Rust Never Sleeps

Just because all the news that’s fit to print emanates from Manhattan in no way means that New York City is the epicenter of the information universe. In fact, the traditional centers of news and commerce might actually be some of the last places that receive the memo that American greatness is in its twilight fade.

I like getting my communiques from other places, with names like Flint, Michigan, Youngstown, Ohio, and Gary, Indiana. These once great manufacturing hubs are examples of what happens to empires when the middle’s hollowed out. Of course, politicians feign interest in some of these places simply because it’s the silly season and they’re out on the stump for votes and gathering super delegates.

No movies, today (Gary, Indiana).

No movies, today (Gary, Indiana).

Belt Magazine publishes longform, investigative journalism—another tradition from America’s past that’s all but disappeared—about the Rust Belt. And as Belt’s founder, Anne Trubek, notes, while many national publications have picked up on a few trends highlighting “revitalization” and “cool hipster breweries,” these are simply one “pole” of a larger narrative, one that also must address our urban ruins, like parts of Detroit.

Every week, I get a wrap of links about the Rust Belt, showing up as a tweet from the gang at Belt. Too often, even after favoriting that week’s wrap, I forget to go back and read even one or two of these articles. Not this week, however.

There was this one in U.S. News & World Report, about how both parties have failed the Rust Belt. That runs counter to the New York Times need to lift up Hillary Clilnton, now that Dems aren’t “feeling the Bern,” or trumpet the tired and trite “racism” meme about Donald Trump.

It’s rare to read anything in mainstream publications that take Democrats to task for their abandonment of working-class Americans (which is the group, by-and-large that Trump is attracting). Charles Wheelan clearly delineates those Democrat failures (as well at the Republican Party’s, also).

While I might not agree with Wheelan’s prescription in its entirety—which he assigns the moniker of “Capitalism 3.0”—at least he’s willing to say that maintaining the status quo for another four years as offered by the establishment wing of both parties won’t work—and American ruins located within the Rust Belt will continue circling the drain.

3 thoughts on “Rust Never Sleeps

  1. The Rust Belt was built on cheap labor and cheap energy (coal). All the cheap labor is somewhere else, and all the coal is gone. We’re all living here in Allentown now. Neither party is going to change that, maverick candidates or not.

  2. @LP I don’t have an issue with your premise that the Rust Belt was built on the back of coal production. That doesn’t explain offshoring. At one time, cheaper labor was a reason to move manufacturing to China and other places. Now it’s no longer a “slam dunk,” when other factors are included; things like incentives for manufacturers (offered by China, and also, Germany), and trade issues, as well as recognizing that the cost of energy isn’t necessarily tilted towards places where manufacturing reigns supreme.

    I had another post I was deliberating posting, but held off. This one touches on the white working-class and support for Trump. It’s not as simple NPR’s assertion that it’s all about “ray-cism.” This OpEd from early March in The Guardian, by Thomas Frank, actually summarizes some of what I was working on.

    • You’re right that the overseas labor has hidden costs, but that initial lower price tag is what took the corporations overseas. Now, where is the money and the cheap energy to re-establish Pittsburgh as a steel town again? That’s what’s missing–it was relatively inexpensive to build those industries in the beginning, it’s crushingly expensive to re-establish them, especially when we’ve already sucked up all the easy-to-get resources.

      What the great big middle realizes is that the squeeze is on them. You can’t squeeze the bottom, they don’t have anything. The top knows how to hide everything. So it’s the middle getting squeezed, outsourced, taxed in a thousand insidious ways. Everyone running seems to want to tighten the screws even tighter on the middle except for Trump. Can’t say they’re wrong to feel that way.

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