Whatever Happened to Natchez? How to End the Nightmare of Jobless America

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Yves here. It is frustrating to watch the refusal of the officialdom to deal with a persistent, high level of unemployment. Ronald Reagan was more concerned and more aggressive when unemployment breached 8%. By contrast, pundits provide excuses for the Administration’s passivity by blaming joblessness on structural unemployment, when various studies have debunked that (one simple proof: if unemployment were structural, you’d expect to see tight job markets in some sectors/job types and slack in others, but when you cut the data, you find high unemployment across the board).

This article helps to puncture some of the misperceptions about unemployment in America and provides some practical ideas.

By Louis A. Ferleger. a professor of history and director of the graduate program at Boston University, and Jacob M. Magid, a graduate student in economics at Boston University. Cross posted from Alternet.

Over the last six months, reports of the faltering U.S. jobs market have inundated the media. Last Friday's bleak numbers showed unemployment ticking up a tenth of a point, from 8.1 percent to 8.2 percent. But largely absent from the discussion are the American cities where the jobs crisis is nothing new — areas that have been experiencing an ongoing unemployment nightmare since well before the financial crash.

We can call them America’s "dead zones" —metropolitan and micropolitan areas where the unemployment rate has been at least 2 percentage points higher than the national average for five, 10 or 20 years.

Conventional wisdom assumes that economically distressed areas exist only in inner-city slums or rural backwaters. But dead zones, although plagued by persistent high unemployment, rarely fit those stereotypes. Rather, they come in all shapes and sizes; these cities are not necessarily crime-ridden or poverty-stricken. In fact, many dead zones have median incomes at or even above the national average. Instead, they share sustained, and in many cases are begrudgingly resigned to, high unemployment rates regardless of the national business cycle.

In general, between 25-35 percent of their residents’ incomes are provided by government aid, compared to 17 percent nationwide. Between 25-40 percent live on $30,000 a year or less. The workforce in most dead zones has a low education level, with more than 50 percent possessing just a high-school degree or less. Most jobs in dead zones are in low-end service industries, especially retail. Such jobs offer few prospects for upward mobility or skill enhancement.

A few dead zones are on the right track, while others are clearly headed down the wrong track. Shining a spotlight on five specific cases gives us clues to the scope of the predicament, and also potential solutions. We'll compare Henderson, North Carolina; Seneca, South Carolina; and Kokomo, Indiana with dead zones that seem doomed to further stagnation – Hanford, California and Natchez, Mississippi.

Inside Jobless America

1. Henderson, North Carolina

For more than 20 years, Henderson, population 43,000, has watched jobs vanish. The tobacco, cotton and textile industries once made it a thriving community, but for the last few decades the city’s main industries have been in distributional warehousing, low-end manufacturing and retail trade. Henderson’s median income has plunged by 9 percent over the past decade to stand at $45,000, the national average. Because of its poorly educated work force, Henderson sends few workers to nearby higher-education institutions like the University of North Carolina and Duke, or to Research Triangle Park, the high-tech hub located between Chapel Hill, Durham and Raleigh.

2. Natchez, Mississippi

Natchez has a lot in common with Henderson. Hugging the border with Louisiana along the Mississippi River, it was once a center for cotton, trade and textiles. Old South wealth settled in the area, and even today more than 200 antebellum structures remain standing. But today's Natchez has experienced high joblessness levels for 20 years. The 49,000 residents have a median income of $29,000, which is 11 percent less than a decade ago. In 2003, the already struggling city suffered a major loss when three companies shut down: International Paper Plant, Armstrong Tire and Johns Manville, a construction-supplies producer. Natchez now promotes itself as a retirement community and relies mainly on tourism, medical and retail industries, as well as a local casino and prisons.

3. Hanford, California

With 148,000 permanent residents, Hanford has had high unemployment for over two decades. The city’s median income is right at the national average, about the same as it was 10 years ago. Here, the primary employers are prisons, seasonal agriculture, the Lemoore Naval Base, a small Indian casino (located about 10 miles away), and two large firms: Del Monte (a canning plant) and Marquez Brothers (a cheese producer). As with other dead zones in the Southwest, Hanford’s economy depends on migrant workers. One area of strength is that Hanford provides the only major shopping center within 40 miles. Here again, however, low-paying retail work is the norm, with few opportunities for upward mobility.

4. Seneca, South Carolina

This very rural community of 71,000 residents has seen high levels of unemployment over the last decade. Its median household income is $41,000, down 13 percent from 10 years ago. Similar to Natchez and Henderson, Seneca was originally a textile town. Here, the influence of the textile industry was considerable—residents relied on the mills for everything from running schools to maintaining stores. The construction of Hartwell Dam in 1962 created two artificial lakes, which have made the area a self-described haven for retirees and recreational tourism. These lakes also led to the construction of the Oconee Nuclear Station in 1974. Small to midsize factories producing automotive and industrial parts comprise the rest of the local economy.

5. Kokomo, Indiana

The 98,000 people who live in Kokomo have historically relied on the automotive industry to provide good jobs. Chrysler operated four plants, and several suppliers of auto parts and materials also had factories in the area. For many years, young people who graduated high school could look forward to jobs at these local plants. So they had little incentive to pursue higher education, even though the city boasts four universities (Indiana University Kokomo, Purdue School of Technology, Indiana Wesleyan University, and Ivy Tech Community College). Though Kokomo’s median income is right around the national average, it is down 16 percent from a decade earlier. The city’s workforce was hit hard by the recession of 2008 and the subsequent Chrysler plant closings. Over the last five-plus years, unemployment has climbed steadily.

These cities illustrate the economic diversity of the over 200 dead zones in the U.S. But they also suggest that distressed areas have more similarities than differences. For example, many dead zones present themselves as destinations for tourists and retirees, and like Natchez, hope to create an image of this sector as a “renewable industry.” But tourism remains extremely sensitive to changes in tastes and macroeconomic conditions (as is the case in Las Vegas, where high unemployment has recently become the norm). It also tends to create low-skilled service jobs that offer almost no prospect for upward mobility.

Dead zones are often home to military bases, casinos and prisons—industries that demand very little skilled labor, and like retail and government work, offer few opportunities for workforce advancement and job growth. The single industry commonly found in dead zones that provides opportunities for advancement is medical services. But even here, the jobs in greatest demand tend to be in lower-paying occupations.

The overwhelming majority of dead zones have been economically distressed for decades. But in the cases of Henderson, Kokomo and Seneca, they have started to work with economic development organizations on programs that focus on improving local job prospects.

What Goes Right

Henderson, for example, created Triangle Park North in 2005 with three surrounding counties. This initiative includes sharing the costs of developing and marketing industrial parks in each of the counties. The hope is to provide manufacturing services for the nearby Research Triangle. The effort has begun to pay off, as a solar-panel manufacturer and an EMS-vehicle firm have recently announced plans to move to the area.

Dead zones differ in their approach to education and workforce training. In Kokomo, the days of 24-hour production and 15,000-plant workers are gone. A new business model has emerged that focuses on encouraging advanced, specialized manufacturers to relocate to the area. To that end, the Greater Kokomo Economic Development Alliance started working with local colleges and technical schools to retrain workers. This initiative has led to record enrollments, supporting the area’s education industry while simultaneously creating a more skilled workforce.

Seneca faces a very different challenge: a general lack of infrastructure. Here the Oconee County Economic Development Group has tried to attract businesses by highlighting its strengths: a stable local workforce and very low costs. In addition, a program was started that reaches out to students as early as eighth grade to begin career planning. Older workers who have recently lost their jobs are also attending classes at the local community college and enrolling in retraining programs in new fields.

Rodney Hollingsworth was laid off after more than 30 years of working in the construction industry in the Seneca area. With construction jobs scare, he decided to return to school and applied to the Goodwill and Tri-County certified nurse aide (CNA) program. After completing 92 hours of training plus an additional CPR class, and passing the CNA state certification exam, he was offered an interview for a part-time job by the head nurse at Clemson Downs Retirement Center. Having already cared for both his father and mother-in-law, who had recently succumbed to cancer, he knew this was the career path for him. Within three months, he was working full-time.

Rodney’s story is an example of local businesses and non-profits partnering up to tailor educational programs for specific needs. In Seneca, the plant manager for auto-parts manufacturer BorgWarner has been working with the superintendent of public schools as well as the directors of the local technical colleges to design programs that will enhance students’ employment prospects in advanced manufacturing. In fact, Seneca was recently honored at South Carolina's 20th Annual Industry Appreciation Week for its business-government partnerships.

In Kokomo, Chrysler recently announced a $1 billion investment plan to make the city the center for manufacturing certain car parts. The city has partnered with local colleges and even high-school career centers to ensure a steady supply of qualified electrical engineers and other technical workers.

In Henderson, when a new company moves to the area, the Henderson-Vance County Economic Development Commission schedules a meeting with representatives from local community colleges to determine what programs might be needed to support the enterprise. At Vance Granville Community College, administrators work on instituting and implementing customizable training services for the company’s workforce; they also created a new five-year program in which students can earn a high-school degree and an associate degree simultaneously. As a result, high school drop-out rates have fallen and new bio-tech labs have been established.

Business-government partnerships are only one part of what needs to be done to reduce the staggering number of dead zones. In Kokomo, even with a new business model, the economy remains heavily dependent on automotive manufacturing, so city leaders are now focusing on diversifying production to other industries; recently they have attracted a cabinet-making firm from Kansas.

Moreover, the city has created a commercial incubator, Inventrek, to nurture small businesses. After the automotive-electronics firm Delphi laid off 300 of its lowest-skilled engineers in Kokomo in 2008, the Economic Development Alliance partnered with a venture-capital firm, Purdue and Indiana Universities, Inventrek and the local community to create an engineering contract company, Neupath, which farms these workers out to different projects. Funded in part by a WIRED (Workforce Innovation in Regional Economic Development) grant from the U.S. Department of Labor, this new company enables qualified and experienced engineers to continue working in their fields without having to relocate. Not only does Neupath provide work for recently laid-off laborers, it also serves as a database for future employers looking to hire full-time. Kokomo’s mayor, Greg Goodnight, recently said, "Private-public partnerships are what move this community forward."

What Goes Wrong

Unfortunately, Henderson, Kokomo and Seneca are the exception rather than the rule among dead zones. Too many places, from Atlantic City to Branson, Missouri rely heavily on tourism as their major industry. Some places, like Hanford, still have not put in place a proactive economic-development program. Too many others have weak or nonexistent chambers of commerce (they mostly serve as directories for local businesses) and political leaders who lack the wherewithal to develop and promote programs to reduce unemployment. Other cities, such as Natchez, lack developmental resources—their local economic-development group, Natchez Inc., has only three staff members, all hired in 2010. They have had some success, attracting businesses like Elevance Renewable Sciences and InterSteel, but they have failed to put in place a comprehensive vision for Natchez’s future. They are now trying to promote industries as varied as tourism, forestry and chemical manufacturing.

Developmental initiatives take time to plan, implement and realize results. It is unlikely that outside resources—particularly from the federal government—will be available to boost employment in the near future. As evidenced by Kokomo and Seneca, economic-development programs can have a major impact. Both areas have seen significant reductions in unemployment since 2009 when they implemented such programs: from 14.7 percent to 9.9 percent in 2011 in Kokomo, and from 13.4 percent to 10.2 percent over the same time period in Seneca. Natchez and Henderson, on the other hand, have had proactive initiatives in place for a year and have not yet seen significant changes. Hanford, where the jobless rate sits at 16 percent, clearly shows that when no initiatives are taken, unemployment will remain high.

All dead zones, however, still face large obstacles. In Kokomo’s case, nothing could have prepared it for the mass layoffs of 2008-'09, nor could anything have saved it short of a full-fledged government bailout of Chrysler. But WIRED grants, plus local commitments, can make a difference. It remains the case, however, that state and federal aid is often both too slow and too scattered, minimizing its impact. Thus the onus for action falls to the local level, precisely where the fewest resources are available. Initiatives such as the workforce-retraining programs in Seneca and Henderson provide one potential model. Proactive business-government partnerships, education and training programs geared to specific labor force needs, and diversifying local economies hold the key to an America free of dead zones.

 

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86 comments

  1. psychohistorian

    I really appreciate the depth of this reporting. It is a stark look at the late stage death of middle America that has been shipped off to foreign countries to profit the owners of the American countries working against the interests of the public that is blinded to their fate by the propaganda machines.

    I am not defending nationalism here either. The 99% around the world need to step back and look at the strings controlling the world leaders. These folks are telling you austerity is the only path because they are paid to push this solution.

    I really like what I am seeing out of Canada where they are simply, but loudly, demanding a public discussion of social & economic policy. What a concept. Think of what could be learned and discussed.

    1. Beshiva

      WHEREAS the federal government belongs to all the people, and WHEREAS the federal government creates all of the dollar currency used by all the people, and WHEREAS all of the dollar currency so created belongs to the public commons until it is deposited in a commercial bank, and WHEREAS the federal government can provide funding to employ the unemployed in productive work, and WHEREAS all the people benefit from being gainfully employed in a highly productive economy, and WHEREAS the federal government can control currency inflation by raising federal taxes if needed; BE IT THEREFORE RESOLVED, that the federal government will create for deposit in state treasuries the amount of public commons currency dollars needed to fully support state job programs that provide productive employment at a living wage to all citizens willing and able to work, and BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that said federal job program will be utilized whenever the national unemployment rate is over 5%, and BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that whenever the national consumer price index (CPI) rises above 5%, a 1% surtax on adjusted gross income will be paid by all citizens until the CPI returns to 5% or less.

    2. K Ackermann

      I don’t see anti-globalization as being nationalistic (in the fascist sense).

      I’m fine with globalization as long as it doesn’t work against the people. Globalization as it stands now is largely about labor arbitrage.

      I don’t think the average person on the street understands how damaging globalization is to the US. Death by a thousand cuts.

      Lou Dobbs and all those right wing pinheads harp on illegal immigration from one side of their mouthes, and praise globalization out the other. An illegal immigrant still participates in our economy, and does so at a greater rate than they are given credit for. They spend the majority of their pay right here.

      Contrast that to a job lost to China. First, the US worker goes on the rolls to get his unemployment checks. Second, how much money will that newly hired Chinese employee spend in America? That’s a pretty big swing in the columns. What the hell good is a $4.00 pair of workboots if there is no place to wear them?

      Honestly… who sends more money out of the US – illegal aliens, or Walmart? Walmart stocks their shelves in China.

        1. furiouscalves

          right now a cause for concern should be the labor arbitrage that is happening between states within our borders. a beggar thy neighbor approach to job creation is happening with state tax credits on one hand and companies preying on high unemployment areas to lower overall employee costs on the other.

          states that are not playing this game will be tomorrows high unemployment areas. and the areas that are playing this game will lack tax revenue both from corp. and individual taxes and will always be held hostage by the corporations. this is one area that i think may need to be cooperative on the national level for any good to come from this.

          1. LeonovaBalletRusse

            Precisely. “The road to Bangladesh” in William K. Black’s phrase. Tax and labor arbitrage deals between the Corporate 1% and their Agents at the top of the Economics + Politics food chain in each State run the race to the bottom for the U.S. Workers are pawns in this race to national oblivion. But hey, “the South shall rise again” as the power of the nation-state is drowned in the bathtub of traitors promoting 1% DNA Lebensraum in the Homeland, while the Security State enforces the “efficient” ultra-conservative rules of the Nobility Reich.

        2. Klassy!

          Wow. Some interview. That Laura Tyson is quite the corporate shill. Charlie Rose gave no respect to Goldsmith’s argument. That despite the fact he was a wealthy capitalist and had a plummy accent. That should be worth a few ass kisses in Charlie’s world.

        3. F. Beard

          I’ll add that if workers were paid with common stock then they too would have benefited from overseas labor.

          It all goes back to the banks, the means by which the most so-called “credit-worthy” loot the rest of population.

        4. Wat Tyler

          Speaking of Charlie Rose. He was raised in Henderson NC – one of the towns featured in this article. And educated at Duke Law School.

      1. stripes

        We need to ask ourselves if globalization has achieved anything good or positive in the world except to benefit the 1%? Many secrets, deceptions and lies have been used as tools to rob us of our wealth and jobs….All of the ATIONS and ISMS have been used as part of the uber wealthy Globalists as a methodology, TRICKS….based on a Globalist ideology masked by innocent sounding “progressive” names and catch phrases like “moving forward” and “hope and change”….”yes we can,” MONEY LENDING and INVESTMENT, etc…. These tricky phrases have been used very deceptively to steal our freedom life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness..all of the wealth and prosperity away from the 99%.

      2. jonboinAR

        K Ackerman: “I don’t think the average person on the street understands how damaging globalization is to the US. Death by a thousand cuts.”

        From my reading and understanding, very shallow compared to many of y’all’s, that’s a great deal of the recession/chronic-unemployment problem for the US, in a nutshell. Our flippin’ factories are gone!

    3. KnotRP

      From Wikipedia:

      > Structural unemployment is a form of unemployment resulting
      > from a mismatch between demand in the labour market and the
      > skills and locations of the workers seeking employment.

      Economists only seem to use the term for mismatches in skills and insist there is no structural problem because the job losses are evenly spread across skills, when the rest of us know that what we have here is a 100% mismatch in location (globalized labor).

  2. Warren Celli

    From the article’s close; “Proactive business-government partnerships, education and training programs geared to specific labor force needs, and diversifying local economies hold the key to an America free of dead zones.”

    How about instead;

    Proactive election boycotts, education and training programs geared to a rewrite of the Constitution that satisfies the needs of the people, and making local economies self sustainable hold the key to an America free of dead zones intentionally created by a herd thinning global self anointed aberrant elite.

    Deception is the strongest political force on the planet.

  3. i

    Two factors not mentioned here. The first is outsourcing and the laws that make outsourcing attractive. As long as other companies have a lower wage-price structure, this continues. The second, more pernicious, is the “no regulation” craziness that seems to prevail now.

    Look, without rules, or the manipulation of tax money, or outright grants of government money, there can be no government-private partnership, no positive action to fix local economic problems. The conservatives want the government to do nothing, but somehow want government help at the same time.

    1. Stratos

      They want the government to do something alright…they want the government to expand pernicious wars around the globe so that they can pocket more profits. Many US citizens would be shocked at the number and identity of corporations that profit from multiple theaters of war.

      Most people think only of arms manufacturers, or “services” companies like Haliburton. Other war profiteers include big name fast food corps, clothing manufacturers and tech companies.

      These same companies are howling for government divestment of public education, gutting social security and medicare. The public’s money spent for the public benefit means less for those self styled Amirs of Avarice.

      1. knowbuddhau

        I hear that. In Pepe Escobar’s memorable phrase, it’s the Pentagonization of US life.

        PEPE ESCOBAR, SENIOR ANALYST: We’re back with Tom Engelhardt and Nick Turse of TomDispatch.com. Nick, question to you. You wrote an absolutely extraordinary book, The Complex: How the Military Invades Our Everyday Lives [http://www.nickturse.com/books.html]. You describe Americans being subjected to, I quote you, “a military-industrial-technological-entertainment-scientific-media-intelligence-corporate complex.” In other words, this is the Matrix, and we’re all inside it, and we’re under its spell. How do you explain, briefly of course, how does this complex works? And how does it interfere with our everyday lives all the time?

        NICK TURSE, TOMDISPATCH.COM: Well, I mean, you know, back in Eisenhower’s day, the military-industrial complex really didn’t extend far beyond the, you know, Lockheed factory floor. This was, you know, the major weapons dealers, armaments manufacturers, and the mega-corporations like, say, General Motors. Now, today, Lockheed, Boeing, they’re still the largest of military contractors, and, you know, GM still plays a part in these big mega-corporations. But today, you know, the Pentagon has tentacles that extend far beyond that. They’ve gone into�they’re just about every sector of American life. So, you know, the contractors today include, you know, such well-known civilian firms as Apple and Starbucks, and, you know, even down to, you know, small restaurants, catfish restaurants, or religious stores. At this point, you know, there’s somewhere around 100,000 or more, you know, at least, subcontractors on the Pentagon payroll.

        ESCOBAR: Tell me about the research that went into your book, because it’s incredibly detailed. Were you tracking basically what newsletters the American media for the past five years or so [inaudible]?

        TURSE: Well, you know, Tom kind of alluded to this. I’m [sic] used a lot of open-source information. You know, there’s a lot of this spread around the mainstream media. It’s in the last paragraph of newspaper stories or buried in the, you know, pubic relations literature from these corporations who are Pentagon contractors. And, actually, the Department of Defense itself puts a lot of information out there. They bury it in websites. They produce a lot of propaganda. But if you look beyond, you know, the spin out of extremely useful information, and then the trick of it is to try to put it together in some coherent way so you can tese out the real stories.

        ESCOBAR: So you would say that American life is totally Pentagonized.

        TURSE: Yeah. There’s been a real militarization of the entire society and the economy, but not one that people realize. You know, there aren’t, you know, parades with tanks rolling down the street and guys in uniform, but this is going on covertly. It’s in the pop culture, in the hottest movies�last year, Transformers, the movie, a huge blockbuster hit, major Pentagon influence; this year, Ironman. They find ways to infiltrate the American mainstream culture. [Emphasis added. The Pentagonization of US life. Pepe Escobar, The Real News Network. July 20, 2008. http://therealnews.com/t2/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=767&Itemid=74&jumival=1912.

  4. Michael Harris, Chancellor IUK

    The keys for prosperity and economic development are: 1. Enhance and advance the idea of regionalism and Regional Transformation 2. Advance “Triple Helix” Business, Higher Education and Government partnershp. 3. Be innovative and maximize opportunities . Chancellor Michael Harris IU Kokomo .

    1. Aquifer

      Tweak that to bio-regionalism, include integrating organic agriculture as local food suppliers and aim toward self sustainability to the extent possible – with one industry’s “waste” as the resources for another in a self sustaining loop with minimum necessary input from outside your region and you will have gone a long way to fortifying your region against the fickle vagaries of “the market” ….

      1. Susan the other

        Good suggestion. Local food production for a local market is a good bedrock for the economy. It opens up all sorts of co-op opportunities like Farm Share, etc.

        The tone of this article is encouraging, but without bedrock economic security, even the cleverest partnerships are at risk of being sent to China, or imported out of business. First things first: write new trade laws.

    2. LeonovaBalletRusse

      The “Triple Helix” is code for something dark. Check out the implications of the “Triple Helix” for the Volk driving Christian Confederate Nobility “efficiencies” for the Global Reich at Research Triangle Park. Chapel Hill/Durham/Reilly triangulation for the Reich began with “Burroughs-Wellcome” largesse in the “New” Old South. King George has the last laugh in the Anglo-sphere of the Corporate Confederacy, working the caste system of “work” in the New Raj.

    3. Hugh

      The way to prosperity and economic development requires that we first dismantle the current kleptocracy.

      I also agree with LBR. The Triple Helix changes the mission of universities from the social good of creating informed citizens to serving as the producer of cheap, indebted labor for corporations, with government serving a similar corporate facilitating function.

  5. Ep3

    First complaint. Use of 3 cities that were once textile centric and only one auto town. And who has ever heard of kokomo? Any city in Michigan would have been a better choice.

  6. Expat

    It’s time to beef up Milton Friedman’s only GOOD idea: a basic income for everyone. Friedman, M. (1966) “The case for the negative income tax: a view from the right,” in J. Bunzel (ed.), Issues of American Public Policy. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice Hall.

    If the people in power are considerate of others, they maximize their own freedom. So it’s a matter of “freedom” versus “power.”

    1. VictorDH

      Already exists for some poor people:

      It’s called the earned income credit and the per child tax credit. The more kids you have, the more you exempt from taxes. The people that have the most kids are usally–except for Mitt and Santorum–the lowest income, therefore we all get to subsize their superior genes in reproduction.

      About the “taxes” paid by “ilegals” (Two lls means censored by Google)), yes they do pay social security taxes but they also collect the per child credit for children back home.

  7. eeyores enigma

    The only reason oil has come down a bit is because the developed world has a record % of the population not working.

    Get a higher % of the population working and oil will resume it’s relentless climb to unaffordable heights further depressing the economy destroying more jobs.

    What we need to figure out is how to do less without just outright killing off the population from the bottom of the economic food chain on up.

      1. F. Beard

        By, say, pulling carbon from the air, hydrogen from water, energy from thorium and making our own oil in a carbon neutral manner?

          1. James

            Yes, always “the hope” isn’t it? Unfortunately, nature doesn’t operate on hope, now does it?

          2. Nathanael

            The problem is that the fossil fuel industries and the free market worshippers and the thieves have meant that we do what’s “cheaper” in the short run rather than what will save humanity from extinction.

  8. Susan the other

    I dawned on me last night that the US has failed to export its brand of capitalism to the giant markets of Asia. I think it is because Asians actually have functioning government policies. Corruption notwithstanding. What’s China gonna do if its economy does a face plant? Chaos would reign. It’s kinda impossible to run an economy solely for the rich anywhere. Our experiment with big corporations in partnership with the federal government didn’t achieve anything except a really angry and disenfranchised population. And a totally polluted and toxic planet. Those supercilious twits.

    1. James

      Susan,

      It JUST dawned? Thank goodness that it DID at least. You’re one up on the 99.9% already.

    2. Nathanael

      You’re absolutely right. When something goes wrong in the Chinese economy… the Premier steps in and issues edicts to attempt to fix the problem. And occasionally executes someone.

      They don’t have this insane market ideology that we have over here; they’d laugh at it.

  9. F. Beard

    The population has been dispossessed and disemployed with their own stolen purchasing power by the banks and the so-called “credit-worthy”.

    That’s the root cause of our economic problems.

    Banks have been hated for centuries but we are too dumb to get rid of them or too corrupt to want to?

      1. F. Beard

        “Loans create deposits” – for the so-called “credit-worthy”. The purchasing power for those new deposits comes from the savings of everyone else including the workers.

        See a problem there?

      2. Warren Celli

        Andrew hartman said: “once again, could you explain what you are talking about?”

        What Baird leaves out is that the creation of credit is in the hands of the few, the VERY FEW who have corruptly gained their privileged status by buying the government, i.e., the banks. With that power to create credit — loans — the banks then, in God like fashion, favor only those those that they deem are “credit worthy”. In so doing they alone determine what gets funded, who gets the loans, and therefore the future of us all.

        But that is not the root cause of our ‘economic’ problems. It is but one symptom. The root cause is the across the board failure in our aggregate human morality.

        Deception is the strongest political force on the planet.

        1. andrew hartman

          to f. beard and mr. celli: i thought the problem with the banks in recent years
          was granting credit–creating deposits–to and for people who WEREN’T
          credit worthy.

          1. Warren Celli

            Stop listening to talk radio and those kind of thoughts will eventually disappear.

            Deception is the strongest political force on the planet.

          2. F. Beard

            No one is credit worthy from a moral viewpoint since credit creation steals purchasing power.

  10. Blurtman

    Laura Tyson worked (works?) at the Berkeley Roundtable on the International Economy (BRIE), an ostensibly academic think tank that is in reality a shill for industry. They attempt to establish expertise through the writing of white papers and then whore themselves out to industry as consultants. She is an attractive empty suit.

    One of my biggest disapponitments when attending UC Berkeley, was realizing how wrong, as time has shown, folks Like Tyson and even worse, Janet Yellen, actually were and are.

    1. Ms G

      In other words, Laura Tyson is the “think tank/consultant” analog of the Gladwells and Levitts in the (also) pseudo-academic sphere that Yasha Levine’s project has started to “undress.”

      Thanks for the post — good blueprint for a S.H.A.M.E. II (the policy shills in “academia”) dossier.

    2. Patriot

      I attended Berkeley and had similar experiences. All the nice establishment liberals were so multi-cultural and supportive of gay rights; while at the same time embracing the vicious (and wrong) neo-liberal economic model. They just felt a little bad about the outcomes, so they wanted to put in their time at non-profits, or donate to their buddies who were working at one. But in the end they did little or nothing to stop the disastrous course of American economic policy. I would argue that they made it worse, because they absorbed all the well intentioned, talented young students who came to Berkeley intent on learning how to change the world for the better– and instead, learned to accept the neo-liberal dogma, just with a nice, shiny multi-cultural face.

      1. Ms G

        Exactly! It was a Great Diversion where liberal guilt swamped brains of campus students (across the country, I might add) to focus on things that made them feel “kinda bad” and blocked any ability to critically examine the economic-power structures that made the world go around.

        Later, do-gooder issue-mania was replaced with no-holds barred narcissistic diversions such as customizable consumer goods, from coffee variations to endless tweaking of self-image in self-reflecting techno pools (ipods, ipads, iphones, etc. etc.)

        Some of us woke up eventually, in that real world of paychecks and depressing paystubs!

  11. VictorDH

    Don’t know about the other areas but I do know Hanford.
    How can you expect wages to be anywhere but rock bottom when you have an endless stream of human ants coming north from Mexico and Guatemala?

    These poor people have no incentive to spend money locally, but rather hoard it to send home via Western Union. They live on castaway furniture, clothing, cars left by departing relatives…in short, they buy nothing but gas and food which has no sales tax in California.
    You cannot have an endless stream of “immigrants” in a community and expect there to be livable wages.

    Amnesty? They’ll still send most of their money home but
    would then qualify for welfare and food stamps.

    Seal the Mexican border then start the conversation about raising wages and living standards for Americans.

    1. F. Beard

      Except for the counterfeiting cartel, the banking system, then most of the US population would be rich enough to welcome foreign labor, not resent it.

      The banks caused this problem but everything else from autos to poor immigrants is being scape-goated.

      Leviticus 19:34
      The stranger who resides with you shall be to you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt; I am the LORD your God.

      Deuteronomy 10:18
      He executes justice for the orphan and the widow, and shows His love for the alien by giving him food and clothing.

      Deuteronomy 10:19
      So show your love for the alien, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt.

      1. psychohistorian

        Think of how meaningful these sentiments would be if they were coming from you directly instead of out of some book.

      2. Karl

        You bible thumpers love Mexicans because they are blindly obedient, breed and hand money to the church.

        House a family of immigrants in your basement and then we’ll believe in your opinions.

      3. rps

        “Deuteronomy 10:19 So show your love for the alien, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt”

        Uh, gotta correct you on that. That’s a quote from the character Ra from the 1994 movie “Stargate” with Kurt Russell and James Spader. Fun FANTASY flick. Hey, maybe the idea came from another fictional book worshipped by the masses

      4. rps

        “Leviticus 19:34 The stranger who resides with you shall be to you as the native among you…. I am the LORD your God.”

        Geez, don’t know how to break this to you Beard?, but yep!, another movie quote from either the 1956 “The Body Snatchers” with Kevin McCarthy and Dana Wynter. Or maybe you saw the 1978 remake with Jeff Goldblum and Donald Sutherland–awesome actors. As a kid it was scary to go to sleep worrying if my parents would sneak in with a great big seed pod.

        Obviously, you are a lover of extraterrestrial SCI-FI

      5. rps

        “Deuteronomy 10:18 He executes justice for the orphan and the widow, and shows His love for the alien by giving him food and clothing.”

        I’m wondering if this is the episode from the “Star Trek, Next Generation” series; with the Borg and Captain Jean-Luc Picard saves and Data befriends Borg drone Hugh? Or is it Star Trek Voyager when Borg Seven of Nine is saved by Captain Janeway?

        Resistance is Futile

    2. Wahrheit

      I often wonder why is it that free market principles are extolled for everything except labor and drugs favored by poor people?

    3. sierra

      Ahhhh, yes…”….seal the border….etc.
      And who pray tell, will pick out crops, tender to our elderly, change the diapers on your babies, pick up the trash, do all those “scut work” jobs that most “white folks” choose not to do…..??????
      Blaming the immigrants for a failing social and economic system is the oldest trick in the books.
      This country is/was built by immigrants, period.
      What is to recognize is that our social/economic system is failing and until more Americans are “suffering” from the disjointed policies of our “elected” officials nothing will get changed. And, it’s now worse with globalization of a system that is detrimental to so many and so profitable for so few.
      Stop blaming immigrants; you become part of the problem.

      1. Wakeup

        Promoting the low wage immigrant is the oldest trick in the book to destroy that ability of working men and women to
        demand livable wages. I agree with you about the power structure and all that, however, how can you explain how flooding the country with a nearly limitless number of disconnected people who will work weekends, nights and holidays for next to nothing can help working Americans?

        You are doing the work of the Koch Brothers. Maybe that’s why they hired you to beat your tired little humanist drum to confuse the issues?

        1. F. Beard

          Promoting the low wage immigrant is the oldest trick in the book to destroy that ability of working men and women to
          demand livable wages.
          Wakeup

          You’re enemy has always been the banks, not other workers. Otherwise the workers would own the capital and not just work for it.

          It’s really pathetic to see workers beg for jobs when they should be demanding a universal bailout from ALL debt to the banks, as a MINIMUM.

    4. Nathanael

      Victor, net migration is now FROM the US TO Mexico, not from Mexico to the US.

      We have made the US sufficiently unattractive that Mexico is a better alternative for many farm laborers. Congratuations. Not.

  12. traitorsall

    Get the Democrats out; high tariffs and low taxes (except for offshorers–triple theirs); reduce govenemnt by 70%.

    That will do it.

    1. Nathanael

      Who are you going to elect to do that? The Republicans have a set and determined policy of promoting offshoring and opposing tarriffs.

      We have a political system problem — the system is broken.

  13. whatpoppycock

    All of these are flawed “solutions”. They all rely on governemnt “doing something”. This is just the problem in the first place. The Leftist policies of the Democrats “Ologarchical Collectivist” is at the very root of the problems you outline and the cases you put forward/ You just cannot get it do you? I

    Government does not create economically viable jobs. Period.

    The notions that by creating “incubators” or creating “parks”, industrial or otherwise, that governments can boost unemployment is preposterous. It is more than preposterous, it is destructuvely delusional–it betrays a complete lack of economic sense or understanding.

    So is the idea that “education”, if that is what one wants to call that intellectual, moral and social calamity that we currently term “higher edcation” is somehow going to alleviate any of this. This is just a lower middle class self-delusion. In fact, in the coming years, plumbers will be making a great deal more than those holdovers from a collasped and so-called “professional” middle class. I can gaurantee you that the folks from Kokomo would not find jobs or a future for them in Kokomo if they had degrees up to their eyebrows, particualrly if those degrees where the sort of dubious “certifications” that the con-artists in our universities are handing out today. Economies do not work that way. The young people of todawy have been hustled by our so-called “elites”: few of them have any meaningful educations whatsoever; even fewer of them will ever have the actual sort of employment opportunities that where promised to them by that gang of pick pockets known as the ‘educational establishment”. Those liberals that have touted “education” as the solution will have a great deal to account for in the coming years. Of course, being the irresponible liberal louts they are, they will duck this. The educational community of today are just one more special interest group out coniving, stealing and cup-rattling.

    But beyond that, one cannot have a national economy in the USA made up of Javascript programmers, cultural marcists academics and MBAs/ THe Democrat Nomenklatura is at least as parastic as was the Nomenklatura of the USSR which was thier model. This is standing economics on its head; it is also ahows an extremely pollyanish notion of humankind and its capacities and limitations.

    The idea that an industrial econmoy can be meaningfully and judciously surplated by “creative economies”, “hi-tech economies” or “sevice economies” is nothing but self-seving and narcissitic liberal cant.

    We cannot have the sort of society we desire with out manufacturing as the core. Technolgists, finaciers and entrepueners would better server the nation and themselves by reinventing manufacturing. They should turn from making gadgets and “finacial engineering” to this broad and challenging task. Government should get out of the way and the Oligarchical Collectivist who run us must be taken from power.

    The Left, of course, hate this nation and hate the middle classes, they are the ones who have pushed this hollowing out of the nation’s industrial capacity.

    Nothing can change until we cleanse ourselves of the profound and destructive evil of the Institutional Left as embodied by the Democrat Party.

    1. Hugh

      Obama and the Democrats are governing to the right of George Bush. So if you get rid of them, what are you going to do with 3/4 of what is for you the even more “leftist” Republican party? You have drunk way too much koolaid.

      I like too how you categorically state that government doesn’t create economically viable jobs ignoring the last 80 years of American economic history. You also tacitly seem to buy into the idea of the current “job creators” meme which is just recycled trickle down/supply side economics, which has been tried twice, first under Reagan and again under Bush II, and failed miserably both times.

      The truth is that, like so many of us, you have been had. You have been played. Yes, the Democrats are cr*p but so what? So are the Republicans. You are throwing around the slogans and engaging in the tribal politics, right against left, Democrats against Republicans, that our elites want you to because it deflects your anger away from them and on to your fellow 99%ers.

      If you want to get past that, you should do what many of us here have done and are doing. You need to see that every economic and political fact that you know or think you know is a lie, and that virtually nothing in the last 35 years happened the way we thought. This isn’t conspiracy. I am not a conspiracy person. If I had to categorize it in any way I would say it is a class thing. It is the story about how our elites betrayed us and how they continue to do so.

      1. knowbuddhau

        Hugh said:

        The truth is that, like so many of us, you have been had. You have been played. Yes, the Democrats are cr*p but so what? So are the Republicans. You are throwing around the slogans and engaging in the tribal politics, right against left, Democrats against Republicans, that our elites want you to because it deflects your anger away from them and on to your fellow 99%ers.

        If you want to get past that, you should do what many of us here have done and are doing. You need to see that every economic and political fact that you know or think you know is a lie, and that virtually nothing in the last 35 years happened the way we thought. This isn’t conspiracy. I am not a conspiracy person. If I had to categorize it in any way I would say it is a class thing. It is the story about how our elites betrayed us and how they continue to do so.

        Bravo! It’s all about seeing through the PSYOP.

        Likewise, the assumption, that the goal of education is to increase your starting salary, galls me to no end.

        I chose to major in psychology not because I thought it would increase my earnings; I gave no thought to them at all. No, I just wanted to understand how my brain works.

        Little did my naive 20something self realize that, at the same time and in the very same building (on the Seattle campus of UW), others weren’t just studying psyhology, they were weaponizing it into PSYOP. It wasn’t until my senior year that I learned of “the crisis in social psychology.”

        The “crisis” comes from the deliberate reduction of humans to mechanisms, mere Newtonian voodoo dolls, “nothing but” voting mahines on two legs, ever so easily jacked.

        It’s the absurd conclusion of the ages-long reduction of the cosmos to a mechanism, the better to predict and control outcomes of actions. There’s a horrifying problem with that approach: if the cosmos is “nothing but” a mechanism, then so are we.

        “Human rights?” Mechanisms have no human rights, much less collective bargaining rights.

        “Democracy?” HA! All that’s needed is sufficiently to control “inputs” and you can control “outputs.” Like the way we got myth-jacked to war in Iraq, for just one example.

        We’ve been fed a false narrative. How can we expect to arrive at our proper destiny if we don’t know the truth of the day?

        Warren Celli, you’re right: Deception, indeed, is the strongest political force on the planet.

    2. Walter Wit Man

      It was cheaper for corporations to move operations overseas so they did. The “private sector”, or really a few rich pricks, led the charge and took government along for the ride. I guess they used government for their purposes as well.

      But it’s been a long time since they’ve given us real socialistic benefits. And they are now stripping those away, like Social Security and Medicare.

      Now, every effort that is characterized as “socialism”, such as Obamacare, is really fascism, or socialism for the rich. The elite have poisoned our government and our body politic with their sick mind control games. Socialism was never really tried. It was always used as a ploy to control. It was used as a bogeyman to enrage the right, and is used as an enticement to attract the left. Unlike Hugh, I believe in conspiracies, such as an elite conspiracy to rule the world beginning at least over 100 years ago. Of course this conspiracy can take many forms, and be quite broad in definition, but in America these conspiring powers have [mis]used socialism as a tool to control the people. Really, they’ve attacked it from the front and then also conducted a secret operation where they pretended to join the socialists but it was really a Trojan Horse operation (see e.g. Democrats).

      But it doesn’t mean government, as a force, isn’t capable of doing good . . . at least hypothetically. It’s probably more capable of doing good on large scale issues than corporations are. Like health care and education, etc. Or Social Security and national parks and controlling a currency and of course national defense. And a post office. It’s really quite amazing how drastically all our lives could improve with a few simple changes. And government has had some successes in the above areas.

      But almost all of the big “democracies” in the world are as rotten to the core as the U.S. government so maybe you do have a point . . . I don’t see a good solution.

      There are some seriously sick fascist fucks in charge of this country and the world. Obama is their servant and slave manager. And he’s a slick, sick operator.

      1. Warren Celli

        You’re absolutely right, it is a conspiracy in the sense that birds of a feather flock together. And you are correct also that they are “sick” “fucks” — but they are not fascists.

        They are worse than fascists.

        Because the disease they have — its called Xtrevilism, a mutation of Evilism — causes them to use the Noble Lie, and yes, Obama is a very slick (and sick) operator. A fascist will look you in the eye and tell you very directly that he feels superior to you and wants to enslave and kill you. Someone infected with the disease of Xtrevilism (it is contagious and now increasing rapidly), wants to also enslave and kill you but will use the Noble Lie instead to achieve the same end.

        More here:

        http://www.boxthefox.com/

        Deception is the strongest political force on the planet.

    3. Iron123

      There is no known better distribution of wealth / income / political power than a “bell curve” distribution ( ie. standard normal distribution ). The Bell Curve is completely morally palatable , mathematicly understood and scientificly unambiguous .

      A team of legislators , sociologists , mathematicians and other relevant professionals could easily fashion governmental laws or programs or both to establish a pragmatic real world standard normal distribution of income ( ergo wealth / political power ) for any society or subset thereof . The governmental establishment of any kind of distribution can be made completely transparant as a matter of public record .

      A Bell Curve distribution of wealth / income / political power would necessarily guarantee the existence of a middle class . Ironicly , it would also impede the ascent of a totalitarian Global Technocracy .

    4. H. Alexander Ivey

      whatpoppycock

      While I disagree with your politics here, I’ll attach my comments under your thread, which seems more closely linked to the original posting.

      I applauded the posting, but disparate its “research” and its findings. The research seems to compare apples and oranges – communities of widely varying sizes (by a factor of 400, http://www.alternet.org/economy/153875/america’s_dead_zones%3A, and widely varying unemployment durations – 5, 10, 10+ years). I question whatever problem, solutions, advantages and disadvantages can be drawn for this mix.

      Secondly, the main solution in the post seemed to be for the locals to band together and “do something”. The examples of the something seemed to be “beggar thy neighbor”. Lower the labour costs, ensure business friendly policies. Screw the city or county or state next door! If labour does not make enough money to make a living, or make more than a subsistence wage, who will buy the goods and use the services that (use to ) make up the US economy?

      Let me be clear, the solution to high unemployment is a complex one, it needs to be tackled at all 3 levels of government (in a coordinated fashion, starting at the Federal level, for it to be effective) because only the government can impose standards (of living wages, of controlling fraud, of ensuring a fair distribution of wealth). The “free market” can not do this.

    5. Nathanael

      Competent government creates lots of economically viable jobs, and has created pretty much all economically viable jobs throughout most of pre-industrial history, from the Egyptian Pharoahs on down.

      Competent is the key word here, not government. Here in the US, we have INCOMPETENT government, whichever party is in power. There is no substitute for actual competence.

  14. Sleeper

    Interesting article –

    But I think it misses a few points –

    Textiles – This industry was given away to the Chinese.
    Tobacco – The tobacco settlement and the consolidation of tobacco production destroyed these economies.

    And no one gives a damn about a few lint heads.

  15. stripes

    A troll on a blogsite, probably from a bank or the FED told me a while ago that the TRUTH IS……they considered ALL of US RENTERS when we purchased our homes and businesses even though they lent US no money and they are the borrowers from US. That information needs to get out to the masses. That is what they think of the American people. They have NO RESPECT for US….All they do is keep secrets, lie, steal deceive use and abuse the American people who fund and pay for everything that these crooks do. They all need to get sued out of existence.

  16. rps

    Imagine if the industrialist of the 19th and early 20th Century had today’s media industrial complex to shout their repetitive PR slogans “Globalization” and “Structural Unemployment” to the masses. Heck, child labor would be the norm, and adults would either be forced to compete against children’s wages or pegged as structurally unemployable.

    Oh wait, that’s the current 19th and early 20th century US business models used in China, India, Vietnam, Indonesia, etc…. The greedy oxygen sucking industrialist such as the iconic Apple, Nike, Gateway, Walton’s….Hell all the f***ing capitalist sleazebags scream at US citizens.

    The 19th century Rockefellers, Vanderbilts, Palmers, Astors, etc..didn’t die-out, they’ve been given a facelift, re-packaged, and re-invented. New century, same greedy bastards destroying human rights.

    “Globalization!!!” “Greed is Good,” snickered Cornelius Vanderbilt, “I was born in the wrong century” he moaned as he rolled over in his grave

  17. SDurkin

    Just to correct some misinformation about Natchez in the article…the population is only about 18,000, city, and an additional 7,000 in the county. The population has decreased over the last 20 years by about 6,000 in the city (county hasn’t changed much), and the industries mentioned that once existed, closed down long before 2003; perhaps the tire plant which had re-opened for some years at Titan Tire closed then, but Johns-Manville and IP had been gone since the early 90’s. Natchez Inc. has only been in operation for maybe two years, so it isn’t really fair to place any criticism on an entity which has landed two fairly formidable industries in it’s short existence. The biggest problem Natchez has when attempting to attract industry, is a lack of skilled labor, and a mediocre public school system. Manufacturers that will have to bring in their own middle management level personnel, are faced with having to offer higher middle management salaries so that they will be able to afford private or parochial school educations for their children. That is one of the biggest issues that have been the catalyst for companies locating elsewhere.

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