The rust belt isn’t as rusty as the cotton belt.

Trump won the election by swinging several rust belt states. Several  pundits  have written about the economic struggles of the rustbelt and how that contributed to Trump’s win there. Yglesias argues that these narratives are misleading because the rustbelt isn’t actually struggling compared with the South. I live in the rust belt and I can attest that it is relatively prosperous. Kevin Drum colored the standard census map to highlight the counties with the lowest median income in pink.

This shows clearly where the really struggling, depressed counties are located. It would be even better if it showed where the people are rather than where mostly empty land is, but clearly most poor Americans are in conservative states that were completely uncompetitive politically and so the electoral college system ignores them.  The electoral college gives more incentive for the president to favor industrial policy for a factory in Indiana because that signals concern for the rust belt which happens to be full of swing states. The the electoral college distorts the machinery of democracy by focusing on swing states and ignoring states that are dominated by either Republicans or Democrats.  Democracy should not care where voters live because it should favor the median voter, but the electoral college currently prioritizes relatively wealthy rust-belt states.  That political attention attracts articles by journalists who try to make them seem particularly deserving when they are not.

Posted in Public Finance

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