you to move back to TH and not have to worry about anything. Good for you. However, you seem to forget those less fortunate. I'm also guessing you're a borderline republican who dabbles in progessive politics by reading Ed.

  • So if we're all in agreement that the jobs are gone, what are we supposed to do? I notice all of these 'fuck the midwest' articles stop short of anything like a coherent policy proposal. The argument is tell everyone to move because what they do sucks? They have no money. They know no one. If I'm going to starve to death, I may as well be among friends and family.

    These kinds of things are fun to read but ultimately useless. How fucking smug can we get? Somewhere on the order of 75% of the land area of the US is stuck in economic dislocation and what do we say — it's your fault for being born in such a sucky place? Wasn't that the Republican message to the inner cities in the 80's?

  • Yes, agreed the Dems would not offer a scapegoat. Trump was "tremendous" if you will at validating people's fears. He kept hammering Clinton on how she wouldn't say "Radical Islamic Terrorism." For Trump and his supporters, Clinton's refusal to use this term signified she is more concerned about being PC than taking terrorist threats seriously. And there were Trump's repeated incantations of "law and order." Clinton's messaging ("America is already great" "America is great because it is good") tried to build on previous Democratic messages about hope. But evidently, it was far more effective to build a campaign around fear and a gnawing feeling of desperation. I think Trump really speaks to people who believe that as soon as you walk out the door "you're immediately gonna be raped by some crack-addicted, AIDS-infected pitbull."

  • @negative: Well, my wife actually proposes just that–move people out of rural and post-industrial wastelands.

    I think Ed's point, and one I agree with, is that a viable social safety net would help a lot of people live a lot happier lives. So instead of decrying them as "socialism" or other such nonsense, accept government sponsored healthcare instead of getting none; accept the fact that rich people wouldn't miss the money necessary to fund social security pretty much indefinitely; etc.

    The policies are already in place, or have been; what they need in order to work better is for rich people to stop lying about them and the people who need them to stop believing they're evil.

  • Love it!

    Quibble: "[Bill] Clinton was almost the only Democrat willing to back an idea the Republican Party brought to the table." But Bush Sr negotiated NAFTA, completely. The only thing Clinton did was get the Senate to vote for it.

  • You missed the point, negative 1. It wasn't to say fuck them, but that it is democrats who attempted policies that would have made life in TH more tolerable for people other than the Arjun Jobils of the world, while it was the republican policies with significant acquiecense of spineless blue dogs that make it nearly impossible to justify trying to build a life in such places.

  • Rich S.- I believe he was referring about what can be done *now*, not what policies in the past caused this. What can be done now instead of articles saying "you're screwed, leave." That isn't Ed's job, of course, but it would be nice to see more people trying to figure out what can be done other than pointing fingers.

  • @Seth & Rich S

    And yet what they keep telling anyone around them is that they'd rather have a job than a safety net, although both would be preferable.

    "The Democrats have not given the white Rust Belt working class an answer to their problems because there is no answer." Yeah, I must've missed the point — I thought he was saying the situation was hopeless.

    By the way how can Germany's economy be more than twice the manufacturing as a % of GDP (25% to 11%) than the US despite having a more progressive social safety net? Oh well I guess 'the jobs aren't coming back' so we should all give up. Incidentally I remember John McCain telling that to Ohio when he campaigned against Obama. We're all republicans now, apparently.

  • King Beauregard says:

    Also, you can't get people to take arms against Capital because they benefit from Capital. Remember how the Right laughed at OWS protesters with their iPhones and tablets? They had something of a point there: a revolutionary's first duty is to not collaborate or fraternize with The Enemy, which is a commitment OWS protesters weren't willing to make. Big business is not The Enemy to most people; most people, even those who rail against big business, enjoy what big business makes possible for them.

    This of course does not mean that everything Capital does is beautiful and golden (the way OWS critics on the Right did), but it does mean that it's not as simple as Capital being The Enemy. I've long held that big business can be a force for good provided the government regulates its excesses, and I don't spend much time hating big business for being motivated by greed. I don't blame fire for burning things; what else could I expect it to do? Far better to control fire and use it constructively.

  • "Because there is no answer" = "because the answer they want doesn't exist." But that doesn't mean there's nothing to offer. It means that dangling false hope in front of them isn't helping them at all.

  • It’s rich to decry all the pointless, Monday morning, explanatory narratives for why our team lost the Big Game only to offer a corrective one — and with no apparent guile at that. Luckily, the corrective is about as accurate as it gets, though unsavory.

    A broader timeline should reveal pretty quickly that cultural conditions and institutions most clearly identified with 1950s Happy Days are an almost total historical fluke. How many hundreds (thousands, actually) of generations before the great postwar economic expansion and Baby Boom were characterized by rank xenophobia, virulent patriarchy, and chattel slavery? Those survived a whole lot longer in the march of civilization(s) than did the vaunted American middle class for rather obvious reasons. Anyone taking bets on their grand return, having only been driven underground for a brief time?

    Further, the recognition that we cannot return to Happy Days may well be felt or sensed deep down, not so much thought clearly or spoken aloud, but gosh it’s just so darn defeatist and not at all American to deal with reality barreling at us until it arrives all at once and flattens everyone. So long as we can extend and pretend (and scapegoat), we will do just that.

  • Long story short : Government can't bring jobs back to these places, because government didn't put the jobs there to begin with.

    Ever notice how Americans, no matter what the problem is, need a "bad guy" to pin it on and wage war against? I don't know if pinning it on the suits is gonna work, even if they made the decisions to bolt… too much suit-worship and yes-boss-ism in the American populace.

    But then who else are you gonna turn people's ire at? If Republicans can pin the Rust Belt on NAFTA, even though the decline began 35 years before… surely the Democrats can find something out there. How bad are they willing to blow smoke up the Rust Belt's ass, is the question.

  • Talisker said, "The sad thing is that nobody is seriously going to attempt it — even if Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders was in the White House, Congress would suffocate any ambitious plans for renewal."

    While it's likely Hillary wouldn't have been able to accomplish much of anything with the same cast of misfit toys in congress that gleefully fucked over Pres Obama, at least we wouldn't be looking at the dystopian, hunger games hellscape of the Trump reign of terror. It all feels so very hopeless.

    Ed, this whole post is spot on, btw.

  • Andrew Laurence says:

    This Bay Area long-time reader humbly submits that HRC may have failed to connect EMOTIONALLY with white working-class voters, even though her policies are clearly better for them than Trump's.

  • Even the 1950s were only great if you were a white male.

    My father (born 1939) grew up in the 1950s. As an "ethnic white" he was somewhere above blacks on the food chain but definitely not considered to be "white".

    I have never heard my parents fondly reminisce about the 1950s.

  • "So if we're all in agreement that the jobs are gone, what are we supposed to do? I notice all of these 'fuck the midwest' articles stop short of anything like a coherent policy proposal."

    It's almost like one of the candidates actually had a plan to deal with this issue. Too bad the media gave the other candidate millions of dollars worth of free advertising and airtime.

    Infrastructure, Manufacturing, and Clean Energy. That's what it boiled down to. The things the Rust Belt had is what she was promising to bring back. But, fear and hate and vague promises are what they would rather have, apparently.

  • Nobody wants to hear "You've got a terminal illness and you're going to die. There's nothing we can do." But at some point you have a choice between acceptance and turning to false hope.

    Unfortunately the VAST majority of people turn to false hope at that point. The people here saying "I notice all of these 'fuck the midwest' articles stop short of anything like a coherent policy proposal." are advocating for false hope. If you'd read Ed's article, he's saying "Nobody is going to give you a policy proposal that will work because there's nothing that's going to help."

    My even more smug take on this is that this election boiled down to obsolete people wanting someone to tell them they're not obsolete. Saying "My grandfather could work in the steel mill and make enough to put three kids through college and retire with benefits, why can't I?" is another way of saying "I can't accept that the world around me has changed and I didn't change with it."

    The voters who voted for Trump are people in denial about paradigm shifts. You can't stop progress. You can't stop change. Voting for Trump and Pence and people like them won't turn back the clock on the world. You're just giving them money and power and you're going to get nothing in return except for laws hurting you and those you hate. If that's enough cold comfort for you, then I feel sorry for you as a human being.

  • Living in an area where logging and mining jobs used to be a thing, providing alternative jobs for those left behind when industries fly off with the money and leave them holding the sack results in:

    Constant grousing about how tourism and aquaculture and retail and state and federal government jobs just aren't good enough

    Constant blaming of Liberals, and, if they've reached the geezer stage, still hippie-punching while they hack and cough at the bar (and whine about having to go outside in the back to smoke and spit now)

    Constant suspicion of and contempt for anyone with brown skin, even in a community stuffed full of Alaska natives and people from all over the rest of the planet with skin colors from tan to black and and a kaleidoscope of cultures and religions to match

    Gobbling up every bit of Republican and Libertarian propaganda that comes by, all of it, then swanking around as if they're the smart people, the well-informed people, the people who understand what's really happening, telling everyone else they're dumb ignorant sheep … nonetheless getting extremely butthurt when those perjoratives are tossed right back at them.

    Racism is an easier, more effective play. Anything that requires people to think is going to lose out to anything that plays directly into their basest prejudices. I don't know how you beat the path of least resistance.

    Maybe behavioral economists can think up a plan. Ask Mike K., willya?

  • Gerald McGrew says:

    Several people have hit on the theme that I saw during the election and am still seeing now post-election. Pain.

    Ed is likely correct, in that these rust belt manufacturing jobs "aren't coming back", but he fails to appreciate just what that means to the people who've lived that lifestyle. It's an almost total loss of a way of life. I grew up around many of these folks in Ohio, and in many cases it's a family tradition to go work at the same plant as your father and grandfather. And not only did they work there, they earned enough to buy a house and live a comfortable middle-class lifestyle for them and their families.

    But as we note, those days are likely gone. Now their kids are moving out of town and maybe going to college (where they are saddled with crippling debt and…gasp…come back as godless liberals). So their jobs are gone/declining and their family structure is following suit. That is immensely painful for a lot of folks.

    Throw in the social changes (decline of religion, LGBTQ's becoming prominent, increases in non-whites) and you start to understand just what these folks are feeling. Angst, pain, anxiety, loss. Their entire way of life is crumbling before their eyes, the country is rapidly changing on a number of fronts, and there doesn't seem to be anything they can do about it.

    THAT'S what the HRC campaign failed to even acknowledge. Even Bill Clinton knew enough to say "I feel your pain". Bernie knew to tell them "You're getting screwed by the system". HRC seemed to feel that just saying "21st century jobs" would be good enough.

    And this lack of empathy keeps popping up in liberal circles even now. I mean, imagine being one of these folks, reading Ed's post, and seeing "Rust Belt, low education, white people". How does being defined by your lack of education and whiteness make you feel? (to get a sense, imagine reading a right-wing blog that described African-Americans as "inner city, uneducated blacks") How does being told that your entire way of life is over and you just need to get over it and move into a city make you feel? Does it make you feel like you want to vote for the side of the political debate that says those things?

    And not only that, but I regularly hear from my family back in Ohio how fundamentally racist Democrats are when it comes to the working class. If they're "people of color" in the working class, Democrats talk about them being oppressed, in need of social justice, and how they are victims. But when it comes to whites in the working class, suddenly the narrative changes to "low education whites" who are too religious, racist, and resentful, so we can just write off their votes. After all, just look at the demographics! It won't be long before Democrats will enjoy political dominance on the votes of people of color and millennials! We won't even need white working class males!

    We can blather on all day about why these folks voted for Trump, but it really comes down to one simple thing….at the very least he acknowledged their situation. His substance-free solutions and racist scapegoating were always secondary to the fundamental connection he made with them….I feel your pain.

  • Faintly McAbre says:

    I think this is now my very favorite piece of yours. This is spectacular!

    I do hear a lot of talk of "retraining" folks… but retraining them for what? What manufacturing could we possibly do in a profitable way that isn't already being done either here or elsewhere at a high level?

  • Great piece, well stated. And let's not underestimate the rage, grief and confusion that are overwhelming these communities related to the opiate epidemic. Overdose deaths, particularly of heroin, used to be a far-off urban phenomenon. It's now sadly become an everyday fact of these poor, working class folks' lives. It's easier to blame Big Pharma or illegal immigrants as drug dealers than to face the despair and hopelessness that breeds addiction in the first place.

  • The underlying theme of this election is the growing realization that many Americans are, or will soon be, expendable. The argument is over just who gets thrown away.

  • I agree with what you say about the President-elect, but you're just apologizing for the failures of the Democrats. Let's take them in order.

    "… white Rust Belt voters. By trying to make sure they had health care access…."
    Most Americans favor a single-payer system. In 2008, Obama said he would advocate for it. Once he was sworn in, he dropped it like the bogus campaign promise it was. HRC didn't believe it in. Obamacare is a kluge layered on top of a kluge, creating a huge transfer of wealth from taxpayers to the private sector. Democrats are perfectly happy to let insurance companies and big Pharma run our healthcare system. So much for "trying to make sure they had healthcare access."

    "… supporting unions…." Other than lip service, in what ways did HRC or national Democrats support unions? Did they advocate for a single piece of legislation to bolster union rights? So much for supporting unions.

    "… supporting and trying to increase minimum wage." Bernie was for $15/hour. Hillary? Not so much.

    "… protect the social safety net, including unemployment benefits and workers comp…." Again, was their a single piece of proposed legislation to do this, or was it all just campaign rhetoric? Since the House of Reps is long gone to Republicans, is a Senate filibuster the only thing Democrats have to offer to "protect" these rights?

    Just because politicians say they're in favor of something doesn't mean they're actually willing to do anything to bring it about.

  • I live in one of those thriving West Coast cities that everyone is moving to in droves to sacrifice themselves on the altar of the new economy. The latest expansion has managed to increase the average rent price to over $3,000/Month for a mediocre apartment and raise the average house price to just under $1,000,000.

    To those with the right credentials, it looks fantastic. You have a six figure salary! Your glorious tech job might even last a whole year or two before your department is eliminated and you’re tossed back into the heap of ever younger and hungrier job seekers. Of course, you can get a better deal in the ex-urbs if you’re willing to add three hours a day in commuting time to your already extended work day.

    But look at all of the culture! There are thousands of restaurants boasting house-made, artesan ironic takes on a sandwich for the low, low price of only $25; and don’t forget the micro-brew flight for just $20 more!

    Watching that fat paycheck disappear into the ether, seeing that it’s just as difficult to save a penny as it is in Flyovertown, USA, a person has to ask themselves… Is this success? Am I any better off?

    At some point, there may be enough educated, in demand people that decide to move to a more affordable place where the cost of living isn’t crushingly high, amenities are fewer but commute times and shorter and life doesn’t involve the constant one-upping smugness of most coastal cities.

    Living in one of these places that have become or are rapidly becoming a playground for the rich and a mere subsistence living for those that serve them is quickly losing its luster. Perhaps an exodus from the new economy cities will save at least the more picturesque dying towns. But yeah, Cleveland is still fucked.

  • old white person says:

    Thank-you, Ed for mentioning the impossibility of a time machine into the past.
    The one thing no one has mentioned is that it isn't only the federal government that is responsible for dragging jobs kicking and screaming to the Rust Belt. Where are the State governments, the cities, the counties? In my state, where it was the timber industry that got sick in the 80's and died by the end of the 90's, counties are still whining for a federal handout.
    Maybe it's time to think outside the box? I read an article (probably in the NYT) suggesting communities try to attract people who telecommute or work at home. Why not? They're not tied to a specific place. Obviously this is just a small solution, but since employment has changed since Big Manufacturing left, never to return, there should be other ways for communities to rebuild. On the other hand, this may require them to provide decent schools…so never mind.

  • Gerald, validation is one hell of a drug.

    A-a-a-a-nd, you heard it here first:

    Sell off the towns and farms to immigrant Chinese. Great way to spend down their foreign exchange surplus.

  • I think you nailed it Ed, but it leaves me hopeless. I'm getting the collective sense that the working class and the poor are being routed into a future that no one can imagine as good as we once thought. How do we get the incubators of the new Ayn Randians (Harvard MBA grads) to take courses in ethics or require them to take community service credits in public health? How do we get the MIT engineers who are joined at the wallet with their industry partners to also develop ethical philosophies about the long term social effects of their invented manufacturing robotics? I am disheartened when I hear so many important thinkers shake there heads in resignation and suggest that globalization, digitalization,… robotization are here to stay – followed by "we've got to figure out a way forward" but offer no suggestions (e.g. Andrew Revkin at Pro Publica). The implication is that we are helpless in trying to walk this thing backward. The notion of backwards (or even limits to growth) is unacceptable. It's anathema to policy makers and economists. It is laughable delusion in the ears of the corporate mogul. But there is a world economic state beyond which the limits of resources can not be reconciled with the production of goods. Do we really have to go off that cliff? Well, says Gordon Gekko, yes, but you'll have to jump before I do. The green revolution kicked the can down the road to Malthus' nightmare.

    We are not lemmings. Historically we have been somewhat successful in walking back the adoption of unsafe nuclear power in the 70s and 80s. We didn't blindly plow forward. It took a few melt-downs and a hell of a lot of protests to harness it. We walked back the proliferation of nuclear arms as "protection". Folks in the Netherlands decided that cars weren't the inevitable future for their cities. Throughout the world people have become weary of processed food such that organic food production is on the rise. The Jettsonesque future of food in pill form or as processed food-like substances is not inevitable "progress".

    I think we can look to developing countries for worker resistance when it becomes obvious to the world how ruthless American-style capitalism has become to its own working poor. And, the notion that the American education systems are going to partner with corporations to retrain all of our skilled trades to write code for the next computerized gizmo or robot is utter madness. It is the blackness of an unknown future looking over the cliff.

    If it turns out that, as you suspect, Trump is using click-bait and controversial cabinet positions and media manipulation merely as subterfuge while he capitalizes for Trump Enterprises worldwide using his office, just so he can "win", then it is on.

  • @Nunya; one of the problems of living in a prosperous coastal city is that so much of your taxes go to supporting the midwestern states and the smug "Rill Murkkkuns" who are waiting to be given a six-figure job they DESERVE on account of them being the only RILL Murkkkuns.

  • I appreciate Ed's venting, but I have to agree more with Rico Boccia on this one: HRC and the establishment Democrats pay lip service to progressive policies, but never seem to be willing to stick their necks out to actually fight for them.

    The Clinton model of centrist, "corporatist" Democrats is a failure. It tries to strike an impossible balance between a) being progressive and b) not upsetting any of the moneyed interests on whom you depend. Not only is this contradiction unsustainable, but it's also the recipe for bland, milquetoast policies that aren't transformational and are difficult to articulate.

    That's why I believe campaign finance reform is actually the #1 problem facing our nation: Because we won't be able to solve ANY of our other big problems until we can remove the million-dollar price tag on public office.

  • I loved your article and it is exactly how I feel. Don't fool yourself Trump voters. Trump doesn't give a damn about you and your plight. To him it is all about the DEAL not the follow through. Check with the man who actually wrote the Art of the Deal as a ghostwriter. He is right on about Mr. Trump.

    Not only did Trump not have a plan but if his staff was not making his mouth move he would have had NOTHING. His only talent was in spreading hate and disgusting rhetoric. Take a look at who he is putting on his cabinet. Oh and by the way. Draining the Swamp…. Take a careful look at those he has put on his transition team. Lobbyists, insiders and his children. We will be worse off and have almost 6 trillion more debt before he is done and by all accounts in another recession.
    I am sorry for all those that are feeling the country moved on without them but at least HRC had some plans for retraining, new jobs etc.
    Trump's plans to punish companies for going overseas and charging overseas companies for shipping products to the US is only going to make things worse for all of us because products will become more costly and your increase in hourly wages will buy you less.

  • Excellent stuff.

    This began early for upstate NY small towns. By 1960 our manufacturing had already begun moving to North Carolina and farther south for tax advantages and it has never come back.

    I do think that Democrats might have done well to make a Benghazi-style story out of Donald Trump's cuddling up with Putin. Nothing scares rust belters like Commies. The GOP would never have let HRC get away with Putin. Hitting us over the head 24 hours a day with Trump's refusal to disclose his taxes probably wouldn't have been the worst thing either.

  • Well said. You discuss how this plays on people's base prejudices. Do you feel DT's rhetoric is also scary enough to propel larger numbers of individuals into becoming more vocal and involved in the political process than the typical election? If so, is that a benefit of his election?

  • I have literally had a conversation with someone about repealing Obamacare who basically said that she didn't know what they'd do for her daughter (and grandkids) who would lose heath coverage, but it was in God's hands.
    No regrets.
    Also, ACA saved her husband's life with the pre-existing condition ban.
    No regrets.

    This is why I don't have many conversations.

    WTF do I say to this person? She's Catholic and the Pope said don't vote for him. How do I top that?

  • People believe that the reason there are no mfg jobs left is all about them going overseas. While that is certainly a huge component, the real reason that those jobs won't ever come back, even if some actual factories return is automation. And with the rise of AI it will be even worse. The highest paying job in many states for someone without a college degree is truck driver. Once AI driverless trucks are here in force, and you don't even need a CDL to "drive" a truck, those jobs will pay squat as well.

    As far as why HRC lost, it's simple. It's not about racism, or Xenophobia, or any of those things that motivated a chunk of Trump's most rabid supporters. It was about people really despising the establishment that has put us in our current position. The D's put up a candidate that was the poster child for that establishment. Trump, who is a narcisstic sociopath without a single viable policy proposal, and is practically incoherent on most policy issues, and has the temperment of a 4 year old that stayed up till 11 pm and has been pounding Pixie sticks all day, represented something different..
    Even though O'Bama stopped the freefall of the Bush policies, we have been basically treading water from the standpoint of things like median income and the like; so the recovery hasn't seemed particularly robust to those rust belt folks.
    That's why Sanders would have crushed Trump. He, too, was an outsider that was offering an alternative to the status quo, and his populist economic message would have basically negated Trump's big draw in places like MI, OH, and WI.
    Pure and simple, people wanted a change and Trump was perceived as a change agent, while Hillary was looked at as more of the same.

  • This is brilliant. The one thing I don't understand is this:

    'Nothing will resurrect these places, all of which have long since crossed the point of no return in their economic and population decline. Automation, union-busting, outsourcing (much of it within the U.S., to impoverished Southern states) and race-to-the-bottom subsidy wars among state and local governments are ensuring that the situation isn't about to improve.'

    But as automation is now done and dusted, and we don't need people to make things anymore, wouldn't all the other things on that list have zero effect if they were reintroduced? e.g. surely ensuring strong unions and refusing to outsource to the South (or wherever), would have made no difference.

    In G&T's ideal scenario, companies would either have to pay workers decent minimum wages by US standards, and make stuff for 4x what it could be made for overseas; in his actual scenario, companies can pay shitty wages, and make stuff for only 3x what it could be made for overseas. Either way, why make anything in the US?

  • Gerald McGrew says:

    So let's look at this from a practical standpoint. If this really is a case where irreversible global market forces are permanently eliminating blue-collar manufacturing jobs in the US, then do we pointedly say that to the working class?

    If we say "Your jobs are gone forever", then what do we do with the people who used to have those jobs? Retrain them? To do what? And remember, a lot of these folks are middle aged or later, so just what are you going to retrain a 50 year old former steel worker to do?

    And while you mull that over, keep in mind that like a lot of people, "what you do" is a very important part of their identity, so "We'll retrain you to work at WalMart and pay you a livable wage" isn't going to be very palatable.

    Also, if we retrain them for different jobs, will those jobs be near where they live, or in similar areas? Or will they be expected to move to the cities?

    Please try and appreciate just how scary all that is to some folks….your job's gone, you need to do something completely different, and you need to leave everyone and everything you've know behind and move to the city.

    That's why when some huckster shows up in your town and promises to make everything great again and restore your way of life, even if on some level you know you're being conned, it's at least makes you feel better and gives you some measure of hope, no matter how remote.

  • I agree, Gerald M.–this must be terrifying for huge swaths of people. To add to my comment above, perhaps manufacturing now realistically needs to be seen as a social good, rather than an economic engine.

    There has been much talk of provision of a 'living wage', but perhaps instead, we need to look at the idea of divorcing the concept of manufacturing from economics entirely — i.e. ensure that a rich country spends a large part of its budget sustaining a large (but technically costly) manufacturing industry, purely for the social stability and wellbeing that stable jobs provide.

  • Good story, but the beginning of the great Western/American economic (etc.) decline was the flexing of OPEC muscle in the early '70s. Nothing much any country could do to combat hugely more expensive energy. I think everything followed that wrench thrown in the works.

  • Gerald McGrew says:


    Yep, and the reason I'm a lot more sympathetic to that fear is because I'm experiencing it now as a scientist in the federal government. The headlines just today were about how the Trump administration and Republican Congress have specific plans to cut my pay and benefits, and possibly eliminate my entire agency altogether. IOW, just like those older folks in the rust belt, I'm now facing the loss of my professional identity and way of life, not to mention the prospect of having to move my family.

    I can totally see how this sense of loss and desperation can make someone vulnerable to a con man who promises to make everything great again.

  • Journalists (like me) have for the past 15 year rapidly been joining the ranks of the obsolete, except for a small highly paid top tier and a few remaining middle-rank staffers clinging on by their fingernails. Even reputable websites consist of a few extremely over-worked, over-extended editors supervising an army of freelancers working for just about minimum wage. We're told that due to algorithms, professionals like accountants and lawyers are next in the firing line. It ain't just farmers and factory workers in flyover country looking at the trash heap of history now.

  • Didn't Trump say he wanted to drop $500M in long-term bonds, to support rebuilding of rust-belt infrastructure?

    So, yeah, that would bring jobs back.
    And it would improve national pride in the area.

    It's just not a very Republican thing to say "I want to create jobs by increasing the debt and spending." (Well, except for Eisenhower, I guess.)

  • Hick in Flyover country says:

    My goodness is all I can say when I stumble on a site like this and also see the brainwashing that is out there. Slice and dice it every which way you can, you will never get to the bottom of your loss because this website nor any of its loyal minions do not have what it takes to look in the mirror and see that your candidate is a vapid individual with no soul. That means al of you are as well.

  • Taylor Johnson says:

    It's scary to me how arrogant some of these posts are and lacking even basic empathy. It's hard to even read some of the comments here. It's funny that someone dependent on a wage can see themselves as above any other wage earner. But hey we can all move to Seattle and the bay area and learn from betters.

  • I find it very hard to HAVE empathy for clueless fuckwits who voted Nixon-Ford-Reagan-Bush-Bush-McCain-Romney-Trump, because it's always someone else's fault.


  • You know what. I have reinvented myself several times with 3 young children in tow. I mourned then got up and did something about it. I went back to school, learned a new skill and how to use a computer, worked 3 jobs at once just to put food on the table. I moved several times leaving friends and some family behind because I needed to work for myself and my family. When I was 50 I moved out of my state and started over again. Maybe I am unusual but I had more pride in myself than to sit around and feel sorry for myself. I never felt it was the government's responsibility to take care of me. No one can do that, not Hillary Clinton, Not Donald Trump, Not Bernie Sanders, Not Obama, Not the Republicans or the Democrats. It is up to each of us to do whatever they can for their families and themselves. Bitching about life is a waste of time. Believing in someone who Lies 79% of the time without do your fact checking is the reason Trump won.

  • I rarely disagree with Ed on non-Radiohead matters even in levels of tone or emphasis, but this is utter nonsense.

    The Clinton campaign was NOWHERE on all these issues. Yes, she (reluctantly) came out against one trade deal. Yes, she (reluctantly) endorsed a $15 minimum wage (before quietly shifting back to gradual rise to $12). If she endorsed card check or any other pro-union legislation, though, I must have missed it.

    The point is that these issues were deliberately muted by the campaign in order to appeal to managerial-class urban and suburban voters. You've heard this quote from Schumer, no doubt: "For every blue-collar Democrat we lose in western Pennsylvania, we will pick up two moderate Republicans in the suburbs in Philadelphia." Well, in AA they say, How's that working out for you?

    One thing I always want to ask Clinton apologists is, What was her economic plan? What program was she going to pursue to help the economy grow faster and increase the number and quality of jobs? Because my hunch is that even fans of hers didn't hear much of one. In contrast, I am sure those fans heard the following:

    * Donald Trump is a bad person.
    * It's time to break the glass ceiling and elect a woman president.
    * America is already great.

    Two of those three are true! but that's not a message that's really compelling to people whose wages haven't gone up in a generation, who can't afford their kids' college or their own loans, and who still aren't sure they afford health insurance. (I don't think I've seen it explored yet, but in terms of October Surprises, Aetna seems more important than Anthony Wiener's emails.)

    I can't prove a counter-factual, of course, but in light of this huge under-performance, it's a pretty good bet that a large number of decisions made were disastrously bad. If she had run on the Fight for $15 and card-check, I don't know 100% that it have resulted in an EC win. But c'mon: It could hardly have made it worse.

  • @dl, the popular vote means even less this time than in 2000, and we all remember how that worked out.

    @Pat, yes, yes, yes. JFC, even Joe Biden could've taken Trump. You can blame sexism, unreasoning right wing hate for Mrs. Clinton since 1992, but whatever– she got beaten by an unknown black guy with a weird name in 2008, and a Giant Evil Baby just two weeks ago.

    I personally objected to her policy of destroying Libya and laughing her ass off (on tv!!) when Gaddafi got a bayonet up his ass, but politics aside, she was and always has been a lousy candidate.

  • @negative 1
    And yet what they keep telling anyone around them is that they'd rather have a job than a safety net, although both would be preferable….By the way how can Germany's economy be more than twice the manufacturing as a % of GDP (25% to 11%) than the US despite having a more progressive social safety net? Oh well I guess 'the jobs aren't coming back' so we should all give up.


    A possible answer: Because many more Germans than Americans believe there's inherent value in minimizing poverty? Possibly because they know and care about more people on different rungs of the labor ladder?
    I was over there a couple years ago, and happened to spend time with a German friend's social circle. It included retail workers, teachers, grad students who are now working academics, and skilled tradespeople. I can't remember the last time I hung out with a similarly mixed bag (professionally) here, unless one counts standing around people at a sporting event/concert or going to a high school reunion as "hanging out."
    Maybe the above is too anecdotal, and not very convincing. How about this? Because we're actively encouraged to be self-seeking, greedy and materialistic? (Not to mention resentful of others who are better at being those things than we might be?)
    Or: yeah, capitalism.

  • Communities don't have to die or move where the big population centers are, but they do need to get real and creative if they are to reinvent themselves in any viable way. Waiting for the man to swoop in and save them isn't the answer. They need to decide what resources they have, what resources they need and work together. It won't be easy but it might feel better than rolling over or waiting to be rescued. I am from Indiana and used to work in economic development. The problem is not laziness, it's fear, powerlessness and a twisted form of hubris.

  • Katydid: That is actually not really true. The problems of coastal cities include NIMBYism and BANANA politics (Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anyone), landlord greed, high local and state taxes (no Mississippi subsidies required) and a lemming-like pursuit of paper profits and being on board the NEXT BEST THING meaning all of the capital pours into a few lucky places.

    So…high costs. But, as Nunya points out, a few people benefit more than others.

    (I live on the very outer edge of the maelstrom)

  • It helps Germany that they are part of an economic union that helps them export their way to prosperity while imposing the costs of their huge trade surplus on the "lesser" countries.

  • @Major Kong—

    You've got a point about the 1950s being Great for white men, but at everyone else's expense. I think a major contribution to this rose-colored fantasy about when America was Great (what does that even mean?) had to do with the fact that the Boomers were kids at this time, sheltered from adult responsibilities and the terror of the Cold War.

  • @old white person

    Senator Mark Warner (D) gradually won Virginia over, particularly the southwest portion (which is in Appalachia), back in the day when he was Governor Warner in the mid 90s and Virginia was a red state. He was from the northern part, which they didn't initially trust because they (rightfully) believe the northerners to be a bunch of stuck up turds–BUT, his plan for Virginia was to bring tech jobs that could be done remotely (web design, programming, etc) out into the rural regions of Virginia. All they needed was an internet connection, the infrastructure for which he wanted to build. Not only did the people appreciate that they wouldn't have to move since it didn't really matter where they were located, but they respected that he wasn't treating them like dumb yokels. All of this would require education and training, but it would create jobs where there were none.

  • Given that the sellers of goods are advocating policies that reduce the disposable income of consumers and we seem to be rapidly approaching diminishing returns for those policies, wouldn't it be more fun to focus the attention of our elected representatives on consumer issues? Is it old fashioned to believe the 1% would mostly do better if the 99% prosper?
    BTW, far too late to reassemble what was broken, we'll have to build new and socialism can help, in moderate doses, the people who've turned the concept into an expletive may get a footnote in "The decline and fall of the United States".

  • Well, given that the Democrats *are* capitalists, I can't really see them promoting an anti-capitalist narrative.

  • @Brian, you're debating the actual truth that the red states suck up far more in taxpayer dollars than they pay in? Really? You're also conveniently forgetting in your "coastal cities are eeeeevvvvullll" rant that on the coats, NIMBYism isn't so much of a problem because there's simply nowhere to build on.

    @Aurora; yes, people in Northern Virginia are such stuck up turds that they brought utilities and internet connections to the people who could never afford to pay for them themselves. How appallingly stuck-up! My comment form the first paragraph applies here, too–the people who you both hate with such a fiery passion are the ones funding the lifestyle of the Rill Murkkkuns.

  • I mean, if you have a credible person telling you that if she wins you are fucked, and an absurd liar telling you that if he wins things will be great for you, is it really that crazy to pick the liar?


    Which do you pick?

    And this crap about Wall Street and bank taxes subsidizing rural America just isn't very convincing to me. People in Peoria are mooching off Washington, DC like people in North Korea are mooching off Pyongyang. There is a sense in which that is the case, but a more real sense where it is the opposite of the case. If trickle down economics don't do anything then why is all the money where there are government subsidized I bankers or lobbyists to "service"?

    Not that ????? in this case isn't DOOOOM but maybe we will at least get some fireworks, and we will have a reason our towns look like we lost a war that isn't smug weasels stealing all the money. Er, unless Trump steals all the money…

  • Honest question, Blake–can you just say plainly what you mean? You seem to be saying that it's true and also not true that the blue states are paying the freight for the rest of the country. So which is it in you view?

  • I would say it is basically true and not true. The government let's the banks create money out of thin air, then lets them loan it out at interest, both to fund the government and the private sector but the access to credit and the terms are unevenly distributed. And America has been exporting debt and money and financial services, which compete with actual goods exports and let our dollar stay strong, which helps people with a lot of dollars but hurts manufacturing and agriculture. So the blue states pay the freight, but with money they pulled from thin air

  • Blake, I'm not sure you understand how finances work.

    In any event, what you're completely missing is that of the tax dollars paid to the gov't by the taxpayer, the red states receive more than they actually pay in, and the blue states receive less than they pay in. No matter whatever opinion you have about invisibly-generated money that floats around in the ether, this is actual fact. Furthermore, 95 of the poorest 100 counties in the USA are in red states.

    I posted this on the follow-up thread, but it's still worth calling to your attention:

  • I'm sure I don't understand how the credit system creates and destroys wealth in America today, but no one in rural America does either. For sure the people with money pay more in tax than the people without money, and the people without money receive more benefits than they pay in. It looks like Washington, DC on that metric pays 26 billion dollars in federal tax, and gets 3 back. Is DC really that productive lately? Are people in rural Alabama really making out like bandits? While I am not disagreeing with your tax numbers, taxes don't tell the whole story these days. And expenditures that ignore loans and credit guarantees and bailouts and such things seem like a skewed metric as well. By those standards Wall Street is being oppressed and Flint, Michigan is being favored by government policy. Maybe that's true but if so it hasn't been sold well enough to make me understand it, and I try to pay some attention.

  • Blake, let's see if I can put this into terms you'd understand.

    The federal government pays for a number of things "in the public good" (less and less now that Republicans are in charge, but bear with me).

    As a society, we once decided that certain things were necessary for the general wellbeing of the people. Electricity is one. What do you think costs more per capita–running and maintaining electric lines through a city of six million, or a collection of rural enclaves with 3 people per square mile?

    The same goes for telephone lines, the federal highway system, and the US Post Office. Those things cost money to set up and run.

    Where does the money come from? Taxes. To keep things simple, say every person pays a penny in taxes. If you have six million pennies, that goes much farther than if you have three hundred pennies. If an electric grid costs 100 pennies a year to run and maintain, but it's only getting 300 pennies from one area, the money's got to come from somewhere, and that's the folks who paid in six million pennies. Clear?

    On another topic, not every person who lives on a coast works for Wall Street. Many of us live here, though, *because there are jobs that pay a living wage*.

  • There certainly are economies of scale providing services in cities, no argument there. And it's true that there are non FIRE sector jobs in cities as well. Often education and health care, both of which are also massively subsidised with granted monopolies, tax exemptions and loan guarantees. All of which naturally benefit from centralization. You say that the money comes from taxes, but we have been running a deficit. And people who can't make big city rents for whatever reason get driven out, where they leave the cities richer and often burden where they end up. And we let in immigrants to compete with poor people rather than rich people, landscapers, maids and farmers rather than doctors or skilled labor. There is a bunch of shady stuff going on, it seems legitimately confusing to me who is benefiting and by how much.

    And I would perhaps feel more gratitude for the highways and the power grid and the telecoms, if I held them in higher regard. Have you ever actually dealt with Time-Warner or Comcast? Did you feel very grateful afterwards?

    Our power grid and transportation infrastructure are antiquated and ill conceived even if Trump is right and global warming turns out to be much ado about nothing. And if it is real then it seems difficult to overstate the costs of using federal dollars to subsidise fossil fuel use and smearing American cities into sprawling suburbs connected by rivers of slow moving traffic. Those trillions of dollars could have been used for other things. The Interstates outside cities are great though, I have no problem with that kind of thing.

  • "If scapegoating is the only thing that wins these people over, then the best strategy is to point them in the right direction again and remind them that Capital is the enemy of Labor. End the worship of and fixation with Job Creators and the idea that the boss is your buddy and your role in the economy is a matter of personal responsibility, fully within one's own control."

    Please excuse me if this already been said, but isn't that what Bernie Sanders was trying to do? Wouldn't be nice if the Democrats finally wake up?

  • Katydid: I am definitely not debating the red states as leach meme. Of course it is "true" Part of it is defense dollars. Part of it is federal social welfare transfer programs which I thought we as "liberals" were supposed to be in favor of? (There are still a lot of poor people in the south). Plus, if we want to look at it historically, California got plenty of federal money for water projects and the like. But, that aside, what I am disagreeing with strongly is the idea that this is the primary reason for the coastal high cost of living or for local government deficits. That is just not true in hyper inflated real estate markets or in California local government financing.

    As for NIMBYism, I again strongly strongly disagree. In some areas, there may not be all that much land to build more conventional suburban single family housing on cul de sacs (unless we pave over all of the farmland in California). But there are plenty of aging commercial strips, half empty commercial properties, abandoned factories, useless nonprofitable golf courses, etc. that could be developed with denser housing. Near transit, etc. But of course, some of this housing is rental housing, and renters are by definition subhuman and substandard people, (and many are MINORITIES, although we only whisper that in so-progressive California). So us middle aged, middle class and above "progressives" oppose any change to the suburban landscape. Funny, how "progressives" are against change, let alone progress. And, given that we progressives (often baby boomers like me) live in houses we built with our own hands from timber we harvested ourselves (we did not buy houses built by DEVELOPERS, not us), we have an enemy: The Developer. Always nefarious. Always evil. Always unique to history.

    So no, I still disagree with you.

  • Blake: I remain confused.

    You did say one interesting thing, though. What is the value of federal subsidies of the gigantic Ponzi Scheme we call the Suburban Dream? Low density, single use, frozen in time (cannot evolve) suburbia will be unsustainable on so many levels.

  • I am also confused. I guess the point that I was trying to make was that I don't think you can just add taxes paid and subtract government expenditures and get an accurate picture of who the Federal government is benefiting. There is a lot going on, and a lot I don't know the opportunity cost of.

  • Andrew Laurence says:

    @Blake: I understood your point, and I think we all did. We just think it's incorrect. Adding up taxes paid and subtracting benefits received is a perfectly good way to determine which states and localities are net contributors to the national purse and which are net recipients of the national largesse. And there's not a thing wrong with being on either side of that equation. What is wrong is bitching about how good your way of life is when the numbers tell a different story.

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  • "Explain exactly how the Democratic Party wrote off white Rust Belt voters. By trying to make sure they had health care access when their employers stopped offering benefits? By supporting unions that might actually provide them some job security or wages over $10/hr? By supporting and trying to increase minimum wage?"

    Goddammit, Ed. The point isn't that the Democrats weren't a far better choice for working class voters than the GOP, but that the Clinton campaign conspicuously declined to campaign on those grounds. No visits to Wisconsin, few to Michigan—that much is familiar, as should be the Clinton campaign's deliberate messaging toward suburban Republican women and college-educated managerial-class voters to the (pretty much entire) exclusion of Dems' traditional working-class base.

    And since you've no doubt seen the turnout figures by now, do remind me which conspicuous demographic failed to turn out to vote last month?

    Look, in terms of substance, the Democratic party can absolutely be faulted for failing the working class. You brought up their support of unions, which I assume is a sick joke. On health care, Obamacare is better than nothing but still shitty. Clinton's shifting positions on the minimum wage (pro-Fight for $15 until the activists left the room) would have been disqualifying, inflation-adjusted, for a Democrat running in 1976. Job security and wages? I take it you left out any citation to actual Dem proposals because you are yourself still unaware of any.

    The Democrats were a shitty party for working-class voters, policy-wise.

    But that's not even the point! Substance aside, packaging of the Democratic message was vaporous this campaign, and it's pretty clear it was so by design. The Democrats were trying to gratify college-grad 20-somethings and peel off those culturally liberal managerial-class voters who still voted GOP. They weren't trying to mobilize union and working-class voters. And it turns out they didn't!

    Look, Trump didn't win this election. He got barely more votes than Romney, who barely outdid McCain. That's so unimpressive after four years population growth—did you know Mondale got more votes than Carter? I was actually surprised by that. But Trump didn't win: Clinton lost. She lost by not giving working Democrats a reason to show up. And then they didn't show up. So, uh, yeah. The Democrats should have done more to win over working class voters. Because "nothing" and "fuck all," it turns out, weren't enough.

    But by all means, kick Ezra Klein in the head. Just don't do so in the same breath that you excuse him and the rest of the Vox/DNC/DLC/HRC constellation of their colossal fuckup in giving Donald Trump the keys to the White House.

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