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Try that in a small town


I’m a big Paul Krugman fan, but I really don’t get his puzzlement here:

Progress isn’t painless. Business types and some economists may talk glowingly about the virtues of creative destruction, but the process can be devastating economically and socially for those who find themselves on the destruction side of the equation. This is especially true when technological change undermines not just individual workers but whole communities.

This isn’t a hypothetical proposition. It’s a big part of what has happened to rural America.

This process and its effects are laid out in devastating, terrifying and baffling detail in “White Rural Rage: The Threat to American Democracy,” a new book by Tom Schaller and Paul Waldman. I say “devastating” because the hardship of rural Americans is real, “terrifying” because the political backlash to this hardship poses a clear and present danger to our democracy and “baffling” because at some level I still don’t get the politics.

Krugman points out that urban blue states on net massively subsidize rural red states via tax transfers, and that Joe Biden and the Democrats offer concrete proposals to help impoverished rural America, while Donald Trump is “a huckster from Queens who offers little other than validation for their resentment.”

True, but when has economic and political reality had any actual effect on white rural rage?

In the crudest sense, rural and small-town America is supposed to be filled with hard-working people who adhere to traditional values, not like those degenerate urbanites on welfare, but the economic and social reality doesn’t match this self-image.

Prime-working-age men outside metropolitan areas are substantially less likely than their metropolitan counterparts to be employed — not because they’re lazy but because the jobs just aren’t there. (The gap is much smaller for women, perhaps because the jobs supported by federal aid tend to be female-coded, such as those in health care.)

Quite a few rural states also have high rates of homicide, suicide and births to single mothers — again, not because rural Americans are bad people but because social disorder is, as the sociologist William Julius Wilson argued long ago about urban problems, what happens when work disappears.

Draw attention to some of these realities, and you’ll be accused of being a snooty urban elitist. I’m sure responses to this column will be … interesting.

The result — which at some level I still find hard to understand — is that many white rural voters support politicians who tell them lies they want to hear. It helps explain why the MAGA narrative casts relatively safe cities like New York as crime-ridden hellscapes and rural America as the victim not of technology but of illegal immigrants, wokeness and the deep state.

People in general far prefer comforting lies to hard truths, so no mystery there.

Beyond this, Krugman doesn’t mention that the crucial adjective in “white rural rage” is the first one. Blue cities are hellscapes because they are full of non-white criminals and illegals and illegal criminals (hold on to your hats for the blast of pure Trumpian rage that’s about to issue about the murder of a conventionally attractive young white woman on the University of Georgia campus, by an undocumented immigrant with a prior criminal record), who are manipulated by elite race traitors and only dubiously white cosmopolitan (((elites))).

And of course white rural rage is given vastly outsized political power by the basic structure of our political system, with that dysfunction becoming more severe every day.

As Krugman acknowledges, solutions for this problem are in short supply, because the problem is structural and sociological at the most historically embedded levels.

Hence: Donald Trump.

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