When I first got to college in Utah the easiest way for me to explain where I was from was to name all of the products we made in and around Springfield: Spalding sporting goods, Milton Bradley toys, Smith and Wesson guns, Diamond matches, Breck shampoo, Uniroyal tires, Tampax tampons, Absorbine Junior…at that point even the notebooks at the school bookstore were from National Blank Book…then I would say something about the Basketball Hall of Fame, Dr Seuss and Timothy Leary and that was that. They had never heard of Friendly’s or Big Y out there and Mass Mutual wasn’t one of the insurance companies that people had ever heard of because they’d never felt the need to advertise to the masses.
The point is that I knew where I was from, and that was a place that made things. I was an Economics major at BYU so I was about to get a heavy dose of Chicago style Austrian School laissez faire woo woo bullshit fed to me, but I was already a proud owner of Free to Choose by Milton Friedman and had been reading extra copies of the Wall Street Journal and Barron’s that my dad brought home from the post office. (Back then the Wall Street Journal for the northeast was printed here and transported all around via the USPS, if you asked my dad what he did working nights at Tapley Street he would say that he was “getting out the Wall Street Journal”.)
In any case I knew, even in 1982, that the United States was shifting to a service economy, but I still thought Springfield was well situated to prosper moving forward because, along with being a governmental center for western Massachusetts and having 3 hospitals, several banks, and 4 colleges, the City of Homes was a manufacturing powerhouse. Apart from the consumer goods already mentioned we had Monsanto, Bayer, Titeflex, and American Bosch, and those were just the ones I had heard of. Wealth, I was told, was gained primarily from creating goods which could then be traded for other goods. Relying on services, unless they were provided for people coming from outside your economy, was essentially just “taking in one another’s laundry” and was not a road to prosperity.
By the end of the 90’s half of those plants were gone with the companies either having gone out of business or having moved to the south and then overseas. NAFTA, GATT, the financialization of the economy, sucking wealth from the system instead of creating it, became the focus of the American economy and those regions still stuck in the mindset of building wealth by making things others wanted were screwed.
Boston and New York are to us what London is to northerners in England; the places that have prospered beyond belief in the process of destroying our community. We play by their rules, and have the politicians and experts chide us while they take us further and further down the garden path of free market trickle down “prosperity”. All the while they do nothing to protect the real jobs of people making real stuff that people actually still use and profit from sending those jobs elsewhere and at the same time they do everything to protect the vampire financial institutions which are their true constituents.
Yes, the angry torch bearing mobs are the same people who fought for tax reduction schemes which saved them a whopping $87 a year on their property taxes but which forced the city to make cuts in basic services which benefitted them to the tune of thousands of dollars a year. Yes, these are the people who waived flags post 9-11 and supported every ridiculously unnecessary illegal immoral war of aggression from Iraq and Afghanistan to Libya costing them dearly in money and in the health, physical and mental, of their sons and daughters.
And yes, that is what scares me about this next election.Hillary represents every bad decision from corporate Dems who occupy the same space on foreign policy and trade as corporate Republicans from stupid wars to stupid “free trade” deals; mainstream Democrats are the velvet glove on the iron fist but nothing more. God help me Trump is right on Russia, on the wars in the Middle East, even on enforcing laws on immigration (what’s the point of having laws if they’re not enforced?), and on expressing the anger of the working class. He is a megalomaniacal blow hard with, if not necessarily below average intelligence, certainly below average verbal skills. I don’t trust that he truly believes in anything but his own aggrandizement or that he’ll even set out to do any of the things, good or bad, that he has said he’ll do, but I can see why he might be elected: We can “trust” Clinton to absolutely, positively continue making every bad choice on the economy and on war.
Trump is our Brexit: Good, bad, or indifferent he’s a giant middle finger to every expert who told us to do this or that, all the while promising a prosperity which never came. In England there was no Jill Stein or Bernie write-in option so I might have just stayed home I don’t know. Maintaining reasonable trade barriers, enacting single payer health care, responding to September 11th as a crime not as an act of war; these are the unthinkable policies that might have preserved a political system here at home that wouldn’t have spit out a Weimar like populous with just enough people willing to try anything to shake things up that Donald Trump actually could get elected. Anyone thinking that this could get ugly hasn’t been paying attention to how ugly things already are.