his contribution to the Wages of Neglect feature.
But what are we supposed to do about it? What magic wand do we have that will create jobs in the towns and small cities of Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and West Virginia? Meyerson makes the usual noises about infrastructure spending, but honestly the places that most need new infrastructure are rapidly growing cities, and the places that most need spending on repairs and maintenance are old cities. There just isn't much infrastructure to build in central Kansas or southern West Virginia. Other than wind and solar farms, I guess, but those aren't very popular with working class voters and we're already building them pretty fast anyway. Otherwise Meyerson just says vague things about "regional development policies" that I find utterly unimpressive.
In his contribution, Stanley Greenberg dwells at length on the bad politics of bailing out Wall Street while regular people in small towns were losing their houses. Which I agree was bad politics, but was it really bad economics? Does anybody think the economy of small towns would have been better if we had let Wall Street implode? And would jailing a few dozen executives, however morally righteous, have created a single job? Greenberg also spends some time on trade, but whatever the politics of trade agreements their impact on the economy is fiendishly complex; they kill jobs but they also create them, leaving economists to argue furiously about the overall result.
Paul Ryan conservatives just push for lower taxes and less regulation, which if you ask me is how we got to this place. Trump's people have no ideas at all.
Manufacturing employment is declining almost everywhere, from China and India to Switzerland and Sweden. I do not believe we can do anything about this. Maybe different trade and regulatory policies crafted by all-knowing experts would have led to a smaller decline in the US, but I doubt the overall story would be different. The world economy is leaving factory workers behind.
There are a few things we could do, especially in the line of health care policy. Real national health insurance would pay for thousands of jobs in declining areas, besides helping the people who live in them. And if that health insurance paid for addiction treatment and other mental health care, that would also both create jobs and make life better. If we raised taxes on the rich even more we could do other things, like free community college (which would at least create jobs for teachers) and subsidies for upgrading houses, and so on.
But on the whole I doubt the ability of any government to change the basic economic facts. Consider: the places that are troubled include Democratic bastions like Detroit and Republican strongholds like rural Kansas. The two states that have lately been most spectacularly successful are California and Texas, which are pretty much political opposites.
I believe that Obama understood perfectly well how poorly neo-liberalism was working both economically and politically in much of the country. Yet he also believed that there was no other course: more openness, more trade, more immigration, more education, more meritocracy is the only path that might possibly lead to a more prosperous future.
I hate to write off so many people and places, but I also don't really see what we could be doing instead.