There was a lot of focus in the recent presidential campaign on the state of manufacturing in America, and the fate of the many people who have lost manufacturing jobs over the last few decades. A big talking point in the conversation was the loss of “50,000 factories” in America due to trade deals. That number has been debated widely, but what’s less controversial is that 18 million direct and indirect manufacturing jobs have been lost in the last decade.
The loss of those jobs has played out like a natural disaster in small towns around the country. People in small towns have nowhere else to turn when the local factory closes. These one-factory towns are left with more labor than they need. The disruption that causes isn’t confined to paychecks, it permeates every facet of life.
In The American Conservative, John Duncan tells the story of Medora, Indiana.
Three years ago I watched a PBS documentary about the high school basketball team in tiny Medora, Indiana.
The team had not won a game in several seasons and lost most by wide margins. The producers followed the team until it finally won one.
While most viewers may have regarded this as simply a fascinating sports documentary, what concerned me then (and now) was the root cause of the decline of this team and the town it represented.
The program had flashbacks to the ‘50s and ‘60s when the town was prosperous and the high school had many more students.
Then the two biggest employers—a brick factory and a plastic factory—closed. The area’s small farms and small businesses struggled and many went under or barely got by.
When I was growing up I was a batboy for the Knoxville Smokies baseball team and got to travel all over the southeast.
My mother was from Iowa, but four of the seven children in her family moved south. My father was from Tennessee, but five of the ten children in his family moved north. I ended up with aunts, uncles, and cousins all over the country.
This was mostly before the days of the interstates and I rode buses all over the country for the Smokies or to visit relatives. Almost every small town in the South and Midwest that I traveled through had two or three factories and many small businesses.
Then, as commentators as diverse as Pat Buchanan and Ed Schultz have noted, more than 50,000 factories closed over the years.
This is why President Trump in his statement about the Paris Accords talked about “lost jobs, lower wages, shuttered factories, and vastly diminished economic production.”
This not only happened in Medora, but also in small towns all over the country.
Read more here.