In Keystone XL Rejection, We See Two Americas At War With Each Other

America has two basic economies, and the division increasingly defines its politics. One, concentrated on the coasts and in college towns, focuses on the business of images, digits and transactions. The other, located largely in the southeast, Texas and the Heartland, makes its living in more traditional industries, from agriculture and manufacturing to fossil fuel development.

Traditionally these two economies coexisted without interfering with the progress of the other. Wealthier gentry-dominated regions generally eschewed getting their hands dirty so that they could maintain the amenities that draw the so-called creative class and affluent trustifarians. The more traditionally based regions focused, largely uninhibited, on their core businesses, and often used the income to diversify their economies into higher-value added fields.

The Obama administration has altered this tolerant regime, generating intensifying conflict between the NIMBY America and its more blue-collar counterpart. The administration’s move to block the Keystone XL oil pipeline from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico represents a classic expression of this conflict. To appease largely urban environmentalists, the Obama team has squandered the potential for thousands of blue-collar jobs in the Heartland and the Gulf of Mexico.

In this way, Obama differs from Bill Clinton, who after all recognized the need for basic industries as governor of poor and rural Arkansas. But the academic and urbanista-dominated Obama administration has little appreciation for those who do the nation’s economic dirty work.

NIMBY America’s quasi-religious devotion to the cause of global warming is the current main reason for their hostility to the basic economy. But it is all a part of a concerted, decades-long jihad to limit the dreaded “human footprint,” particularly of those living outside the carefully protected littoral urban areas.

Oddly, in their self-righteous narcissism, the urbanistas seem to forget that driving production from more regulated areas like California or New York to far less controlled areas like Texas or China, may in the end actually increase net greenhouse gas emissions. The hip, cool urbanistas won’t stop consuming iPads, but simply prefer that the pollution making them is generated far from home, and preferably outside the country.

The perspective in the Heartland areas and Texas, of course, is quite different. They regard basic industries as central to their current prosperity. Oil and gas, along with agriculture and manufacturing, have made these areas the fastest growing in terms of jobs and income over the past decade.

Of course, the apologists for the NIMBY regions can claim that they, too, create economic value. And to be sure, Silicon Valley — now in a midst of one of its periodic boom periods — Wall Street and Hollywood constitute some of the country’s prime economic assets. Similarly, highly regulated cities such as New York, San Francisco, Seattle, Boston and Chicago offer a quality of life, at least for the well-heeled, that draws talent and capital from the rest of the world.

But the NIMBY model suffers severe limitations. For one thing, these high cost areas generally lag in creating middle-skilled jobs; New York and San Francisco, for example, have suffered the largest percentage declines in manufacturing employment of the nation’s 51 largest metropolitan areas. Indeed with the exception of Seattle, the NIMBY regions have all underperformed the national average in job creation for well over a decade.

These areas are becoming increasingly toxic to the middle class, especially families who are now fleeing to places like Texas, Tennessee, North Carolina and even Oklahoma. NIMBY land use regulations — designed to limit single-family houses — usually end up creating housing costs that range up to six times annual income; in more basic regions, the ratio is around three or lower.

Ironically, America’s most ardently “progressive” areas turn out to be the most socially regressive, with the largest gaps between rich and poor. Even the current tech bubble has not been of much help to heavily Latino working-class areas like San Jose, where unemployment ranges around 10%, nor across the Bay in devastated Oakland, where the jobless rate surpasses 15%.

To succeed, America needs both of its economies to accommodate the aspirations not only of its current population but the roughly 100 million more Americans who will be here by 2050. If the regions that want to maintain NIMBY values want to do so, that should be their prerogative. But stomping on the potential of other, less fashionable areas seems neither morally nor socially justifiable.

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There is great diversity in the American economy

Although there is great diversity in the American economy, services dominate economic activity. Together, services account for approximately 80 percent of the country's GDP. Manufacturing accounts for only 18 percent, while agriculture accounts for 2 percent. Financial services, health care, and information technology are among the fastest growing areas of the service sector. Although industry has declined steeply from its height in the 1950s, the American manufacturing sector remains strong. Two of the largest American corporations, General Electric and General Motors, have manufacturing and production as their base, although they have both diversified into the service sector as well. Meanwhile, despite continuing declines, agriculture remains strong in the United States. One of the main trends in the agricultural sector has been the erosion of the family farm and its replacement by the large corporate farm. This has made the sector more productive, although there has also been a decrease in the number of farmers and farm workers.

Heart to heart connection

There’s an America where it doesn’t matter what language you speak, what god you worship, or how deep your New World roots run. An America where allegiance to the Constitution trumps ethnic differences, language barriers and religious divides. An America where the newest arrival to our shores is no less American than the ever-so-great granddaughter of the Pilgrims.

But there’s another America as well, one that understands itself as a distinctive culture, rather than just a set of political propositions. This America speaks English, not Spanish or Chinese or Arabic. It looks back to a particular religious heritage: Protestantism originally, and then a Judeo-Christian consensus that accommodated Jews and Catholics as well. It draws its social norms from the mores of the Anglo-Saxon diaspora — and it expects new arrivals to assimilate themselves to these norms, and quickly.

Notary Public Andover

As you can see here

oil is not considered as future energy source

Joel, you have missed the

Joel, you have missed the point in your article.

The world is changing in a way, that the traditional jobs from the Southeastern US are going to disappear.

Keep in mind, that modern technology is able to replace most of the human jobs with computers. This is an ongoing and a unstoppable process, because computers, algorithms, and robots do not need payroll.

The "Economist" magazine has a nice article about what is the modern world. The modern world Joel, is under control of the Peta-byte digital information. Until 2020, the computer power is going to be 1000 times bigger than in 2012, we are going toward exca-scale computer systems.
So, the jobs that are needed are those people, how know how to deal with science, large Exca-scale computer systems, and monster amount of data. This what is going to happen until 2020.

If the USA wants to save the jobs of the Southeastern States, you MUST perform a big change into the education system. The oil industry can't help, because they do not have the power of science and exca-scale computer systems.

You must change your mind completely, if you want to save the people from the Southeastern States. There is no way to win the war against the High-Tech society, because the future is in their hands.

nnnlollo - I don't see your

nnnlollo - I don't see your point. The jobs in the midsection of the country that Joel is highlighting - those in energy, manufacturing, and agriculture - have nothing to do with high technology. They are jobs that DEMAND heavy equipment and lots of labor.

All the modern technology you talk about is more relevant to the "coastal" economies in this article.

My point is, with increasing

My point is, with increasing computer power, labor is not needed. All heavy equipment can be made automatic. See here "Robotic Harvesting, LLC" This is a DARPA project. Manufacturing is already automatic.
As I wrote, currently we are living in the era of peta-scale computer power. Until 2020, we have 1000 times more computer power. This is the era of the exca-scale computing.

My question to you is, if I have a computer grid, which commands every agriculture machine on the field, why do I need labor?

This question is not about Obama. This is a world wide trend of development, More computer power means less labor.

China, the US, Japan, and Germany have a competition who is going to build the first exca-scale computing system in the world. The US is building two such systems. One in Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and second one in Livermore National Laboratory.

Companies like "Google" develop computer grid systems, which can control and monitor almost everything on this planet: weather, climate, agriculture, population, building, communications, ground transport, air traffic, fishing, etc. Everything is within the computer grid in the form of data. This has a profound impact on the way we live. Because cars and traffic system are integrated within a computer grid. We do not need police guys with radars. BMW already has developed car-to-car communication system. "Google" works on the same. GM works on the same.

I hope now you understand, what I mean.

Stop blaming Obama for the labor. He knows very well that the massive computerization of the world kills the labor. What he wants to do is to change America on time. First thing, which has to be changed is the education.

great piece

Joel, this is one of the best pieces you've written in a while. Pretty well sums up our national economy, and why I look forward to voting Obama out of office in November.

And this coming from your typical "creative class" NYC resident.