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

Trump won the election by swinging several rust belt states. Several
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. I live in it 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 show clearly where the really struggling, depressed counties are located, but it would be even better if it showed where the people are rather than where mostly empty land is. Most poor Americans are in conservative states that were completely uncompetitive politically and so the electoral college system gives more incentive for the president to ignore their concerns in favor of industrial policy for a factory in Indiana because that signals concern for the rust belt which happens to be full of swing states. That is why the electoral college distorts the machinery of democracy. Democracy should favor the median voter, but the electoral college currently makes it favor relatively wealthy rust-belt states and that attracts articles by journalists who try to make them seem particularly deserving when they are not.

Posted in Public Finance

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