By Charles Fain Lehman
A new project, announced Wednesday by the libertarian-leaning Niskanen Center, aims to define a comprehensive program to help put regions struggling despite the roaring economy back on their feet.
The Struggling Regions Initiative (SRI), a project of the Center's Poverty and Welfare Policy program, is intended "to push the frontier of research into the issues facing struggling regions with the goal of developing new ideas for broadly shared economic growth," according to its website. Funded by the Rockefeller Foundation, the SRI will focus on finding ways to overhaul federal policy in order to better support those regions that are increasingly left behind.
Samuel Hammond, who runs the Poverty and Welfare Policy Program, framed it as being about designing "the right framework," so that "ordinary workers can benefit from change rather than suffer from it."
"It's not Washington's responsibility to micromanage local economies or to pick winners and losers. Yet no one can deny that national policymaking has ripple effects throughout the country," Hammond wrote in an article introducing the project. "The Struggling Regions Initiative is premised on identifying realistic ways — from trade agreements to the structure of the tax code — to strengthen and diversify America's industrial economy, and in a way that promotes economic growth and dynamism."
Support for ailing regions is likely to feature heavily in electoral pitches from the left and right come 2020. What makes Niskanen's plan different is sort of sub-textual: In order to fix what's hurting these regions, it suggests, the American federal government needs to, for the first time in decades, articulate a comprehensive, coherent industrial policy. …
Read the rest at FreeBeacon.com
By Jennifer Rubin
We have written about the serious and widening gap between rural and urban America. The red/blue divide is largely a rural/urban divide — even within states. As urban areas prosper, rural areas are depopulating, coping with an aging population and suffering from more health problems (including opioid addiction). If rural America was as rich, healthy and vital as the urban centers and their thriving suburbs, President Trump might not have been able to exploit this population with fear-mongering, racism and xenophobia.
If rural America recovers, could we get sustained growth above 3 percent? Increase the average lifespan? Diminish the audience for right-wing populism? Possibly, but in any event, fellow Americans are suffering and neither party is coming up with constructive solutions.
Fortunately, the indispensable Niskanen Center wants to look at this problem. “According to data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis, over half of total U.S. [gross domestic product] is produced by only 20 metropolitan areas,” Niskanen reports. “The New York metropolitan area alone accounts for over 10 percent of the nation’s output in any given year, and with only 6 percent of its population. America may remain the land of opportunity, but in way that has become increasingly concentrated in fewer and fewer locations.” There are few winning zip codes and many losing ones. “Once-vibrant regions across the United States are struggling with population decline, the collapse of industries, and shrinking tax bases.” …
The economist Dani Rodrik likes to tell the story of the time he sent a draft of his 1997 book, Has Globalization Gone Too Far?, to a “well known and outspoken economist” for review:
He told me he had no quarrel with my economics, but that I should not be “providing ammunition to the barbarians”—that is, I should not give comfort to all those protectionists who stand ready to hijack any argument that seems to provide intellectual respectability to their positions.`
The economist in question was Paul Krugman, as Rodrik quietly revealed in the footnotes of a later book. The irony, of course, is that Krugman went on to coin the sarcastic epithet “Very Serious People” to describe precisely this tendency of elites to argue in bad faith. Deficits and inflation aren’t always bad, for example, but Very Serious People resist deviating from hawkish views lest spendthrift politicians run free. The late-1990s Krugman was evidently himself a Very Serious Person who understood economic globalization to be, while not costless, far too important to risk confusing the public with subtlety.
Maybe Krugman had a point. Rodrik’s book was published only a few years after the deadly, NAFTA-inspired peasant rebellion in south west Mexico, and a few years before the hysterical WTO protests in Seattle. And today, animus against globalization and free trade has found its way into the Oval Office, where at various points NAFTA and the World Trade Organization have come close to being smashed in much the same way Seattle black bloc rioters smashed Starbucks windows in 1999…