20.1.08

SHORTER LONGWORTH.

This Chicago Tribune column identifies several of the principal manifestations of decline that he addresses at greater length in Caught in the Middle. The outline of the problems, and his policy proposals, are relatively straightforward to identify and lay out. Implementation is another matter, and his summation is internally inconsistent.
No real future exists except the one that the Midwest creates for itself. Washington will not come to the rescue of a region with falling population and falling congressional representation.
The Midwest is the traditional spearpoint of the American economy. It was the frontier when the first pioneers moved west. Its mills and factories powered America's Industrial Revolution. Here, commerce boomed and labor wars first raged. The Great Depression began on Midwestern farms; when the nation recovered, the Midwest recovered first. Two decades later, the Midwest felt the first ravages of the Rust Belt and the first sting of Japanese competition. What happens to America happens first to the Midwest.
The argument he makes in the book raises the possibility of the coastal parts of the country going their own way without the Rust Belt. Before it was "flyover country" it was the territory the transcontinental de luxe trains crossed with their headlights on. The observation he makes about "congressional representation" suggests it's politically rational for Washington to do so (although a lot of the flattened world goes on whether the Sunday talking heads can reach consensus or not.)

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