How Despair Helped Drive Trump to Victory

By Shannon Monnat, Associate Professor, Syracuse University and David L. Brown, Professor Emeritus, Cornell University. Originally published at the Institute for New Economic Thinking website

Economic, social and health decline in the industrial Midwest may have been a major factor in the 2016 US presidential election, Monnat and Brown’s INET research finds, with people living in distressed areas swinging behind Trump in greater numbers. Trump performed well within these landscapes of despair – places that have borne the brunt of declines in manufacturing, mining, and related industries since the 1970s and are now struggling with opioids, disability, poor health, and family problems.

The role of the rural vote in Donald Trump’s victory in the U.S. Presidential election has received widespread coverage. But suggesting that rural frustration with political insiders and years of perceived neglect was in itself enough to deliver Trump to the White House overlooks other key factors that saw the Republican candidate out-perform in areas ravaged by decay.

To be sure, Donald Trump received a much larger share of the rural vote than Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton. Electoral data shows he won the countryside by 63.2 percent to 31.3 percent, with the vote share increasing in the most rural areas. But this advantage hardly signals a new trend. Republican candidates have long won larger shares of the rural vote, particularly in Appalachia, the Great Plains, and parts of the South. In addition, rural voters account for only about 15 percent of the total U.S. population, and provided a similar share of votes in the 2016 presidential election.

Although Trump’s rural edge certainly contributed to his victory, it was not sufficient to swing the election on its own or to support a theory that a “rural revolt” handed him the win. Instead, Trump’s combined rural and small city over-performance, and Clinton’s under-performance, particularly in the industrial Midwest, was key to Trump’s unanticipated victory. To understand the election outcome it is critical to understand what drove voters in those areas to cast a ballot for Trump.

Election Results: The Predicable and The Unexpected

Of course, Clinton won the U.S. popular vote by nearly 2.9 million votes.  Trump not only lost the national popular vote; he also under-performed relative to Mitt Romney four years earlier, receiving 45.9 percent of votes in 2016 compared to Romney’s 47.1 percent in 2012.

Trump nonetheless won because the U.S.’ electoral college system places more importance on some states over others when it comes to the outcome. Small advantages in key places enabled Trump to accumulate sufficient electors to claim victory. Like Romney in 2012, Trump garnered large vote shares throughout Appalachia, the rural South, the Great Plains, and Mountain West.

The Republican stronghold in these areas is not new. What was unexpected though, was how well Trump performed, and conversely how poorly Hillary Clinton performed, in the industrial Midwest. Ultimately, Trump’s win came down to a difference of just 77,744 votes spread across three states: Michigan, which he took by 10,704 votes; Pennsylvania, by 44,292; and Wisconsin, with a 22,748 margin.

Trump also garnered substantially larger vote shares than Romney in the other industrial states including Ohio, Illinois and Indiana – as well as in Appalachia, parts of New England, upstate New York, Minnesota, and Iowa.

Trump won more votes than Romney in these regions; Clinton also received far fewer votes and a smaller share than Obama in these areas, even in counties and states she won.

Although the industrial Midwest is home to just over 16 percent of U.S. counties, nearly a third of the 206 pivot counties – those that went for Trump after going for Obama in both 2008 and 2012 – were in the industrial Midwest. In nearly all pivot counties, Obama’s victory margin declined between 2008 and 2012, perhaps foreshadowing their shift to a Republican candidate in 2016. Importantly, Trump’s advantage in the industrial Midwest was not confined to rural counties; it also included small urban counties like Montgomery County in Ohio and Luzerne County, Pennsylvania, and even larger urban counties like Michigan’s Macomb County, which is located in the Detroit metropolitan area.

How Despair Drove Trump Votes

To understand the electoral shift in these and similar places outside of the industrial Midwest, it is important to understand the economic, social, and health declines that have plagued them over the past three decades. In many of the rural areas and small cities where Trump performed better than expected or where Clinton performed worse than expected, economic distress had been building and social conditions breaking down for decades. The places that experienced the largest voter shifts in 2016 were not all among the poorest places in America, though Appalachia certainly holds that distinction. But they are places that are generally worse off today than they were a generation or two ago, with far fewer manufacturing and natural resource industry jobs that once provided reliable, livable wages and benefits to those without a college degree. Certainly de-industrialization is not a new phenomenon in the U.S., but its impacts have been unevenly distributed.

Our INET research, published in the Journal of Rural Studies, used county-level election data from 2012 and 2016 alongside demographic, economic, and health research from multiple sources to probe key sources of Trump’s support. We found that nationally, and especially in the industrial Midwest, Trump’s average over-performance – defined as the difference between his percentage share of the vote compared to that of Romney four years earlier – was greater in areas of higher economic, social, and health distress.

Comparing the difference in Trump over-performance between counties in the top and bottom quartiles for economic, demographic, and health characteristics helps us understand what drove voters in areas including the industrial Midwest to swing to Trump. The percentage of residents without a four-year college degree had the strongest association with Trump over-performance, but indicators of despair also helped to explain his success in the industrial Midwest. In particular, economic distress (based on rates of poverty and unemployment, and the percentage of people collecting disability payments or lacking health insurance), health distress (determined by rates of disability, obesity, those rating their own health fair or poor, smoking, and drug-induced, alcohol-induced and suicide mortality), and social distress (accounting for factors like rates of separation/divorce, single parent families, vacant housing units and persistent population loss), were strong predictors of Trump over-performance. Notably, Trump’s average over-performance was 12% higher in counties with the highest poverty rates compared to those with the lowest poverty rates. These relationships held even when controlling for metropolitan status.

Of course, this is not an exhaustive list of factors that likely influenced the election, and many of these factors are strongly correlated, making it difficult to disentangle and rank in terms of influence. We also don’t know from the data whether the most economically distressed residents voted for Trump, or if it was comparatively less distressed residents who, out of anxiety and frustration with the deprivation they saw around them, went for the Republican nominee.

Ultimately, what these descriptive findings suggest is that Trump performed well within these landscapes of despair – places that have borne the brunt of declines in manufacturing, mining, and related industries since the 1970s and are now struggling with opioids, disability, poor health, and family problems. Just as decades of declines in secure and livable wage jobs, resource-disinvestment, and social decay have made some places in the U.S. more vulnerable to the opioid scourge, the same forces made some places more susceptible to Trump’s quick-fix populist messages.

Mean Difference in Trump Over-performance (%) between Counties in the Top Quartile vs. Bottom Quartile of Each County Characteristic, Industrial Midwest N=504 counties in Industrial Midwest (Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin). The bars represent the difference in mean Trump over-performance (percent difference in Trump vote share in 2016 vs. Romney vote share in 2012) between counties in the top 25th percentile (Q4) vs. bottom 25th percentile (Q1) for all characteristics except non-metro county and persistent population loss (which are both dichotomous). All estimates are from unadjusted linear regression models, but all models use clustered standard errors to account for nesting of counties within states. 

Of course, this is not an exhaustive list of factors that likely influenced the election, and many of these factors are strongly correlated, making it difficult to disentangle and rank in terms of influence. We also don’t know from the data whether the most economically distressed residents voted for Trump, or if it was comparatively less distressed residents who, out of anxiety and frustration with the deprivation they saw around them, went for the Republican nominee.

Ultimately, what these descriptive findings suggest is that Trump performed well within these landscapes of despair – places that have borne the brunt of declines in manufacturing, mining, and related industries since the 1970s and are now struggling with opioids, disability, poor health, and family problems. Just as decades of declines in secure and livable wage jobs, resource-disinvestment, and social decay have made some places in the U.S. more vulnerable to the opioid scourge, the same forces made some places more susceptible to Trump’s quick-fix populist messages.

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    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      The most important thing that happened last year (2016) was that globalization, vampire though it could be, was exposed and repudiated, even if it still lives on.

      That ought to maintain its own momentum going forward.

      When we look at human beings or personalities, it has been obviously one man is just one man. There are other power centers in DC. Proposed bills coming out of Congress do not have to correlate with the party platform or campaign promises. Then, there are those who operate in the dark. If there was a Man of the Year for 2016, it would be the despaired ones, the Deplorables, the previously ignored, etc. It’s never about one man.

    2. sgt_doom

      That Crazy 19% !!!

      In other words, with labor share being at it’s all-time low, with inequality being at the historic highpoint in this nation’s history (regardless of all the less-than-literate types out there who continue to erroneously claim that it is as bad as the time of the Great Depression, when inequality is now considerably worse in America).

      But why-oh-why didn’t people come to their senses and vote for the Green Party or a socialist candidate (preferably the DSA, as the SWP has long been sketchy)?

      Approximately 19% of the registered voters at the national level voted Trump in, just as in Seattle, 19% of the locally registered voters voted in faux progressive, Jenny Durkan, who was condemned by the Seattle Human Rights Commission when she was a US Attorney in this area. (Evidently, the new definition of a “Seattle progressive” is someone who has been condemned by the Seattle Human Rights Commission?!?)

      1. nonclassical

        …see 2016 national election “choices”…say no more, in what was obviously a “make-up” election-no mention made of “incumbent’ vacancy…(some potential candidates took “pass”…)

  1. Kokuanani

    I see that “not having health insurance” is an indicia person is more likely to vote for Trump. I guess that’s another reason they’re so hell-bent to kick folks off even the feeble ACA coverage.

    1. Collins

      23% of the US population is on Medicaid. The ‘insurance expansion’ of the ACA was mostly expansion of Medicaid (the private policies are unaffordable and the insurance companies do not compete with each other, as they continue to exit the ‘market’). And ~ 65% of Medicaid is now Managed Medicaid (& growing ), where the govt money goes to ‘non-profit’ companies such as Superior Star Plus Medicaid which are actually owned by Fortune 500 companies, Centene in this example. Guess how well that’s working out for funding actual delivery of health care. Obama’s original concept included the ‘public option’ of Medicare, the Insurance lobby gutted that and rewrote the bill to their benefit, and being a professional politician Obama signed it consistent with the crony capitalism rulebook whether you’re neo-con or neo-liberal.
      Many of the Trump voters could ‘sense’ this as their life experience even without knowing the actual data above. Writing them off as illogical dullards is not accurate.

      1. nippersdad

        If you wanted to poke Obama in the eye for his betrayal of the hope and change they voted for, how better than to reject his hand picked successor for someone like Trump? It is not like they had a lot to lose.

        1. barefoot charley

          Many people voted for “Up Yours,” not Trump. He was the protest candidate par excellence–and with so much to protest, he won.

      2. Anon

        I don’t believe the voters that gave Trump his Electoral College victory are illogical dullards. But many were likely persuaded by a Siren call from a politician who had no history (or intent) of meeting their wants/needs. (They still have no new job, health care, or relief from the opioid epidemic.)

        While the economic decline began in these areas in the late 70’s (Oil Shock 1973; Japan Auto Market intrusion, etc.), the call for greater pursuit of more education to survive in a changing world was also clearly stated. Some likely ignored the call and gambled on a liveable wage/family formation right out of high school. Unfortunately, fortune and the political system didn’t serve their choice well.

        1. JBird

          While true, many people are not suited for a four college degree because their talents are best outside of a desk, and it has gotten so bad economically that one needs at least a bachelors, or more probably a masters degree just to stay even financially; that only works were there are actually jobs.

          If you are better as a machinist, or a chef, what use is a college degree. If you do have the talents, and inclination, to work that requires a four year degree, can you pay for it, and if you can, will you be able to find work? If you are disabled, or have family to take care of, or are stuck deep in one of those growing both in size and numbers, economic wastelands, being told that you shoulda, coulda gotten a degree is not good.

          1. Anon

            I didn’t say “four year college”. I said more education. Learning to operate a digital lathe (Machinist) takes education/training. Learning to be an electrician/cable installer takes focused training. These are relatively well-paying jobs versus assembly line work requiring simply a high school education.

            My point is that some folks chose what worked for their parents and started “life” right out of high school. (During a period when many warned that that may not be good enough in the future.)

            The overarching issue is that manipulating the political system for their personal economic advantage is not a broadly acquired skill set in the US.

          2. bluto blutarski

            I agree with JBird.
            Democrats like Hillary Clinton have only one response to the economic distress that millions of Americans are experiencing: You need to get more education! You could have done this….you could have studied that… could have done this other thing….

            Hillary Clinton deserved to lose the election. Lesser of two evils arguments (the Bill and Hillary Clinton specialty) no longer work. People are fed up with Democratic party Clintonism.

        2. jrs

          Or they found no way to afford an education … yes sometimes night school works but the job still has to pay enough to pay for education.

      3. oh

        I would also blame the elites who praised Obamacare which they never needed/or used themselves, bought all the latest and the greatest electronic toys (made in China). They kept drinking the Obama Kool Aid and allowed more control by neo-liberal Dims and Repigs. Now the poor people are truly screwed with gutting of any kind of public assistance, public transportation and low interest loans (if there were any).
        It’s time for all of us to work toward ending the two party rule and bring in a stronger third party. It will take time. Until that time, more crooks like Trump will get in.

      4. Vatch

        23% of the US population is on Medicaid.

        I was skeptical when I saw that number — could it really be so high? Yes, you are correct, tragically. For Medicaid enrollment:

        In August, 2017, there were 74,305,276 Medicaid enrollees.

        Census data:

        The U.S. population in November, 2017, is about 326,290,400 people. On May 7, it was about 325,000,000 people. So in August, it was approximately 325,700,000. 74,305,276 divided by 325,700,000 equals about 0.228. In other words, with a small rounding adjustment, the percentage of the US population on Medicaid is 23%! That’s a national embarrassment! I don’t expect sociopathic billionaires to be embarrassed, but there is a surprising number of people who respect or even admire billionaires, because the billionaires are so “hard working” or “talented” or “creative”. Those admirers should be ashamed.

      5. drumlin woodchuckles

        Obama never wanted a public option. That was a foam-rubber velcro-decoy Obama pretended to hold out to distract and confuse people, raise their enthusiasm and lower their guard.

        1. nonclassical

          …easily ascertained by construction of “study groups” appointed by obama, full of “blue-dog” dems…

          now, when he didn’t want legislation passed, he through in his “study groups” someone (and one was all it took) who would not pass legislation…did so with budget inclusion of Senator Murray..

    2. nonclassical

      …”reason” repubs desire end republican (romneycare) health insurance program (ACA) is, just as medicare part D – drug benefit whereby pharma was subsidized and republicans kicked back corporate contributions, dems were benefit of corporate contributions by subsidized insurance company kickbacks…

      …can’t have corporate contributions going to dems…

    3. jrs

      Yea and destroying Medicare too (I realize that Dems have done their share, but I am talking *current* legislation), although maybe if these folks never plan for them or any of their relatives to live to 65 anyway then what does it matter (actually true for some really unfortunate demographics but even a lot of poor people have some elders).

  2. Sound of the Suburbs

    Trump is no rocket scientist but he can learn from experience

    When Bill Clinton passed NAFTA millions of US jobs went to Mexico.

    What happened?

    Labour is cheaper in Mexico and you can make more profit there, when there are no tariffs and you have the free movement of capital it is better to move jobs out of the US to Mexico.

    Why is labour cheaper in Mexico?

    Wages have to cover the cost of living and the cost of living is much lower in Mexico.

    Disposable income = wages – (taxes + the cost of living)

    The cost of living = housing costs + healthcare costs + student loan costs + food + other costs of living

    The repeal of the Corn Laws ushered in the era of Laissez-Faire.

    The businessmen wanted lower corn prices, to lower the cost of living, so they could pay lower, internationally competitive wages.

    Remember now?

    It’s all about the cost of living and the US cost of living is horrendous, they can’t compete.

    1. Sound of the Suburbs

      It’s what Michael Hudson has been trying to tell people but condensed.

      Capitalism – back to basics

      It comes down to one equation:

      Disposable income = wages – (taxes + the cost of living)

      Workers want more disposable income
      Business wants to pay lower wages for higher profits
      The rentiers look to push up the cost of living.
      The government take taxes.

      1. Ned

        You forgot an important part;

        Disposable income = wages – (taxes + the cost of living PLUS interest payments on debt)

        The rentiers look to push up the cost of living TO help make their ever larger interest payments to the banks that harvest much of their rents as interest.

        Don’t complain about high rents, complain about the ever larger share of rents that go to banks who lend to more and more uncreditworthy apartment house owners thanks to low interest rates and financialization.

        Hudson’t my hero, but it’s still godawful complicated to understand what’s not meant to be discussed in our society.

        1. redleg

          I’d argue that it’s the change in debt service, not the interest payments. That takes into account changes in interest rates and paying off the principle.

          1. sgt_doom

            But it all comes down to the same common point of impingement:

            inflating their financial assets

            and that’s the name of their game!

      2. drumlin woodchuckles

        Business wants to lower wages to make higher profits . . .

        But Henry Ford paid higher wages in what he thought would be a long term road to higher profits for Ford Motor Company. Perhaps he thought it would lead to long-term higher profits for every thing-making business. I have read that he was considered correct in his thinking.

        If business overall would make higher total profits ( even if less profit per unit thing item produced) in a setting of overall higher wages, then what explains business’s desire to lower wages in order to “raise profits”? Mere short sightedness? Or a sadistic delight in making workers poor and making poor workers suffer?

        1. nonsense factory

          But the econometric models of 1992! They mostly said NAFTA would be good for everyone. . . What went wrong?

          Most of the CGE models expect the NAFTA to have virtually no impact on U.S. labor markets. With constant returns to scale in production, and under the best-case assumptions described above, none of the CGE models predicts a long-run increase in U.S. wages of more than 0.4 percent, in U.S. employment of more than 0.2 percent, and in U.S. output of more than 0.5 percent; in most cases, the effects are much smaller.u Spread out over the many years of adjustment to free trade that are assumed by the model, none of these changes would be perceptible.

          1993 Economists’ Assessments of the Likely Employment and Wage Effects of the North American Free Trade Agreement

          The academic economists who promoted NAFTA (almost all of them) made the error of faithfully projecting David Ricardo and comparative advantage theories without considering all the variables. . . That article does a good job of discussing this, however:

          ….the potential shift of investment expenditure from the U.S. to Mexico is analyzed, with estimates of negative effects on U.S. employment and wages. This investment shift, of course, will increase employment and wages in Mexico’s export-processing industries. However, the authors also note the possible impact of the liberalization of agricultural trade policy on the Mexican labor force. If, as seems likely, this forces a portion of Mexico’s huge small-scale farming population into urban labor markets, the negative impact of NAFTA on agricultural employment could outweigh the positive impact on manufacturing jobs, with an overall decline in Mexican employment and wages. On this basis, the authors fear that a NAFTA could have a negative impact on labor markets in both countries.

          So, a few economists got it right, but even they failed to predict the massive migration of desperate Mexicans across the border in search of jobs.

          1. nonclassical

            NAFTA eliminated somewhere in vicinity of 375% tariffs, Mexico; it has been very, very good for Walmart, whose groceries are most prolific in country…and as David S defines, other agricultural entities…

          2. flora

            NAFTA gave us the three D’s : de-industrialization, debt, and despair.

            And the economists who prompted Ricardo’s theory of comparative advantage without also addressing Ricardo’s theory of the Iron Law of Wages were ignoring an important aspect.

            1. flora

              correction: iron law of wages was Lassalle’s work, not Ricardo’s. Any academic economist should have been familiar with it.

    2. David S

      Mexico couldn’t compete with the US pre-NAFTA in corn agriculture. Regardless of US cost structure, the shear scale and efficiency of US operations enabled it to be the lower cost provider. Companies like Archer Daniels Midland was the real winner in the deal. The problem was the US and Mexican ag worker received none of the upside.

      1. drumlin woodchuckles

        And we received millions of Mexican ag workers.

        The Mexican ag worker was never meant to receive any upside. The whole point of dumping American corn on Mexico was to bankrupt millions of Mexican corn farmers and the more millions of Mexicans whom their steady corn-based incomes supported. The reason for deliberately bankrupting all those Mexicans was to drive them off the land and into the border maquiladoras. That was a key goal of NAFTA all along.

    3. Sound of the Suburbs

      Roll out a half-baked ideology globally and you the same problem globally, the real estate boom.

      The housing boom features all the unknowns in today’s thinking, which is why they are global.

      This simple equation is unknown.

      Disposable income = wages – (taxes + the cost of living)

      You can immediately see how high housing costs have to be covered by wages; business pays the high housing costs for expensive housing adding to costs and reducing profits. The real estate boom raises costs to business and makes your nation uncompetitive in a globalised world.

      The unproductive lending involved that leads to financial crises.

      The UK:

      The economy gets loaded up with unproductive lending as future spending power has been taken to inflate the value of the nation’s housing stock. Housing is more expensive and the future has been impoverished.


      Unproductive lending is not good for the economy and led directly to 1929 and 2008.

      Neoliberalism’s underlying economics, neoclassical economics, doesn’t look at private debt and so no one really knew what they were doing.

      The housing boom feels good for a reason that is not known to today’s thinkers.

      Monetary theory has been regressing since 1856, when someone worked out how the system really worked.

      Credit creation theory -> fractional reserve theory -> financial intermediation theory

      “A lost century in economics: Three theories of banking and the conclusive evidence” Richard A. Werner

      “…banks make their profits by taking in deposits and lending the funds out at a higher rate of interest” Paul Krugman, 2015. He wouldn’t know.

      Bank lending creates money, which pours into the economy fuelling the boom; it is this money creation that makes the housing boom feel so good in the general economy. It feels like there is lots of money about because there is.

      The housing bust feels so bad because the opposite takes place, and money gets sucked out of the economy as the repayments overtake new lending. It feels like there isn’t much money about because there isn’t.

      They were known unknowns, the people that knew weren’t the policymakers to whom these things were unknown.

      1. nonclassical

        … need question “neoliberal economics” without historical documentation, found here:

        “The term neoliberalism was coined at a meeting in Paris in 1938. Among the delegates were two men who came to define the ideology, Ludwig von Mises and Friedrich Hayek. Both exiles from Austria, they saw social democracy, exemplified by Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal and the gradual development of Britain’s welfare state, as manifestations of a collectivism that occupied the same spectrum as nazism and communism.

        In The Road to Serfdom, published in 1944, Hayek argued that government planning, by crushing individualism, would lead inexorably to totalitarian control. Like Mises’s book Bureaucracy, The Road to Serfdom was widely read. It came to the attention of some very wealthy people, who saw in the philosophy an opportunity to free themselves from regulation and tax. When, in 1947, Hayek founded the first organisation that would spread the doctrine of neoliberalism – the Mont Pelerin Society – it was supported financially by millionaires and their foundations.

        The movement’s rich backers funded a series of thinktanks which would refine and promote the ideology. Among them were the American Enterprise Institute, the Heritage Foundation, the Cato Institute, the Institute of Economic Affairs, the Centre for Policy Studies and the Adam Smith Institute. They also financed academic positions and departments, particularly at the universities of Chicago and Virginia.

        Neoliberalism sees competition as the defining characteristic of human relations. It redefines citizens as consumers, whose democratic choices are best exercised by buying and selling, a process that rewards merit and punishes inefficiency. It maintains that “the market” delivers benefits that could never be achieved by planning.”

        1. Oregoncharles

          European source; that explains the name. “Liberal” retains its original meaning in Europe, which is essentially what we mean by “conservative” – laissez-faire. It “liberates” business.

          So it was a revival of European liberalism.

          1. nonclassical

            O.C.; actually, “laissez-faire” is french, and historical context involves Scottish economist-advisor King Louis XVI, who convinced him to cut taxes entirely…early “cities” had been proposed as way of gathering people together to more easily provide “services” and tax base. Scottish “economist” barely got out of France alive.

            “Citizens-A Chronicle of French Revolution”, by Simon Shama

            Hayek, von Mises, Friedman-“Chicago Boys” version of “Laissez-Faire” (Supply-Side + privatization) definition of “neoliberalism” arose from (Spanish translation) South-Central America U.S. imperialism, overthrow Sept 11, 1973 (Alliende’-one subject of Naomi Klein’s, “Shock Doctrine”) as well as others, documented by John Perkins’, “Confessions of An Economic Hit Man”, and involving authoritarian exploitative economics (Chicago School). History is clear:

            “As an economic philosophy, neoliberalism emerged among European liberal scholars in the 1930s as they attempted to trace a so-called “third” or “middle” way between the conflicting philosophies of classical liberalism and socialist planning. The impetus for this development arose from a desire to avoid repeating the economic failures of the early 1930s, which neoliberals mostly blamed on the economic policy of classical liberalism.”

            ” When the term re-appeared in the 1980s in connection with Augusto Pinochet’s economic reforms in Chile, the usage of the term had shifted. It had not only become a term with negative connotations employed principally by critics of market reform, but it also had shifted in meaning from a moderate form of liberalism to a more radical and laissez-faire capitalist set of ideas. Scholars now tended to associate it with the theories of economists Friedrich Hayek, Milton Friedman and James M. Buchanan (U of Virginia), along with politicians and policy-makers such as Margaret Thatcher, Ronald Reagan and Alan Greenspan. Once the new meaning of neoliberalism became established as a common usage among Spanish-speaking scholars, it diffused into the English-language study of political economy”

            Here is John Perkins on “Confessions of An Economic Hit Man”:


    4. Scott

      “50 percent of our Community College students drop out to go to work to buy a car.”
      In most of the nation you cannot function without a personal vehicle.
      Even professionally in NYC transportation by taxi was necessary whenever the issue of time was non negotiable.
      (I was trapped underground in the Subway from Brooklyn’s Bergen stop on the Red line to Tribeca. Was then late for the call, and lost the client.)
      The working classes of America literally have as their fortune their time, time on earth, and not much more than that.

      There is little way for the working classes to see their experiences over 10 or 20 years of work into viable Certifications competitive with the all for HR gate out of the University or 4 year colleges anymore.

      The prospect for Americans who lived an ethos of “You can work your way up the ladder.” is nil.

      To those for whom time as slipped away, spent, not so near to the paper mills, but with the experiences that would make them efficiency kings in most systems, there is the anger at the Greenspan Retraining Edict, used to blame the American Worker.
      I am glad I was so incensed I have become a “Creative Economist”.

      When I say I am a Librarian of Work, it is with a point that I am not the only one.

      Incensed by this idea abroad in the mental landscape with no means to move and not even wanting to at some point along with the house ball & chain trap that has arisen the anger is pushing an entire demographic into shared intellectual and mental landscape of the pathological.
      They helped elect a pathological liar.

      As regards the alteration of the American lifestyle & culture that involved a great deal of mobility, when Americans moved an average of every two years to one of being trapped, tricked & Trapped at every turn there is one book I would write to attack the sociologically shared pathology of despair & desperation.
      That would be the Book of Tests.

      It would be a challenge to the doom of debt in ascendency caused by a Human Resources Bureaucracy so married to the discrimination that all accept blindly against those who did go to the “school of hard knocks”. I am a Zappa School Independent Scholar for instance.

      In Aviation I have Seen the Mechanics with the Airframe & Powerplant Certification Test to read in the break room till they can pass the Test. Making this sort of Certification System more general, would lead the US, & its America of Post War GI Bill leaps into the “best of all world”.

      Within the Territory, the Geography, the US cannot any longer afford loser geographic territories of such size.

      Keynes is the man. & Marx, who saw the banks as of utility.
      If Mahan could change the world & start the America that became Rome, then there have been more than the One Book events to change the world.
      I want a world with another name than Rome, that does not degenerate.

      1. Heraclitus

        I agree very much with your skepticism about certifications and Human Resource departments. I think the focus on schooling at the expense of practical experience also demeans the work ethic in some sense. This work ethic has, in my opinion, been ebbing for at least a generation. A willingness to really work at a task can overcome a lot of flaws on a resume.

        In ‘Hillbilly Elegy’ the author talks about his relatives who think that they work hard. Not one of them works more than twenty hours a week. When I compare the generation twenty years older than I with their grandchildren, I’m stunned by the younger generation’s lack of willingness to get in there and work, especially when it is contrasted with their complete confidence that they know how to do everything. I think the problem is too much schooling, or, rather, too much ineffective and mediocre schooling. It’s possible for a manual laborer to do fairly well in this world if they’re willing to work and develop some middling skills. A barely skilled painter in Nashville, TN, today starts at $16.00 per hour. In a year or two, they’re up to $25.00. At least this was evident on Craigslist six months ago.

    5. nonclassical

      It was George HW Bush who signed and sealed NAFTA with Mexico and Canada, prior clinton inauguration, Dec. 17, 1992. Dems disliked NAFTA, and clinton and majority of dems wouldn’t go along till added labor and environmental regulation were in force. Clinton signed expansion of NAFTA, having added those new regulations to republican legislation. Here’s video of George HW Bush signing NAFTA with Canada and Mexico:

      (people should remember HW Bush campaign was confronted on NAFTA by Ross Perot, who made NAFTA his primary campaign issue..)

      1. Yves Smith Post author

        Bullshit. What “Dems” are you talking about? Clinton was a big backer of NAFTA and his labor secretary Robert Reich stumped for it, claiming NAFTA would create jobs. Bush the senior the deal with the heads of three other nations was not a binding commitment. NAFTA became law when Clinton signed it in 1993.

        This is from a history of NAFTA:

        In 1992, NAFTA was signed by President George H.W. Bush, Mexican President Salinas and Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney.

        It was ratified by the legislatures of the three countries 1993. The U.S. House of Representatives approved it by 234 to 200 on November 17, 1993. The U.S. Senate approved it by 60 to 38 on November 20, three days later.

        President Bill Clinton signed it into law December 8, 1993. It entered force January 1, 1994. It was a priority of President Clinton’s, and its passage is considered one of his first successes. (Source: “NAFTA Signed Into Law,”, December 8, 1993.)

        1. Oregoncharles

          Both are correct. I remember watching a TV debate on NAFTA, before it passed. The opponents were Democrats, the supporters were conservative Republicans.

          Clinton’s support of it was a drastic reversal of Democratic Party policy. He was described at the time as “twisting arms in his own party” to get it passed. It’s what drove me out of the Democratic Party. I concluded Bill was just a Republican in a donkey suit – and globalization became Democrat doctrine after that. Boy, is that a black mark for Reich. As we discussed before, it’s based on a deliberate misrepresentation of Ricardo’s theory; Reich is an economist, he should have known.

          That was the issue that got me into politics, so it’s a vivid memory.

          1. nonclassical


            ..tellingly, “neoliberalism” became “prominent” feature of political propaganda, following bush-cheney administration of internationally illegal wars, war crimes, destabilization of Middle-East, millions refugees, “Patriot Act”, Guantanamo and worldwide torture – kidnapping, and Wall Street “control accounting frauds”-economic disaster….constituting american “approval ratings” of under 20% bush, and under 10% cheney.

            Not too difficult to grasp clinton bashing was libertarian think tank propaganda scheme, to “change the subject” from totally discredited republicans…a longtime distraction technique. Ironically, certain websites (including NC) feature several articles per week featuring clintons and “neoliberalism”….with absolutely no mention of bush-cheney administration, a totally “false equivalency”…

            Having never voted for a clinton, and having no reason for voting clinton, it has been telling to view…

            It is as though republican-neocon bush-cheney never held office…

            1. flora

              I voted for Obama and was disappointed he continued the Bush-Cheney policies almost to a tee, even trying for a grand bargain to cut SS in the name of deficit reduction while he worked to make most of the Bush tax cuts permanent. It’s like the Bush-Cheney admin never ended.

              Republicans don’t care about the deficit when it’s a program they want but can’t budget, like tax cuts. Why doesn’t the Dem estab do the same – say that deficits aren’t really important, it’s how they’re used, what you do with them that matters?

              1. nonclassical

                ..sadly accurate, leading to…(end of FDR regulatory=transparency, oversight, accountability, capitalism)..

          2. flora

            NAFTA’s long term effects include the depopulation of rural America. A new USDA study shows increasing and more rapid depopulation in the last 6 years.

            “Rural population in steep decline amid slow economic recovery, USDA study finds”

            “t says that since the end of the Great Recession around 2010, population declines have become widespread throughout rural America, even in the eastern United States where the rural population had been relatively stable for several decades.
            “The number of nonmetro counties losing population reached (a) historic high of 1,351 during 2010-16, with a combined population loss of just under 790,000,” the report stated.”


            But Chuck Schumer is sure Dems can pick up 2 GOP suburbanites for every rural Dem voter lost. Message: Dems care… about urban GOP voters

            As for Robert Reich, yes, he should have known. I think he did know. My current opinion of economists – those who only talked about comparative advantage to sell the NAFTA deal – is equal to my opinion of the MSM.

            1. nonclassical

              We heard first from Mario Cuomo he had “no idea how to deal with economic deficits under Reagan, HW Bush, and therefore he would not run-we would have voted for Cuomo…

              Stiglitz-Reich, in Stiglitz book admit they found themselves with no idea how to proceed upon basis of Reagan-HW Bush deficits-economics. Stiglitz said they ironically decided to continue HW Bush economics-at least he had stated Reagan “Laffer curve” – supply-side was ridiculous.

              Rightwing propaganda machine matured under republican majorities-Gingrich, 2 years after clinton elections, with “contract (on) america” and publications parallel today by this guy, who later admitted his work was falsified and who paid him to write such (Kochs, among others):

              “Blinded by the Right: The Conscience of an Ex-Conservative” (David Brock):

              “David Brock pilloried Anita Hill in a bestseller. His reporting in The American Spectator as part of the infamous “Arkansas Project” triggered the course of events that led to the historic impeachment trial of President Clinton. Brock was at the center of the right-wing dirty tricks operation of the Gingrich era–and a true believer–until he could no longer deny that the political force he was advancing was built on little more than lies, hate, and hypocrisy.”

              1. flora

                I’m not particularly interested in the Clintons, per se. I’m interested in the economic rationales the Dem party estab accepts as correct – roughly described as neoliberalism – and why they accept them, why it’s their TINA. It doesn’t matter who is at the top of the ticket as much as what the estab accepts and promotes as the economic path forward. Both Clintons, Obama, and the entire Dem estab are all the same in that regard – make the rich richer by direct govt action (and inacton), not just by deregulating.

                1. nonclassical

                  ..zactly…need look no further, as Lambert-Yves document, Donna Brazille expose’ of what most were aware regarding DNC – clinton disenfranchisement of Senator Sanders candidacy, and stuffing clinton foundation coffers with campaign contributions.

                  DNC has continued corporate dominance of candidates with New Jersy-ex-Wall Street Gov, and Virginia Gov – twice voter for bush-cheney…as well as Perez-DNC chair…

                  DNC can only gain votes with advance of Warren-Sanders ticket, 2020…looks to some as though they intend run campaign based only upon trump demonizing…republican strategy at it’s finest..

          3. Heraclitus

            I remember hearing Reich say on NPR in 1993: ‘If you want to see the winners from globalization, go to the mall.’

        2. MG

          The majority of Democrats voted (156-103) voted against passage of NAFTA in the House and the Democrats from states with larger manufacturing bases voted against it in large numbers.

          In PA, it lost 14-7 with all of the Democrats voting against it as did a couple of GOP reps (3 out of 10) including Rick Santorum.

          My grandfather was heavily involved in PA Democratic politics before his death in 1995 and the PA Democratic Party said in so many words that any standing House Rep that voted ‘Yes’ on the passage of NAFTA would be primaried in 1994.

  3. readerOfTeaLeaves

    I took the time to read several links, and I would encourage everyone — irrespective of your political perspective — to click on the link to ‘opiod scourge‘. It’s one of the most insightful, explanatory, compassionate explanations that I’ve read in the last two years about what we might call ‘the Trump Factor’ in the US.

    1. Robert Hahl

      A point I have not seen made before is that people who can’t pass a drug test may not be counted in the work force, which reduces the official unemployment rate.

      This suggests a new “Misery Index” = unemployment rate + addiction rate

  4. Ep3

    Great post.
    Having lived in the heartland of despair of Michigan, in a manufacturing town, here is my 2 cents. I did not vote for trump, but family members, who were life long democrats, did.
    And what people want is something to be done.
    Example: I lose my job, but get another with less pay and higher health insurance. I am upset but not mad. Politicians tell me it will take a little time, but they will fix the cost of health care. So I wait, expecting an uptick. But I lose this job. And now I am working in retail. I am running out of patience with the current democrats (and all politicians in general). Nothing is being done, that I see. What I see is bickering and name calling and “gridlock”. I want something done. I am now losing my rationality because my retail job is not paying the bills. I am falling hopelessly behind. And when I hear politicians are fighting over whatever, I want them all thrown out of office. So along comes trump. He says “F all of them, I will tell them all to go to hell”. He plays as an outsider. He says he will get things done.
    Who do you think I am going to choose now? I am sick of waiting. I cannot wait. My children are hungry and need medicine. I am getting older and need more medical care. Here’s someone who says he will get things done, regardless if whether those things actually benefit me (cuts to Medicare,etc). I see claims that minorities are coming to the country and getting “free stuff”. He says he will kick those freeloaders out. I see millionaire sports players complaining.
    Now that he is hired, trump has become just as do-nothing as all the other career politicians. His current tax reform and simplification is just as watered down and convoluted and confusing as other “reforms”. What happened to filing with a postcard?
    Wasn’t this what happened in Germany in the 1920s? People became desperate. They elected somebody that did “something”, even tho it was bad. I am not comparing trump to that guy. I am comparing the desperation and lack of rational judgement. And that is what I see and hear from people in my community. That’s from both lower class citizens to upper class. And people don’t realize it is a “war” between the 1% and the rest of us. Put people in this desperate situation, tell them they can’t afford social security and Medicare, the people say “this is for the greater good”, they cancel those programs, then the money is redirected to the 1%. Then people are still paying 15.2% of their wages govt. but now, they are paying for a huge wealth transfer in the form of tax cuts (and defense spending) instead of paying for their health care & retirement when they are old and can’t work no more.

      1. Scott

        I thank Ep3 as well, for they confirm my thesis of generalized mental landscape pathology. They confirm it with the “loss of the rational” to paraphrase within range.

        1. Andrew Dodds

          Actually, it’s rational. According to game theory, when you are put in a position where you cannot win whatever you do, the only rational action is to flip the board over; throw the pieces on the floor; stop playing. Elect Trump or vote Brexit.

          Those who are on the always-winning side may fail to understand this. It is in their interests to keep everyone playing the game. The results could get messy.

    1. Eclair

      Ep3, your description echoes what I see in western New York state and its adjacent corner of Pennsylvania. Despair hangs over the area. Thank you for bearing witness.

      The gutted mills (Jamestown was once the premier manufacturer of wood furniture in the US), the caved-in dairy barns and the rotting late 19th and early 20th century houses, testify to no jobs or minimum wage work in MacDonald’s and Walmart. Add to this mix the existence of a truly awful, poverty-based, local food culture; meat, mainly fried, and carbs, also fried, and one begins to understand why the only flourishing enterprises are healthcare related.

      A ray of light, there seem to be no homeless people. Not like the growing numbers one sees in Denver, Salt Lake City, or Seattle. Probably due to the low housing costs and the conversion of the big downtown hotels in SRO’s.

      It’s Trump country.

      1. Alfred

        I drove through much of northwestern Pennsylvania and eastern Ohio in October 2016, and afterward told everyone who would listen that I had seen incontrovertible proof that Trump would win in November.

  5. flora

    Great article.

    “To understand the electoral shift in these and similar places outside of the industrial Midwest, it is important to understand the economic, social, and health declines that have plagued them over the past three decades.”

    I think this also explains why Trump, not Jeb, won the GOP primary.

    1. ger

      Desperate people do desperate things. By 2020 the desperate will be at near exponential expansion. The democrat leaders apparently believe all they should do is sit on their hands. Like the last time!! Some how the desperate have not been impressed by which restroom people pee in.

  6. Livius Drusus

    Yes there were many Obama-Trump voters especially in the Midwest and they likely won Trump the election. This explodes the theory that Trump’s win was all about racism. I doubt that people who voted for Obama in the past were extreme white identity voters.

    In addition to the despair highlighted in this piece and in the comments I will also point out that many people were disappointed in Obama. I am from the Midwest and I know people who voted for Obama twice but voted for Trump in 2016. The feeling is that Obama betrayed them and turned out to be a “phony.” They thought that Clinton would be Obama 2.0 so they took a gamble on Trump. Contrary to the way they are portrayed in the media, many Midwestern working-class white Trump voters were not very enthusiastic about him. They know Trump is a shady guy but were willing to take a risk on him because from their perspective he talked sense on issues like trade and seemed to notice that not everything is going well in America.

    Trump bucked the “everything is fine” message coming from Clinton and the mainstream media. One of the worst slogans to come out of the Clinton campaign was “America is Already Great.” Yeah maybe for the top 10 percent but for the rest of the country that is definitely not true. Also, focusing almost exclusively on the Coalition of the Ascendant (non-whites, college-educated social liberals, gays) sent a message that the Democratic Party feels like they don’t need or want white working-class voters. Chuck Schumer’s quote about losing working-class whites but gaining moderate suburban Republicans just solidified that suspicion on the part of white working-class people.

  7. John Wright

    It has been expressed as “With Clinton we know we are screwed, with Trump we might not be”.

    Trump was the “hope” candidate this election.

  8. el_tel

    People did indeed vote out of despair. Same as BREXIT. it does NOT mean things will help them (for instance NC has shown just how awful BREXIT could be) but when you feel you’re stuck between the devil and the deep blue sea you see this type of phenomenon. Profoundly depressing all round.

    1. perpetualWAR

      The BREXIT & Trump voter was a big [family blog] you to the establishment. I didn’t vote Trump, but laughed uproariously when he won, to the dismay of all the fine neoliberals in Seattle.

      Question for Seattle voters: how could you vote in Durkan, who failed to prosecute the biggest financial crime of all—WaMu, yet reject Hasagawa, who has been rallying for years in the state legislature for a state bank?

      I’m still stunned at the stupidity of the Seattle voters to allow Durkan to fail upwards!

      1. John D.

        BREXIT is a good example to use here; From my admittedly less-than-scientific perusal of internet forums in the immediate aftermath of that debacle, the general consensus of the British poor/underclass was that it was the only option currently available to stick a thumb in the 1%’s collective eye. I might also add it was the only legal and non-violent option they had. If things don’t finally start changing in the next decade or so, I suspect events will become considerably less non-violent. As if the world isn’t violent enough right now, I know. But things can always get worse…

        1. Oregoncharles

          NC has posted studies showing that an overlarge financial sector drags down the rest of the economy. Brexit voters may not have seen those, but they knew that the finance people in London were living high while they themselves were slipping. And they may well have known that the City was against it and would suffer from it.

          If Brexit weren’t botched, reducing the scale of the City would be a good thing, long term.

          So yes, a thumb in the eye that might not have been all that irrational.

      2. nonclassical

        PW, “neoliberal” does not describe many seattle denizens in my acquaintance…when considering historical documentation of “neoliberalism”:

        “The term neoliberalism was coined at a meeting in Paris in 1938. Among the delegates were two men who came to define the ideology, Ludwig von Mises and Friedrich Hayek. Both exiles from Austria, they saw social democracy, exemplified by Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal and the gradual development of Britain’s welfare state, as manifestations of a collectivism that occupied the same spectrum as nazism and communism.

        In The Road to Serfdom, published in 1944, Hayek argued that government planning, by crushing individualism, would lead inexorably to totalitarian control. Like Mises’s book Bureaucracy, The Road to Serfdom was widely read. It came to the attention of some very wealthy people, who saw in the philosophy an opportunity to free themselves from regulation and tax. When, in 1947, Hayek founded the first organisation that would spread the doctrine of neoliberalism – the Mont Pelerin Society – it was supported financially by millionaires and their foundations.

        The movement’s rich backers funded a series of thinktanks which would refine and promote the ideology. Among them were the American Enterprise Institute, the Heritage Foundation, the Cato Institute, the Institute of Economic Affairs, the Centre for Policy Studies and the Adam Smith Institute. They also financed academic positions and departments, particularly at the universities of Chicago and Virginia.”

        (seattle voters remain FDR liberals, in my experience, rather than “supply side” Friedmanite-“Chicago Boys”—Monbiot contrasts)

  9. George Phillies

    For a similar but more detailed–and maps!–analysis, see Sean Trende’s articles–_conclusions_132846.html
    on RealClearPolitics. Trende uses a finer-grained analysis of population density. Trende makes the point that Democrats did well in megacities (urban areas, population > 5 million) and carried large cities (urban area, population 1-5 million) but over the last two decades have fallen apart everywhere else. Three dozen states have no large or mega cities; a party of large cities is of no consequence in those states. America only has 11 megacities, a fair number of which are in places like California where winning more Democratic votes will not effect the Presidential election. Note also Trende’s population growth curves.

    1. flora


      An aside:
      I think that housing prices in the mega cities can be used, at least in part, as a rough proxy for wealth distributions in the US by geography. People who can move to where they think they’ll be able to find decent paying work drive up city size and competition for housing. The mega wealthy also drive up local real estate prices. So today’s mega city can be a proxy for more than persons-per-square-mile analysis, imo.

      Using city size as a reflection of wealth, this chart on housing prices is very interesting.

      Of course, the downside of this is growing homelessness among the poor in mega cities. The homeless don’t vote.

      1. flora

        I hear endlessly that the Dems will have to make more compromises with the GOP to win back the Great Plains and the upper MidWest. I think, if anything, the Dems have compromised too much on economic matters with the GOP by adopting neo-liberal economics as the Dems’ very own TINA. Dems can’t improve the economic lives of their base voters by adopting the GOP economic programs and philosophy.

        1. nonclassical

          flora…obama codifying of bush – cheney international invasions of sovereign nations on basis of fabrications, wars, war crimes, destabilization of Middle-East (as George HW Bush warned), millions refugees, “Patriot Act”, Guantanamo Bay, prosecution of whistleblowers telling truth, and Wall Street “control accounting frauds”, no accountability at all, make your point…

    2. Oregoncharles

      Oregon has no megacities or even truly large ones – Portland is a dwarf compared to Seattle. Yet Oregon is deep azure, mostly in the Willamette Valley where most of the people live.

      Is Oregon that much of an exception?

      1. Yves Smith Post author

        Yes. If you look at a map, geographically blue areas are almost non-existant. Perhaps with the exception of Oregon, you have no blue states. You have blue cities that dominate states with big red areas. This is true even for CA and NY.

        Maine is politically pretty liberal yet has been voting for moderate Republicans for a while out of disgust with Dems. Governor LePage was for many a “fuck the Dems” vote.

  10. John D.

    The bottom line is hardly complicated: The only effective way to combat the sort of phoney, right wing populism adopted by creeps like Trump, Boris Johnson, Rob Ford, etc. is to use the real thing. And Hillary couldn’t have done that if her life depended on it.

  11. Collins

    As the late Princeton health economist Uwe Reinhardt (who grew up in post-war Germany) said, Americans lack a sense of “social solidarity “. He favored national health insurance but with private (non-govt empoyed) health providers, as in Germany.
    For all the media trying to portray Trump as a failed leader of his own party, it’s clear to millions that the Republicans are pushing for his failure and exit as much as the Democrats.
    Unless the Democrats nominate a true moderate progressive with real world track record (like a governor ) —but who?- rather than another Global Cap mercenary, Trump will be reelected.

  12. Scott

    I am a good way through “Nomadland”.
    Older white CamperForce workers lives of mere survival become State of South Dakota citizens, in one day.
    Like Jet Setters who buy passports of convenience are they proving the sociological saw that the poor & the rich think the same.
    It is the war for survival and those who can go the furthest the fastest win in war.

  13. JBird

    I really do not get this. There are plenty of people of all different politics who see clearly the problems, and even agree significantly on the solution and the oncoming catastrophe, but most of the ones running things either are clueless wonders, or just want to continue straight into the ground for the money as if that will do them any real good if it gets truly horrible.

    It does not require any special amount of brains, experience, or education, just common sense, and not much of that, to see this. So WTF is going on?

  14. Minnie Mouse

    The corporate globalist faction of the democratic party (Clinton) , the minority faction according to the TPA vote, deliberately blew the election to Trump over the TPP, despite warnings – near riot and walkout when TPP came up at the platform committee – carried on C-Span.

  15. Sluggeaux

    I really think that folks ought to stop obsessing about why some people voted for Trump. The most important factor was that nearly half of eligible voters (non-felons aged 18 and over) didn’t bother to vote at all. Trump and Clinton were fighting over the mere 52.8% of eligible voters who cast votes for one of the legacy party candidates.

    Nearly 10 million people who voted for Obama in 2008 didn’t bother to show up to vote in 2016. Their “Hope” had been changed to “Despair” by Obama’s lies. They watched him hand their health care over to the insurance companies, hand their mortgage relief over to the banks, hand their jobs out to foreigners, and expand the wars that were killing their children.

    They had no intention of turning out to vote for either of two of the most outrageous prevaricators in their recent memory. Those who did bother to vote did so likely more from force of habit than enthusiasm for either legacy-party candidate, who were cynically looking for a low-turnout “win” rather than any sort of actual voter mandate.

      1. petal

        Myself and others I know are heading in that direction-not bothering to vote anymore. We talk about it.

        1. Oregoncharles

          At least vote 3rd party and register a protest. If enough people did that, things would change.

          Non-voting reads as non-caring.

          1. Eureka Springs

            Read by whom, and why? Unless the ballot allows for some type of NO/None of The Above/ No Confidence/Start over vote which binds, I think the reading of non-caring alone feeds the very beast which repulses most non voters.

            1. Jeremy Grimm

              In my state your ballot is counted if you vote for some office. You might try voting for a Senator or Representative and leave Pres. blank. That would show up as an undercount. While there isn’t a report of undercount votes you can look at the total number of votes for your district and the number of votes for each candidate to get an idea of undercounts. Maybe someone will start reporting the undercount votes for each state?

  16. D

    This is the best up close to it piece I’ve seen on this subject, from someone in the midst of a despair zone; unlike the usual East/West Coast Journo/Pundit, or at the computer with the Starbucks in hand data factoid analyzer (emphasis mine):

    May 10, 2016 By Anne AmnesiaUnnecessariat

    Facing the Unnecessariat

    Here’s the thing: from where I live, the world has drifted away. We aren’t precarious, we’re unnecessary. The money has gone to the top. The wages have gone to the top. The recovery has gone to the top. And what’s worst of all, everybody who matters seems basically pretty okay with that. The new bright sparks, cheerfully referred to as “Young Gods” believe themselves to be the honest winners in a new invent-or-die economy, and are busily planning to escape into space or acquire superpowers, and instead of worrying about this, the talking heads on TV tell you its all a good thing- don’t worry, the recession’s over and everything’s better now, and technology is TOTES AMAZEBALLS!

    The Rent-Seeking Is Too Damn High

    If there’s no economic plan for the Unnecessariat, there’s certainly an abundance for plans to extract value from them. No-one has the option to just make their own way and be left alone at it. It used to be that people were uninsured and if they got seriously sick they’d declare bankruptcy and lose the farm, but now they have a (mandatory) $1k/month plan with a $5k deductible: they’ll still declare bankruptcy and lose the farm if they get sick, but in the meantime they pay a shit-ton to the shareholders of United Healthcare, or Aetna, or whoever. This, like shifting the chronically jobless from “unemployed” to “disabled” is seen as a major improvement in status, at least on television.

    Every four years some political ingenue decides that the solution to “poverty” is “retraining”: for the information economy, except that tech companies only hire Stanford grads, or for health care, except that an abundance of sick people doesn’t translate into good jobs for nurses’ aides, or nowadays for “the trades” as if the world suffered a shortage of plumbers. The retraining programs come and go, often mandated for recipients of EBT, but the accumulated tuition debt remains behind, payable to the banks that wouldn’t even look twice at a graduate’s resume. There is now a booming market in debtor’s prisons for unpaid bills, and as we saw in Ferguson the threat of jail is a great way to extract cash from the otherwise broke (thought it can backfire too). Eventually all those homes in Oklahoma, in Ohio, in Wyoming, will be lost in bankruptcy and made available for vacation homes, doomsteads, or hobby farms for the “real” Americans, the ones for whom the ads and special sections in the New York Times are relevant, and their current occupants know this. They are denizens, to use Standing’s term, in their own hometowns.

    This is the world highlighted in those maps, brought to the fore by drug deaths and bullets to the brain- a world in which a significant part of the population has been rendered unnecessary, superfluous, a bit of a pain but not likely to last long. Utopians on the coasts occasionally feel obliged to dream up some scheme whereby the unnecessariat become useful again, but its crap and nobody ever holds them to it. If you even think about it for a minute, it becomes obvious: what if Sanders (or your political savior of choice) had won? Would that fix the Ohio river valley? Would it bring back Youngstown Sheet and Tube, or something comparable that could pay off a mortgage? Would it end the drug game in Appalachia, New England, and the Great Plains? Would it call back the economic viability of small farms in Illinois, of ranching in Oklahoma and Kansas? Would it make a hardware store viable again in Iowa, or a bookstore in Nevada? Who even bothers to pretend anymore?

    Well, I suppose you might. You’re probably reading this thinking: “I wouldn’t live like that.” Maybe you’re thinking “I wouldn’t overdose” or “I wouldn’t try heroin,” or maybe “I wouldn’t let my vicodin get so out of control I couldn’t afford it anymore” or “I wouldn’t accept opioid pain killers for my crushed arm.” Maybe you’re thinking “I wouldn’t have tried to clear the baler myself” or “I wouldn’t be pulling a 40-year-old baler with a cracked bearing so the tie-arm wobbles and jams” or “I wouldn’t accept a job that had a risk profile like that” or “I wouldn’t have been unemployed for six months” or basically something else that means “I wouldn’t ever let things change and get so that I was no longer in total control of my life.” And maybe you haven’t. Yet.

    This isn’t the first time someone’s felt this way about the dying. In fact, many of the unnecessariat agree with you and blame themselves– that’s why they’re shooting drugs and not dynamiting the Google Barge. The bottom line, repeated just below the surface of every speech, is this: those people are in the way, and its all their fault. The world of self-driving cars and global outsourcing doesn’t want or need them. Someday it won’t want you either. They can either self-rescue with unicorns and rainbows or they can sell us their land and wait for death in an apartment somewhere. You’ll get there too.

    In Sum, Despair is the Collapse of Forever into the Strain of Now

    If I still don’t have your attention, consider this: county by county, where life expectancy is dropping survivors are voting for Trump.

    What does it mean, to see the world’s narrative retreat into the distance? To know that nothing more is expected of you, or your children, or of your children’s children, than to fade away quietly and let some other heroes take their place? One thing it means is: if someone says something about it publicly, you’re sure as hell going to perk up and listen.

    Guy Standing believed that the Precariat heralded a new age of xenophobic nationalism and reaction, but at the same time hoped that something like Occupy, that brought the precariat together as a self-conscious community, would lead to social and economic changes needed to ameliorate their plight. Actively. The gay community didn’t just roll over and ask nicely for recognition, they had their shit together enough that they could fight their way, literally, into the studios of one of the top news shows in America, into the US capitol, the UK parliament, into the streets of every major city at rush hour. AIDS galvanized them, but it was their mutual recognition as friends, allies, comrades-in-arms from years of fighting for urban space to hook up in that made that galvanic surge possible. The disease blew a hole in an entire generation and the survivors kept fighting. HAART attenuated the death rate, and the survivors kept fighting.

    So far, the quiet misery of the unnecessariat has yet to spark its own characteristic explosion, but is it so hard to see the germ of it in Trump’s rallies? In the LaVoy Finicum memorials? Are we, and I don’t mean this rhetorically, on the verge of something as earth-shaking as ACT-UP?

    On primary election day, I wrote the following to a professor friend (edited):

    “I am despising myself for a coward today. I stopped for gas on the way to the polls, and noticed a hole in the frame of the car that you could push a parrot through. Dammit, I can’t afford a new car, and I don’t know if I can afford a welded patch- I don’t even know what would be involved, since so much has to be stripped off before you can bring a torch near a car body. I was in a pretty bad state when I got to the polls.

    Let me explain my conundrum: all democratic primaries are proportional, among candidates who get 15% or more of the votes. The republicans have a whole slew of delegate procedures, but ours is winner take all. [I could contribute one fraction of a fraction of a fraction of a delegate to Sanders, or help push Trump over the top.]

    What’s the outcome here? Sanders isn’t going to win. He doesn’t have the delegates- hell, he doesn’t have the votes. Doesn’t have the support. Clinton is the democratic nominee, and frankly she’s favored to win in the general election, even though in a head-to-head she gets trounced by Cruz, Kasich, or Rubio. Right now she polls ahead of Trump, but Trump is the one factor in this race that could completely kick the whole thing over. What happens if Clinton wins? For me, nothing- nothing good anyway. I still can’t afford car repairs, I still have to buy medication in cash raised by selling hay bales. No, I didn’t bale them, I trucked them across the county. If you bale them yourself, you make money at it, but I just had some extras to unload. That’ll still be the shape of things in a Clinton presidency.

    Lets be honest- Clinton doesn’t give a shit about me. When Clinton talks about people hurt by the economy, she means you: elite-educated white-collar people with obvious career tracks who are having trouble with their bills and their 401k plans. That’s who boomed under the last president Clinton, especially the 401ks. Me, or the three guys fighting two nights ago over the Township mowing contract, we’re nothing. Clinton doesn’t have an economic plan for us. Nobody has an economic plan for us. There is no economic plan for us, ever. We keep driving trucks around and keep the margins above gas money and maybe take an odd job here or there, but essentially, we’re history and nobody seems to mind saying so.

    And let me be honest again- Trump doesn’t have an economic plan for me either. What Trump’s boys have for me is a noose- but that’s the choice I’m facing, a lifetime of grueling poverty, or apocalypse. Yeah I know, not fun and games- the shouts, the smashing glass, the headlights on the lawn, but what am I supposed to do, raise my kid to stay one step ahead of the inspectors and don’t, for the love of god, don’t ever miss a payment on your speeding ticket? A noose is something I know how to fight. A hole in the frame of my car is not. A lifetime of feeling that sense, that “ohhhh, shiiiiiit…” of recognition that another year will go by without any major change in the way of things, little misfortunes upon misfortunes… a lifetime of paying a grand a month to the same financial industry busily padding the 401k plans of cyclists in spandex, who declare a new era of prosperity in America? Who can find clarity, a sense of self, any kind of redemption in that world?

    Fuck it. Give me the fascists, I’ll know where I stand…

    But I went ahead and took a democratic ballot regardless. And voted for Sanders. And as long as chumps like me keep doing that, we’ll keep getting the Clintons we deserve.


    I would add that there are ever increasing East/West Coast despair zones not being discussed, other than tagging those populations as Uneducated™, which apparently equates to a non tech background, or just being over 35, despite current education. I suspect the large Blue Turnout for California, had far more to do with an enormous anti-Trump immigrant population, traditional Dem voters opting out of either candidate, and vote counting malfeasance, than anything else; as California has the highest Poverty rate in the Nation, yet is predominantly overseen by Democrats who may as well be Republicans for the damage they’ve wrought.

    1. Jeremy Grimm

      Apparently the “Unnecessariat” post spoke to and for a lot of people — Anne Amnesia indicated it was picked up and reposted on quite a few sites.

      The comment by ADB about halfway down in the comments to “Unnecessariat” hit me with a shock. It got two likes which also surprises me. How could one of the downtrodden have such lack of empathy for another of the downtrodden? With such solidarity we can all go together to the gallows fighting with each other as we march to the scaffold.

  17. Ian

    I was at a hostel and an interesting perspective put forth from one of the guests was that at the first debate with Clinton when he was largely unresponsive, looked terrible and obviously coked up, during the second debate he did much better. He said that he had believed Trump believed he was going to go in and fundentally fix things but after the primaries he had gotten talked to about the reality of what was going to be allowed and his first debate reflected the shock of the reality of things to him. Just an interesting perspective.

  18. D

    yeah dear, if anyone able to read claims they don’t understand what she wrote, they’re clearly not telling the truth.
    Addending my above comment, a perfect example of the West Coast despair is the Silicon Valley, California despair (and Silicon Valley, and its borders, have been overseen by 99.99 Democrats who may as well be REPUBLICANS for the austerity they’ve presided over).

    Using suicide via Commuter Train – by an approximately fifty mile stretch (which mostly encompasses Silicon™ Valley™), between San Jose and San Francisco, of Caltrain commuter track – as an example, there were a record 20 Caltrain track deaths in 2015. At least nineteen of those deaths were declared as, or definitely appeared to be suicides. The 20th death (emphasis mine):

    Caltrain death is record 20th of year

    One person was hit and killed late Monday afternoon by a Caltrain in Santa Clara, roughly 30 minutes after police pulled a trespasser from the tracks in Mountain View, officials confirmed.

    The death marked the agency’s 20th fatality of the year, spokeswoman Tasha Bartholomew confirmed, matching a record-high set back in 1995.

    The fatal collision happened shortly before 5:40 p.m. just north of the Santa Clara Caltrain station, agency spokeswoman Tasha Bartholomew said. The train that hit the pedestrian was heading northbound at the time of the collision.

    Less than 30 minutes before that incident, another person was detained by police near the San Antonio station in Mountain View after they were caught on the tracks and nearly hit by a passing train.

    Bartholomew said the person was not hit, but a bag they were carrying was grazed. That person has not been identified.

    Commuters can expect delays.

    Check back for updates.

    Those record 2015 deaths –predominantly adults, and two 15 year old males from affluent neighborhoods– were never highlighted by local, or National, news. The adults were usually noted as Trespassing on the Tracks™; a normal ‘coding,’ unless it’s a youth, or someone considered Meritocratic (see: 03/12/12 Eric Salvatierra Killed By Caltrain: How Did PayPal Executive Die?; my decades long in silicon valley educated guess: Peter Thiel/Elon Musk Founded, eBay acquired, PayPal, was a ghastly and inhuman place to work at).

    In that same year, for their December 2015 issue, and after that above noted November 16, 2015, RECORD 20th Caltrain human tragedy, The Atlantic™ published a piece by East Coast DC’er Pundit™, Hanna Rosin, titled, The Silicon Valley Suicides -Why are so many kids with bright prospects killing themselves, regarding prior year Teen Suicides on those same Caltrain Tracks, Teens from Affluent Families, mostly in Palo Alto, which neighbors Stanford University and its Hoover institute.

    It is wonderful that those teen tragedies from affluent families were highlighted, as they should have been. But then, neither Hanna Rosin, or anyone from the The Atlantic™ wrote a follow-up piece regarding those record 20 Caltrain – mostly ADULT suicides – deaths in 2015, which, if Hanna was doing her homework regarding Caltrain suicides she had to have been aware of.

    Those Caltrain deaths have decreased in the last two years (the last I noticed was an eighth death, on October 19th: Caltrain strikes, kills trespasser in San Francisco, reported by kron4™), especially since there is now a worldwide spotlight on the Homogenous Ivy League Male Billionaires of Silicon Valley and the obscene poverty their Publicly Subsidized Private Sandbox encompasses. I.e. rarely reported on, untold suicide attempts, and: versus easing up the ability to economically survive, The State of California has instead focused on making sure no one kills themselves before they are sucked dry of all possible currency, by guarding those tracks (along with Amtrak & Bart tracks, and the Golden Gate Bridge) 24/7.

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