Their names are familiar to all of us: Cleveland, Flint, Youngstown, Saginaw, Gary, Toledo, Reading, Akron, Flint and Buffalo were all once booming manufacturing cities that were absolutely packed with thriving middle class families. But now most of the manufacturing jobs are gone and all of those cities are just shadows of their former selves. When you drive through many of these communities, you will notice that a lot of people have a really hollow look in their eyes. Decades of slow, steady economic decline have really taken a toll, and even the architecture in these cities looks depressed. But despite all of the decay, there is still evidence that there was once something truly great about these communities. Will we be able to recapture that greatness before it is too late?
A lot of writers make economics really complicated, but the truth is that it does not have to be. For example, if you want your country to have a great economy it has got to produce wealth. And one of the primary ways to produce wealth is to make stuff. Immediately after World War II, the United States had the greatest manufacturing base the world had ever seen and we outproduced the rest of the planet combined. Great manufacturing cities sprouted up all over America and the middle class thrived. It was truly a great time to be an American.
But then we decided to start shipping in cheaper products from overseas. At first it didn’t create too much of a problem for our massive economy, but eventually the floodgates opened up and we lost tens of thousands of manufacturing facilities and millions upon millions of good paying jobs. Our labor pool was merged with the labor pool of countries such as communist China where it is legal to pay slave labor wages to manufacturing workers. Needless to say, our workers could not compete with that and our middle class started to shrink rapidly.
Today, there are many American cities that were once truly great that are now truly frightening to visit.