Heartland

Auto Bailout: Help Mississippi, Not Michigan

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We should be getting used to the depressing spectacle of once-great corporations begging for assistance from Washington. Yet perhaps nothing is more painful than to see General Motors and other big U.S.-based car companies – once exemplars of both American economic supremacy and middle-class aspirations – fall to such an appalling state.

Yet if GM represents all that is bad about the American economy, particularly manufacturing, it does not represent the breadth of our industrial landscape. Indeed, even as the dull-witted leviathan sinks, many nimble companies have shown remarkable resiliency.  read more »

Understanding the Geography of the 2008 Election

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Scholars as well as pundits and politicians will study this remarkable election exhaustively. Many, including me, will use county data, because they are convenient and available. From a statistical point of view, counties are lousy units, because of huge variation in size and excess internal variability. But we can’t resist, so here are some at least suggestive findings.  read more »

Up Next: The War of the Regions?

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By Joel Kotkin and Mark Schill

It’s time to throw away red, blue and purple, left and right, and get to the real and traditional crux of American politics: the battle for resources between the country’s many diverse regions. How President-elect Barack Obama balances these divergent geographic interests may have more to do with his long-term success than his ideological stance or media image. Personal charm is transitory; the struggle for money and jobs has a more permanent character.  read more »

Industry, inequality and the middle classes

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The financial collapse dominates the news, but its unregulated rise is not unrelated to the relative decline of manufacturing over the last quarter century, and the outsourcing of much of industrial production. One consequence of this de-industrialization and financialization of everything has been an astounding increase in inequality, a massive concentration of wealth at the very top and the squeezing of the middle classes.

Places that remained strong in manufacturing tend to have had and still have lower inequality than places more dependent on services, lowly to professional, and experienced a smaller change in inequality.  read more »

Knowledge Worker Migration: Going Where the Brains Are

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At a time when national unemployment is rising, Nebraska is working overtime to attract labor. At the inaugural Sarpy County Economic Summit, Governor David Heinemann (R) talked about the need to “market the state to 16- to 20-year-olds.” Nebraska, apparently, has more jobs requiring college degrees than it has college graduates. (Interested college students can call the Director of the Nebraska Department of Economic Development, Richard Baier, at 402-471-3746.)  read more »

Appalachia and Energy

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When I think of the energy crisis, I cannot help but think of the poignant story of Martin Toler. A victim of the Sago Mine disaster, he was found sitting alongside his 12 fellow miners in darkness. Deep in the heart of the earth he wrote a note to his family as air and time was running out: “Tell all that I’ll see them on the other side,” read the note found lying beside his body. “It wasn’t bad. I just went to sleep. I love you.”  read more »

Localism – What’s the Attraction?

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As I drive to work here in Wisconsin Rapids, I cross the bridge where the view of the river is stunningly peaceful, with the mystical morning mist rising off the calm water reflecting the warm early morning sunlight as it surrounds the pristine wooded islands. It takes me all of five minutes by car to make my journey to work – one of the beauties of living in a smaller community. I can get to most places in town within five minutes.  read more »

A Grand Alliance: Fostering a North American Central Economic Region

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Given current economic trends, the time may be ripe to consider as a concept, an economic region straddling the middle of the North American continent – a North American Central Economic Region (NACER). These cross-border economic regions spanning Northwestern Ontario, Manitoba, North and South Dakota and Minnesota, already share infrastructure, production facilities and research and development capacity. A North American Central Economic Region (NACER) would build on these existing relationships, as well as historic patterns of cultural exchange, cross-border trade, and travel.  read more »

A Local Graduation: How Small Towns Can Come Back

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Pick anytown, USA. You were born there; went to school there; made your living there; had your children and grandchildren and ended your life there. Headstones, like many, tell the story of who came and who went and they helped make the town a unique place.

And so, for a moment, I lamented at how much of that we had lost in the changes we have witnessed over the decades. Here we are in the biggest financial crisis in history, or at least since the Great Depression. What do we do?  read more »

Old Manhattan Had a Farm

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Old Manhattan had a farm
Ee-yi ee-yi O

As a child of the early Sixties, I fondly remember the days when colossal albeit stupid technological projects were fashionable. I remember in particular a cartoon that showed a subway running from the U.S. to China right through the center of the earth. Of course, this brings to mind Thoreau’s quip that, while the telegraph might connect Maine to Texas, would Maine and Texas have anything to say to each other? But the very point of the trans-core subway was its pointlessness. If titanic, useless engineering projects like the Hoover Dam are impressive, then how much more impressive are titanic, useless engineering projects!  read more »