(There’s a movie at the end!)
For decades we have been hearing about the loss of industrial production through out what is called the “Rust Belt”. It’s presented, even as recent as the prior presidential election as a relative regional problem that only began post Reagan. What gets me though is that the reporting and ultimately the politics are as if the rust belt is/was unique in their experience with the west and east coast experiencing nothing of the sort. The presentation is of the west coast Hollywood economy and now the “tech” economy, the east coast (namely New York/Boston) being the money economy. The south east is not considered other than Disney and orange production. The north west? Microsoft and Starbucks. Well I think it used to be lumber.
Wiki notes that the rust belt is not geographic but is a term that “pertains to a set of economic and social conditions“. It includes the northeast which is proper in that industry started there but I have had the feeling for a few decades now that such history is forgotten and thus no longer considered when we look to understand what the hell happened to the middle class.
Let me start with this fun fact. Rhode Island was the most industrialized state per capita in the nation at one point. Wiki notes that:
…Aldrich, as US Senator, became known as the “General Manager of the United States,” for his ability to set high tariffs to protect Rhode Island — and American — goods from foreign competition.
We were where the super rich came to escape the heat and play. And then it started to die. Not just here though. Neighboring Massachusetts was hit as was Connecticut. If you ever get a chance, come visit the New Bedford Whaling museum and read about the massive industry that was there. Example, the worlds largest mill of weaving looms. Some 4000+! Whaling from that city in the later 1800’s generated some $71 million per year! Not impressed? Well, using the GDP deflator it’s $1.480 billion per year!