Yesterday, Riverside County history professor and 2022 congressional candidate Liam O'Mara, fuming over Larry Summers' bumbling response to the concept of survival checks to the working class, asked "When will these jokers get it? Economic growth is driven from below, not from on top. With millions out of work and millions facing eviction, we're staring at a potential depression from which it could take many years to recover. And, unlike the stock portfolio of clowns like Summers, most American families never recovered from the 2008 crash. All the gains since then have gone to the top, thanks to mismanagement from fools like this. It's time to stop listening to these out of touch aristocrats and follow the data. We have a full century worth of evidence that money in the hands of the rich helps only the rich, while money in the hands of the poor leads to prosperity for all. Tune out the likes of Summers and start hearing your historians again, America. Your children will thank you for it." (You can contribute to Liam's congressional campaign here.)
Liam is right about the data. In fact, earlier this month, Brookings published some-- showing that the counties that rejected Trump last month produce 71% of the American economy. Trump basically won the unproductive, beggared counties-- with populations that are uneducated, unhealthy, steeped in superstition-- responsible for just 29% of the economy... though Biden won just 509 counties, compared to Trump's 2,547
Brookings: "Biden captured virtually all of the counties with the biggest economies in the country (depicted by the largest blue tiles in the nearby graphic), including flipping the few that Clinton did not win in 2016. By contrast, Trump won thousands of counties in small-town and rural communities with correspondingly tiny economies (depicted by the red tiles). Biden’s counties tended to be far more diverse, educated, and white-collar professional, with their aggregate nonwhite and college-educated shares of the economy running to 35% and 36%, respectively, compared to 16% and 25% in counties that voted for Trump."
Why does this matter? This economic rift that persists in dividing the nation is a problem because it underscores the near-certainty of both continued clashes between the political parties and continued alienation and misunderstandings.
To start with, the 2020’s sharpened economic divide forecasts gridlock in Congress and between the White House and Senate on the most important issues of economic policy. The problem-- as we have witnessed over the past decade and are likely to continue seeing-- is not only that Democrats and Republicans disagree on issues of culture, identity, and power, but that they represent radically different swaths of the economy. Democrats represent voters who overwhelmingly reside in the nation’s diverse economic centers, and thus tend to prioritize housing affordability, an improved social safety net, transportation infrastructure, and racial justice. Jobs in blue America also disproportionately rely on national R&D investment, technology leadership, and services exports.
By contrast, Republicans represent an economic base situated in the nation’s struggling small towns and rural areas. Prosperity there remains out of reach for many, and the party sees no reason to consider the priorities and needs of the nation’s metropolitan centers. That is not a scenario for economic consensus or achievement.
At the same time, the results from last week’s election likely underscore fundamental problems of economic alienation and estrangement. Specifically, Trump’s anti-establishment appeal suggests that a sizable portion of the country continues to feel little connection to the nation’s core economic enterprises, and chose to channel that animosity into a candidate who promised not to build up all parts of the country, but rather to vilify groups who didn’t resemble his base.
If this pattern continues-- with one party aiming to confront the challenges at top of mind for a majority of Americans, and the other continuing to stoke the hostility and indignation held by a significant minority-- it will be a recipe not only for more gridlock and ineffective governance, but also for economic harm to nearly all people and places. In light of the desperate need for a broad, historic recovery from the economic damage of the COVID-19 pandemic, a continuation of the patterns we’ve seen play out over the past decade would be a particularly unsustainable situation for Americans in communities of all sizes.