Seeking Reader Sightings on the State of Flyover

The US is a large and often very disparate country, yet the parts we hear about the most are the parts that are most the same: blue cities and well off suburbs where you can always find a Starbucks, a Whole Foods, an Apple Store, people with their noses in their smartphones, and other artifacts of what back in the day was called yuppiedom. Another facet of this sort of provincialism is that the too much of what passes for political and economic reporting that goes beyond those enclaves tends to be based on convenience. So while stories on neighborhood gardens or police abuses in poor city neighborhoods are important, they are still over-represented relative to the sprawl of the US. That’s one reason why reporters going to interview people in places like Iowa or Oklahoma or that recently discovered state, West Virginia, too often come off like exercises in ethnography.

I try not to be guilty of this sort of thing yet worry that I am. I spent most of my childhood in blue-collar towns dominated by one or two manufacturing plants. All the kids I knew lived in houses I thought we nice even though some were small with tiny yards and modest modern furniture. Parents took pride in being good members of their community and doing their best for their kids. But it seems that being a responsible adult is no longer valued; only “special” people, per Thomas Frank, deserve esteem and rewards, and they use that to justify cutting themselves bigger and bigger pieces of the collective pie.

However, since I don’t travel much, I have only very limited window into how people outside the top 10% or 20% are getting by. When I visit Birmingham, while there are more foodie restaurants and more McMansions going up in the good ‘hoods, the poor ones seem to be stuck in the same place or maybe even doing a bit worse. There’s a stretch I go through on the way to the airport that even had a collapsed house that it disgracefully took the city over 18 months to tear down that if anything is slowly getting even more desperate-looking. There’s another, just a three or four minute drive from some of the pricey houses that looks to be occupied by the economic stratum called “battlers” in Australia. It’s full of 1940s and 1950s starter houses on generous-sized lots, but in a district with bad schools. That looked like an area with the potential to be a sleeper for people who didn’t have kids. But its proximity to large malls that are now full of empty stores looks to have kept this enclave in a deep freeze.

Similarly, in Maine, while Portland is being colonized by out-of-staters who are driving real estate prices way up, some tourist spots further up the coast, like Boothbay Harbor, still have kept up their spiffy appearances but have been markedly less busy in peak season for the last three years.

This is a long-winded intro to soliciting reader input into what they see as the economic trajectory over longer timeframes (five years plus) of “below the top 20%” areas they visit often enough to have a good feel for how they are doing. For instance, from reader Daniel G via e-mail:

I also use my trips to WV as a barometer of the economy. During the housing bubble recent house maintenance was more evident and many new vehicles were in driveways. Even with today’s apparent bubble in auto loans there still is not the same prevalence of new cars/trucks as in 2007. And housing maintenance is not as prevalent. Huzzah, recovery.

Please weigh in if you have some intel! Thanks!

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  1. Bob

    Well here’s a perspective from NJ – the beach.

    A very tony neighborhood with McMansions and more than a few empty and vacant houses. Many houses are on the market for years. And I’m told that it is common for some to have large beach houses that are only occupied on weekends or for a few months in the summer season.
    And yet there are a good many vacant wrecks of houses too.

    A visit to a large Northern city it is as if a neutron bomb was used – ever 3rd house is wrecked windows gone, doors ripped from hinges, all copper stripped.

    And in the South the air conditioners are protected against scrappers with a rebar cage that is locked in place to prevent theft

    It shore looks as if “It was the best of times and the worst of times.”

    And it appears as if we all are on the knifes edge.

    As far as the police go – it is common for the boys in blue to be turned in to a profit center for the local municipality. A plethora of summons, petty fines, minor traffic offenses are used The majority of folks simply figure up the costs of fighting and balance that against a plea bargain.
    This is the outgrowth of the “Run government like a business ” crowd. It is as far from law enforcement or crime control as one can get.

    New trucks are at $40 K to $ 80 K and the “Base” models are nearly unavailable.

    What to do ?

    Put in this year’s garden, get bees, and maybe get a few more chickens.

  2. ambrit

    Some quibbles on definitions and meanings.

    I get the feeling that the American Deep South, (I append the ‘American’ after a back and forth with Rabid Ghandi last year,) is more of a Fly Under than Fly Over place.

    Firstly, the race struggle looks to have been more extreme here over recent historical time. The ‘fall out’ from that is still a very ‘present’ issue. This ties in with class issues since, from what I can see, the black underclass is merging with the white working class as time progresses. Both, unfortunately, are being suppressed fiercely, mainly through stigmatization and attendant social and ‘law enforcement’ pressures. In many ways, the cost of belonging to the ‘virtuous’ classes in America, in which I throw not only the upper tenth, but really the top quarter of the population is the subsumption of the individual to the now neo-liberal status quo. You not only have to pay to play, you have to pay to pretend, if that’s all you can afford. I can see, in my minds eye, one of those stick figure parades on the back window of a ratty minivan. Yeah, you went to Disneyworld alright.

    Secondly, there doesn’t seem to be as far to fall here as in other parts of the American Heartland. The American Deep South was never as wealthy, nor was that wealth as evenly distributed as in the rest of the nation. What is now creeping into the rest of Americas’ social relations is something that was already a central part of the Southern Culture: Patriarchialism, and its handmaids, Social Conservatism and Economic Conservatism. Some of us here like to chuckle about what a real shock so many of our Northron compatriots will get when they finally realize exactly how reactionary their new (really very old,) social mores will be. Victor Hugo and Charles Dickens would recognize the essence of this easily.

    Finally, to bring this expository epistle to an end, the economic future of this region of Deplorastan is by no means bright. The rural regions are steadily decaying, and not in a Southern Gothic preciousness sense. Real poverty stalks the land, and hopelessness reigns where New Deal hope once held sway. A physical manifestation of that is in the decaying road infrastructure and small town and city service infrastructure. This mini-city, Hattiesburg, is wrestling with water bill increases being blamed on the difficulty in raising funds to replace or repair the fifty to one hundred year old water distribution system. Streets have to be dug up , pipes replaced and the streets repaired. In my neighborhood, the streets are asphalt laid over bricks bedded in a sand and gravel substrate. One can find concrete road bridges with construction dates from the 1940s in use. Some of them are on main roads and highways.

    For the present, the balkanization of America looks to continue apace.

    1. RabidGandhi

      Ambrit is no doubt the most adept in this regard, but I should note that we down here shall make no attempts to begrudge y’all calling yourselves Americans too; we’re happy to share this hemisphere with you. That said, it’s been ages since anyone has even bothered to fly over these long forgotten nether regions– for better or for worse.

      PS, Ambrit: as I read your struggles versus your neoliberal overlords and compare them to our own fight down here, it becomes clear we are united by much more than just the word América. ¡Te mando un abrazo fuerte!

      1. ambrit

        En la calle es el poder!
        I hope that summer is treating you all well. Are you all experiencing weather extremes this year as we are? Eighty F last week during the day with thirties F last night.

    2. Jim Haygood

      ‘our Northron compatriots’


      Some may not get your implicit reference to Southrons. It ain’t a typo.

      1. ambrit

        Yeah, Boy Howdy Comrade Jim!
        Good catch!
        As history rhyming goes, the present difficulties of Trump versus the Democrat claques do bring back memories of when Representative Preston Brooks (D-SC) entered the Senate chamber and severely beat Senator Charles Sumner (R-MA) for some transgression or other. A hundred and thirty odd years ago a Democrat savaged a Republican, and for reasons not too different from how things are doing today. The Republican had made a speech supporting a popular cause (abolition) that had gone against the Oligarch classes interests, (money, in the form of unfree labour.) That was in 1856. A few years later, the issue came to a head.

        1. Carolinian

          Actually it was because the Northerner implied or stated that the slave owners were having sex with their chattel which was of course quite true. The Southerners who, per Mark Twain, saw themselves as medieval knights and cavaliers had to defend their ‘honor’ via that lunatic. Really the above prequel could sum up the Civil War itself.

          As for whither the South, I’d say my region is looking ever more prosperous for the time being. Ironically, having spent much of my life in Atlanta and then deserted it for my natal hometown, it seems upstate SC along with Charlotte, NC are turning into Atlanta. The two main towns in the upstate will soon merge into one megaplex.

          Of course all of the above assumes the economy doesn’t crash so perhaps quite temporary.

          1. ambrit

            Well, from a Marxist perspective, sex with an unfree chattel is theft. Otherwise, the slave owners would have to, gasp, pay for sex! Rape has an archaic meaning of “to seize or take away by force.” Since ‘knights’ operated from a moral centre defined by strength and force, the support of rape by the Southron slave holding class is logical. Much the same goes on today with the elites.
            As Langston Hughes has the young woman reply to the older womans’ question as to why the younger one stole the older ones’ boyfriend away: “Because I can.”

            1. animalogic

              Reminds me of the ultimate “catch” in “Catch 22”: “we can do anything you can’t stop us doing” Simple. Almost elegant.

              1. ambrit

                Forget about voting for the “Lesser Evil.” We’re now aiming to elect the more “Elegant Evil.”

      2. Ed Miller


        Can you help the clueless regarding Northrons and Southrons? As a native of PNW I have never heard of either.

        1. HotFlash

          Lord of the Rings (Tolkien). The Sothrons were allies of Saruman. They came to the Battle of Gondor on olifants (to Sam Gamgee’s everlasting delight. “That’ll be one to tell them back in the shire!”)

          Or, wikipedia tells me, something from George R. R. Martin’s Fire and Ice, but I don’t know about that.

          1. Susan Anderson

            George R.R. Martin’s Fire and Ice is the original for “Game of Thrones”. I’m told for people like me the books are better than the TV series

        2. Janie

          Just guessing that it may be an anachronism from the Scots Irish or other British Islanders who came to the mountainous regions of the South. Maybe like chimbley for chimney, the old Irish pronunciation.

    3. John Zelnicker

      March 8, 2018 at 6:04 am
      Although a much bigger city than Hattiesburg, Mobile is experiencing many of the same things.

      One of the few bright spots is the proposed merger of Airbus and part of Bombardier to assemble some of Bombardier’s planes at the Airbus assembly line at Brookley Field, if it comes to pass. However, that will not provide the widespread boost that most local economies need.

      I have noticed in this election year that a bunch of roads are being repaired and repaved. Of course the roads chosen just happen to be the ones most frequented by those who live in the western sections of the city, in their McMansions and gated communities, and work downtown, that is, the executives, bankers, and credentialed classes such as attorneys, accountants, etc.

      I hope you and the Missus are getting along okay. I know you’ve had some struggles lately.

      1. ambrit

        A big hello from the two of us Mr Zelnicker!
        We have spent wonderfully aimless hours wandering about the Schillinger road flea market, so we get your reference to ‘politically connected’ roads. We’d either come in from or return back through Lucedale. That corridor I’d guess deserves the name of ‘connected’ thoroughfare.
        One of the knock on effects of going through, for want of a better euphemism, ‘struggles,’ and they do indeed rise to the level of ‘struggle,’ in this case, somewhat existential in nature, is that it opens your eyes to how many other people are going through similar travails. As the comments on this post are showing, the rot has reached much farther down into the society than even cynics like myself previously suspected. You undoubtedly see it in your line of work, which we hope is doing well this tax season.
        Is that Bombardier assembly line going to be in the big hangar the film crews used?
        Be Sweet!
        Lee and Phyl

        1. John Zelnicker

          March 8, 2018 at 11:54 am
          Thanks, Lee, this has been a good tax season, my busiest yet, but it seems almost no one is making more money this year than last, that is, 2017 vs. 2016. The few extra dollars that wage earners are getting now due to the new withholding tables impresses no one.

          I’m not sure that hanger is still standing. Airbus has mostly built from the ground up.

          I live about 4 miles from the flea market, so if you’re heading down this way again, please get in touch. You can find me on LinkedIn or at banjo[two-three] at comcast dot net. (Substitute digits.)

          All my best.

  3. TMoney

    Toledo OH, has had a modest downtown revival over the last 30 years, with housing gentrification leading the way, however, the suburban malls have gone from 4 to 1. The city is still in a slow decline (sorry to say). There are no signs of an overheating job market, but there are low paid jobs.

    If you have a better job, it’s very very affordable compared to other places. Wealthier transplants are generally gob-smacked by the low cost of housing.

    I’ve heard from doctors and social workers that the heroin / opiate problem is very bad indeed. Opiate addiction is an addiction of despair, it reminds me of Liverpool (UK) in the 80’s. Outlying rural areas seemed to be suffering worse than the city and its suburbs, with only hospitals and college areas providing islands of modest “prosperity”

    College costs have gone up to the point that it’s seems as though even the more successful are scaling down their kids ambitions, with more choosing in-state, public Universities or even the local University, rather than out-of-state schools.

    1. rd

      Upstate NY west of Albany is very different from the NYC economy in both good an bad ways.

      Housing is very affordable except for exorbitant property taxes. A little known secret in NYS is that most of the county property tax is to pay for Medicaid which makes no sense at all, but is all part of Albany trying to hide taxes so they can do things like bloated and corrupt development grants.

      The economy is very diverse now. On the whole, the big national and multi-national firms shut down in the 1980s and early 90s in this region, so there is a lot of small business and smaller national firms as employers. Lots of service firms like engineering, accounting, insurance etc. If you have a university education, it is generally fairly simple to get a job that will pay median household income or more by your 30s and 40s. Most people in that position own a house.

      Because the big employer collapse occurred so early, there were few shopping malls and hotels built in the 1990s and early 2000s. Surprisingly, we were even getting hotels built shortly after the financial crisis because we were so under-hoteled in the area. Most of the malls seem to be doing ok. One was re-purposed into a gigantic auto mall. Some strip malls have been built over the past decade and many are being refurbished. The malls that are suffering appear to be doing it on purpose to fight for lower tax assessments.

      The downtown city cores are bouncing back with night life, apartments, and new hotels. There is still a ring of hopelessness around the downtown core before you get to the suburbs. The rural areas are a mix of new opportunities, especially craft breweries, cideries, and wineries. Some local start-up businesses have done very well. For example, Chobani greek yogurt started in this area and turned into a big employer for a previously abandoned rural county and is also supporting many of the dairy farmers – milk prices are low but they can sell a lot of it to the yogurt makers. So we can buy Chobani or Wegmans yogurts and support local farmers and food processors.

      Cuomo’s development programs simply need to be shut down. They are worse than useless. Every one of them turns out to be a high-cost failure with graft and corruption charges currently being prosecuted. We would be far better off with eliminating those types of costs and then shifting the Medicaid property tax back to the state general fund. That would likely spark an economic boom in upstate NY if the local communities would allow it to occur. It always astonishes me how often developers get turned down by localities because the development would “change the character of the community”.

      BTW – if NYC denizens have not made it up into the Finger Lakes to visit the many wineries, state parks, and restaurants in May-October, then you are missing one of the best travel deals in the country.

      1. Jeremy Grimm

        As the sea rises what is the chance that NYC could wield enough power in Albany to tax Upstate NY to help build their sea walls or whatever they try to build?

      2. bob

        “It always astonishes me how often developers get turned down by localities because the development would “change the character of the community”.”

        I’m not sure it happens enough, per your earlier comments. Most developers, in upstate NY especially, are tax advantaged public looting schemes. See IDA’s all over NY for proof. Its been completely crooked for long enough that the corruption has removed anyone not participating in the graft.

        Petite bourgeoisie vs bourgeoisie

        Honestly, the few times I’ve seen developers rebuffed is A) its in a high end neighborhood and B) when one of the local oligarchs, who doesn’t even have to put his name to it, doesn’t like the thought of anyone but him making money, and orders the project stalled. To put it very bluntly- Boss Hogg hegemony.

      3. Dave D'Rave

        Went to college upstate. Still keep in touch.
        New York State’s reputation for business is appalling: The state revenue folks use Mafia tactics to jack up business taxes on any bogus pretext you can imagine. They are clever, too. They shake you down for just a little less than the lawyer would cost to fight it. . .
        Even if global warming makes the place suitable for human habitation, I reckon that Penn or Vermont will still be a better deal.

  4. Disturbed Voter

    Small college town here. Slow decay of the mall for 20 years, small businesses anxiously awaiting .. the customers who don’t come in (on-line shopping or shopping trips to the big city). House prices depressed, except for better ones being bought by the military officers at the nearby base. Agriculture prices depressed. Without the poisonous credit lines (including student loans) and government money thru the base, we would dry up and blow away. Lack of organic economy … credit and government spending propping things up, are like heroin.

    We were briefly prosperous 20 years ago when agriculture prices were higher than normal. Before I moved here, 40 years ago, there was a short oil boom, then crash … that was the first prosperity since WW II (when the base was first built). The big cities suck all the air out of the state, and the Coasts stuck all the air out of the country. This has been going on with short respite since the Stock Market Crash of 1929.

    1. Steve H.

      Larger college town in Indiana, with some manufacturing. Major building downtown, multistory student condos, as our mayor racks up favors to cash in on his family name for a senate run.

      Meanwhile, other cities in-state & out, have sent their unterkklassen here with bus tickets. Crime is up in a big way around the free-lunch spot, where they carry bats and practice fighting moves as traffic goes by (I am not exaggerating here). The local small county towns have been devastated, parental drug use exploding, kids without shoes who haven’t eaten in days. A friend had a baby shower in a park and was told to clean up needles and bottles beforehand.

      What really gets me is this was one of only two counties in the state that didn’t have land values crash. We get thousands of international students, irritating when they’re racing their sports cars, but manufacturing has nearly collapsed, (with one exception (medical equipment)).

      I just had all the trees in my backyard cut down, I’ll hugelkultur them into soil and we’ll eat off of them until we die. We are in a Goldilocks spot and are setting down deeper roots, while shoring up the house with insulation and locks. I’m working on the assumption that an ice storm will take power out for a week in our lifetime, which means nobody’s furnace will work. We’ve been a sanctuary for friends and neighbors in the past, and likely will be again.

      1. Arizona Slim

        Here in Tucson, there has been quite the proliferation of high-rise party towers for University of Arizona students. And there’s talk of building more. Needless to say, the locals aren’t happy.

        Me? I can’t figure out where all of these partying students are coming from, and how they can afford to live in these places.

        One of my friends checked ’em out — her son was in a UA graduate program — and she told me that one of them rented apartments for $1,500 a month. Ouch. Needless to say, my friend’s son and his girlfriend stayed put in their modest house near campus.

          1. Arizona Slim

            You have a point, rtr. A few years ago, my credit union lobby was rife with posters promoting their student living loans.

            Just what the kids need. A mortgage on their party tower lifestyle.

            1. Sutter Cane

              Having gone back to grad school as a somewhat older adult, I observed a marked difference between my own attitude towards money (having worked for it) and the students who went to graduate school straight from their bachelor’s, having not had the same experience. For me, every class, book, and other expenditure was highly tanglible, and thought of in terms of how long it had taken me to earn that amount. For them, it was just a number – monopoly money, added to their already large debt total but not REAL.

              To them, a required class that was a waste of time was just a lark, while I would be thinking “You realize that we’re paying good money for this b.s., right??”

              Gonna be a lot of people paying off their party years for decades to come.

              1. Sid_finster

                Best college advice I ever got came from National Review, of all places.

                To summarize, the article advised hanging out with returning students. They were in college because they wanted to be there and were probably paying for it themselves, and they had experience of the real world, bills and mortgages.

                As opposed to the typical undergrad straight outta high school, who is there because partying and bull sessions on mom and dad’s nickel lets you put off adulthood for five or six years.

  5. Thomas Williams

    Metro Atlanta Suburb:

    Blue collar neighborhood. Wages flat, only crap service sector jobs available. Homes falling behind on Maintenance. 20% vacant houses. 20% homes inhabited by illegals. Cars all 10 – 20 years old. Rising grocery prices. Rising health care costs. Neolib Nirvana

    1. ChrisFromGeorgia

      I can also report from Atlanta, but from more of a white collar upscale suburb than the one you describe.

      Things are ostensibly going well in terms of the visible economy, bu people seem angrier than ever and on edge. The place I am in is largely populated by the high-achiever, Fortune 500 company workers who took a big hit in 2008. Every year it seems this area gets more and more like New York City – during a recent trip there I actually found the traffic in Queens to be more manageable and drivers more predictable than here. Here everyone cuts you off or honks if you take even half a millisecond before hitting the gas at a red light turning green.

      Businesses in general seem to be going OK but some small ones are disappearing. Property taxes are still low especially relative to the NE, but rising and that trend looks to be inevitable. The local county government cannot afford the services it is providing without raising taxes or cutting the usual suspects (libraries, aid to the poor.) The main reason is giveaways to corporations like the one that owns the Atlanta Braves, and a lack of discipline in throwing money at boondoggles that benefit only the 1%.

      If Amazon ends up putting their HQ anywhere within 45 miles of here, I expect it will ruin this once affordable housing market for good.

  6. Trout Fisher

    I live in the NW corner of lower northern Michigan. The city hub up here is Traverse City and it’s on one of the large bays of Lake Michigan. Because it’s a tourist mecca of sorts, it’s doing quite well, much better than the area as a whole. The downtown shopping district has no vacant stores. One reason we’re doing better than most is the creative types are moving here and bringing their businesses. One example is Atlas Space Operations ( ). There are many others.
    That’s not to say we don’t have problems, we certainly do. There’s a total lack of affordable housing and childcare. The tourist industry jobs are seasonal with low pay and no benefits. Workers are forced to live far away and face long commutes. There is much poverty, hidden in the back woods. Like most of America, the top 20% are doing quite well and the rest are struggling to stay afloat. Appearances are deceiving.

    1. Jeff N

      I visited Traverse City for the first time last winter to attend a live broadcast of Ben Hamper’s WNMC radio show, I was surprised to see how nice it was; I didn’t know beforehand it was popular with the tourists

      1. Kurtismayfield

        Sounds about right.. even for Brockton.. you need a household income of 100k+ to afford anything within 50 miles of Beantown.

  7. Trout Fisher

    I live in the NW corner of lower Michigan. The regional hub is Traverse City ( TC ) and it’s doing quite well. It has all the big box stores ( outside of town ) the regional hospital ( the leading employer ) and an old fashioned downtown shopping district ( no vacancy ). The main reason TC is doing well is because it’s a tourist mecca of sorts. It’s located on one of the big bays of Lake Michigan, a beautiful area with lakes, streams, trails and parks. This has attracted the creative types and they bring their businesses to live where they vacation. One example is Atlas Space Operations ( ) and there are others.
    This not to say we don’t have problems, we certainly do. The tourism jobs are short term, low pay with no benefits. There is a critical shortage of affordable housing and childcare. There is much poverty hidden in the back woods. There are opioid deaths every week. The neighborhoods near downtown TC are being gentrified forcing prices up and up. Not many families with young children can afford to live there. In short, TC is a microcosm of most of America with a little frosting on top. The top 20% are doing quite well, everyone else struggles to get by…..

  8. Potato Guy

    In our little piece of heaven, otherwise known as downstate Illinois, the median wage is $34k. There are many folks who make over $100k however they are mostly affiliated with the local, county, state and federal government. The high earners in the private sector are from the hospitals or our regional corporations that were established 50-100 years ago.

    Some of the folks who have small businesses and are usually closer to the median income have initiated a lawsuit regarding our property taxes. It is obvious that the nicer homes get much more favorable tax treatment than the poor neighborhoods. In some cases, the properties in the poorer areas just saw an increase in property taxes of 100% or more. There will be blood or at least there should be.

    Our schools are ruled from the top down and limited in problem solving because of the Kings dictates. Downstate the sales tax is being increased by 15% under the guise of building maintainence. In reality the money that was formerly used for buildings is being swept into the pensions, benefits and salaries negotiated by the benevolent teachers unions. We are also sending a large portion of downstate money to the Chicago Public Schools. The latest grift is about 400-600 million. What’s a couple of hundred million between friends. Three of the four college graduates I spoke with last week are moving to Texas either to get their graduate degrees or for a job.

    On the bright side, Rural Development is all the rage. As I write this, my wife and I are at a seminar on how to get government funds and partner with government agencies to get funding for a myriad of programs. It is very complicated and all the money must be so specifically applied it often distorts the outcomes. Yes, that’s the bright side, government cheese.

    One other bright note is that spring is here, it’s time to plant the potatoes and there are many jobs available–help wanted signs everywhere. Median and below of course.

    It’s an off year election in a couple of weeks. Our alleged savior republican governor(Rauner) will surely get booted. And the republican governor opponent is quite popular but stands no chance against the likely Democrat victor JB Pritzker, an old money billionaire. None of the candidates are talking about bankruptcy, electoral college or succession. Just the same old song of “if we could just get rid of Madigan we will be ok”. Nothing new here to report.

  9. Bill McCullam

    Working for AARP helping people prepare their taxes; I am astonished by how many survive on very little income, $5-15k. Most of these have no mortgage so I wonder what will happen when they die. Right now land is expensive and there are some rich people around. The population seems very much older than 20 years ago. I second the comments above that people have forgotten about sending their kids to out-of-state colleges. One thing is that the local Democrat party apparat is firmly in the pockets of the big money. There is no chance for progressive or third party candidates.

  10. Carla

    Inner ring “streetcar” suburb of Cleveland. Economically diverse with housing stock ranging from 1910 – 1920 mansions to small post-war ranches and bungalows. Population almost evenly split between Caucasians and African Americans; Asian 4%, Hispanic, 2%. Poorer sections of town were targeted and duly decimated during the mortgage fraud crisis; foreclosures continue, albeit at a slower pace. Home of the one of the first indoor malls in the country, now largely dead. City government is grappling with this, crumbling water and sewer infrastructure, continuing foreclosures, and a perception of rising crime that is constantly stoked by racial fears and proximity to the inner city. In addition, real poverty is increasing in the more modest neighborhoods within the suburb itself; from a negligible level in 1990, the poverty rate now approaches 20 percent.

    Housing prices are extremely reasonable but property taxes are sky-high ($240,000 5-bedroom, 3-bath, c. 1920 colonial: $7,500 per year in taxes). Those taxes fund a school district that while still offering a good education to middle-class kids, has been ranked as failing by the state of Ohio due to testing mania and a constantly transient population of very poor kids. Most white kids attend private and parochial schools. Vouchers cost the public school system $6 million/year. Added to property taxes that are among the highest in the state are a local income tax, and ever-increasing “fees” levied by the city for basic services, plus sharply increasing water and sewer charges.

    Proximity to universities, mega-hospital-complexes, and cultural institutions, added to the charm of the housing stock, still make this an attractive place for the “creative class” to live. Crumbling infrastructure, a state government in thrall to ALEC, class tensions, and ever-present racial signalling make it a difficult place to govern.

  11. scott2

    I travel between Wisconsin and TX every few months. Sometimes by car, sometimes by a very small plane. I’ve been forced by weather to stop in a few small cities in KS, IA and MO. In most of these cities the only buildings that have been built in the past 30 years are hospitals, schools, and a Walgreens or two. There are usually empty factories (Rubbermaid, Amana) and if there is a new industry, it’s something like chicken processing. Dollar General has replaced WalMart.

    No matter how depressed the small cities are, the college towns seem quite prosperous. I wonder why.

    Meanwhile in Dallas (north of Downtown) only in the last few months have I seen for-sale signs (my real estate broker friend told me that most houses sell in hours so the signs never go up). State Farm, Toyota and dozens of other companies are relocating from coastal states. (Amazxon, stay away). Apartments are going up everywhere. Restaurants can’t find workers so they scale back hours or go out of business. Formerly affordable rents have increased rapidly. The Chamber claims that 100,000 people moved to DFW in the past year, much faster than they can complete housing units.

    So while Dallas is in fly-over country, it hasn’t been de-industrialized.

    1. Arizona Slim

      And Dallas has the best community radio station in the country, KNON. The voice of the people!

    2. Carla

      @scott2: Heard on the radio yesterday that Texas is the new California (!) What do you think of that assertion?

    3. Gary

      Drive out past the Metroplex (Dallas-Fort Worth) and past the white flight and it’s a different story. The small self sustaining rural towns are in poor shape. The oil/shale boom was a big boost for a few years but that does not look like it is going to come back. People still farm and ranch but they can’t compete with Agribusinesses or afford farm equipment that requires regular software updates and forced obsolescence before the actual metallic parts are worn out. You could pass a Massey-Fergusson tractor down to your kids. Not anymore…
      KNON is great radio. Slim is right about that.

    4. pretzelattack

      some of the suburbs are questionable, richardson has lots of starbucks and smart phones, but also lots of vacant storefronts, and immigrants sleeping several to an apartment although i think not related, just to save costs. there’s also the local homage to devastated european buildings post ww2, valley view mall, although i think that’s still in dallas itself.

      1. Harrold

        Valley View mall has been demolished and a new “mixed usage” development is underway. I think its going to be apartments + retail + restaurant.

        Housing prices in the northern suburbs has driven house buyers all the way to Anna Texas, which is located 45 miles north of Dallas! Huge new houses on tiny lots surrounded by empty land.

        1. pretzelattack

          nope it hasnt been demolished, one developer is suing one of the other developers to stop demoltion, the theater and a few small businesses remain though the vast majority of stores are closed, as is about 3/4 of the mall. it’s a clusterfuck, and the guy mainly responsible for developing it lost his city funding. there was some hope amazon could swoop it and buy it for its new headquarters, but my local city council person is not optimistic. you can actually drive by the mall and see inside, through the plastic sheets they erected over the collapsed walls between the old macy’s and the inside of the mall, should you desire to. meanwhile slabs of concrete hang down, most of the area is fenced off, and the mall slowly decays.

          here’s a fairly recent article.

    5. Marksparky

      Small Texas towns more than 2 h away from the big cities are dying; food processing (chicken, feedlots) are often the major or only industrial jobs available, otherwise it’s the few good muni gov’t jobs, state agency inspectors, or low-wage retail/health aide jobs around. Dallas and Austin are booming. I’m not in Houston or San Antonio enough to know their climate. However, some suburbs (not the chosen hot areas for the wealthy) are starting to fray, lots of empty retail, and the distances are so great–miles to drive just for a Starbuck’s or something besides drive-thru–that there’s no sense of community, no place for kids to walk to on their own, and the prospect of longer and longer commutes into the more thriving areas of the metropolis.

  12. Livius Drusus

    I live in the Midwest. One thing that I have noticed is the huge growth of gambling and alcohol businesses. I was recently shocked when I noticed that my favorite Chinese restaurant installed video poker machines. Then I saw that my local Italian restaurant installed them as well. Gaming machines used to only be in bars but now I see them in many ordinary “sit down” restaurants. Many places now serve alcohol. My local movie theater has a bar and even the local Lego Land at one of the few surviving malls has an “adult night” where they serve alcohol to party-goers who pay a fee to get in.

    These development may not seem important but considering the recent rise in alcoholism and other crippling addictions it is disturbing to see so many businesses look to gambling and alcohol to survive. Certainly cash-strapped state and local governments are happy to see “sin” businesses expand in order to gain tax revenue. Don’t get me wrong, I am not a prude but it is depressing to see booze and gambling as the new booming businesses in your area where there used to be booming retail and even a number of manufacturing concerns operating fairly recently.

    1. Wukchumni

      There’s half a dozen indian casinos within a 3 hour drive of us, and we were going skiing to China Peak this past Monday and driving through Fresno was a succession of Eagle Mountain Casino billboards with somebody looking ecstatic and the word “WINNING!” emblazoned on it, and there were 6 of them, and they didn’t miss any chances in terms of diversity, one was a Black lady, another a Hispanic man, and not quite sure, but there might’ve been a Hmong among them.

      The casinos tend to dominate local tv commercials as well.

      Fresno was judged the drunkest city of size in the country, and if I lived there, i’d be drinking to drown my sorrows of surroundings, you betcha.

      But it’s also very anti 420, so much so that a Fresnan would have to drive to Woodlake-over an hour away, as their closest chance to legally purchase some schwag.

    2. animalogic

      I don’t blame you at all ” alcohol and gambling” are the low hanging fruit for governments lacking imagination and morals.

  13. drugstoreblonde

    I grew up in Salt Lake City, Utah before relocating permanently to Berlin, Germany. For most of my time there, SLC was a fairly affordable city with something of a fledgling urban culture stretching from the Avenues to Sugarhouse. After graduating from the University of Utah in 2008, I moved “downtown”, to the area along 3rd and 3rd, where there were (and still are) several blocks of bars, restaurants, coffee shops, art galleries, and record stores to give the place a simulacra of a real city. If one were compelled to spend their early-20s in SLC, this would probably the place to do so.

    This was just in time for the first impacts of the Recession to be felt. Before the credit dried up, there were countless projects in various states of development and construction that were immediately put on hold. While some have argued that the Recession ended in X year (say, 2011 in coastal cities), in SLC it lasted much longer due, in my opinion, to how small the ownership pool in this specific area, and to how too great of an emphasis was put on concentrated retail (shopping malls), and commercial real estate (larger scale offices). SLC is basically a large corporate park that people just happen to live in. And this made it particularly vulnerable during the Recession. Instead of 100 offices for companies with 10 employees, there were 2 for companies with 500, etc. And instead of 200 stores spread out along 10 blocks of pedestrian-friendly streets, there were 200 stores in a large shopping mall.

    If the city had been more of a traditional city in the sense that it was dense, had robust ground floor retail with a diverse pool of ownership, and had sought to maintain and build more affordable housing beyond the threshold required to receive federal grants, it would have faired much better.

    When I visited last year for this first time in over 3 years I was surprised and horrified. For so many years between 2008-2013 I had walked around the city imagining life where holes and parking lot and other forms of landbanking stood. Now, there seem to be an endless amount of condominium starts, all higher-end as far as I can tell, that are built from the poorest, least-suitable materials and from the least-appealing (aesthetically-speaking) plans. New office buildings are being announced in the CBD along Main street between South Temple and 400 South (the only area of the city that seems to get any long-lasting attention), while all over the valley real estate prices are becoming frothy again, and life in general is becoming more expensive for everyone while wages (at least among my circle of friends) have remained flat.

    All of this is to say that it feels like Dèja-Vu all over again. The wrong things are being built. Lessons from the Recession were either never learned, or quickly forgotten. The ownership pool issues have only been exacerbated in the intervening years, as the smaller fish have been bought out by the bigger. And whatever seemed charming and unique to me during my childhood and early adulthood there, seems to be absorbed into William Gibson’s “Sprawl”. If it weren’t for the Wasatch and Oquirrh mountains, SLC would be the municipal embodiment of one of Marc Auge’s “non-places”. Which is a shame, since SLC is a unique city with a unique history smack dab in the middle of one of the most sublimely-beautiful geographic areas on the planet. It takes a lot of effort to screw that up.

    1. Garrett Pace

      Excepting towns next to national parks (where tourism keeps increasing), rural Utah is getting the crap kicked out of it. That’s quite different from the Wasatch Front, a 100 mile north-south ribbon of 2.5 million people, desert on one side mountain on the other and Salt Lake right in the middle. The Wasatch Front is less and less “flyover” every year.

      As I understand it, Utah has long been much younger than average and kids used to grow up and move to Arizona or California for jobs that our state could not supply. That is changed and now corporations bring pretty good jobs to Utah’s bright young things, and people are even moving to our fair state seeking opportunity.

      They’ve even branded us! We are the “Silicon Slopes”, so named because good skiing is available at a small fraction of the distance that Bay Areaers have to drive for theirs.

      So the population keeps increasing – a lot – and prices keep going up – a lot – and office buildings and Big Box houses on postage stamp lots and big condo developments designed to trap young creatives into housing mistakes.

      It’s 2007 again, only even more so.

    2. Utah

      Hey, At least the “sugarhole” is filled (a development project that went south during the recession), and the businesses that replaced the old development are mostly local, even if the building is owned by a mega-corporation! There is one positive to the worsening state of Utah.
      My observations: the SLC and state government are fighting over the NW quadrant (by the lake- which should be protected wildlife habitat, imho). The state wants an inland port. The city wants, well, I have no idea. Amazon is getting a distribution center there. More traffic will be the result. This means our air quality is going to be worse than it has been since their have been clean air standards due to our inversion seasons.
      An acquaintance’s daughter died during the last inversion season- the air was so bad she literally could not breathe and died from an asthma attack after the hospital sent her away for not having insurance.
      I have a new phrase I’ve been using for our rural areas, thanks to In These Times: Rural Corporate Colonialization. The only money in our state belongs to corporations, and they are buying our politicians in order to get more land from the federal government (about 50% of the state of Utah is owned by the Federal Government) in order to mine/ oil drill it. They want to develop in areas that have should-be-protected wildlife like the sage grouse, or should-be-protected native American artifacts like those in Bears Ears.
      Owens Lake should be a warning to Utah, but instead the state wants to take more water from flowing into the Great Salt Lake via pipeline in order for us to have green lawns instead of making us xeroscape like other desert mountain states like AZ or NV.
      Our snow levels are declining, and ski tourism is one of our biggest industries.
      You can buy houses with an acre of land for under $100,000 in rural towns near national parks, but you can’t buy a condo with no land for less than $200,000 in the bad suburbs, or $350,000 in the cities along the Wasatch Front. House prices are higher than they have ever been. The Salt Lake City median income is something like $32,000/year. None of us can afford to live where we live, and so much of millennial and gen-x income is going towards rent that we can’t afford to do anything except work.
      Our homeless population is the largest it has ever been, and the state is reducing bed numbers from 1100 (not enough for the population) to 700.
      They opened a new jail for the opioid addicted/ homeless population. Because we all know that jail is the solution to those problems.
      The state of Utah has the 3rd highest income as of 2016. Median family income of ~$62,000/ year.
      But we have the lowest teacher pay (my SIL started out at 23,000/year as a HS math teacher) and the lowest school funding. The legislature is trying to raise the gas tax- a regressive tax- to pay for schools instead of raising the income tax- a ballot initiative item. The wealthy people drive hybrids and electric cars. They’re not gonna feel it like us “middle class” folk.
      I think Utah didn’t really feel 2008 like other areas. I think we’re really gonna suffer during the next crash/ kleptocratic takeover. I’m betting Amazon will be our new overlords instead of Goldman, though.

      1. drugstoreblonde

        I’m happy to hear some Utah voices chiming in at Naked Capitalism!

        Though I think it was vitally important to my mental health to leave SLC in particular and Utah in general (I have all-too-typical ex-mormon background), I still try to follow local happenings where time and reason permit. The more time I’ve spent living away from Utah, the more I realize–for better or worse–what I a Utahn I am at heart.

        One concept/phrase that has been articulated in NC a few times to my knowledge has been the notion of “flyover” states as colonies. Sure, SLC (like other state capitals) escapes that to some degree, but most of the state is a full-on carbon/energy colony, and very little of the wealth that comes from the extraction of these resources remains in the state for long. And even points along the supply chain that do require some degree of human intervention seem to be built/positioned in a way with maximal contempt for their human handlers. Antiquated albeit allegedly-retrofitted refineries neighbor populations in the millions in an already dangerously-polluted airshed. Even “progressive” states like California view/use Utah as an energy vassal state, while projecting an image to the world as a leader in energy matters. Even worse, despite the righteous uproar caused by Trump’s decision to drastically reduce the size of Escalante-Grand Staircase NM (IMHO, the most beautiful place on planet Earth), there have been countless oil works still in operation for decades that were grandfathered in and have been spilling with abandon. In other words, even when something seems protected in Utah, there have either been clauses to “protect” the ongoing destruction, or there are bills in the works to do so.

        It’s been a while since I thought about the NW Quadrant. I remember that they were planning on relocating the prison there from Draper to the tune of a gazillion dollars, and that the Mormon Church and Rio Tinto own a substantial amount of land out there and have, from time to time, presented plans for suburban wastelands on the salt clays of that mosquito coast, but I’ve been too far away to see what’s come of it as the BOOM has picked up pace again in recent years.

        Even writing about these topics gets the spleen pumping. Like so much of “flyover” country, Utah deserves so much better than the hand it’s been dealt. Greed in every form (whether for resources, real estate, whatever) has had the curious effect of making a desert out of a desert.

        1. Derek

          Your writing provides a gorgeous and succinct summation of what rural colony states experience. I spent too much youth in North Texas (Fort Worth) and this kind of colonial sprawl is ultimately the only kind of economy there is.

      2. drugstoreblonde

        The homeless issue is an actual human rights tragedy. It was bad enough when I would ride my bike to Gateway to take the FrontRunner to work nearly a decade ago, but when I visited last year, there were actual tent cities, like a more poorly-concealed version of LA’s Skid Row. Talking to my friends, it sounds like real estate interests (with one of Mitt Romney’s sons at the helm) had a heavy hand in the closure of the shelters near 400 W and 200 S. And the relocation, uh, fiasco (of which even I an ocean and continent away from was able to remain abreast of) managed to be a failure for both those with and without homes in the city. On a positive note: it seems that the current mayor–for better or worse–will be a single-termer. I’m not sure these days who is waiting in the wings (I vaguely remember the UofU professor throwing his hat in the last time around), but I hold out some hope that someone genuinely progressive will end up at the city’s helm.

    3. Knute Rife

      I just wasted an hour listening to a Zions Bank rep blather about how the economy is going great guns but housing starts are lagging because there aren’t enough construction workers. Seem to be plenty of construction workers for high-end condos and Class-A offices all the way up and down the I-15 corridor. Just not enough for regular housing. Hmmm.

  14. grumblemumble

    I live in Columbus, OH which is flyover to DC/LA/NYC, but a metropolis to most Ohioans. There’s a lot of gentrification and construction going on, forcing out older residents and making traffic a nightmare. A lot of delusional businesses being set up and then going under within a year. Poverty is up. Murders and overdoses are way up year over year mainly due to opiates. The political response has been interesting. Virtually no one is talking about the governor’s race. The Democrat primary is another Bernie v. DNC proxy war with Kucinich taking up the mantle of #PowerToWeThePeople (end fracking, end the war on drugs, defend manufacturing, oppose foreign wars, raise the minimum wage, pro-single payer) and Cordray offering milquetoast opposition to the Republicans. The state Dems are woefully incompetent. They didn’t vouch Ed Fitzgerald in 2014 and his campaign fell apart after it was revealed he was caught a) driving without a license and b) doing so “with a woman who was not his wife.” Kucinich actually has a policy page on his website, whereas Cordray does not (hint hint). Most coworkers do not believe the Russiagate hysteria; they know why they voted the way they did and it had nothing to do with Russian troll farms. If the Dems insist on that message, I don’t think they’ll do too well in midterms.

  15. CongenitalWarts

    Coastal carolinas here. Local tourist based economy is healthy. Business owners are doing alright, some better than others. Most jobs are low wage, seasonal, no benefits.
    I spoke with a property developer at the local market recently. He owns a second home here and was in town for a visit. He develops 200 acre + – parcels in central NC. Buys raw land, installs infrastructure and sells vacant lots to builders. His clients are mid-size home-builders that buy lots 100 at a time and sell finished houses in the $300,000 price range.
    He’s in his late fifties and has been in the business for a while. He said he’s never seen it this good. Business is fantastic. So good, he just bought a couple of race cars.
    I knew the area he was in was famous for its golf courses and asked if the home-buyers were mostly retirees moving into the area. He said no, it was military families from a nearby army base and they get 100% financing all day long.
    I’m thinking about robbing his house this weekend.

  16. JacobiteInTraining

    I live in the Puget Sound area, but in talking to an old high school buddy who lives in ‘flyover Oregon’ (east side of the Cascades) he has been having problems with his son and some of his friends. They personally haven’t been arrested yet, but have apparently participated in something they are calling ‘levying a locals tax’ on the (mostly uninhabited, except during ski season or the height of summer) McMansionCabins. You know – the places that are built with a ‘rustic’, often log-cabin feel…but cost in excess of $500,000 and sit on 10, 20…50 acres or more in an area where locals might be happy to have a tiny lot big enough for a double-wide trailer.

    In any case, specifically in places that used to have public access to BLM or Nat’l Forest roads, and where everyone used to commonly go fishing, hiking, or hunting, these absentee-landlord estates promptly erect gates, fences, or otherwise block longtime access completely. Few have any sympathy to long standing access agreements, and most will call the Sheriff the second someone is seen catching a few trout down on the banks where dad, granddad, and great-granddad did in years past. Oregon state does have fairly good public access laws (for things like beaches, river access etc., so this rarely goes anywhere…except as added hassle to what would have otherwise been a good sunny day fishing)

    So the kids see this, and just bide their time – once the owners are gone for the season, said kids wander back – break in – and snag items both big and small. Breaking and entering, theft, burglary…yup. But (as opposed to garden-variety larceny motivated by, say, a meth habit, which is also really big too) these kids are doing it specifically to the folks as blocked their access, and are not – apparently – feeling guilty about it.

    You block our access, they levy their ‘locals tax’.

    That’s bad, to be sure, but having visited some of those same areas as a little tyke myself I can kinda see their perspective. Once the respect for the law is gone, and in particular – the awareness trickles down that they are of a lesser class, these are the sorts of things that will happen. Us and them, and the kids are developing their *own* sense of ‘us’ and finding their own ways for what their class can do to fight back….outside the law.

    Unpleasant all the way round. :(

    1. Swamp Yankee

      As the great English social historian E.P. Thompson showed, the response of the young people to the McMansion Summer People is precisely what happens in moments of popular resistance to processes of enclosure; his excellent book on poachers in 18th century England seems very relevant to the sad situation there, JacobiteInTraining.

      1. JacobiteInTraining

        Cool, thank you for the title! As a History Major myself, this is exactly the period and place I was thinking of! I haven’t read in great detail but have seen a lot of references to the periods where English medieval practices – and public commons where the poor had at least some modest rights of resource acquisition as far as firewood, food, fish, or game – were eliminated and/or acquired as the rich realized it provided both potential profits…and a safety-valve for the commoners to prevent them from having to go crawl to a factory in the cities of the industrial revolution.

        I’ll go to Powell’s and see if they have a copy of it for sale! :)

    2. lyman alpha blob

      That reminds me a little of the area in VT where I grew up and my parents still live. Very rural but lots of big money 2nd homes for the absentee rich. Right down the road from us is a fairly sketchy character who lives in a tiny shack. This is by choice I assume – he could have probably lived in his parents’ house but he burned that down a few decades ago. In the ensuing years, a few of those Mcmansions have gone up right around his little shack. Those absentee rich people better hope he doesn’t get annoyed that they’re blocking his view or they might turn up for their two week vacation and find an ash heap.

  17. Livius Drusus

    I am glad this subject came up because I would like to add an observation. It seems like the vast size of the United States has traditionally played an important role in maintaining the status quo. In the past a disgruntled worker could move out West if they didn’t like their situation in the Eastern factories or farms. The low cost of land likely kept many people afloat. You could live in “flyover” country on a fairly modest income and still live the “American Dream” of owning a home and buying a fairly wide range of consumer goods.

    With the decline of manufacturing and now retail it seems like the kinds of jobs that kept small-town America afloat are dying with the result that rural and some suburban areas now play host to rising social problems such as drug and alcohol addiction and suicide. Affluent suburbs and gentrifying cities seem like the only areas of prosperity but costs of living are high and moving from a low-cost rural area to the city (as our leaders tell people to do) seems like a big gamble for working-class people who not only face higher costs of living but a loss of social networks in a new and strange place. Even some upper-middle class people complain about the high cost of living in the cities and the increasing competition for jobs and educational opportunities.

    Do readers here think that we have seen the end of America’s geographic advantage, at least from the perspective of the American people? I wonder if the current situation is going to contribute to social unrest in the future. A highly urbanized society with a small but anxiety-ridden elite at the top lording it over an increasingly miserable servant class sounds like something from a dystopian novel but it seems to reflect the direction this country is going in.

    1. ArcadiaMommy

      I think it depends on what you consider “helpful” and who is being helped. It seems to me (having recently driven through four midwestern states), that it is very difficult for people living in large portions of the “flyover country” to get to an airport/train station/bus stop/whatever and go see how other parts of the country live. My midwestern relatives love coming to visit us here in Phoenix. Things we take for granted here like a halfway decent grocery store, roads that aren’t falling apart, nice parks, reasonably fit/healthy people, reasonably decent infrastructure, i.e., signs of a halfway functioning society, really shock them.

      Conversely, it makes it hard for those of us in more affluent areas (and Phoenix certainly has its problems with poverty) to get out to see what is going on outside of our bubble. It’s one thing to hear “things are bad out there”, but seeing what that really means is a different level of understanding. And I am sure that I could have seen a lot worse than decrepit buildings and a lot of people who don’t seem very healthy or happy.

      Ultimately, I think it will be very difficult for the people in these states to organize for their needs at any national level.

      My father left the midwest in the late 60’s, went to CA and met my mother. Probably the luckiest thing that ever happened to me.

      1. Swamp Yankee

        Frederick Jackson Turner raised similar concerns in the 1890s — the frontier had always served as a way to let loose social steam and pressure; so now that it was closed, he asked — what now?

        I don’t think it’s an accident that the US at the same time becomes an empire abroad and witnesses an extremely violent labor history at home starting at just about this time.

        1. ArcadiaMommy

          Couldn’t the midwest be the frontier now? But it is completely paved over with industrial Ag – corn on one side of the road, soybeans on the other side as far as the eye can see. CA in the 60s had so much going on (good and bad). I was just passing through these midwestern states, but there was just a feeling of lethargy/despair. Personally, I would take my chances in CA rather than IA, IL, MO, IN. Minnesota seems ok, I just can’t deal with the geographic isolation and the weather.

          1. Swamp Yankee

            A good point — the census bureau definition that Turner used of “frontier” did in fact mean that by the mid 1990s, many regions of the Great Plains had depopulated enough to return to that status. But this is much more the Great Plains — the Great Lakes States have a lot going for them in terms of natural resources.

            As far as not liking it — fair enough, to each their own — but they have water. I expect many Midwesterners who moved to California in the mid-20th century, or their descendants, to decide in the 21st century that drinking water is worth putting up with tough winters…. And as my Minnesotan friend put it: the one thing you could get Minnesotans to take up arms over is if someone came for their lakes and waters — an idea sometimes floated by a certain subsection of particularly delusional Sunbelt developers and pols. Cf.

            1. Wukchumni

              L.A. had the natural water resources for 100,000 people in 1900…

              Now there’s 20-25 million in SoCal dependent on imported water. Could get messy if something went amiss with the delivery of, and resulting dryaspora.

            2. ArcadiaMommy

              Totally agree re: water. My husband has a small rustic place in Maine. We have an out. Also the water rights in places with lots of water aren’t always clear, which we are learning with the land in Maine.

              The other issue I can see happening in the midwest is that eventually we will learn that it is basically a superfund site with all the awful chemicals that are used on the cash crops. Check out the dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico. Isn’t it all coming from the runoff from the Mississippi River plain?

              1. drumlin woodchuckles

                The deadzone is mainly caused by nitrogen fertilizer runoff flowing into that area of the Gulf, stimulating algae overgrowth. The algae then die and decay to the point of eating up all the oxygen in that area of seawater, thereby smothering and suffocating any aerobic organism which dares to show its face in that anoxic water.

                A tiny version of that problem is now afflicting Western Lake Erie, due to phosphate fertilizer runoff (I have read), stimulating heavy growth of blue-green bacteria which fill the water with toxins (something like the Red Tide toxins). Sometimes making the water chemically unsafe to drink.

                  1. drumlin woodchuckles

                    I meant tiny in the narrowest geographic square-area coverage sense, not in the sense of its effect on the affected people. The Erie algae bloom was certainly not tiny in that sense, nor will future such blooms be.

                    Just as . . . the Pall-Gelman dioxane plume moving underground from the Pall-Gelman injection-well sites towards the Ann Arbor water intake areas is “tiny” compared to some other truly huge pollution zones. But it is not tiny in terms of its effects-to-come on Ann Arbor, unless Pall and the other relevant authorities can be brute-force made to suck it all back up and out and clean it before discharging the cleaned-up groundwater out to the Huron River.

    2. rd

      In our engineering business world, I am seeing many more people “working from home” at locations where they want to live and communicating remotely with their project teams, that are usually dispersed among several offices anyway. So modern communications has made the service industry much less dependent on physical location.

      So I find it ironic, that the people creating the remote work applications are clustered together in little ant hills in the Bay area, NYC, Seattle etc. whining about housing costs. Many of the rest of us are living in areas where it is difficult to spend over $500k for a very nice house.

      1. ANC, AK

        Yeah, the telecommuting is so much easier now than its been, you’d think more people with high service/tech jobs would be flowing out to the more affordable areas. I think a big reason why not is the degradation of infrastructure and culture that’s gone on the poorer areas, and that, if you’ve got the money, the big city is a great place to live, but I think millennials’ job market dynamics explain a lot of it. Its easy to shift into telecomutting if you’re already well established in your career, but it seems you still need physical networking to break into the good jobs. Even the good jobs these days are likely to be short-term, so you need to stay in a place you’ll be able to find you next job. Its a lot harder to apply for jobs from those more distant areas, and if you’ve got a dry spell the side-hustle options likely won’t be as good either.

    3. Ellie

      My personal situation is just that. Moved to the country to own a home because owning one in the city was too much. Bought a “real” home, not a trailer. Now that jobs are drying up, have no way to move back without higher expenses. I am trying to diversify my income through a small business.

  18. Jonathan Holland Becnel

    Climate Change, Gentrification, Mass Incarceration, and Populism down here in Uptown New Orleans.

    Id give a longer description but im on my way to the City Council to voice opposition to Entergys New Gas Plant they want to build in New Orleans East which is where all the poor people live.

      1. ambrit

        Look at the bright side JH. Entergy could have tried to put the plant in the remains of the old Lower Ninth. That area would have guaranteed access to the Industrial Canal, and cheaper shipping. Plus, being next to the poorer quarters, had a guaranteed supply of cheap labour. Double plus good would have been the political powerlessness of the locals, so that Entergy could have done what it wanted as far as running the plant was concerned. Want to dump ten thousand gallons of unwanted ‘byproducts?’ Put it in the Industrial Canal after dark! Who would listen to the complaints of a bunch of non-elite “losers?”
        In the not so long run, that entire region will be returned to the bosom of the sea. I’m not expecting any proactive waste removals to be done, so, watch out for those ‘glow in the dark’ blue crabs in the gumbo!
        Expect River Ridge and the French Quarter to become islands just offshore from the Saint Tammany Beach resorts.

  19. Lee Robertson

    Rural Ozarks never had far to fall, and the gutting of small town business and manufacturing of the 70s and 80s has been offset with the discovery by flatlanders of how far money will go here. A slow and steady gentrification has been going on for a long time, but there is lots of room and poverty still has dignity. People tend to be conservative and independent, and only recently have folk begun to lock their doors. Developers are a scourge because there is water everywhere, property values are comparatively low, and it is beautiful everywhere you go. There are no jobs here to begin with so unemployment is low. Urban centers are thriving. It is generally a cultural desert, but not without it’s occasional oasis. Generally speaking there has been a trending upward mobility of the Ozark Plateau for the last 50 years, and sadly it seems to be picking up speed. It seems to me like the last best place.

    1. Jim Haygood

      From a rich corner of the Ozarks, the WSJ serves up some tasty real estate pr0n:

      Twenty six years after Sam Walton’s death, what was once a sleepy company town has become a mecca for luxury-home buyers. Many of the homeowners in the northwest Arkansas region of around half a million people are the company’s execs, as well as top brass from consumer-goods companies that sell their products through the retailer.

      The priciest homes in the region are typically found in Pinnacle, a gated community of homes around a golf course and private golf club in Rogers, Ark., just south of Bentonville. Of the 11 homes that sold for over $1 million in the Bentonville region last year, nine were in Pinnacle. Property owners include U.S. Sen. John Boozman, former Walmart CEO Lee Scott and John Furner, the current CEO of Sam’s Club.

      Wealthy buyers often choose Pinnacle over downtown because “it provides that instant community,” said Paige Ferguson, a luxury real-estate agent who has lived in Pinnacle since 2008. Many residents are executives who move frequently for work and have a trailing spouse. They want to be “in that bubble of your peers in the same socio-economic group,” she said. “They want that easy life.”

      “Instant community” — yeah, right! Could ye spare a bottle of Grey Poupon, guvnor?

      1. ArcadiaMommy

        Yep. I basically grew up at the UA from 4th grade on, really insane what the dorms are like now. I remember when the fitness center went in WOW! I loved hanging out there and I don’t begrudge anyone a pleasant place to exercise and socialize, but I have been to country clubs that weren’t as nice. And this was in the 90s. They’ve probably demolished it by now and put it in a pilates complex in its place.

        In my day, out-of-state tuition at the UA was cheaper than CA in-state tuition. It was also easier to get into than the UC schools if your grades or scores weren’t high enough.

        A $1500 apartment in Tucson? My parents house payment was around $700 I think.

        My husband gets asked to write recommendation letters for the schools he attended. He always asks what attracted them to the school. One kid said the school had room service in the dorms.

    2. drumlin woodchuckles

      What gives dignity to the poverty in Ozarkia? Is it that many “poor” people in Ozarkia still own a few acres per person or family to live on and make part of a viable subsistence living directly from? Or at least a house on a lot which can be run as a sort of personal or family survival doomstead?

      1. Ellie

        I am not the original poster, but I live in the Ozarks. Dignity in poverty is a concept that, “you might be poor, but your britches are patched.” You try to make things better. You grow your own food, you can, you sew a dress for your daughter, you hem your boys jeans into summer shorts. You don’t look to others to help you first, you help yourself. Your house might be small, but it’s cozy. You might cook on a wood stove, but the house is warm and smells like apple pie. You insist on trying no matter what.

        I am considered a dignified poor person. Even when I was on less than $375 a month for a family of 8, without state aid, we made it. We gardened, canned, collected eggs, resoled our shoes, sewed the kids clothes out of grown up clothes, fixed our house with what we could find, got a tiller by trading a weeks labor for it, etc… Doing what you can to make life better even when you have next to nothing is called dignified poor.

        1. Edward E

          Great job, Ellie, you sed it so much splainier than I ever could! Ah’m not thet gud wif werds like you! So I’m over here in booming Jonesboro hepp’n Superstar n’ getting womansplained to. She’s eating up all the delicious tuna salad wif honey in it that I made, guess gonna hafta made nudder batch. So…. Wrote this up the other day, but wuz too embarrassed to post it. Well, here goes my woodenhead comment…

          Our little part of the Ozarks took a hit during the great recession. We had five small gas/grocery/sandwich stores and a couple of restaurants within twenty miles. Now there are no restaurants and only two and a half stores. Go a little farther out and it’s slightly better. Throngs of Folks come to see the elk and canoeing the Buffalo River. Folks who went fracking came back in their RV’s and haven’t gone back that I can tell. Some of the sawmills that survived seem to be picking back up lately and there’s even a new one that I’ve noticed, in a spot where an old one was abandoned. There seems a slight recovery going on recently, but there’s still a long way to go to get back to where it was when I bought this little paradise eighteen years ago. Some of us who didn’t move away seem to actually like it better this way. Keep a shopping list going for when making a trip to town and that’s about the only times we put any wear on any damn clothes, unless you’re working. It’s a little difficult for me to get an expert feel since I travel away so much and stay busy all the time.

          The Yacking Yam is Make Arkiefornia Great Again, it’s amazing how much it grows, every time you visit there are always some new expansions. But out in small towns away from the boom it’s actually deteriorating in a few. Visited the Arkansas River Valley recently and saw plenty of the areas of my youth looking very run down. They have had the Laundromat pick them clean and then close their Express stores leaving the towns without much to get by with. Some of this could possibly have me to blame. Like a real dumb-dumb I used to show photos of ‘better deals’ to big shots at the shareholders meetings and campaigned folks to help me try to get these stores like WinCo to come in. They built Neighborhood Markets near where I was telling folks the prime locations. Sorry, ah really messes thangs up.

  20. Old Microbiologist

    Hmm, I am a retired military American and live permanently in Hungary which is beautiful and is in so many ways, better than the US. I could expound at length on that and I can also comment on how amazingly rich Moscow is from my trip there this week (despite all attempts by the US to try and sabotage their economy they are very well of comparatively), but this is about America. I have been out of the country for over 10 years so this past Spring I got a fresh perspective. I suppose in many ways I am a good test as being an expatriate American with a wide degree of world experience (courtesy of Uncle Sam) in not so wonderful places (what Trump was allegedly talking about). I also have lived in more than half the states in the US so have a pretty good idea of what is what. If you notice US military bases are frequently located in less than nice locations, especially the Army which I was in. The Navy and USAF get nice bases but the Army gets some real rural locations which develop their own unique flavor of crapification. Anyway, to the point:

    My wife and I took a trip to the Great American Southwest as part of a photographical expedition (all passionate Russian/Ukrainian photographers except myself being the lone American in the group) and we visited by 4WD large swaths of Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, Utah and Nevada. I was stunned by the poverty I found and it wasn’t sporadic. I have spent time in this region back in the 70’s and it is so much worse it is unbelievable. There are, of course, islands of relative wealth which as mentioned are where one might find the usual Walmart. etc. which is identical in every American town now. But, moving past these central business areas and you find devastation on the level of warfare. I was truly shocked. If you travel through indigenous American areas it gets even worse. We would visit grocery stores with bare shelves etc. out in the rural areas and this was not uncommon. I did spend some time speaking with locals wherever we ended up as we had 3 large 4WD vehicles and spent a lot of time off road we had a lot of flat tires and ended up in some pretty interesting locations waiting for tire repairs. What I heard from most was an apathy and pessimism which I had never experienced (even in West Virginia) before. What I did find interesting is a complete lack of angst against Russians. We were accepted everywhere we went although RussiaGate hadn’t yet reached its voluminous roar that it is at now. I was often complimented on how good my English was as the assumption was I was another Russian in the group. Being a native Californian helps I suppose.

    1. Arizona Slim

      I would have jumped at the opportunity to join your photographic tour group. If, for nothing else, a chance to practice my Russian conversational skills.

      1. Octopii

        Izhvenista, pazhelsta. Gde est Dom Knigi?

        And that’s all I’ve got.

        My generation of the family have been talking about where we’ll go when the old folks arent around anymore. We’re sick of this sht and ready to gtfo.

  21. Wukchumni

    You could flyover the Central Valley Bible Belt here, but most drive.

    One thing I seldom see around these parts is new cars with the dealer plates still on, but then again i’m in the 5th poorest county in California, which Devin Nunes keeps getting reelected to, and where a $12 an hour job is a keeper, if you can’t get to the hallowed ground of one of them there prison jobs that pays the big bickies.

    Our little town on the edge of Sequoia NP has changed, with the uptick in visitation to the NP, where we’ve gone from 1.5 million per year to 2 million in the last decade, corresponding with the vacation rental craze, one of the few ways to make money for Joe 6 Pack & his fetching wife Jane Chardonnay, or {boo-hiss} the out of town buyers of homes, purchased specifically for vacation rentals.

    We have town hall meetings once a month, and an average one gets an attendance of 25-30 people, and the town hall meeting on vacation rentals about 4 months ago garnered almost 250 people, to give you an idea of how charged the feelings are, in regard to them.

    Many feel as if the short term rentals are wrecking the fabric of the community, especially those in close proximity to one, for a lot of reasons, such as this really is a place where most people don’t lock their homes or cars, excessive partying, too many lights being left on @ night outside wrecking the view of the heavens, and most importantly, those living here didn’t buy a home eons again, thinking that their neighbors would be a succession of 3 day sojourns by complete strangers.

    The CVBB is carpeted with checkerboard squares of orchards everywhere your eyes glance, vast food forests of every type imaginable. On the drive to Visalia, I go by huge orchards of navel, cara cara & valencia oranges, mandarins, tangerines, lemons, olives, pistachios, kiwi fruit, cherries, 4 different kinds of walnuts, pluots, plums, nectarines and more, all in a 20 mile radius of vision from my vantage point doing 55 mph in a drive-by.

    Very little is grown in annual crops, you’ll see corn fields occasionally, which is grown more as silage for the milk cow industry, also huge here.

    Ag really is a big part of the economy, and ICE is scaring the minions that make it work, away from going to work. and Sessions made it clear that the Golden State would be given no quarter on account of ersatz ‘slaves’ picking the cotton, oranges, icebergs, et al, and it isn’t as if there is a fresh crop of workers ready willing and able to take the ‘raptured’ Ag workers jobs. We’re in a sleepy part of the year where everything is in blossom or soon will be, but if it keeps up through the summer, we’re going to see the trees looking uncared for, with fruit rotting on the trees from want of pickers, or sorters & cleaners @ packing houses.

    1. ArcadiaMommy

      I am sensing this is being priced into cost of food now. Have been out of the food shopping loop for the last 3-4 weeks (out of country then home taking care of a house full of sick people). Costco, Safeway, WF and local grocery store all had noticeably higher prices on produce.
      Just saw governor Brown’s response to the ICE presence in CA.

      1. Wukchumni

        Right now they’ve been picking citrus, and typically the tableau of any old orchard consists of 20-35 parked cars along with some porta-potties, none of the cars newer than something from the last decade, and not a non Hispanic to be seen.

        It’d be easy-peasy for ICE to do drive-by raids, like shooting fish in a barrel.

        The irony of course, is that the Big Ag concerns now concerned with their business getting i-jacked, were all were big supporters of the future President, funny that.

  22. Collins

    Re: 5 yr economic trajectory in a below 20% area I visit—-

    I live in one, East Texas (Tyler Longview Nacogdoches Lufkin Diboll). 24% poverty rate, ie not destitute like some areas.
    Very slow growth of jobs, many not full time. The Only jobs with decent healthcare benefits (if a 6-10 thousand deductible is ‘decent’ on a $34-40,000 income) are state jobs. Most young people leave town to work in Dallas, Houston, San Antonio.
    People from those cities with money come to retire here, or a weekend in “the country “, so slow growth in Hospitality Industry.
    I do not see the underclass gaining any ground in education or jobs, or if so, it’s small.

  23. Martin Finnucane

    Middle Georgia: heroine has arrived. On the bright side, for now Macon is right in that sweet spot between a music scene downtown revival and the inevitable gentrification that usually follows. Personally I don’t care for popular music and I do not drink or frequent restaurants, so such things pass me by.

    I live in a military town, so we’re on the leeward side of economic downturns, what with the civil service and contracting jobs. However, I have noticed an influx of surplus population from parts south and rural, so that we see the strain on our public services, particularly the hospital system. Our public schools are holding out for now, there being no private school alternative in the county outside of the catholic elementary school. Should that situation change, I’ll lose all incentive to stay here.

  24. Amfortas the Hippie

    Roadside economic indicators are cool.
    I can speak with some authority about my tiny Texas Hill Country County…a little less authority regarding the more populated and prosperous counties to the south…and anecdotal observations about the whole area between Austin, San Antonio and San Angelo.
    Plus, we drive to Houston once a year, and I like to compare the state of the roadside/small towns from year to year.
    The decimation of Ag has been a disaster. My county used to have 6 Towns in it…now there’s only one(took 40-60 years).
    while the emerging wine industry has promise, the 3 largest employers out here are:1. the public school, 2. the City, and 3. the County.
    all rely on having a stable of people with a particular talent for getting Grants from various places…federal, state gov, and the numerous ngo type orgs(“association of county clerks” or whatever). These grants have made improvements to electrical and water/wastewater, street lights and ancient bridges possible…but folks are still anti-gov repubs by default(which seems silly, to me, given where the $$ comes from.)
    also, a good 45% of our population is over 65, and thus on SS and Medicare(and a lot of VA bennies, too)
    One might think that folks out here would be for better government,lol.
    as far as business…we’ll get a new cafe occasionally, but they usually go away pretty soon. many of the boutique type shops on the square appear to be legacy…third daughters of the few old families, given something to do. Official poverty rate, last I looked, was around 14%…I suspect that it’s a lot higher than that.
    the counties to the south have better tourism opportunities and act as regional supply hubs(heb, walmart superstore, big Lowes building supply, large ranch supply, etc) so that one doesn’t have to drive all the way to Austin for a window unit.
    as someone above mentioned…there was a period during the property boom when, in addition to everybody and their brother becoming a Realtor, there was lots of readily apparent home improvement/maintenance/landscaping activity all out in this area(from here to south and east; west and north have been in long term decline, and look downright third world by comparison(see: Eden Texas))
    That prettification has ended…the houses one can see from the roads are noticeably dingier and even falling down in some places. (the Barrios in all these places haven’t changed in this regard…I’m speaking of the relatively middle and upscale).
    Cars and trucks are older…unless it’s the old families or the large immigrant families(cars are cheaper in Mexico, I hear, and those folks work like the dickens).
    The Broad Hill Country is definitely feeling the pinch.
    and Yves…this is a great idea…this reporting from the interstices.
    Might consider making it a regular thing.
    The number of dollar stores and junk shops, and the frequency of dents and peeling paint, are a different class of indicator than BLS, Census, etc…but can often be more eye opening.

  25. JoshInSeMI

    I live next door to Ann Arbor, home of University of Michigan, is in the middle of a construction boom. Everyone in Ann Arbor seems to come from the coasts, so I’m not sure it counts as fly-over. Eventually they are going to run out of undergrads with rich parents for the luxury high rises. It has also gotten significantly older. I don’t know who all these beemer boomers are going to sell their houses to.

    The rest of Michigan, including the town I live in is pretty much done. House prices are back up, but that’s mostly the landlords trading properties back and forth. Anyone who wants a job can get one, but they’re the $10/hr, 30hr/week, no benefits sort. There’s no real capital for building outside of the yuppievilles like A2 so rent is outpacing wages. Many of the working class suburbs seem to be propped up by the UAW pensioners who haven’t moved to AZ yet. Who knows what happens when they die off and all that is left are the second tier workers that got the shaft back in the 90s.

    It’s pothole season, but infrastructure seems to have reached a critical breaking point. Recent attempts at getting regional rail and buses going have failed. Highways are getting shut down due to holes in bridge decks. Supposedly our economy is in recovery, yet we’re in worse shape than 10 years ago.

    Poverty rates are essentially unchanged (and still depressing) since the last recession.

    Oh, and opiates. People are dropping like flies.

    1. Arizona Slim

      Yours Truly went to the University of Michigan during the late 1970s. The trends you’re describing now took hold back then.

      And, yes, I remember the rich undergrads well. I thought I was well off because my school teacher mother and engineer father were both working FT jobs and had saved for years so I could go to the U-M. But, dang, those rich undergrads were orders of magnitude away from the life I had come from.

      1. Swamp Yankee

        Agreed with all of the above on Ann Arbor. Having been a grad student from a working class family at U of M, this seemed to reach overdrive when I was there, in the late 2000s early 2010s — the Obama years. Meanwhile, they tried to take away our grad student healthcare every three years, while we did most of the teaching work of the University. Of course, they were — and are — liberal Democrats [sic].

    2. drumlin woodchuckles

      Perhaps we should narrow and tighten up the concept of Flyover Country. Perhaps any place in or near a Big Rich City with one or more Major Airports is a part of Flyto Country or Fly intoo Country. And all the land with its smaller cities and towns not having a Major Airport are Flyover Country because they get Flyovered by people flying from Chicago to Dallas as well as by people flying from New York City to San Frisco or Ell Ayy.

      An idea worthy of consideration?

      1. ambrit

        Yes, worthy. Expect the revival of the practice, defacto if not dejure, of City States.

    3. A2 Groundhog

      “Eventually they are going to run out of undergrads with rich parents for the luxury high rises.”

      They have to run out of these in NY, NJ, CT, and Chicago, in order for the spigot to be turned off in Ann Arbor.

      Apparently, the construction boom in Ann Arbor has not been enough to satisfy either student growth or general population growth. The only housing that does get built is targeted to the top 10%, which has pushed the working class to live in neighboring communities.

      I see lots of ‘Help Wanted’ signs in the downtown area and I assume those jobs struggle to get filled because of so many rich students (median family income of $154,000) and so few working class folks living within a reasonable distance. It’s interesting to see these dynamics in a small city (120k residents and 40k students). Ann Arbor has definitely outsourced its working class to next door Ypsilanti (which is where I assume JohninSeMI lives).

      The city council is comprised of all Democrats (non-Democrat is a non-starter for office in this town) broken into two competing coalitions (one big with the mayor’s support and the other only large enough to offer token resistance). The group in power is your DNC-style Democrat who are the only people that have ever had a good idea. Fix the roads and address housing OR try to ram through a $55million urban trail that is only 2.75 miles long? Guess what they are picking.

      This place is definitely a bubble among some sadness and misery. The machine lurches forward…

      1. Left in Wisconsin

        I have 2 kids in college, one at large Big 10 and one at small east coast liberal arts. Both report that a large number of campus work-study jobs go unfilled because not enough work-study kids to fill them.

  26. Jerry

    From NW Iowa, a county of 7,000 people. There is a labor shortage, a housing shortage (except for apartments) and a child shortage. Main street is feeble but there is both a new bakery and a new restaurant (both sole proprietors) in the last two years. Infrastructure is being kept up with new street pavement but one town’s sewers are in sorry shape. Farm prices are low for corn and soybeans. The hog and chicken buildings are everywhere but farmers don’t own the hogs any more.

    1. Amfortas the Hippie

      “Child Shortage” is an interesting way to think about it.
      We have a Young Adult Shortage…which includes a Child Shortage.
      They hit 19-21, and they’re gone like dew in August.
      I’d guess about a third return at some point…some relatively successful–most, because they ran up against the rocks and had no place else to go, save home.

      1. Jerry Depew

        I wrote child shortage because the school is in danger of closing completely now that the high school has already merged with one 18 miles away.

  27. Adam1

    I grew up in a rural town about 30 minutes south of Syracuse, NY. I still return several times a year as my parents still own a small home on one of the many small lakes in the community. To me it has been very noticeable the extent to which so many homes are receiving little or no maintenance any longer; a sure sign of declining incomes or lack of disposable income. Most of the small dairies I knew or work at as a kid are gone with a few having succumbed to industrial agriculture; now milking well over 400 cows in CAFO fashion. Home prices are flat as well and there have been a couple years where the entering kindergarten class has been sub 30 kids – 60 to 100 was typical for decades prior to the last 2000’s.

  28. judy sixbey

    Reporting in from West LA (lower Arkansas). Local paper reports in last month Red River Army Depot to lose 600 DOD related jobs starting in May. Harte Hanks to lay off 400 of 500 employees due to loss of FedEx account. Other major employers AEP, Cooper Tire, Domtar, IP seem to be chugging along with IP upgrading their mill. Took a trip (scenic route) up the western side of Oklahoma to see son who works for Walmart. Bentonville bustling although they would love to move their tech jobs to Austin. Other than that, poverty with a view.

  29. Jim Haygood

    In our formerly weekend-home town in the AZ mountains, more houses are now occupied by full-timers, most from “the valley” (Phoenix metro) and a few from California. The demographics of the rural county are downscale — almost Deep South — but out-of-town money keeps this scenic, tourist-friendly, water-surplus corner afloat.

    A local couple just got planning approval for the county’s first subdivision since the financial crisis, as listings of existing houses in the desirable $200-$350K range get snapped up overnight. It illustrates the developer’s curse: by the time the property market gets tight enough, it’s late in the economic cycle.

    Would I participate if the developers (who are acquaintances) offered some equity? No way in hell. As Roberta Sparrow, the silver-haired prophetess warned Donnie Darko, “A storm is coming. You must hurry.

    1. ambrit

      Poor Donnie Darko. He suffered the ultimate ‘Flyover Territory’ themed setback. When the groundlings mistake a bombing run for a visit from the Cargo Cult Gods….

      1. Jeremy Grimm

        I like that image! — “mistake a bombing run for a visit from the Cargo Cult Gods”…
        Very clever!

    2. ArcadiaMommy

      Hmmm…. have been told by many “knowledgeable” people in AZ that there is a water surplus because of groundwater. They are pretty surprised when I point out that it is because AZ is currently banking their unused CAP water allocation from CO river and pumping it underground to refill aquifers. I hope I am wrong and they are right. Lake Mead water level is the determining factor I think? Why is this issue so hard to figure out?

      1. rd

        They are buying a few years with refilling aquifers. If you are 65, its probably ok. 40 years old? Deep doo-doo.

        1. GF

          Most of the water banking is in the form of not using the entire CAP water allotted from the Colorado River and leaving it in Lake Mead. Groundwater pumping is allowed but managed in the high population areas of the state and not managed in the rural areas.

          Groundwater recharge is mostly of the treated sewage effluent variety in the towns that have large central sewer processing facilities. The exceptions are Phoenix and Flagstaff. Phoenix effluent is almost 100% sold to and utilized by the biggest nuclear power plant in the USA – Palo Verde – which is about 50 miles west of Phoenix. That sewer water is used to cool the reactors. Flagstaff sells their treated sewer water to a big ski resort north of town where it is used to make snow. From there the water goes back into the aquifer and storage lakes for use again by the Flagstaff residents as drinking water.

          Tucson gets the best of both worlds, treated sewer water mixed with CAP Colorado River water and then recharged into an adjacent valley’s formerly decent quality aquifer, that the city has water rights to, and then it is pumped back out and delivered to the populace. Tucson would rather drink this water and have unlimited growth that curtail growth and use a excellent groundwater from the aquifer under the city itself. Some recycled sewer water is also used to irrigate golf courses and school grounds and city parks.

          1. ArcadiaMommy

            Very good information. Thank you. Is this something that could be referenced or is it composed of too many sources? The local paper can’t seem to pull together a coherent analysis of the situation and I don’t know enough to begin to unravel this.

  30. Tony Wikrent

    In May last year, I had the privilege of driving Jon Larson of Real Economics around Chicago. Our intent was to see what was left of Chicago’s post-war massive industrial might , along with a limited number of cultural highlights. We drove mostly city streets from near O’Hare Field west into the Loop, then south to the Ford assembly plant on Torrance Avenue, then back north to Wrigleyville. Jon posted his impressions on the Real Economics site, along with eight color photos of some wonderful cultural highlights (at least go take a look at the magnificent restored interior of the old Chicago Library). I shall only copy and paste his text here. If you click through it will also probably be easier to read the bullet points,

    The number of places to buy or eat good food seems limitless. The large ethnic populations like the Poles or Italians have their own supermarkets with an astonishing variety of offerings. While all this abundance of good eating appears to herald prosperity, the fact was that none of these establishments had many customers. The restaurant / supermarket business seems hopelessly overbuilt.
    Even the high end retailers along the Miracle Mile seemed to lack sufficient customers.
    Chicago built some pretty amazing public venues in recent years. One spanking new convention center looked to cover at least 5 city blocks. My guess is that the supply of convention space wildly exceeds the need world wide.
    Considering all the talk of corruption in the Chicago construction business, some magnificent building has been done (see below). This pretty much validates Veblen theories in his Instinct of Workmanship.
    The detritus of the South Side steel industry is gone. In its place are large empty fields covered in a lumpy soil that because it is spring, had a pretty good cover of grass. Some of the old industry remains. The Ford Torrence plant was still loading new Lincolns into rail cars. A solitary (but huge) Cargill grain elevator was still operating near the lakeshore—when we drove past it was maybe two miles away separated by a large expanse of grass waving in the wind. If you held your head so you could not see Lake Michigan, it looked astonishingly like North Dakota. One attempt at redevelopment produced a flat and treeless golf course with a overbearing clubhouse built on a hill that was probably the remains of a slag heap.
    The South Side of Chicago where the housing is, is a scene of near hopeless devastation. Both the housing stock and people appear extensively damaged. The neighborhood businesses are in the beauty salon/tattoo parlor/small markets variety. The auto repair business seems safely in the hands of people advertising that they are Mexicans. Even though it was only 5:30 pm., many of those on the streets looked like they had gotten a head start on being wasted for the evening. Whatever it was, it conveyed an expression of profound aimlessness. What was so distressing was that this urban damage went on for miles.
    Tony could not resist taking me back to the motel by way of Wrigleyville—the neighborhood surrounding the stadium where the long-hapless Cubs won the World Series of Baseball last fall. This is the North Side, home to an astonishing number of what we used to call Yuppies, and NO, I have no idea what supports such lifestyles. After eating at a sports bar maybe 50′ from the entrance to the bleacher section of Wrigley Stadium, we found ourselves blocked in by a police SUV. I cringed a little but soon discovered the young cop was admiring my 21 yo Lexus. In my 67 years on earth, I have never been so kind and gracious to a cop before.
    Tony stopped at one more sports bar because he has known the owner for years. There we got to watch the Preds-Blues game along with a handful of still-disappointed Black Hawk fans. In spite of the fact that Tony claims this bar serves one of the best pizzas in Chicago, it was also suffering from too few customers.

    1. Rosario

      Two years ago, on a business trip, a partner and I went from Union Station downtown Chicago south to 100th street in Roseland to avoid the worst of the Dan Ryan at rush hour.

      The whole trip, staring at the third world passing me by, I wondered if Rahm Emmanuel ever made a similar trip, and if so, what did he make of the mess that is South Side Chicago. Maybe he thinks it isn’t a “part” of the Chicago “whole”?

      Considering his close proximity to the first black president of the United States (a Chicago resident to boot), and South Chicago’s predominantly black population, I become even more puzzled at his apparent neglect of this entire portion of Chicago. Maybe baked into the neoliberal pie?

  31. PKMKII

    Expat of Midwestern town. Won’t disclose location, except to say that it is in the hilly portion of the region, with a tendency to see itself more akin to the Appalachian South rather than the flat farmland sections. A lot of the people I grew up around left for greener pastures. What’s left now are the retirees who, more or less, live in a sort of rural aesthetic bubble, their pensions and retirement funds insulating them from the large economic realities of the area. They can sit on their little patch of woods and admire the scenery that conveniently blinds them to everything else. One of the big differences I’ve noticed with urban versus rural poverty is that urban poverty is highly visible, the projects rising up as an unavoidable sign of economic depression. In rural areas, it stays hidden, at the back of windy gravel and muddy roads that are easy to avoid.

    For the younger folks, jobs mostly consist of crappy service jobs, and even those have dried up as the tourism industry has taken a hit. The old folks that would flock there in droves during the fall in the 80’s and 90’s, well they’re all dead now, and the generation after them isn’t as into country kitsch. Shops and restaurants have a tougher time staying in the black, which means contraction, shuttering the doors, and layoffs. And many of those of working age turn to the copping mechanisms of despair as a result. Someone I know who still lives in the area posted on FB an open-ended question of, what does the town/county need? A depressing number of responses were, a rehab clinic.

  32. Sid Finster

    Fargo, North Dakota. I have lived here for almost six years, and honestly speaking, I still don’t get it.

    I don’t get a lot of things about Fargo, but it seems like a smaller scale and much more frigid version of Phoenix in the 1970’s, suburban sprawl growing faster than anyone can predict, explain, contain or control. New subdivisions going up left and right, apartment block after townhome, strip mall after chain restaurant after convenience store, and I keep thinking that sooner or later this has to stop. So far it hasn’t. Then again, I was right about the boom and the real estate boom but a years too early in both cases.

    Construction sites on the edge of the prairie when I first moved here are now “mature neighborhoods” and homebuyers can’t get enough of them.

    Real estate prices never got really silly during the boom (in part perhaps because of North Dakota’s debtor-friendly laws), but they have since been rising at a brisk pace, and I think are high relative to incomes. Lots of service sector jobs, to the point where businessmen tell me that they want to expand but can’t find employees to do so. Wages are not super high, however.

    Where do all these people come from? What do they do to make enough money to pay the rent or the mortgage and make the monthly nut on the KIA? I know businesses are hiring, but how many Applebees and places selling cake pops can one medium sized flyover city in the middle of nowhere really support?

    Heroin has moved in, and more than you might expect from a place that in many ways, seems stuck in the Leave it to Beaver era..Downtown has a lot of very hardy homeless, largely but not all Native American, as well as a troublesome infestation of hipsters. Still, downtown can be said to be thriving.

    My neighborhood is like something straight out of the 1970’s, which is when it was built. I suspect many houses in my ‘hood have not really been updated since that time, although they are immaculate and lovingly maintained. Still, when I walk inside, The Brady Bunch theme song plays inside my head. The developer who built my house is now 87 years old and he still lives a few doors down.

    If lawn care were recognized as a religion, my neighbors would be the Taliban. People marry young (usually right out of college) and get to work producing a brood. Mommies in my neighborhood stay at home, drive full sized domestically produced minvans, SUVs or station wagons. Attend church twice(!) a week and are rabid PTA participants. Deer often come into the yards. Intellectualism is seen as elitist and frowned upon. Liberals and Democrats are hunted with the assistance of specially trained dogs.

    I have to remind my wifelet that this neighborhood should not be confused with the real world.

    There are other things I still cannot figure out about Fargo, but moving on to the North Dakota communities outside the Oil Patch and what passes for cities, the place seems abandoned. *Very* rural, *very* agricultural, a lot of tiny towns populated by old people waiting to die. No corporate farming (it is forbidden by law), but very desolate all the same. Not as much heroin as you might expect, given how much there is in Fargo.

    The rural population look upon Fargo and Grand Forks as practically Sodom and Gomorrah, and Bismarck as being like unto Babylon, where all manner of fleshly pleasures are on offer.

      1. Michael Fiorillo

        I spent some time in western North Dakota – a beautiful state – a few years back, at the height of the oil boom, and it was an over-the-top experience: traffic jams of pipe-carrying trucks on highways beyond the middle of nowhere, gas stations with thirty filling islands, without any humans whatsoever around (literally, no convenience store, no people, nothing…) Very, very strange.

        When I had lunch in the ersatz western town constructed to serve Theodore Roosevelt National Park (well worth visiting, since it’s empty, and the countryside is beautiful in its stark, lonely way and the sky!) the waiters were all Bulgarian and Argentinian college students brought in on temp work visas.

        With the downturn in drilling in the Bakken, I imagine it’s pretty bleak there at the moment.

        Strange country. Strange times.

        1. Sid Finster

          Western ND is not as abandoned as one might think. Still a lot of activity there, although not as crazy as it was, say, 2012-13.

          But until the fracking boom, it was arguably the most desolate part of the Lower 48. Geologists had been aware of the existence of the oil since the mid-50’s, and there had been some boomlets (and consequent busts) but The Coming of the Drillers must have felt like the Apocalypse.

          Anybody and anything could make money hand over fist, if only they could get product and get labor. This was easier said than done in both cases.

          Guys who had been holding down the white goods section of a Best Buy outside Atlanta six months ago would be making $200,000 a year, and living in cars in a Wal Mart parking lot in the North Dakota winter because they could not find a place to live and all the garages were rented out. Strippers were pulling $5,000 a night in tips, dancing for rowdy drunken rednecks with fistfuls of cash and nothing to spend it on.

          Crime was insane – besides being flooded by young men from out-of-state with too much money, too much testosterone and no ties to the area, towns couldn’t keep cops because they kept running off to work the rigs. Drugs became a truly serious problem. Fast food places quietly let it be known that they wouldn’t drug test, thus killing two birds with one stone.

          Don;t get me started on the lawyers, or the persons styling themselves as such. The less said, the better.

          And then there was the sewage. Mancamps were packed full of, well, men, and what do men produce every morning, sometimes twice after they’ve had a cup of coffee? “Human solid waste” they call it.

          Well, what do you do with all these tons of human solid waste pumped out every day? The municipal waste systems were already running ten times their rated capacity, every single day and couldn’t even process what they already had. The Health Department had to turn a blind eye, as long as they were making something of an effort. I knew a dude who had one of the few licensed private sewage disposal setups in the area, and he was knocking down $170,000 net per week, all on a handshake basis. No contracts, no nothing.

          If the mancamp operators didn’t like what he was charging, they could go dump their waste elsewhere. That is, ff they could find a place to dump it, and if they could get trucking to haul their waste over there. Suffice it to say, most operators paid up. For that matter, one mancamp operator I know was making around $370,000 net per month, so they could afford to pay.

          Some operators just did the midnight tip.

          But spare a thought for the poor residents, for the social relationships shattered by the boom. People had lived in western North Dakota their whole lives, drank with their neighbors, ate with their neighbors, drank with their neighbors, partied with their neighbors, drank with their neighbors, fished with their neighbors, drank with their neighbors, hunted with their neighbors, all while drinking with their neighbors.

          Then it turns out that your neighbor, that guy that you drank with for forty years, inherited the mineral interests in the “right” plot of land. A few years ago, this guy had nothing but a rusty tractor and a pile of debts . Now he has more green cash in the bank than the bank had capital. The bank is sitting on more cash than it knows what to do with. You thought this guy was your friend, but now he thinks that he is a Better Class of Redneck.

      2. Sid Finster

        The Finster aims to please.

        For now I will only add that my mother, a vociferously partisan supporter of Team D, hates Fargo with a passion.

        When she comes to visit and hears the specially trained hounds bark, she has to flee to the Minnesota side of the line.

        I never did see such a spring in the step of my mother, hounds snapping at her heels as she heads for the bridge.

    1. nycTerrierist


      “If lawn care were recognized as a religion, my neighbors would be the Taliban.”


      1. Jeremy Grimm

        Thanks for pointing that phrase out. I nearly missed it but now added to my collection of phrases and clever imagery.

  33. ldruid

    I live in south-central Oregon, just north of the California border in a town of approximately 2000 economically sustained by the presence of BLM and Forest Service, cattle and timber. The county is classified “frontier” by the Census Bureau. One drugstore, 2 hardware stores, one grocery store, new Dollar store; multiple motels, few bars, an empty main street. When this town was bustling it was because of the mills, down now to only a couple, forests heavily logged40 or so years ago, not replanted. These days timber is coming off the federal lands, mills paying a pittance, little resource protection or environmental evaluation or mitigation, steep-slope logging without proper study and equipment appropriated for the slopes. This is consistent with the new forest plan for western Oregon, eating the seed corn, regardless of climate change and continuing very dry winters.

    The county is a leader in alternative energy (solar, geo-thermal), but that, too, is exported and little employment associated with it. No other significant industry, ranches tending to control/ownership by outside corporations, local families tending only to work on, not to own, them.

    A very few high-end (non-ranch) homes (350 K), primarily trailers and detritus on the outskirts, empty and unrepaired homes in town, The local hospital is on a building spree, which has many of the locals scratching their heads. A new dentist bought out a retiring dentist, prices were raised (and, to be fair, new equipment installed), but the incomes aren’t there to support his prices. Former patients go to the nearest large(r) town, 90 miles away. The mayor is hoping to get more tourism (we’re on the road to Burning Man), but doesn’t appear to envision anything beyond off-road vehicle use. Significant opiate use according to local law enforcement.

    Before the holidays I was in Bend for a week – very cold, snow on the ground. This was the first time I saw people living in cars, vans and trailers off the highway, tarps and plywood. Maybe they were working but couldn’t afford housing (Bend is almost as pricey as Portland). But dreadful conditions.

    In the summer of 2016, the main bumper-sticker seen in the hardware store parking lot was for Sanders; after that, few stickers at all. Yard signs for Trump. Teacher reports of kids being called “deports”. (Ironically enough, in a bitter way, the brochure handed out to newcomers and visitors describes area development “once the Indians were subdued”.)

    One can live here if one is a federal employee or independently moneyed or living very lean; it’s a beautiful place, but not “resilient” or sustainable. The great economy we hear about hasn’t reached us here.

  34. makedoanmend

    Bloody hell. This is some mighty depressing reading (but some very good writing and descriptions).

    It seems to be either building, boom and gentrification or poverty and decimation. Very little in between.

      1. makedoanmend

        True, but when I grew up there was a sense that house building was a sort of adjunct to the economy – building houses was a necessity to house the workers that worked at factories, offices and within the extended economy as the entire economy and population grew. It now seems like building, buying and selling real estate has become the main driver of economies in many areas. If an local economy isn’t into building mania with ever increasing property prices, the only alternative seems to be an inexorable backwards economic slide.

        I know what I’m saying is economically superficial but after reading so many of the comments, it seems to have some validity.

    1. jrs

      Well the problem is probably that there are very few industries that are doing well and the rest of the economy seems to be a flaming wreck. So within the industries doing well (finance, maybe healthcare, tech – yes it is even if it’s a bubble it is often doing ok for now) things are good, but outside them there is NO economy left. We really don’t have an economy anymore, we have the illusion of an economy based on a few industries and this isn’t just the case in flyover.

      So if these “good times” (and it IS better than the depths of the recession) don’t feel like the “good times” of old (any time before 2008), it’s because they aren’t.

      1. John

        My take is that industries change and move but cities and people don’t. Detroit used to be the wealthiest city in America on a per capital basis, now it is one of the poorest large cities. The car industry that attracted people to the city and built the city changed and moved on. There are jobs for skilled, experienced people in engineering, medicine law and management, but manual labor no longer pays well. Globalization has killed off local jobs. Now even jobs overseas are shrinking due to automation.

    2. rd

      The national income and wealth distribution numbers show exactly that.

      In some places you can survive well on median income and in other areas you can’t. Every area has some heart-breaking poverty.

    3. Pelham

      Agreed. If we had a first-rate news organization in this country, this is the type of material that would be reported on a daily basis until something was done to fix things. My compliments to everyone who’s contributing here.

      I’d add my own 2 cents, having grown up in a Kansas town of 10,000 that was unusually vibrant and bustling even by the standards of the ’50s and ’60s, the time I can remember. But it suffered a devastating blow in the late ’70s and has been on the rocks since then. I recall visiting in the late ’80s and counting 42 storefronts on the 3 business blocks of Main Street that were all filled with durable businesses 20 years earlier but at that time were empty with the exception of five, all of which were selling antiques and knick-knacks. I was back there about 15 years ago and saw no improvement. Maybe things have picked up since then.

      In any event, this devastation has been decades in the making.

    4. Utah

      It seems to be either building, boom and gentrification or poverty and decimation. Very little in between.

      And it all depends on your socioeconomic status which one you are feeling. I am lower middle class renting in an upper class neighborhood. I feel the dichotomy between the two worlds very much, especially when I go into my downtown area and see the amount of homeless that have nowhere to go.

    5. Jeremy Grimm

      “This is some mighty depressing reading (but some very good writing and descriptions).” I couldn’t agree more with both these points.

  35. TarheelDem

    I have come to the conclusion that despite the fact that I live where the Civil War ended in parole for the largest remaining parts of the Confederate Army, I cannot claim to live in flyover country. In spite of the fact that flyovers swap months between my neighborhood and the prestigious Preston neighborhood of Cary NC, my edge of Triassic basin wetlands also is at the edge of our local part of the Portland ME-to Atlanta GA east coast megalopolis parts that share certain cosmopolitan and traditional nostalgic roots and active and diverse cultural life. I was born, grew up, and lived in (generally smaller) communities that we unlike here now and are still unlike here now. What my family and cousins experience in their communities is unlike what I experience in a median $60K income middle-class culturally, not just racially, diverse population (for unexplainable reasons the neighborhood has a mosque and a B’ahai community center across the street from each other and among the Methodist, Catholic, Lutheran, Presbyterian, Baptist (several varieties), and independent aspirational superchurches. For all our intention not to Califorinianize North Carolina, the religious mix looks like Los Angeles. Not flyover country at all. Politically all you can say is that in my neck of the woods some sort of self-professed progressives dominate local politics. The density of colleges and universities once helped that trend, they now have different struggles. And you also have to say that the current economic, political, and cultural domination is in part the way that a significant fraction of the intellectual and monied elite moved and the self-created local leadership that resulted from the abandonment of Durham for Cary. It has worked out all the best for Durham in a whole lot of ways. Affordability is one of them.

    What I know of elsewhere nearby is the result of my relatives and friends.

    Military communities are doing quite fine thank you. Virginia Beach VA and Huntsville AL were Confederate resurgent during the Obama administration and are peachy keen right now. I would check where the DoD funds are going under the Trump administration.

    Small towns are clinging to their employers, even within areas like RTP. The Eastern Wake to Wilson area are seeing volatility on in local job markets and even greater volatility in the RTP jobs accessible to reasonalble commuting (an interesting personal choice) from those areas. The experiences of individual workers and industries vary widely.

    Agriculture in those areas is considered the most stable (thanks Uncle Sam) if not the most prosperous.

    This is a time of chaos in racial attitudes. Based on past experience, that likely means change, even positive change for the piedmont Carolina part of the South.

    Trends are so chaotic right now that some neighboring naked capitalism commenters likely will have different impressions.

    Good look in finding what is going on in flyover country besides media travel tales.

    1. Carolinian

      NC is an interesting state and quite different from SC (my all inclusive commenting handle is meant ironically–those from “away,” as the Mainers like to say, don’t seem to know the difference between the two states). I’d say your state has more divergent extremes with very conservative mountain folk living cheek by jowl with super rich Northern transplants. Here in SC our politics are Republican all the way while NC sits more on the fence. But when the NC right is ascendant it’s more to the right than SC politicians who bend over backwards to accommodate a large AA population. We have a black senator, but he’s a Republican.

      NC, at least the mountainous part, is also a very beautiful state. I love going there.

    2. Octopii

      My mother’s family is from Cary. I remember as a small child going down to visit and discovering a tilted old farmhouse (granddaddy had a Delco plant in the back shed when he was young), a declining pump organ, and oil lamps being used as daily illumination. That was in the mid-70s. There was civilization, as my great aunt lived next to a research farm and had built a brand new ranch house for her retirement. It was decorated country style. My cousin and I rode his three-wheeler around and around that house a hundred times. He introduced me to the practice of lighting off bottle rockets and aiming them toward the rabbit hutch in the back yard.

      In modern day I happened to pass through Cary two years ago to see if Mom’s little patch of land was still there. It was surreal — Cary had exploded into apartment buildings, fast food joints, retail centers, four lane roads, traffic, and all the trappings of modern suburbia.

  36. Swamp Yankee

    I write from what you might call “the near Provinces” — that part of Massachusetts that lies, depending on where exactly and when, on the edge of the metro-zone and/or in the colonized Summer People zone: a mixture of cranberry bogs, woods, salt-marsh; former mill-towns, small cities with extractive industries (fishing), Vacationland, settled countryside, rural gentrification i.e. cul-de-sac nightmares where forest and agricultural workers’ settlements used to stand. I teach at a community college, and most of the students — 90+ per cent — are outside the top 10-20%ers that Thomas Frank so rightly recognized run this Commonwealth. My own class background is that I am from a family that drifted between the working class and poverty, but that a family emphasis on education, a good public school system with phenomenal teachers, and academic scholarships hoisted me, socially if not economically, into the world of small liberal arts colleges and elite graduate programs (i.e., Yuppie Liberal [Redacted]ville].)

    From what I see among the students here, there are no good jobs left; everyone is scrambling to jump through many of the frankly absurd credentialing hoops that now accompany jobs that, in former days, were filled without requiring three letters after your name. Very few have any real control of their time at work, in the sense of what the UK calls zero-hour scheduling. Home and family life is often not good. Substance abuse and addiction is rampant. You see needles walking between school (in an old textile mill) and the nearest Dunkin’ Donuts. But it’s not just opiates; alcoholism, always a problem for this Anglo-Gaelic-Portuguese community, has once more reached epidemic levels, and the only “economic development” [ha!] the local powers that be will countenance, besides selling off our common natural resources to outlander developers and corporations (our comprador grifter pols and business class gonna comprador), is to fill once functional downtowns with new bar after “brew-pub” after “gastro-pub” after “craft-distillery.”

    Meanwhile, a combination of the vastly inflated and under-subsidized housing prices, with the above conditions, have meant a vast increased in homelessness. Many of the students are homeless. Taking a walk outside the old factory to a stretch of woods this Fall, I was not surprised to come upon a homeless person’s tent and very neatly kept campsite. I love to wander the woods, and they are full, in out of the way spots, with little huts built of sticks and tarps and anything else to try provide basic shelter through a New England winter. And it’s not that new houses won’t get built — the corrupt local developers who quite literally dominate our local Boards of Selectmen and Planning Boards love building new luxury housing, often on spec, or bulldozing a structure from the Jefferson Administration and McMansioning it over night. The Old Yankee Republican establishment, for all its super-numerous flaws, had a sense of our New England Commons tradition; the New 1%er global cosmopolitans who feel they now have bought their piece of Norman Rockwell’s World, do not, and they have no problem destroying our landscape and history to satisfy their inordinate and insatiable greed. Talk about “norm erosion” — Jiminy Christmas!

    And this very real human misery just fifty or so miles from the glittering, soon-to-be-permanently-underwater corporate edifices in Marty Walsh’s (D-Gentrification) new “Seaport District” up in Boston. Used to just be the vacant rubble you could go to get away from people on your lunch break — now, unrecognizable Yuppie Spawning Grounds.

    Yet, I remain somewhat optimistic. The kids are getting radicalized. Their world is just totally removed from the bourgeois liberal elites I see on my Facebook (Zuckerberg’s Panopticon, truly) feed. We truly are two Americas, which, paradoxically, is a good thing. The students, who represent a decent cross-section of this region, care not at all about what Morning Joe or Rachel are saying. The political establishment is defunct locally and rotten and ripe for pushing over. And there are more of us, now, post-2008, post-Occupy, post-Obama-HRC-Dem failures, post-Sanders, and yes, post-Trump, determined to precisely that. So despite the pessimism of the intellect outlined above, I remain, with Gramsci, an optimist of the will.

    1. Swamp Yankee

      sorry, the word “do” is missing before “precisely that” in the penultimate sentence. Many apologies.

      1. Jeremy Grimm

        My eyes added the ‘do’ automatically — didn’t even notice it was missing.

    2. kareninca

      Are you serious? People are living in little homemade huts through the winter in the woods of Massachusetts? Oh my god. Have you met any of them? Do they freeze to death? Does anyone try to move them on? Do you have any social workers who go out and talk with them? I thought that New England managed to mostly house people, due to the cold. And I thought that Massachusetts had the good part of the nanny state along with the bad; so it doesn’t? Are you sure that people are really living in them, as opposed to using them for an extra place to go? (I can hope, can’t I?)

      I have a relative-by-marriage in Maine whose son lives all winter long in a tent, but that is because he keeps getting in fights with the other homeless shelter inhabitants and they keep having to boot him. But there is a shelter (this is the York area). And the local McDonald’s lets him in to thaw out.

      1. Yves Smith Post author

        There is a guy who famously lives in a tent all year in Maine and does some sort of self-appointed research right outside a national park. Aside from having a very well appointed tent (heated and with electricity, I forget whether via generator or he somehow bootlegs power), he goes into the national park to use its showers. Maybe its toilets too. I forget if he built an outhouse or not.

        The point is it can be done but it’s just accelerating when you die if you don’t do it well.

        1. wilroncanada

          In the early 1990s I worked for a hardware chain store after we closed our stationery store. I sold a Pacific Energy ‘Cottage’ stove (up to 600 sq ft) to a woman who lived in a yurt she had built. It was her permanent residence.

        2. kareninca

          This relative of mine (whom I have not met) is not doing it well; he is seriously mentally ill, probably schizophrenic. It’s pretty hard on his father.

          1. Yves Smith Post author

            How awful. I’m sorry to hear that. I hope I conveyed the message that this “Live in a tent in in places with brutal winters” is an OK idea only if you are pretty high functioning and actually do have some material things in place. Your relative does not sound at all like he fits that bill.

      2. Swamp Yankee

        kareninca — yeah, I’m pretty sure they are lived in. I haven’t spoken with them in person, or at least not about the tents, but the evidence suggests to me they are dwelling places. You also have to be careful, as violence is a possibility for any number of reasons. To an extent, the police know they are there, but the police work for the owners of property and businesses, and are mostly sent to clear out the encampments, so the dwellers tend to hide from and avoid them.

        We may have a bigger social welfare state here in MA than in, say, Texas, but it is still woefully inadequate, especially given the opioid crisis. And we have a serious housing shortage, much of it going to wealthy summer people (graffito in Falmouth, MA — “Summer People – some are not” — Hi, Obama!) who leave the places unoccupied 3/4 of the year. The social workers we do have are simply overwhelmed, and because of the substance abuse and mental health issues in these communities, are unlikely to go out there alone. Beatings and even attempted murder are not uncommon in this population. We do have a shelter locally, sort of — in the very coldest months, churches in town take turns opening up for the evening. But it is very hard on them, requiring them to get people to stay overnight, keep order, and etc. Hard to get volunteers with both the ability and desire to do that job.

        I’m really sorry to hear about your relative up in York, ME. He isn’t alone, unfortunately — my heart goes out to him and to you. Here is a craigslist ad looking for housing from Cape Cod’s craigslist, from the end of 2017. Homeless people, sober, with jobs, and out overnight in sub-zero temperatures. It is heart-breaking, and this is just 50 or 60 miles from the Back Bay:


        © craigslist – Map data © OpenStreetMap
        (google map)

        available now

        no private bath
        room not private


        My boyfriend and I are currently homeless and due to the weather and location, I am making a desperate attempt to improve our situation with this post, reaching out and asking for help. Recently We have been sleeping in a tent in a local wooded area of Hyannis but yesterday our spot was discovered by the police and we have been asked to leave. We don’t have many, if any other options and as we all know, the weather continues to grow brutally cold. We have a good amount of blankets but it’s really not enough.

        We have truly been working on getting out of this mess but it will take time. He is working and I am looking. We don’t have much of an income but we are willing to work something out in exchange for shelter if neccessary. Our focus is to earn and save what we can before we are able to move into a home of our own.

        I am 40 years old and he is 42. We do not drink. We do smoke but will smoke outside if it’s a bother. We’re clean and organized. We just need a spot, any spot. A room, a floor, a shed, even a back yard where we can pitch our 9X7 tent. Electricity would be great and of course use of the kitchen and bathroom would be ideal, but we will accept anything we can get at this point. Its freezing to death that concerns me most. We will also need to stay somewhere local, (close to Main St,) so he can get to work and I can do what I need to do throughout the day.

        We are expecting money soon,
        (mid February,) that should get us into our own place for March 1st. So please keep in mind that this is only temporary, (only 2 months,) and we will be on our own way.

        We just pray someone that takes the time to read this will help us out if at all possible, despite what we are asking, which we understand is a lot.

        If you are able to help in any way, please send me an e-mail with your questions or concerns as well as what you can offer us and what you are expecting in exchange, (IE: money, work, etc.) I will provide you with our names and any other personal information you will need, within my reply, that might help you in your decision to help us and/or provide us shelter.

        Thank you very much for your interest in this post. Hope to hear from someone…

        Happy New Year!

  37. Wukchumni

    If you haven’t read the ultimate American roadtrip tome yet, Blue Highways by William Least Heat-Moon, is awaiting you. Written just as the old ways were fading in the late 70’s and before the corporate cookie cutter look that mandates all buildings look alike whether they are in Mankato, Mn or Manhattan Beach, Ca.

    He drove 13,000 miles of predominantly the blue highways, which includes a lot of flyover. Was attracted to the names of places in determining where he went, Nameless, Tn, Dime Box, Tx, Ninety Six, SC, etc.

    The people he meets along the way are a fascinating mix of Americans of every flavor, with tales to tell that he dutifully detailed so perfectly.

    1. Amfortas the Hippie

      without that book, i wouldn’t have been able to even conceive of just up and leaving when things turned crazy in my hometown.
      Lived in my van(green 76 VW) and everything,lol. Throughout the South.
      That’s almost as dangerous a book as On the Road(which, strangely, I didn’t read till I was Off the Road)

  38. AkronAmy

    Another Ohioan here. Moved from booming St.Pete, FL (elevation 7.5′) nine months ago back to NE Ohio (elevation 1000′) after leaving it 3 decades earlier. Wanted to originally live in an inner ring Cleveland suburb, but as Carla mentioned the property taxes there were insane. Settled in a west Akron tudor with a sunny backyard suitable for growing veggies. Hard to believe but the housing market in this zip was/is hot. The first house we made an all cash offer 10K over the list price, didn’t get it. The accepted offer on house #2 we rescinded after getting back the home inspection report. Once home in Florida without a house to move into in Ohio, we purchased this tudor the day it hit the market on sight unseen. The first time we got inside the house was after we closed and moved from Florida. And yes, this house also received a backup contract immediately. Compared to the bustling Tampa/St. Pete area Akron is quiet but trying: the downtown has pockets of redevelopment (even hipster lofts), all the schools buildings will have been replaced in a year or so, the University of Akron is coming back after a few bad years. Even more surprising is downtown Cleveland’s comeback. For the first time since the early 80’s we paid CLE a visit were truly impressed. For a cold Saturday morning in early March the streets were packed and were no events going on! Even had to wait to get seated for lunch at a little Mexican restaurant. Forget trying to go the Westside Market in Tremont, there was a line just to get into the parking lot! Told my 2 NYC kids it was a micro-mini NYC (they didn’t believe me). Anyway, for a dead town in flyover land it looked quite alive. Can’t wait to go back when it is 30 degrees warmer!

  39. Enquiring Mind

    One sense that I have had driving around the west is that policymakers in Sacramento, Salem, Salt Lake City, other S places, and especially in DC (with their companion financiers on Wall Street) should get out more. Our local Congressional Rep circulates periodically but both Senators don’t seem to care to venture forth unless to a few big city bubbles where the donors are.

    As noted in various media reports, other bubbles like the Acela Corridor persist and seem to defy physics that should pop them. A dash of cold water washing in from the provinces could be instructive.

    Getting back on the road, the vibe is less friendly that it has been in past years, with small towns clinging to whatever vitality drives in. If there is much upset in gas prices or whatever else stops the cars, then those small towns will collapse. The low unemployment numbers seem to represent economic health somewhere else. Nonetheless, there is still some general sense of decency and a type of kinship or awareness of common plight or destiny.

    My concerns about such trends have tended toward pondering what happens to what is left of the social fabric in the next downturn. One image on the road is of a Potemkin Village, with reality barely hidden from view. I wish I were more optimistic on a sunny day.

    1. Amfortas the Hippie

      Ja. I forgot to mention the shaky foundation stone of gas prices…both for tourists/hunters/winos, as well as for the numerous people who work in some other town(nearest neighboring town is 40 miles away), and live here(where rent is relatively cheap, and/or they can live in the former blockhouse that used to be for the ranch hands.
      Raise the price back up to where it was during the Bush Darkness, and we’d feel it…all of us…out here.

  40. Wukchumni

    There has been a growing economic apartheid between flyover and coastal, as there’s no way somebody in Toledo with a paid off $55k home is going to contemplate buying something similar in L.A. for a dozen times as much. It’s pretty much the same story everywhere, within the hinterlands.

    1. rd

      Those of us in the Great Lakes states are waiting for the snowbirds to be forced back by climate change and rising seas. The Great Lakes area is one of the few areas where I think climate change will improve our climate. We have lots of fresh water and few natural disasters. Many of the attributes that made these areas the core of the US and Canada in the late 1800s and early 1900s are likely to become important again.

      A few years from now, many properties in coastal Florida won’t be able to get 30 year mortgages due to sea level rise and Arizona etc. will be running out of water. That is when I think we will start to see shifting of populations again.

  41. lyman alpha blob

    Maineiac here and you have already summed up the state of things here quite well. Portland was a dump 25 years ago and now Maine residents can barely afford to live here. It was nice when some rejuvenation occurred however it never stopped and rejuvenation became gentrification, pushing the locals out. My brother-in-law recently got a job with MPR which is among the better-paying jobs in the area I would assume, and he’s currently trying to find a place to rent so he can move from Cleveland. Rents are astronomical to the point he may not wind up living in Portland like he wanted to.

    I’m surprised to hear the Boothbay has had a downturn – haven’t been there for a few years but it’s been known as one of the pricier tourist areas for summer vacationers.

    We go to Moosehead Lake every year and the drive there can get depressing – lots of beautiful old homes crumbling, vacant storefronts, and construction vehicles parked in yards with ‘for sale’ signs on them. This is the area where all the textile and paper mills used to be.

    When you get to the lake itself, things start to look better. Unfortunately that’s because the paper companies have decided they can make a lot more $$$ in real estate than paper, and a lot of people from away are building posh new 2nd homes near the lake, which pushes the locals out.

  42. Jean

    Food. That’s the biggest marker that we saw between the San Francisco Bay Area and the long strip of a roadtrip through small towns in Nevada, Idaho, Wyoming, the Dakotas.

    Family run restaurants were a rarity. Here and there some bright eyed and bushytailed young women had opened a nice little coffee house, but the patrons were lacking and only super cheap rent allowed them to survive maybe for another year or two. Trip Advisor is a good way to find what is there ahead of your departure.

    “High quality” fast food, like shopping center Olive Gardens versus low quality McDonalds were basically all that were available in towns and along interstates, unless you wanted to visit upon yourself a feeding at the chamber of “free breakfast” horrors in a local corporate chain hotel with its dining room microwave automatic pancake making machines, minuscule coffee cups and melting plastic smell. Nice TVs always on wherever you look as a courtesy. CNN or Fox of course. One look into the the storeroom full of boxes of corporate chemical slop factory “food” was enough to promote a fast.

    Some people made a big deal out of Sunday meals in such places and we realized that this was all they could afford or all that was available locally.

    For many, the freewayside gas station is their supermarket and the only thing within an hour’s drive. I asked lots of questions and keep a tally sheet because I was curious and really wanted to discover if there were any options. “EBT Accepted” of course. All manner of plastic wrapped microwavable corn syrup crap, plastic tubs of microwave Tyson chicken breasts and pastries from some distant bakery. Large number of mid 1980s station wagons or Ford Explorer SUVs with kid’s toys and sleeping bags showing parked out back around the dumpsters.

    The saddest sight I will never forget, a methed out guy with clothing two sizes too large hanging on him, smoking and hacking his lungs out, his boots untied, his wife, or sister, blind and obese with a child leading her into the gas station restroom from an old Ford Bronco with the hood up and lots of toys and clothing in the back visible through the open tailgate. We were able to drive away but what happens to them in a Wyoming winter?

    Imagine, his relatives fighting and dying on Guadalcanal, Korea or Viet Nam to hand him this economic destiny? Paraphrasing Patton…

    1. Wukchumni

      We were driving on I-80 past Winnemucca NV, and saw a billboard from the local tribe that merely said:

      “Meth Is Not The Indian Way”

      It spoke volumes about the problem without saying a word.

      1. Jean

        Make sure and eat at the Star Hotel if in Elko, massive portions of great food, Basque style.

  43. DWD


    I am living in my hometown of Muskegon on the Western Shore of Lake Michigan (My house is about 600 yards away from the lake)

    Our quality of life is excellent with amazing beaches (15 miles of them adjacent to the city) and relaxed housing prices and such.

    We are finally catching a bit of an economic boom mostly because of new development on the lakes and our proximity to Grand Rapids, Grand Haven, and Holland all of whom are doing quite well. Wages remain pretty much flat and benefits are scarce to nonexistent.

    The fact that Muskegon is multiracial has a great deal to do with our storied poverty since they started closing the factories and foundries. I figure that at least 12K good paying jobs have been lost by closure. That is one hell of an economic jolt to a city of 80 (Counting adjacent areas)

    People are getting along but the only building to speak of is in the healthcare area.

    Downtown looked like someone carpet-bombed it for a while but they tore most of the structures down and are slowly replacing them with businesses and governmental facilities (And we have a tremendous farmers’ market)

    Things could be much better than they are though. (Muskegon was notably one of the only counties in the state to go for Clinton over Trump. Imagine if she had actually visited this area! The 5-10K votes she lost by could have been garnered here. )

    I believe the only answer for “Flyover” country is distributive policies adopted by the government (Instead of giving tax credits for consolidation and such)

    But if you are asking those who are currently enjoying economic boom times to share. Well, they are not really willing, are they?

  44. Eclair

    Yesterday, we drove south from Amazonia, or Seattle as it is still know by some, turned right at Olympia, and continued to the coast and the town of Aberdeen. It’s a working class town that has seen better days, although those days seem to have been not too great to begin with. There’s a winding river, a bay, a semi-deserted down-town, acres of worn out, wooden, single family houses, a bombed-out three-story wholesale seafood warehouse, a quite nice and newish public library and empty store fronts.

    All the natural resources have been extracted; the trees and fish are gone. The logging and lumbering and fishing jobs have disappeared. Next to the library, there is a multistory parking garage …. completely empty. Just piles of sleeping bags and plastic tarps and Walmart plastic shopping bags stuffed with peoples’ worldly goods, in odd corners. There’s a brew pub on a downtown corner (closed) and a distillery producing vodka and gin and whiskey from ‘local grains.’ Value-added stuff.

    Oh, and at least a half-dozen well-fed banks in spanking new buildings.

    1. Smokey

      I have a bit to add to this characterization of Aberdeen. My mom grew up there and I’ve spent quite a bit of time there over the years. It’s been in the bust cycle for a generation as described above, but it was (I hear) pretty glamorous back in the day, and there’s evidence of that in some of the houses, especially above town. It’s in the thick of the opioid crisis, has a significant population of former workers on disability, and flipped to Trump and the Republicans for the first time since Hoover. I think it’s important to note though that there are still extractive industries (shellfish, salal, cranberries, mushrooms), but they don’t pay the middle class wages, and the workforce is largely El Salvadorian, which adds to (you guessed it) an anti-immigrant sentiment among the older working class. There’s also an ongoing story in the region of tree poaching (big leaf maple) by out of work and desperate loggers, and much resentment of out of town patagonians who come to the woods for the weekends and support wilderness protections but don’t seem to care about obvious and widespread poverty.

  45. Denis Drew


    Labor unions transform “price takers” into “price negotiators.” About 20% of our labor force thrives under what could be described as perfect competition conditions. Perfect competition defined simply as being able to extract pretty much the max the consumer is willing to pay for their input to products and services — never mind all that long winded economic definition, right?

    To raise most our workforce to “price negotiators” our coming blue wave Congress simply needs to mandate union certification and de-certification elections at every private workplace; every one, three or five years, plurality rules on the latter.

    Should have done decades ago — only way to maintain democracy in America’s unique in all the first world, anti-labor union, labor market. Much of second and third world not fanatically anti-union culture either: Argentina and Indonesia do sector-wide labor contracts for instance.

    Bottom 40% of US workforce take 10% share of overall income. Mid 40% plus upper-mid 19% (total 59%) take 67.5%. Top 1% take 22.5% — up from 10% over last two generations. See where this is going?

    Newly unionized employees take back 10% share through higher prices for their labor — or they won’t show up for work …

    … If McDonald’s can pay $15/hr with 33% labor costs, then, Target can pay $20/hr with 10-15% labor costs and Walmart (bless it’s efficient heart) should be able to pay $25/hr with 7% labor costs.

    Bobby Kennedy’s son Chris is running for governor in the Democratic primary in Illinois. His father wanted to fight poverty — I remember something called model cities — but with only half today’s per capita income I’m not sure what he was thinking. Now, with doubling of per capita income it’s should merely be a matter of sloshing it all around better.

    The bottom 40% will gently (and persistently) nudge the middle 59% to take back 12.5% of overall income from the top 1% through confiscatory taxes — of the kind we had in the Eisenhower years; and nobody gave it much thought either. With twenty times the personal income going to the same jobs of the top 1% now, this time around we are going to get really serious about confiscation.

    Top paid NFLer in 1968, Joe Namath made $600,000/yr in today’s money. Quarterback pays more like $12 million now. Sorry Colin (I’m sure you’re not greedy). :-)

    Why Not Hold Union Representation Elections on a Regular Schedule?
    Andrew Strom — November 1st, 2017

    Bonus: federally mandated certification and re-certification elections automatically the hottest issue (maybe in a hundred years) because transformative in some way for almost every household. Dreadful for Republicans to defend against as it is stealing a page from its own anti-union (state gov unions) playbook.

    1. ambrit

      Not to be too snarky, really, but this is the face of America outside the coasts and gated communities.
      Depressing to read, yes, but infinitely more depressing to live.
      Today, NC is the Canary in the Coal Mine.

      1. ChrisFromGeorgia

        A parallel topic/thread I’d like to see on NC would explore how those doing financially “better than most” are feeling. I fall into this category, but it seems like every year it gets tougher and tougher to survive the corporate grind. Getting older may have a lot to do with it, but I suspect that near the end of most economic expansions, as companies start resorting more and more to outright fraud to make their numbers, the pressure cooker effect takes hold and people start losing it.

        There is also the well-known “rats in a cage” analogy, as more and more people are coming to places like Atlanta and Dallas it gets edgier and folks start behaving more like they live in NYC (without the culture and good pizza.)

        I suspect that your personal situation though has a lot more to do with happiness than where you live or how close the ponz-economy is to imploding. Case in point, an old friend who seemed in really bad shape last time I visited him up north (ex-military, worked for a low paying government gig for a while just scraping by with a bum knee,) seems to have somehow cashed in (disability, medicaid?) I hear he is living the good life bumming around FL as a snow bird and going to concerts. At least until the government cheese runs out.

      2. ChristopherJ

        Fair enough Ambrit, but for people who live outside the US, the thread is just about unbelievable.

        I have read every post and am gob smacked. Australia has a lot of problems and a recent visit to Sydney revealed a lot more homeless, living everywhere. But, I’ve seen nothing like the the commentators here

        Naked capitalism in full flight

        1. Tenney Naumer

          I know what you mean, ChristopherJ. I spent 23 years outside the US in 3 different countries. What is most apparent to me is that since the advent of Newt Gingrich and our ever-dysfunctional government for the past near 20 years, the investments we should have been making in infrastructure, schools, healthcare, etc., have not been made, with the attendant consequences.

          Our newest tax “reform” law is the pinnacle of this absurdity. We can’t keep on like this. I mean, seriously, when the fact that life expectancy is going down in the US doesn’t get anyone’s attention, or the 60,000 annual opioid deaths. At least the EU is having the good sense to ban the pesticides that are killing all the bees — it’s so obvious a thing to do — but when will that happen here? Then, there’s Monsanto’s RoundUp that is killing so much life, it is staggering.

          I drove in August 2014 from southern Illinois to Fort Worth, Texas, in a 1996 Tahoe, which has a huge wind screen, and there were no dead bugs on it when I arrived. The same thing happened when I drove in August 2017 back to Illinois in a Ryder truck. No dead bugs. Has anyone noticed that millions of starlings have become mere hundreds? And yet nothing is done.

          We absolutely have to elect non-machine democrats and turn this nightmare around, or it is going to get a lot worse.

  46. Ed

    I do appreciate immensely this little travelogue, being on a modest SS pension, snowed in, and living vicariously on the winnings of the contestants on GEOPARDY.

    1. ambrit

      Many of us seem to be reverse engineering the maps of North America. Previously hale and hearty areas on the maps are now being reinscribed with the dreaded warning: “Here Be Monsters!”
      It would be a fun show, with the Late Late Night robot sidekick Geoff as moderator.

      1. geoff

        Here in MEM the area near the state U seems to be prospering, presumably on a bubble of student loan money, and there’s talk of paying the current basketball coach tens of millions of dollars to buy out his contract. Otherwise, things don’t seem TOO bad– it’s always been a poor city– though homelessness is clearly going up and up, and we’re seeing a lot of pharmacy robberies.

        Also, I am neither a robot nor a sidekick.

        1. ambrit

          There is another Geoff that would resonate with English television viewers, but I won’t go there.
          Pharmacy robberies? We have pharmacy break-ins around here. Robbery to us bespeaks a degree of get up and steal immoral fibre in ones’ soul.
          We here in the American Deep South are still ensorcelled by the glamour of College Sports. It is a fell demon which needs to be sent back to the fiery depths from whence it came. That or treat college athletes as paid semi professionals.

  47. Altandmain

    I’m living in Ontario, but I am about 60 to 90 minutes drive (although I currently do not have a car) to the US border in upstate New York. I lived previously in the US before my family moved to Canada in Ohio, New Jersey, and Massachusetts.

    When I go south past the border, the first thing that occurs is a questioning by border guards, the US CBP. Some just let me in once I show my Canadian passport. Some have asked me questions. At work, my colleague has been asked the question by US Border Guards, “How do we know you are not taking the job of an American?!”. Consider he is a white Canadian, is employed, (the border guards often ask you where you work when you cross the borde) and looks throughly middle class (you can tell by the way that he dresses, talks, and of course by the kind of car he drives), that seemed like a bizarre thing to ask.

    After clearing the border, upstate New York varies. Many of the small towns however are struggling to get by and some are not getting by. It resembles the Midwest. There are a few areas of wealth that look like the upper 10 percent and the rest are struggling to get by.

    There are many dilapidated buildings. Upstate New York has been depopulating for some time as people move to green pastures. There was never truly a recovery from the decline of manufacturing. Some have made partial recoveries. An example is Rochester, NY. It was never the same after Eastman Kodak declined. However in other areas, there are many boarded up homes and stores. Main Street on many towns is pretty much a grim site.

    In the Niagara Falls area, there are many casinos and other tourist attractions. It seems to be the only real large source of income. There are some smaller manufacturers here and there. Nothing like the post WW2 boom though. Many of the locals have issues with gambling. Canadians do too on our side of Niagara Falls.

    I am also about 3.5 hours away from Detroit, Michigan and the Wayne County area. I have not travelled to Michigan often, so I am relying on second hand information. Getting across the bridge to the US is a similar affair with the CBP.

    To begin with, there are safe and very dangerous areas in Detroit. A good chunk of it is also not inhabited because people left. I think that the last time I checked, Wayne and Cook County were some of the counties in the US with the fastest declining populations. The urban core of Detroit is renewing, but it is also gentrifying. There are entire neighbourhoods with few or no residents in Detroit. Not far from Detroit are more wealthy areas in Michigan. Then throughout rural Michigan are struggling towns.

    I see similar trends in Ontario. Windsor, Ontario, just across the river from Detroit has been called Canada’s unemployment capital. We look like a moderate version of the Rust Belt. Still, even our poorest areas don’t seem to be as bad as the US. Likewise, the main cause is the decline of manufacturing. We used to be a very big automotive manufacturer like Michigan. It has declined. We also made a lot. In Southern Ontario, we made refrigerators, boots, clothing, tools, and tons of consumer goods. Most of that has been outsourced to other countries, where labour is cheap. Apparently in Mexico workers work for 10 dollars or less a day.

    Canada does however have one unique issue in Southern Ontario. What’s disturbing though is that some of these areas are facing gentrification from Toronto. The professional class in Toronto is no longer able to afford real estate in the downtown core. We are in a big housing bubble that is unsustainable. Upstate New York is too far from NYC to worry about that. Outside of Toronto, Guelph, Kitchener-Waterloo, and a few smaller Ontario cities are facing gentrification too from techies. It used to be a manufacturing city and is becoming a technology town. Home prices are now unaffordable. There are also those who want to brave a 2 hour commute to Toronto.

    The wealthier areas look rather like the US. You will see a Starbucks, a few chain restaurants, and Canadian chains. Oh and the rent is crazy. Traffic is getting worse in Southern Ontario due to population growth. Our provincial government is trying to expand mass transit, but it isn’t keeping up.

    On the positive side, when you cross the border, the temperature in the winter is a few degrees warmer. Not much, but you do notice it.

    Whoever thought that outsourcing manufacturing should be charged for treason IMO. Millions of families have been destroyed.

    1. wilroncanada

      I realized from previous posts that you lived in Canada, but not sure where. I’m native Hamiltonian, though I left home after high school (grade 13), moving first to Toronto, then later to the we(s)t coast. Waterloo is the tech capital of Canada. My sister, who lives in Stony Creek, has commented on gentrification of some of near-downtown Hamilton prompted by Torontonians looking for less expensive housing. It has not yet reached to the east-downtown street my brother and sister still call home, the house we were brought up in from about 1947 on. A row house, which, once gentrified, would be called a townhouse. I suspect their block will be a teardown though.

      1. Altandmain

        Meant to say “Whoever thought that outsourcing manufacturing was good should be charged for treason IMO.”

        Lots of people are driven out of Toronto now due to the housing. The issue is that it doesn’t just drive up the traffic (it’s very inefficient to have such traffic – there needs to be a far better train system and frankly, more affordable housing in Toronto), it also leads to unaffordable housing in the entire Golden Horseshoe.

        Even London, Ontario, usually 2-3 hours from Toronto has become unaffordable. Ottawa too is facing rising home prices. The issue is often those who are displaced are seeing their wages drop due to the fact that wages are rising in sectors they can’t find a job in and manufacturing has left.

        I think that at this point, they need to put a goal of just stabilizing Toronto’s population. No growth, just stabilizing and a huge foreign tax. Much bigger than what they have.

        If you’ve been to the New York state side, it seems to be even worse. We have our problems due to at least some areas thriving – mostly tech and finance.

        On the upstate side, they have less traffic, but even worse jobs. From what I can see, most people are struggling to get by. One of the troubling parts is that taxes in NY, all things considered, they may in many cases end up paying more than we Ontarians do, but get much less in return.

  48. Whoa Molly! (gotta change this name)

    100 miles north of San Francisco, CA.

    Was a blue collar retirement area in the 50’s. Still get many retirees. Poverty levels above 20%. Residents aged over 65 around 27% last time I checked.

    Over the last 10 years I have seen steady increase in number of panhandlers and beggars on street corners. I occasionally see families now.

    I measure economic wellbeing by the number of cars on highway 29 at 6 AM (commuting to work 40 miles away). Since Trump assumed office the number of cars on the road has increased steadily. I now see strings of 15 or 20 cars. The small downtown nearest my home is always parked full now.

    Housing is affordable. Strong senior services network.

    The place I live is not walkable. Car-centric county and communities. The primitive bus system is essentially useless if I need to get to a grocery store and not spend 8 hours doing it.

    One coffee shop within 5 miles, and it is a reasonable place to hang out. Good coffee, plenty of tables with power outlets. Quiet and peaceful. The local library (10 miles away) is well used and reserve books arrive quickly.

    High speed Internet via Mediacom is expensive but mostly reliable.

    Overall… I’d say the county is a mixed bag for old guys like me (73) but essentially not too good for young guys like my sons. Jobs are mostly in independent contracting (construction and repair of homes) , county administration, school teaching, or healthcare.

    1. Jean

      Inform the homeless of all the great benefits offered in San Francisco.
      If you are a sport, you’ll buy them a one way bus ticket.

  49. Scott1

    University Towns & Military Towns & University & Hospital towns do well.
    Ivory Tower Power is what I see as on the rise & represents to me a medieval world.

    If I was an academic I’d do a comparison of Chapel Hill, NC to Rochester, NY. In Rochester the University of Rochester is now the major employer. Chapel Hill never developed any new industries after textiles. It’s all about hegemon that is the University & its hospital.

    The State’s businesses were textiles, furniture & agriculture with a heavy involvement in tobacco. Pot could have replaced tobacco, but lifestyle policing prevents that. Textiles & Furniture were sent to other nations.

    Lifestyle policing makes NC unattractive for people in the Film Business to the point that if the bribes (incentives) dry up so do the productions.

    Tarheel Dem, and I and another know the same 400 to 250 foot elevation area. I know that NC ought be a mecca for all sorts of economic activities. 40 starts in Wilmington and runs West in a straight line to Barstow. Morehead City is a deep water port able to accommodate a 1300 foot long deep draft container ship.
    Norfolk & Charleston are much greater ports. I think the lack of vitality to the ports makes a major difference.

    The lifestyle policing laws like HB2 further drive creative class industries off. My friend said film work for him disappeared after that. He’d made or found props as a segment of his halloween costuming enterprises. So he was in touch that way.

    It is a two tier wage zone since international academic talent will get paid competitively while by law what labor gets is kept low as the University is prohibited from paying more than private industry.

    I know as well the Greensboro area. It was a mill town and they made cigarettes. The city is great for relatively low mansion costs and fast access to the airport. Honda jet did all their test flights from where I first worked in aviation.

    My sister in insurance used to fly a good deal as an insurance underwriter but can stay home now & do Jibber Jabber conferencing.
    There is a point there. Business tools & systems keep changing. Insurance rates for people who don’t move from their desks much are lower, so discourage work that represents any heights or lows like in the mines.

    The lower cost county next to Guilford is where Honda went to make engines. Low taxes and relatively low wages are attractive.

    I was diversified in the same business which isn’t real diversification. At one point I was worth a fair amount. If I’d not gone to NYC I’d have never had a briefly successful business.

    North Carolina has the most desirable location & land going. It could have been as prosperous as California but the Bible according to Billy Graham told the people the boss was God.

    I was once told I was a barometer. In the last decade of my working life I was reduced to doing pretty much what I did when I was in my early twenties. Then I worked on new construction. In the end I worked on high end renovations.

    Essentially whenever I was moving upwards towards some independence & stability forces beyond my control knocked me down so that I ended up back where I started.

    My film career in NC was dependent on incentives till things dried up in ’99. I continued to have work for as long as I could stand it as a stage hand.

    NC is unique in that for many the state has made itself into a flyover. I say that if you are poor in NC it is because someone wants you to be.
    I’d say their favorite economist was William Petty, the one that said work is so hard & dirty you need to keep labor desperate to do it.
    I’ve been studying economics ending up now watching youtube videos about the First World War, and Randall Wray.

    We’re in the Death Throes of the 100 years Oil War, US laws, & State Laws, Cultures of intolerance and fear of those who like to think will make a paradise into hell.

    There was never in NC developed for the Film Business any Above the Line of loan officers ready to loan on intellectual property, or distribution.

    My years of physical vigor are gone. I’m not wanted where I am nor would be anywhere else I went now. I started out nearly middle class ended up as labor, was mobile & versatile on the East Coast. It did help me to survive that I got a Union card at 42.
    That at the ending of my working life I was pushed back into work I did when I started my working life is the way it went. Things for labor since the ’70s are known to have gotten worse since then.
    The sentence I wrote saying NC was unique for making itself into a flyover is germane to the discussion. As I said it could be as prosperous as California, but it isn’t.
    I’ve spent too much time writing this. Forgive me.

    1. ambrit

      Nothing at all to forgive mate. Your experience is the template for a large group of lower middle class or upper working class peoples’ lives. What the elites fail to understand is that this system has created a new class; the educated poor. That’s why the present iteration of the ‘Lords and Ladies of Information Flow’ are fumbling towards a top down information control regime. NC is one of the “Organs of the Anti-State.” As long as the Educated Poor and their fellow travellers can spread awareness far and wide, the ‘lower classes’ have a chance to bring about some non-cataclysmic social change. When some form of authoritarian information control is perfected, as China is moving towards, then the pressure for a real social dislocation will build past the point of no return.

  50. landline

    Thanks for all the reports. Mostly disturbing stuff that confirms what most every thinking person knows. There is the .1% and their 9.9% courtesans who are doing great or at least good. Then the rest of us who are hanging on. The increasing income and wealth disparities bump up the prices of basic needs, especially housing, beyond the ability to pay for the lower reaches of the bottom 90%. So trailers, cars, tents, doubling/tripling up or prison it is.

  51. Duck1

    I am in the boom area of Portland, OR for 3 years. First year I was here a friend sold her house, immediate offer over asking. During the tail end of the recession, a few year previous she received zero offers at a 6 figure lower price point. My comment, being from the bay area, was that you guys don’t want to have a boom.
    The obverse situation is the remarkable number of unhoused in the town. Vacant areas have been given over to villages of dome tents and various kinds of tarp structures. There is a furious drug trade, hear about a lot of meth, but you see people nodding out on the street in town, too (opiate).
    Marijuana legalization is going full force. There is a thesis subject on just how these business people are handling their money, since the banks are unavailable. Credit cards to pay taxes, maybe? All the stores advertise highly concentrated products, which I guess allows use of all the trim.
    Aside from the pot legalization, I understand there is a fairly unlimited availability of all sorts of drugs.

  52. .juliania

    I guess I live in flyover country a bit different from most of the commenters here. By fortune, choice, plus necessity I occupy a very modest dwelling on Indian pueblo land in New Mexico. And I would qualify under the term ‘poverty stricken’ as described above.

    It does take me a full day to shop by bus and train, but being elderly that is not a hardship for me as the countryside is breathtakingly beautiful – there are so many pueblos lining the highways to keep the land pristine.

    A Navajo departure saying is, I think, ‘Walk in beauty.’ What flies over these days are sandhill cranes heading north. That’s beauty enough for me.

    1. .juliania

      Lest it be supposed from my brief post that I have escaped the very real and tragic life lessons others here bear eloquent witness to, i should add that my children are facing an. Implacable work environment, burdened by usorious college debt they can never be free of.

      The conditions they toil under, never getting a living wage or even the overtime pay that is due for the extra effort they give truly breaks a mother’s heart, and I know I am not alone.

      My youngest lives with me, struggling to stay employed at a restaurant that is going through very hard times. It’s a. quality place, and the employees are making sacrifices of spirit and dedication just to keep it going. And of course, he hasn’t the wherewithal to do more than buy a few of the heavier groceries when he can.

      But we do walk in beauty….

      1. burlesque

        @ juliana March 9, 2018 at 1:31 am

        “…walk in beauty”
        Thank you for this reminder. For me it is one of the reasons that I can keep going some days. And I and my loved ones are not in the direst of straits as I understand from some of these comments, that many of our fellow humans are in.

        Many years ago I intentionally put myself in this environment because I liked plants and animals, the wild ones especially. Having some acreage allows me to keep some of it wild and to cultivate some. Except for a cat, the only animals are the wild ones that come for brief visits. Now, because of what I hear at this and other sites, “cultivate” may become “live off of”.

  53. John H

    Champaign-Urbana IL. Large land grant state U of 40k+ students in the middle of approx 100k residents. Truly a fascinating intersection of rural, “red state” surrounding areas, a dark blue “micro urban” campus and downtown, with a sizable African-American and working class white population in town. Add to that international influence, particularly heavy the last few years with wealthy Chinese engineering students (in state tuition has skyrocketed since I graduated about 20 years ago).

    No doubt we are flyover but are we typical of what is meant when people use the term? I dunno. But I think this site and the writers here have little to worry about anent their treatment or regard for middle America.

    Great site. Keep it up. Sending gratitude and appreciation from Central IL!

  54. anonn

    Reporting from California’s Inland Empire (San Bernardino and Riverside counties – adjacent to LA but might as well be Outer Mongolia to our overlords). Local governments have spent the last decade tripping over themselves giving sweetheart tax deals for warehouses and new retail shopping centers. The cities that have a large university (Riverside, Claremont, Redlands) are doing okay. Everywhere else looks like Year 11 of the Great Depression.

    Literally every person I know with a child between 18-30 resents that their kids still live with them and can’t get a job. Most of these kids have never had any form of employment, ever.

    The seemingly never-ending orgy of unnecessary commercial and warehouse construction masks what otherwise looks like a total collapse in private sector demand and private sector employment. In my town the city has arranged for the construction of a ton of retail property on adjacent, non-City land; they get police, fire, and infrastructure spending from the taxpayers but don’t have to pay any taxes. The new retail projects are already half empty since many of the the initial tenants were chain stores that were murdered by private equity.

    Despite this, there’s a 60s-era mall in the middle of downtown that’s been largely empty for decades. The geniuses at the City are going forward with a plan to replace it with… a slightly different type of mall.

    The cities and the county governments have effectively stopped spending money on everything except cops and cop pensions. If current trends hold, I would expect a LOT of municipal bankruptcies with the next recession. Things around here are going to get very ugly when the cities start coming to to their voters with requests for higher sales taxes to fund gold-plated pensions for cops, particularly when nobody else has any chance of retirement, ever.

    There are so, so many homeless people, everywhere.

    The residential real estate market seems insane and frothy – the prices are getting stupidly high like last time, but the sales volume is lower. I’m starting to hear people say “real estate can never go down” again. If it’s like last time, expect a very bad crash very soon.

  55. Janie

    From 2008 to 2014, we (a retired couple) travelled the lower 48 in a pick-up and a 32 foot 5th wheel. Fellow campers we observed:

    Well-to-do retired military, police and firemen in expensive diesel pushers (the big bus-like vehicles) with new cars in tow.

    The down-and-out living in tents or 20 plus year old trailers or Winnebago. There was the woman in the campground laundromat who apologized for using all the washers; she said she had to wait for the disability check to be able to afford it. Her husband had been in an accident, had surgeries, acquired MRSA and they lost everything. There were the three men in two tents near Scranton who worked on call as grave diggers; they, thirty-some things I think, offered to help set up, carry firewood. The campground was closing in a week for the season and they did not know where they would go. They were quiet, polite and desperate. The couple with a toddler towing an ancient trailer with an underpowered vehicle, hoping to make it the thousand miles to a promised job; the middle-aged couple whose fridge in the old camper died (we have them our secondary one). And so on ad infinitum.

    Those permanently renting space-some with very nice units and custom decks and others
    with tarps and the like.

    And in the minority, the vacationers in and near national parks and tourist areas.

    Did I mention Wal-Mart parking lots? The man waiting for an acquaintance to bring him an alternater; I think he was waiting for Godot. Et cetera.

    We saw so much of the country and met so many nice people. All in all, it was a great, but sobering, experience and we both recommend it.

    1. patD

      Janie – A longer version of your spot-on travelogue to be found in Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century by Jessica Bruder, with more detail on the lives of the nomad folks that you encountered. She spent three years on the book, much of that on the road. “The last free place in America is a parking lot.” Clear headed and open hearted, and not that much different than the polished writing in this thread. Highly recommend.

  56. Craig H.

    Since there are just as many 1* hotels as 3* hotels (and no 4*, 5*) in my city I sort of qualify as living in flyover country although I have no complaints at all. But two meager items which might be of interest to NC. Michelle Obama is speaking at the local basketball arena. Cheapest ticket is 170 dollars. You can get a ticket in the first 20 rows for 1023 dollars.

    Closer to my own interests we have the UFO con weekend March 23-25 with three days of talks for 110 dollars. My single favorite analyst of the Bigelow, Delonge, et al disclosure story, Grant Cameron, will be there. You might not like his latest interview on youtube of over two hours but this snip might be appreciated. He said the single biggest obstacle to fully disclosing the aliens to us is their presumably advanced ethical system which has far more in common with Communism than anything we are ready for. Now maybe he was toying with the interviewer there, but he claimed it’s significant the aliens do not have iphones or rolexes and they all wear clothes like Mao jackets.

  57. ChrisPacific

    I can tell I will need to bookmark this post and spend some quality time with it later. From my initial reading it seems that our commenters have well and truly risen to the challenge.

  58. roxana

    I love this idea of hearing how folks around the country are doing! For the last ten years or so, I have lived in a scruffy, inner-ring suburb of Philadelphia, PA. We are on the main highway, across from a Pep Boys, Walmart, etc. and next door to a convenience store, garages and endless pizza joints. It’s a working class bedroom community. I would guess most folks here work either at the refineries, airport or Boeing. We used to have a lot of massive factories. There is no spec of culture, not even a Starbucks. Library is very small and mostly for kids. I don’t like walking around much–it’s just cars and more cars. But, it’s a friendly area with not much crime and lots of discount food stores such as Aldi’s. I see no sign of the Great Opioid Epidemic. No gangs, no needles, no raids. We leave our doors open, and even bikes sitting outside aren’t bothered. This area has been the same for decades. The economy is diverse enough that there is always work, and used to be affordable housing. On the other hand, my old hometown of Weirton, WVa. is going through some changes. I don’t get there very often, but still have friends there. The old guys who lost their jobs at Weirton Steel are having a tough time making it to 65 and Medicare. China, apparently, is investing big-time and they hope to have plastic factories replace the old mill–there is nothing left of it but mud flats. It was ground up and sold to China, so I guess they have come full-circle.

    U.S. Ethane Will Go to China | News, Sports, Jobs – The Intelligencer

    1. kareninca

      Why don’t you have crime? Is the Mob keeping the other criminals out? Are the local cops really good in some unusual way? When I read about an area that doesn’t have crime, I wonder why it doesn’t.

      1. Wukchumni

        We essentially have no crime here, the occasional break-in once in a blue moon, but that’s it.


        Being far from the beaten path would be one reason, and I don’t know any other explanations, frankly.

  59. TiredNurse

    I’m a RN case manager living and working in Indianapolis. I work both Medicare and Medicaid cases and a few private insurance cases. There are areas inside the beltway where there is some revitalizing going on, you can see the hipsters occasionally walking around. These areas are surrounded by run down neighborhoods and blight. Same with the developed housing areas it’s very obvious who is doing well $350000 +(considered pricey overall for Indiana) housing and who is barely holding on or worse. I spend most of my time at the later. Wow, I could tell some stories.

  60. Angie Neer

    Big thank you to Yves and all the commenters for this thread. I grew up in rural NY, but ever since going off to college almost 4 decades ago, I’ve lived in hoity-toity coastal cities, and the rest of my family has dispersed to various greener pastures. Living now in a fancy suburb of Amazon, er, Seattle, I am grateful to hear from some people outside the bubble.

  61. Mike Mc

    Living in a Midwestern college town was a survival skill I learned subconsciously during the Nixon era when I first went to school there. That – and guessing right some years later about a little beige computer called the Macintosh when I was still in printing and publishing – has kept me and mine employed, housed and fed in the petite bourgeoisie to this day.

    Stories seem so similar to The Worst Hard Time:

    A great history of the Dust Bowl days; lessons from back then may soon be relearned as we – and our descendants – cope with the unimaginable ways climate change will bring to us.

    NC (the website) should bundle these up, PDF them and email a copy to every elected representative in the country. Snapshot of a once mighty and wonderful country circling the drain.

  62. Annieb

    I’ve lived in Boulder County, CO for 14 years and, except for about 3 years right after the crash, real estate development has proceeded expeditiously. New very expensive condos and townhomes have been developed everywhere, now at @$400-800K,and built property values in the desireable areas have increased 100% in the past 4 years. Rents are going up every year too. Lots of newcomers here, especially from Calif. There’s a new Google campus in Boulder. Being retired, I don’t have a good sense of the booming industries, except for the oil and gas , which is trying to frack close to schools and neighborhoods now. Every time I go through Denver, I see more new very big houses along I-470, the toll highway to the airport. Denver real estate and rents are every bit as high as in Boulder County. Some idiots in government are hoping for the Amazon headquarters ****show, but most normal sane people here are praying NOT. The morning and evening rush hours are incredibly horrible. And one of my pet peeves, on weekends, in good weather, local hiking trails are overrun. Even during weekdays now it’s hard to find parking at my favorite trailheads. This recovery is a mixed blessing in some ways, at least from my point of view.

  63. Clark Landwehr

    Far western suburbs of Chicago. Used to reverse commute out to Schaumburg / Roselle area. Love cycling. I used to ride my bike from train station to work and back most every day. Did alot of exploring. Much in U.S. is invisible if you are driving through on expressways and feeder roads. Although there are nice areas of Schaumburg, I saw lots of poverty and decay. Homeless and poor people around train stations. Run down strip malls with vacancies. Poorly maintained roads. Cul de sac neighborhoods of really crappy little townhomes and duplexes which are looking battered. Lots of not-so-new cars parked on street. Garages crammed with household junk. Understand there are fairly bad gang and drug problems in many of these areas. Over all a quite depressing impression.

  64. FluffytheObeseCat

    Reno Report:

    Reno is doing well now, after a severe bust in c. 2008-9. However, I do not see the spendthrift euphoria that characterized the area through the housing bubble years from the late 90s through 2007. Shiny new Hummers do not throng the roads in the west side foothills the way they did in 2007.

    Warehousing, data center industries and the Tesla gigafactory have provided a new industrial base. ‘Gaming’ is losing its status as the only industry in town. The Apple data center, their investment unit, Telsa, and Switch have attracted late gen-X & older millenials into the city. They are bringing a bit of Bay Area style with them. Trendy in-fill and rehabs on small lots in the Old Southwest/Midtown area target this demographic. But, the economic health (or illness) of the region is evident in more mundane activity which follows the same patterns as 12 years ago:

    Large developers (i.e. Toll Bros.) are back to throwing up cookie cutter SFRs in the outlying valleys, and filling the last meadows on the south end of Washoe Valley with ‘townhomes’ and PUDs. The older suburbs in northwest Reno, north-central Reno and Sun Valley are falling into slum-ness. Out-of-town money is throwing up student housing near the university, and probably dampening the market for SFR rentals in the surrounding older suburbs.

    Homelessness is huge; a constant problem in the older urban core. As of last year there was still more meth than opioids (in the courts; I can’t speak for the ERs). There is a significant divide between the new haves, and the have-nots, who tend to be older, and less ‘coastal’ in education, lifestyle and background. I fall in between the 2 subcultures. I like eating at Brooklyn-style bistros, with their earthquake hazard, Edison-style LED light bulbs…… ahangin’ down amidst the patrons. All that sweet sh*t is expensive for me, however many of the bright young things driving the trends here are on tighter budgets than I am. They fuel the Food Coop, the vegan lunch counter/shared space food court joints, etc.

    It is good here now, but the wealth resurgence is not terrifically widespread within the community. There is too much poverty. And too many people reaching the end of their working lives with nothing to show for it.

  65. Clark Landwehr

    Have relatives in Research Triangle are of NC and my mom was in Burlington to the west for some years. Dread having to visit that area. Although economy good (if you have MBA plus 3 more degrees), one of the most horrifying areas I have ever experienced. The whole area is a giant hairball of unplanned twisting rolling roadways. Without GPS you are hopelessly lost. Often to get somewhere you have to take a road that goes in the opposite direction then go over or under another road or expressway then turn in another direction and end up arriving at your destination in a completely unexpected way. Traffic insane. Completely unwalkable. Cycling suicidal. Buses that are a joke. No planning – that’s socialism. Lots to do but getting anywhere is torture. I still can’t find my way around. Last time I was there almost ran out gas trying to find a gas station. Took over an hour. Madness. And people deal with this every day. That is the Chapel Hill / Durham area.
    Then there is Burlington. I guess you would call it a rural area. There is farmland. Still the sprawl is overwhelming. Traffic a nightmare. Very easy to get lost because everything looks the same. I remember coming over a hill and being confronted with a view of basically nothing but parking lots and big box chain stores stretching to the horizon. A giant Lowes’s across from a giant Home Depot and all the usual suspects plus some unique local franchises. Out there you realize just how backwards America is. I was visiting my mother’s “retirement community.” Tried to watch TV. Basic cable. Half a dozen religious channels and Fox News are always available in these places. That was about it. No wonder Trump got elected. Fortunately I had a book.
    I got up at 4:30 am to drive back to Durham. Cruising back east in the dark was nicest 90 minutes of my visit.

    1. griffen

      Burlington NC is decidedly not rural. Next time drive an hour to the east of Raleigh, that’s where rural is. Road ways were actually worse 20 yrs back btw.

      Burlington is what happens when industry leaves for greener pasture. A semi-clise shopping district btwn Greensboro & RTP, Durham & so forth.

  66. Rose

    My experience in Minneapolis: I’m in my mid thirties and have friends in their 20s and 30s, mostly creative type people who have crappy jobs to pay the bills and bike messengers. We are definitely downwardly mobile. No one is doing as well as their parents when they were in their 30s. I just purchased a home, but it was only possible because my mom died and we sold the family home. There is no way I could ever save for a down payment on my own. I’d be in my 60s by the time that happened. A few of my friends were able to buy a house after the housing crash, but unless there is another crash I don’t think many young people will be able to buy houses here going forward. There do seem to be rich people moving to Minneapolis, so I think eventually it will become more like Portland or Austin and most locals will be pushed out of the city.

  67. Sutter Cane

    I am late to this fascinating thread. My two cents:

    Currently live in Austin, but with family in Kansas and Missouri who I visit, so I see the disparity between the urban boom and the rural bust regularly as I drive from urban Texas, through rural Oklahoma, Kansas, and Missouri.

    Austin is Bay Area East, I-35 between San Antonio and Austin is turning into one giant sprawl, will eventually rival L.A. (or Mexico City) if current trends continue. If you are in tech, you do well, and jobs are plentiful and well-paying. Everybody else hasn’t had a pay increase in years, at least not enough to keep up with the explosion in the cost of living. Service industry, state, municipal and university rank and file employees scrape by. Everybody has roommates. Traffic is brutal. Its a boomtown, but it beats the alternative.

    Meanwhile, rural Kansas is a hollowed-out shell. Its always been flat and bleak (In Cold Blood accurately depicts the feel of rural Kansas), but even more so now that driving through its ghost towns and back highways reveals so many abandoned homes, that used to be middle-class farmhouses. Kansas leads the country in the production of new ghost towns. ( Rural Missouri hides the poverty better because there are more trees.

    Kansas City and even Springfield, of all places, seem to have sprouted many of the fruits of gentrification (expensive ugly condos, high-end coffee shops with modernist furniture that look the same no matter what city they are in) without an increase in any sort of actual culture. Springfield has been dealing with large homeless camps, as well, a problem which I never would have envisioned decades ago. Rural Missouri small towns used to fancy themselves as having a Mayberry feel, but if anything they seem more akin to inner-city Detroit nowadays. Opiods are slowly replacing meth but both are indeed epidemics. People who used to never lock their doors, do. Anything left outside and not locked up will get picked off.

    Good jobs are scarce. Employers complain about not being able to find workers, but also refuse to pay more than minimum wage, give employees regular schedules, or full-time shifts. Dollar General seems to be the only chain that is expanding and adding locations in small towns. And churches, lots of churches. The area is depressed, and not just the economy. The demographics skew elderly and younger people with any ambition light out for the territory as soon as possible, just like Huck before them. As someone above mentioned: “What’s left now are the retirees who, more or less, live in a sort of rural aesthetic bubble, their pensions and retirement funds insulating them from the large economic realities of the area.”

    Going between the two areas has reinforced the stark differences. Either you live in an overpriced gentrified megalopolis OR – bleak abandoned rural poverty and hopelessness. No comfortable middle anymore. It is simply a reflection of the income inequality in the country as a whole.

    1. Amfortas the Hippie

      Aye. That part of I35 between Austin and San Antone is a mess.
      I avoid freeways like the plague(always have), but I must cross them sometimes. San Marcos is nothing like even 15 years ago,,Kyle Buda, etc. all the “Outlet” stores piled up forever, and the anthill suburban “development”…ugh.
      But get 10 miles away from the I35 corridor and you’re back in near third world again.
      I-10 west of san antonio is the same way, well past Boerne: Mattress stores, stores that specialise in paving stones, in playground equipment, in a million other things that I can’t fathom there’s a market for(enough to justify a whole store, at least…let alone one every few miles)
      and again, this is the best thread yet.
      well done everyone.
      it’s good to know, at the very least, that we’re not alone in the despair.

  68. ex-PFC Chuck

    Last September I went to my 60 year high school reunion in a southern Minnesota town of a bit more than 10K population. Of what had been the two major industries that were there in my youth, one is completely shut down with its buildings unoccupied and visibly crumbling into dust, and the other is a shadow of its former self. The former was a vegetable canning and freezing operation and the latter was once a major producer of the little carts you used to see in use by railroad track maintenance crews. Originally they were hand-powered but in my time they were equipped with small gas engines. Now they sell retractable rail wheel kits that are attached to standard pick-up trucks to keep them on the rails while the traction is provided by the vehicle’s rubber tires. It’s my understanding the manufacturing is now done abroad and what’s left is some engineering and customer support. There’s also a small 3M plant that has about 100 employees that’s been there since I was a kid. Also, there are a few newer businesses but none of the, to my knowledge, employ more than a few dozen people. It’s sad, because it’s an unusually picturesque town for southern Minnesota, located as it is along the shores of a chain of five lakes. I grew up on the north shore of one of them.

  69. Pogonip

    Is anyone else of the opinion that 40 years of supply-side skullduggery has reduced a once-great nation to the world’s largest Potemkin village?

  70. JohnInNV

    Moved to rural Nevada (about 1 1/2 hours east of Carson City) 20 years ago from Silicon Valley. Semi-retired with an electronics consulting business. Economy is not bad but not great. There were a few manufacturing companies here – most closed in the last ten years. There are some pretty depressed areas here in Lyon County (i.e. Silver Springs AKA felony flats), but the county seat, Yerington, is holding up. Got hit hard in real estate in 2008, hasn’t really recovered. The only business that is really prosperous is agriculture, mainly onions and alfalfa. But if there is a severe drought in the Sierra snowpack, it will really hurt. There are a lot of retirees here from California, with enough retirement money to keep the local economy going. The Tesla mega-factory and a new highway connecting it to Silver Springs should be a big help, but I doubt there will be many high-paying jobs.
    I’ve done a cross-country drive to New England almost every year and my experience mirrors what has been written above. Friends and relatives in the Northeast report a recent surge in opioids – here in rural Nevada meth and heroin have been ever-present since I moved here, but not really a crisis, since I guess people have accommodated it.
    On the whole, I’m quite happy here. The people are friendly and it is quite safe where I live. But I have a decent retirement fund and no debt. It’s tougher here if you have no job or not much money.

    1. Altandmain

      At work, someone I spoke with went to New England as well. What he said is similar to what you have noted.

      What is appalling is the stark difference between life in cities like Boston versus say Western Massachusetts. One is an overpriced and rapidly gentrifying city. The other is a rapidly declining area.

      Tesla is the lowest paying major automobile manufacturer.

      This is not the type of company that is going to be creating a large number of good paying middle class jobs and that is if Tesla even survives.

      I agree on the retirement situation. There is a clear divide between the people who are well off and those who will be forced to work until they die. It is truly a disgraceful situation. There isn’t the safety nets that are available in the Nordic nations and even those are under neoliberal siege.

  71. Rosario

    Well I don’t really know how best to explain it, and I feel a bit of an ass speaking on behalf of the people that are living it, but Lee and Estill Counties in KY are pretty hellish in parts (Lee is worse than Estill by most of the metrics), and at the same time, they are mostly beautiful enough that you wouldn’t realize they are some of the poorest counties in the US.

    I’m working in the area often and have spoken with enough people to know that opiate and methamphetamine addiction is as bad as ever, no high speed internet, poor to no access to local medical care, no job opportunities without a 1 to 2 (sometimes 3) hour commute, and no powerful, politically enabled people outside these areas seems to really give a s***. Including our manipulative, troll governor who is on track to make KY one of the most wrecked states in the union. Everyone in the region is keen to the fact that they are getting f*****. They may not always know who’s doing it, but they know it is being done.

    For some visuals:

    In areas, burned out trailers along the road every few miles with the tenant or property owner living in another shoddy trailer next to the burnt out trailer.

    USDA connect buildings that are unoccupied (have been for years) and/or in disrepair (I’m sure this is only getting worse with Trump).

    Occupied homes and trailers with broken windows and doors open to the elements in the dead of winter.

    I could go on…I’m under the impression that government welfare programs are propping up a large portion of these communities and that is going to become more difficult to come by.

    As an interesting aside, for the minority of wealthy local citizens, there is also some pretty despicable hustling going on in these counties as well. The inequality is very apparent and the wealthy have more access to “equal” representation before the law. I spoke with a Lee county official that told us about a local landlord whose over occupancy, not-up-to-code, and very unsafe rental burned killing a young pregnant woman and, if I remember correctly, her boyfriend. Fortunately, the other occupants made it out with their lives. No action was taken. Why I do not know. The landlord wiggled right out of being accountable. Many more stories like that. Maybe with less awful outcomes, but corrupt (illegal) nonetheless. Something like that in a large metropolitan area is absolutely possible, but unlikely to result in little to no public outrage. Stuff like that seems par for the course for the poorest regions.

    I’m can’t emphasize enough how grateful I am that I live in Louisville simply for the access to resources and infrastructure. Being poor in a metropolitan area is slightly less an ordeal than the modern economy’s hinterlands.

  72. homeroid

    Living in “Flyin country” Some what similar to fly over but not. South central Alaska we got Commercial fishing. The oceans are screwed. Choices are slim for the young folk.
    Property is expensive as can be. Thus the young are at a dis advantage. Lot’s of rich building in this scenic environment. But what do they bring but a few builder jobs and lots of health care work. We are food insecure. 90% of our food is brought up from the lower 48. But we are working on that!. Hell we have all the problems with meth an heroin. being a small place we deal with it. The local economy has slowed as far as i can see in the last twenty years. I don’t see anything new that will stimulate this area ever again. AHHHH well if they ever push trough the Pebble mine. They want to make this place the bedroom community. FARRRRRK.

  73. Paul

    Huntington, West Virginia:

    Though I’m native to the area, I’d been away in Chicago and China for about 8 years, but moved back last year (fleeing adjunct professorhood–conditions under which it is nigh-impossible to, say, write one’s dissertation–for a chilled-out job conducive to writing). A few months ago I looked at the Bureau of Labor Statistics data on the metro area, and it shed about 20,000 jobs in the wake of the financial crisis and recession. The employment numbers only ever recovered to maybe 5,000 above the trough point, so there are 15 or 16k people out there doing Lord knows what. I’m not exactly sure which industries got hit the hardest, but my best guess would be steel, chemical, and rail-related industries. (There’s an American Car and Freight plant which has been shuttered for years down the road; for what I can tell, CSX seems to lay off another 50 or 60 employees a few times a year from their big shop on the southeast part of town.)

    Though housing prices are low–lots of 3 BR 1910s/20s/30s-era houses in really pretty decent shape on Zillow for $50-70k, although there’s lots of stock going for <$30 which clearly hasn't been maintained in any way for a quarter century–rentals cost *a lot*, relatively speaking. Rents seem to be ripped out of a different town, with a lot of modest 1 BRs coming in at $650+ per month. Despite those rents, which in my mind cannot possibly be affordable for most people in town, the rental vacancy rate also remains high. Most landlords seem to live at least 30-40 miles away, and some are well into outside states (some, of course, are in Florida). Given that the owners are nowhere nearby, they tend to have no idea what's going on with their properties, which look from the outside like they're falling apart. You can go down streets in the middle of town, stuff people have to drive by every day on the way in to work, and see 4 or 5 houses in a block which has 10 that have every window boarded up, have collapsing roofs and walls, and so on. The downtown literally still has a few storefronts which were given fake facades for the filming of the We Are Marshall movie in the early 2000s which are *still there* because nothing has moved in in the meantime. There are multiple tall buildings, 6+ floors, which are entirely vacant. You could shoot a convincing post-apocalyptic film in parts of downtown without even having to block the streets off, because nobody walks them anyway.

    There's been a lot of capital poured into other segments of the downtown, one that the mayor and city hall have given a lot of attention to, to renovate old storefronts and do some new construction, stuff which really does look amazingly better, but a lot of those spots have sat empty for months or years too. There's some higher end condo and apartment stock downtown which has come in along with this, but I have no idea how much interest there is in any of it. Most upper middle-class and lower-upper class types who make the kind of money you'd need for that kind of lifestyle live out in the 'burbs in McMansions, near interstate ramps and the standard sprawl amenities.

    There are two large hospitals and an upper-midsize university (14k students) in town, and those are the major employers beyond the usual suspects (the latter of which don't really pay enough to be considered 'employers' anyway). Enrollments at the university are taking a hit because of massively-publicized drug-related murders–our governor assigned a National Guard helicopter to fly over town regularly–and, presumably, just the fact that it's harder to go, even to a comparatively very cheap university (in state tuition is, I think, about $4.5k a year). The university has been on a building spree, like all the others around the country, since the early 2000s. Whatever bet the developers downtown are making is presumably related to university expansion, but though the school keeps adding programs (an engineering school, pharmacy school, etc.), it's not clear that much is actually growing in terms of revenues, in an absolute sense (i.e. after state budget cuts are taken into account).

    I'm in my early 30s, and there are very few people in my demographic around, as you tend to have young people up to about age 23-24, and then nothing up until one's late 30s or early 40s, ie married folk with kids and so on. (Those in the 25-35 range who are here tend to have had something go majorly wrong, like a painkiller addiction, etc.) Most in this range have had to move to other employment markets — mostly to Columbus, Louisville, Cincinnati, Charlotte, various spots in Virginia, Nashville, etc. I'd love to see the town, and the state, do well, and I've been excited by the recent strikes and developments in political consciousness, but without big changes in federal and state policy it's just going to continue to slide into misery. I've spent time in rural China and rural Laos, and a lot of the stuff you see in the poorer areas really does look about the same, and sometimes definitely worse. Echoing Alston's remarks from his UN poverty probe, the difference is that those countries *actually have a plan* for dealing with it. Here, it's just crossing one's fingers and talking about business tax cuts, for the most part, if anyone thinks about it in any structural way at all.

    Save for a legitimate New Deal/War on Poverty-scale influx of federal money aimed at the right targets, I think about the only hope for West Virginia is going to be slapping high taxes on extraction, and I hope that the growing revolt (Richard Ojeda does, I'll admit, get me fired up) gets us moving in that direction. (I wrote to him yesterday suggesting that he change his talking point about higher taxes to talk of nationalizing our coal and gas deposits.)

  74. Bern

    Thank you all – and especially our host – for this forum and outpouring of deeply considered/felt thoughtfulness. Living long enough to witness genuine widespread societal change is a valuable trait. The perspectives it generates are worth noting and deserve preservation and widespread dissemination. The only regret I feel is regarding the slightly voyeuristic bent – ‘poverty porn’ – and that’s not dissing commentors, just my own imperfect reaction.

    I have lucked out (so far). And I’m humbled by how long it took me to figure that out. Except for a few grade school years in early 60’s Denver, and a few months last year in Omaha (more about that below), I’ve lived my entire life on or near a coast – SF Bay Area & now DC (and more about THAT below too). Had the good sense to choose upwardly-mobile parents (my dad got into engineering straight outta college, in the swelling of the military/industrial/tech boom, so even in the lean transition year we did OK – good schools in good “strong” communities, reasonable housing costs, full service towns…

    I was lucky enough to work in a variety of jobs, from manufacturing to public service to private consulting, so got to meet and work with many folks of differing backgrounds, with wide-ranging skills and knowledge. It helped broaden my perspective about humanity.

    I also had the great good fortune to ride my bicycle around a big chunk of the nation in the early 70’s. If you really want to see a place, cycling is one of the very best ways to go about it. I will always appreciate the chance to see so much glorious land, and meet so many good people. And I saw real poverty for the first time. What stood out for me was the sense that people are dependable – they are gonna do what they are gonna do (good and bad), so just keep watching and help out where we can.

    Omaha is fascinating. It has some of the same characteristics as previous posters described:
    • big chunks of the old city housing stock & infrastructure wearing out – the city is (in)famous now for grinding some of its paved streets to revert to gravel, as it cannot afford to maintain them anymore
    • hideous sprawl, based partly on what I call ‘flatitude’ – the ability to spread far and wide because there is no geographic nor political limit
    • aggressively chaotic traffic – easy to see from the saddle of a bicycle, but in Omaha’s case, just as easy to see from behind the steering wheel, especially after years of relative sanity(!) of Bay Area driving
    • walkability approaching zero (a few counter-examples notwithstanding)
    • curious lack of outdoor recreation focus (partly due to significant dearth of parklands, partly the weird underutilization of the river – never did figure that out). This somewhat offset by a small but thriving local hiking community, and some serious birders.
    • many economic losers as described elsewhere – dollar stores rampant, segregated (& underserved) neighborhoods, people without adequate shelter…

    I know it is generally easier to see the bad than the good, and I keep trying to resist describing a place by its negatives (for one thing, it’s disrespectful), so here’s some upsides offsetting the downsides:
    • a few robust industries: insurance, railroads, health care – partly due to research hospitals linked to universities, partly due to large percentage of population visibly dogged by the ravages of poor health (abundant research specimens?), Warren Buffet, Inc…
    • an apparently thriving arts community
    • the universities
    • some robust political activism
    • very strong family focus
    • ‘Old Town’ – sorta kinda Disneyfied old warehouse district by the river, with the cool old buildings getting repurposed, and the younger crowd swarming into the condos apartments, bars, restaurants and offices…a place that, unlike many older US cities, managed not to burn down back in the day. Someone has probly calculated how much better it feels to be in a place where there are lots of old, interesting buildings…

    And here’s my initial takes on greater DC.
    The negatives:
    • Bubblesville (but everyone knows that except many of the folks who live here)
    • overpriced (but this IS where the money is)
    • hideous traffic – worse even than Omaha – with lots of underlying structural reasons, and also just naked aggression behind the wheel
    • the ongoing glorification of the traitors – it is entrenched and pathetic
    • slightly ridiculous economic divide (‘slightly’ is simply the acknowledgement that our current political state has abandoned reality-based analysis)
    • infrastructure inadequacies, some institutional, some legacy
    • heavy support for military & ‘security’ performance art
    • paradise paved…

    And some offsets:
    • cultural amenities – calling out just a couple of the free ones:
    – Kennedy Center Millennium Stage – a concert every single evening of the year – check out the videos online
    – Museum of African American History & Culture – one of the best museums I’ve ever visited
    • walkable, old-world style city neighborhoods with pretty much all the amenities
    • despite its current struggles, a relatively comprehensive public transportation system
    • tho poorly distributed, pretty good parks/open space/trails development (and massive outdoor recreation community)
    • decent food options
    • universities & colleges

    There’s plenty of opportunities online to study & analyze the widespread decay of our towns and cities, but precious little done to help out the folks who are so deeply affected and unable to escape…

  75. burlesque

    Ms. Yves asked for sightings from fly over country. I guess this part of the country counts even though it is not far from the “third coast”. North of the Eagle Ford fracking zone, there is still lots of traffic of all kinds on the interstates and US highways. I guess the traffic died down some awhile back but there is still plenty. In the cities around here that I visit for shopping and socializing, there is always lots of car traffic at rush hour times and at other times too, depending on what is going on.

    Large brick and mortars always have customers, coffee shops and restaurants with patrons and sometimes wait lists.

    Two things that do stand out for me, even though my perspective is limited because “I don’t get out much”: they are still building McMansions on raw land everywhere I look around here and loft-type housing in the urban areas, 4-5 storey-ish, most of it stark and cold looking; and, strip centers that were being built everywhere back in the boom days 10 years or so ago, now look to be only about half occupied, if that. One large strip center was turned into a church complex. I ask myself sometimes why these properties cannot be turned into housing, but I guess zoning would not allow this, better to keep it unoccupied and a blight on the environment, sorry for that snideness.

    Also, (I guess that is now 3 things) there is lots of highway construction all over, not so much city street road repairs, but some of that too. Those city projects seem to take a long time maybe because they were put off for so long that now routing traffic becomes a nightmare.

    Thanks to all for the eye-opening reporting.

  76. Indierafael

    Thanks to Yves and everyone who posted. Just read 90% of this thread, which will stick with me for a long time.

  77. Ellie

    I live in actual flyover country, not the east or west coast. I live rural, not a city that dots the landscape in flyover country. I live in Northern Arkansas near the Missouri border.

    I will just tell you about my life ok.

    Locally we have one factory in our town and about two major retail outlets (a no name grocery and a no name hardware store) that currently operate. We are getting a car parts shop. We also have two dentists, two doctors, two nurse practitioners, three thrift shops, two discount shops, a dollar general, and a Fred’s. There are two pharmacies. This has been the usual amount of business since I moved here in ’03.

    The factory went under n ’08, but was bought and reopened in ’09. The local doctors want $300 per visit… the dentists charge $60-$150. Dental work isn’t expensive here, but seeing a doctor is. It’s so bad, I travel 200 miles and pay for a direct care doctor cheaper. It’s $200 a month for the direct care doctor for my entire family with unlimited visits. Four children could rack up $1200 in a month easy locally at the doctors office, but with our doctor 200 miles away, it’s just $200. Even if you calculate gas money and lodging for quarterly visits, it’s still cheaper to travel because our doctor in Missouri charges us only what it costs for medicines and testing.

    Fresh vegetables of any kind are low in quality and variety here. I garden to ensure an adequate supply of quality fresh vegetables and a decent variety. They didn’t have eggplants when I first moved here. They didn’t have mushrooms. They didn’t have any lettuce other than ice berg. About 4 years ago they finally got a little bit of variety, like eggplant, mushrooms, and romaine lettuce. I still have to grow my hot peppers, tomatillos, spinach, kale, and many other greens if I intend to eat them without driving 37 miles one way to the closest city.

    When we first moved here clothing for any size was hard to find new. Fred’s had a very limited selection of items for children and scrubs for CNA’s, but nothing else. Now Dollar General and Fred’s carry more clothing and we have a new clothing store coming in specifically for plus sized women.

    There is one Barber and 6 beauticians. The Barber is the only one we frequent.

    I have seen so many restaurants open and close since 2003 it’s hard to keep track. It seems every year there’s a new one open and a new one closed. The highest number we ever had at once was 4. The lowest was 1.

    You will see chickens and gardens just about everywhere. People here know that a garden is free food and make use of that. Most also keep a couple chickens. I also have goats. Our neighbor has goats. Our other neighbor has cows and horses. The horses are actually used to go to the store when the dirt road gets blocked during a mud slide, ice storm or some other disaster. If they don’t have a horse, they have a HUGE truck that can climb logs for the same reason. Most people have a woodstove…only a fool wouldn’t as electricity is fickle in the winter and natural gas sky rockets every fall.

    There are two housing developments with houses selling for over 250k, but no one locally makes much more than 35k. The developments are half empty Mc Mansions, that no one much wants to buy…surrounded by trailers and dinky 500 to 900 square foot homes. I have a dinky 900 square foot home, but it’s a real house. Half of my neighbors are in trailers, the other half houses, and one lives in a Bald Eagle Barn…a shed. Don’t ask me how the people that live in a shed shower, go to the bathroom, cook, or have electricity…I don’t know. I do know they have two children living there.

    My husband works at the factory. So does most of the males that aren’t drug addicts or in jail and are over the age of 35. Younger people work lousy service jobs or do drugs.

    However, the vast majority of the population is older retired people living on social security and complaining about how they don’t get enough money, food, or medicine. I was sitting in the pharmacy 9 months pregnant, roasting and swelling ankles when this old lady walks in from outside looks at me and says, “In my time a woman would get up for the elderly.” I told her there’s plenty of room next to me, but seeing as I am 9 months pregnant I don’t feel I should have to get up for anyone, especially since I was sitting here first. She toddled up to the counter and complained that she can’t stand and he better have her medicine. The pharmacist told her she would have it soon. He called me up and I used medicaid, which at the time almost every pregnant woman could get unless they made 50k a year. The woman moaned and complained about the useless lazy youth using all her tax dollars for medicaid. I rolled my eyes, but as I was leaving I heard the pharmacist call her up and she said she was using Medicare…hypocrite. Now imagine a town full of these old hypocrites judging everything you do, even just sitting on a bench before they got there just minding your business.

    Most of the worst offenders are dead now, but there’s still a sizable chunk of old gossipy ladies that like to impose their will on you because they think they can.

    That’s all people have to do around here if they don’t work, drugs or complain. Oddly enough the elderly get the drugs and half the time sell them to the kids for a tidy sum. Then complain that kids are always doing drugs! Then they complain to the police to crack down, so the kids get arrested. Then the old people complain they are broke all the time and social security doesn’t give enough to live on when the kids can’t buy because they are in jail! It’s a never ending circle of negativity.

    My family abstains from fraternizing with the locals for the most parts, so we avoid the worst of this nonsense. Even when I had a business, it was online. That way no one locally could call for a boycott and starve my family out, although they sure have tried to get us out.

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