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Sunday, November 26, 2017


Winners and losers

by digby

Here are some Trump voters who didn't seem to know what they were voting for. I hope it works out for them:

In many ways, St Joseph, Mo., is Trump country.

Located about 55 miles north of Kansas City, the town of about 76,000 is almost 90% white. At about the same time the North American Free Trade Agreement came into effect in 1994, drawing major employer Lee Jeans to outsource its operations to Mexico, floodwaters ravaged the city and partially destroyed its airport. A little over a decade later, it was badly hit by the Great Recession: unemployment peaked at 9.9% in January 2010, above the then-national level of 9.7%.

Home to many of the “forgotten” Midwesterners attracted to Donald Trump’s rhetoric on immigration and trade, it duly rewarded the Republican insurgent. Trump won nearly 60% of the vote there in last year’s presidential election, increasing the margin of Mitt Romney’s narrow victory over Barack Obama in 2012.

Look closer however, and the appeal of “America First” walled off from the world becomes less clear. The unemployment rate in St. Joseph currently stands at 3.1%, below the national average of 4.1%. Astonishingly, more locals were engaged in the manufacturing trade in 2015 than 2000, census data show. The town’s Chamber of Commerce head, a former Texas émigré who’s hardly a egghead globalist, frets that the Trump White House will pull America out of NAFTA. “It would be devastating to the economy in the Midwest,” R. Patt Lilly tells Moneyish.

The success of St. Joseph, long in the shadow of its much larger neighbor about a 45-minute drive away, offers lessons to geographical neighbors with decimated industrial bases. Trump’s success in capturing Midwestern states like Michigan and Ohio, which in recent years have trended Democratic during presidential contests, was key to his victory last year. It’s also a riposte to critics of free trade and globalization.

How did St. Joseph’s get here? For one, it benefited from its proximity to centers of education, which serve as incubators of talent while fostering the sort of cultural vibrancy that attracts businesses. Right in town is Missouri Western State University, which enrolled a record 5,388 students this academic year. The Kansas City campus of the University of Missouri is nearby, while Kansas State University is about 70 miles away. Complementing them is the Kauffman Foundation, a non-profit endowed by a late pharmaceutical philanthropist to create education and entrepreneurial activities.

“There are great schools and opportunities nearby with a lot of cultural activities,” says Jeffrey Hornsby, a management professor at University of Missouri-Kansas City, who works with local startups, many supported by the Kauffmann Foundation. “While still not enough is done to supply need in the STEM education area, there are a lot of strong engineering schools. That brings energy.”

In turn, St. Joseph’s hasn’t been afflicted with the same wave of young people departing for better prospects that have bedeviled similarly sized towns across the Rustbelt. “The brain drain was there 10 or 20 years ago, it’s not that pronounced anymore,” says Lilly. In 2010, 21.2% of Buchanan County’s population was between the ages of 20 and 34, a slight increase from 20.8% ten years before.

That’s partly because St. Joseph’s serves as a low-cost satellite to Kansas City, but also due to investments made by local businesses like food ingredients producer Lifeline, which recently spent $1.8 million installing a new packaging line. Altec, an international construction equipment maker that employs around 900 employees locally, last year announced it had budgeted $1.9 million on office expansion.

These businesses survived, indeed thrived, thanks to globalization. St. Joseph recorded $1.02 billion in exports in 2015, an increase of over 70% from $285 million a decade ago, according to the Missouri Economic Research and Information Center. About 17.6% of its exports went to Mexico or Canada. Nearly half of that—$531.45 million—was sent to countries that had enrolled in the Trans Pacific Partnership, an Obama Administration-supported free trade pact that Trump pulled the U.S. out of.

“We ship from the East Coast to the West Coast, down to Mexico and export too,” says Kelly, Lifeline’s chief executive, adding that the firm capitalizes on being in the center of the country and close to quality road and rail links. “That’s why I’m very concerned about the future of NAFTA and what D.C. is going to do.”

I think the writer of this article may have made a wrong assumption. It's likely that many of the Trump voters didn't vote for him because of the issues of "immigration and trade" but rather his derisive attitudes toward immigrants and foreigners. That's not the same thing.

I hope it all works out for them and the millions of others who voted for the know-nothing "blue collar billionaire" because he hates all the right people. They may have even thought that translated into their own economic self-interest believing as they do that all their troubles stem from the blacks, browns, foreigners and liberal elites and because all those people were apoplectic about Trump that must make him ok. But they were wrong.