Tag: rust belt

Charles McElwee joins Seth Barron to discuss the decline of the Catholic Church in the Rust Belt and the impact of immigration on a working-class community in Pennsylvania.

The Catholic Church faces a crisis in an area that remains disproportionately Catholic. In 2018, a Pennsylvania grand jury report detailed how clergy covered up the abuse of children by more than 300 priests over a period of 70 years. Congregations continue to shrink, deepening the region’s fragmentation and leaving a hole in its community life.

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President Trump has an opportunity to retool his image and focus in preparation for 2020. Even though I support immigration reform and the building of a wall (wish we didn’t have to do that if only to preserve the beauty of the landscape and spirit of a welcoming country), I think the immigration focus was […]

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Aaron Renn joins Seth Barron to discuss the divide between the country’s economically booming metro areas and its depressed non-urban and rural areas.

An Empire Center report released last month highlighted the disparity in job growth between “upstate” and “downstate” New York: of the 106,000 jobs created between April 2017 and April 2018, more than 85 percent of them were in the New York City metro area. Similar imbalances in urban-rural economic development can be found in Midwest states like Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota, and Ohio, as well as in California and others.

Spreading Joy to Soyville, RV-Style


Ohio farmers are worried. But a guy named Sonny has swung by in his RV to reassure them. Sonny Perdue, the US Agriculture Secretary, is on an RV tour of several “flyover” states, reassuring farmers along the way that tariff tiffs will not harm them.

As the soybean industry assailed President Donald Trump today for launching a trade war with China, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said Trump assured him that farmers in Ohio and across the country “will not be allowed to be the casualty in a trade dispute.”

Richard Epstein responds to the Trump Administration’s proposals for revising NAFTA, answers some frequent criticisms of free trade, and explains whether a legal challenge to a NAFTA withdrawal would hold up in court.

Dreamland – A Review


Billed as “the true tale of America’s Opiate epidemic,” Sam Quinones’s Dreamland is a pretty quick read considering it’s about 350 pages. The blurbs on the back promise “expert storytelling,” and I suppose it is. The storytelling is good enough to make me wonder how heavily Quinones selected for stuff that would make a good story, while other stuff, equally true and relevant, but less dramatic, got discarded along the way. Quinones focuses on the marketing of OxyContin as a safe prescription drug, its subsequent abuse, the spread of a new means of dealing black tar heroin, and the connection between these, telling the tale of several colorful characters along the way.

To Quinones, the spread of opiate use to white America – not just to impoverished “rust belt” regions, but also to the offspring of the wealthy, managerial class – is fraught with moral meaning, though perhaps contradictory moral meaning. Heroin tempts us when we’re too wealthy, when we’re too poor, because we feel entitled to pain relief, because we don’t feel entitled to stop when it hurts but instead succumb to pressure to tough it out by any means necessary; it tempts us when we’re underwhelmed by life, it tempts us when we’re overwhelmed… Opiates are both the new party drug and the new drug of social isolation… Addiction is simultaneously a moral indictment of American consumerist excess during the pre-crash boom, a testament to post-crash misery, and an illness which deserves less moral stigma than it gets. Forgive me for suspecting at times that, to Quinones, opiates serve mostly as a random moral generator.

Which isn’t to say Dreamland is a bad book. There seems to be plenty of impressive journalism in here, crime journalism especially, although the science journalism falls rather short: there are multiple errors in describing how drugs are metabolized; in describing the drugs derived from the opium poppy (in particular, using “the morphine molecule” as shorthand for all of them); and sometimes there’s just illiterate wording, like calling what’s not statistical mechanics “statistical mechanics” or calling a lumbar sprain “a sprained lumbar” (a sprained lumbar… what?). Still, for someone like me – someone who uses opioids conservatively as part of a pain-management regimen, considering them a not-very-fun occasional treatment reserved for pain that inhibits productivity even more than being doped up would – Dreamland is a tour of a world Quinones, if his story is to be believed, claims I could easily have become a part of, yet haven’t.

Will Any Ideas to Help Rust Belt Workers Really Do the Trick?


British journalist and think-tanker Gavin Kelly blogs about the various calls to “compensate the losers” from globalization (though he acknowledges automation as the more important macro trend). And Kelly finds the answers lacking any systemic approach and failing to provide an overarching policy regime. More of a unsatisfying jumble, with many ideas on the moldy side. Policies that promote geographic mobility, re-skilling, and a more robust safety net may have merit but hardly add up to a “big idea.”

And whatever their substantive merits, Kelly argues that you “can’t fight big lies like ‘mines will be re-opened’ or ‘manufacturing jobs re-shored’ with small pledges to retrain displaced workers.”

Of course Kelly himself trots out the hardly novel idea of greater infrastructure investment, though with an emphasis on judging projects on more than just their cost-benefit analysis. So a bit of a twist: Where the money is spent should be a key consideration. He refers to the work of economist Diane Coyle, who wrote thusly in the Financial Times about the infrastructure ideas of then-Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborn: