Recent columns by Kevin Williamson and David French on the social decay in smallish industrial cities of the Rust Belt have hit a few nerves.  Mark Thoma's reaction is simply "Wow."  But the bull session is pretty good, much more thoughtful than what goes on in the comment sections maintained by lamestream media sites.  Paul Krugman suggests a straightforward economic explanation, based on the outmigration of factories, first from the big cities with their emerging black underclass, then paralleled by an emerging white underclass in smaller ones..  "This story contained a clear prediction — namely, that if whites were to face a similar disappearance of opportunity, they would develop similar behavior patterns."  He suggests that it's not globalization alone at work.  Governmental backstops might be helpful, but he does not rule out cultural influences.  In a subsequent column, he credits Mr Trump for feeling the lumpenproletariat's pain.  And a Brookings report breaks down the numbers on the emergence of distressed neighborhoods.  We have much to look forward to.

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