Thursday, December 01, 2016

The Election

From facebook:
I am trying to think through the election results. What I come back to is the Great Lakes industrial belt, aka the Rust Belt. The Great Lakes used to be lined with iron mines, steel mills, car plants, tire plants, glass plants. You used to be able to predict the economy by car orders, since it was car manufacturing that drove the industries around the Great Lakes. All these plants had been unionized by the CIO in the 1930s. The workers got good wages, and for the most part -- urged by the unions -- they voted Democratic. All the Great Lakes states had rural areas, which were mostly Republican. But the plants and the workers gave the states a good chance of voting Democratic. So what happens when the Great Lakes industrial belt dies, due to outsourcing and automation? And why did the Democrats think they could do without union workers and unions?

Remember that these industrial unions were integrated, and there was large black working class in the cities around the Lakes. The black workers still had to deal with prejudice, which is why the Dodge Revolutionary Union Movement (DRUM) was founded in Detroit in the late 1960s or early 1970s. The history of unionism around the Lakes was a long struggle to overcome racism and form a unified working class. What has happened around the Lakes is not as simple as white racism. It's the gutting of American industry and the breaking of the industrial unions. We know from the example of Germany that it's possible for a modern western nation to preserve its industry and its unions. (Though neoliberalism has taken a toll in Germany.) American business made a decision to destroy the industrial heartland, and the New Democrats were okay with this.

The problem is more complex that I have made it. Trump did best in rural counties. Some of these voters might have been ex-industrial workers. There are -- or were -- plenty of mills and mines in rural areas. But I suspect most were not. The death of small towns, due to big box stores and industrialized agriculture was probably as important. (I'm guessing here. I just don't know.) Yes, voter supression may have been a factor. Yes, racism and sexism were a factor, as seen in the Trump rallies. The FBI intervening in the election probably hurt Clinton. So, a complex of issues. But losing the big industrial cities and the unionized working class can't have helped.(I don't mean Clinton lost the big industrial cities. She didn't. But the cities have been gutted. There is block after block of empty lots in Detroit.)

In the states where the race was close, any one element could have tipped the race.

Do I think the jobs could come back? Yes, but it will require a strong push by the government, and Trump is not likely to do it. We need lots of infrastructure repair, which can't be easily outsourced to Asia, and the government has ways to reward or pressure businesses. For example, Bernie Sanders new bill. "Sanders' legislation, the Outsourcing Prevention Act, would prevent companies sending jobs overseas from receiving federal contracts, tax breaks, or other financial assistance; claw back federal subsidies that outsourcing companies received over the past decade; impose a tax of either 35 percent of the company's profits or an amount that equals the money saved by moving jobs overseas, whichever is higher; and imposing stiff tariffs on executive bonuses like golden parachutes, stock options, and other gratuities."


Blogger pat said...

I grew up in the rust belt and I agree with every word you wrote here. It's been in decline for 40-odd years and nobody in power has given one damn about it.
When people who've been written off for generations decide to take the problem into their own hands, the rest of the country doesn't have much moral standing to object. If we're so much smarter or better, we should have been giving them options.

7:34 PM  

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