Monday, December 6, 2010

Gin and Tacos: Turntables (An Ode to Macomb County)

If the site Gin and Tacos isn't a part of your daily reading, it most assuredly should be. Today's entry summarizes quite nicely the rhetoric of economic warfare used by the Republican Party to turn us against each other over the last 35 years, with each party pointing the finger at the other as the primary culprit in the economic decline of our country while someone, somewhere, is laughing all the way to the bank at our expense. (It turns out that there are a lot of people laughing, actually, but that's another story).
The entire article is worth your read, but the summary line, near the end, is particularly poignant:

We know that Americans are politically ignorant and selfish enough to be OK with whatever negative things happen as long as it happens to someone else.

I've thought about that a lot as I've traveled North America over the last decade or so as a part of my career where I have, in turn, interacted with so many workplaces that I've lost count.

But I grew up here, and still live here, and so I carry the sadness of the death of the local economy with me. I remember vividly taking a wrong turn in Manchester, MI one morning and ending up in a four square block area that consisted of nothing but eight small factories closed and for sale. I remember a couple of Christmases ago sitting with my 65 year old mother and listing off the two dozen factories (in a town of 30,000) that employed her parents and older siblings that are now razed and forgotten.

Occasionally, I'll stop and shop at a development near downtown Cleveland called Steelyard Commons, a series of big box and strip stores developed on land that was once devoted to churning out steel. The jobs are at least marginally better than nothing, I suppose, but if you find the quality of jobs satisfactory in this example of "creative destruction", then I'd question whether you have much in the way of morals, or a conscience at all. Economists aren't known for their soul for a reason.

And that leads me back to 1980, when the Reagan Democrats, so many of whom lived and worked in Macomb County, fearful for their jobs and deluded by the Reagan Revolution into thinking that the poor (minority) people were coming to take away their lives and lifestyle, pulled the lever and pressed the accelerator on the end of their lifestyle, willfully, ignorantly violating the cardinal rule that should guide every parent and every generation; to leave the world and the economy in a better place than they had it.

The reality of their decisions from that point forward is that the lifestyle they had, and the one they should have seen to it that would be passed on to their children and their children's children, is gone. Gone because of their willful participation in the political process that ruined it. The unemployment rate in Macomb County stands at 13.4% this holiday season. A significant percentage of those people the children and grandchildren of those people who pulled the lever all those years ago. Do you suppose the people responsible for it have enough self awareness to look in the mirror and understand the consequences of their inactions?

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