Wednesday, December 7, 2016

New Analysis Shows Clinton Took Bulk Of Economically Productive Counties - Trumpies Shouldn't Count On Jobs

"In brief, the white working class rather consistently puts a gun to its (as well as our) head. As an ethnic class, it's economically irrational. "Trump Turning to Ultrawealthy to Steer Economic Policy," screams an above-the-fold NYT headline this morning — an act as predictable any other Trumpian con. Trickle-down conservative elitism has been hustled as a poor man's populism for decades, with predictably ruinous effect. And the suckers took the bait again."- P.M. Carpenter, on smirkingchimp. com

Newly released findings assembled by the Brookings Institution show that Hillary Clinton captured 500 U.S. counties that delivered 64 percent of the GDP over the past year. By contrast, Trump took  2,600 counties but all these in concert delivered barely 36 percent of similar economic activity. The takeaway is that Clinton won every large size economic county in the nation. This is unprecedented in the era of modern economic statistics for a losing candidate.

According to a Denver Post account of the anomaly (Nov. 26, p. 15A) "it has not been the case that the counties Clinton won have grown richer at the expense of the rest of the country. Rather they represent the same share of the economy they did in 2000."

But compared with Gore then, Hillary Clinton "was much more successful in winning over the most successful counties in a geographically unbalanced economy."

The Brooking analysis reported in the Post found that "counties with higher GDP per capita were more likely to vote for Clinton over Trump, as were counties with higher population densities."

Meanwhile, counties with higher shares of manufacturing employment were more likely to vote for Trump - as we saw in the case of Ohio, Michigan, and Pennsylvania. According to Mark Muro, the policy director for the Brookings Metro program:

"This is a picture of a very polarized and increasingly concentrated economy with the Democratic base aligning more to the more concentrated modern economy, but a lot of votes and anger in the rest of the country."

The seething anger and sense of grievance was perhaps underestimated by those of us in the "blue states" but The Economist put it in perspective a year ago (Dec. 5, 2015, p. 30)::

"The anxiety Trump supporters betray by looking for scapegoats says most, of course, about themselves. Typically members of the white lower middle class, they are at once jealous of the small privileges that distinguish them from the toilers below, and bitterly resentful of the faraway government that provides their Social Security, VA care and Medicare.

Remonstrating in hard times, they are the "radical centre" in academic jargon, who turned out before for George Wallace, a populist southern Democrat who ran for President four times in the 1960s and 70s."

The article then identifies the iconic Trump supporter of this "radical center" with a character  from a John Updike novel named Rabbit Angstrom "from whose flabby mouth dripped endless expressions of impotence, anger and glum humor...having retired to Florida to nurse his disappointment".

Interestingly, this fits perfectly the mold of alienated blue collar worker described by Thomas Frank in his 'What's The Matter With Kansas?' , also pointing out how and why the Democrats began looking past the working class and its interests to focus on the shrinking middle class alone.  If any one major error of the Dems could be named, this was it.

Not everyone agrees, such as Christian Rightist NY Times scribe Russ Douthat, who I've pilloried before. He proposed in a recent column ('Can The Democrats Move To The Right?) that  the Dems lost the election because they were too far left on too many issues. His solution?  The party needs to move back toward the Right as it did in the good ol' days of the DLC and Clinton administration.

Thomas Frank's point as well as others (Michael Tomasky, American Prospect 'Dem's Fightin' Words') is this never works because working class folk will always veer to the real Right party - if they do put moralistic and other issues over their own economic self interest, as they so often do.

Douthat's prescription of moralistic distraction plays right into this template, warning the Dems spent overly much time defending Transgender restrooms and not enough on moral standards the working class seeks. He further writes:

"Without backing away from their support for same-sex marriage and legal abortion, leading Democratic politicians could talk more favorably about moral and religious pluralism,
and offer reassurances to people who feel themselves to be dissenters from a very novel cultural regime.

Democrats could also talk anew about the virtues of earned benefits, about programs that help people who help themselves, about moving people from welfare back to work. "

The trouble is that none of this will work for the Dems, just as Trump's "make America great again" won't. As the Brookings study observes, "manufacturers have grown substantially more productive in recent years, meaning they won't be adding millions of workers- even if Trump pursues major changes in trade policy".

In other words, the unemployed factory workers who voted for Trump basically voted for a pig in the poke.  The cows have already escaped the barn and there's no way to get them back in no matter how much bluster and bombast Trump displays in his tweets. Productivity dependent manufacturers who are now content with more automated processes, robots etc. are simply not going to hire back workers for whom they have to cough up benefits.  As for the Carrier (United Technologies) deal, that was a farce purchased with $700m worth of state subsidized corporate welfare. Is The Donald really going to try to replicate that thousands of times over? I don't think so.

Besides, it entices any corporation to use economic blackmail to try to exert leverage: "Hey, Donald, we're planning to move 6,000 jobs to Mexico. Whatcha got for us?"

Since the Trump voters did, evidently, vote their pocketbooks this cycle - despite the fact that 'train' already left the productivity station - there is no moralistic tune the Dems can sing that will bring them back into the Dem fold. What the Dems need to do is what they always do - or should - belabor the point of how many Democratic programs Trumpies need and depend upon, including Obamacare, Medicaid, and Medicare.

And drum that into their heads until it's clear!

What CAN Trump do in order to respond to his voters who are experiencing economic pain? The Brookings gurus suggest "Trump could promote policies to help those areas adapt more rapidly to the changing economy."  In other words, get those forlorn folks new training opportunities, say to learn coding or maybe even indoor plumbing. Skills, in other words, that can always be put to use.

He can also get a leash on his mad dogs, like Tom Price (R, GA),  to hold off on being so ready to kill Obamacare, and Medicaid for over 14 million folks, of which it is estimated 60 percent are Trump voters.  As Paul Krugman observed, these people will now learn how "short, nasty and brutish" life can be under the Trump Dominion.

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