Sunday, April 22, 2018

How to Fix Flint

Journalist Gordon Young tackles the question of how to fix his hometown of Flint, Michigan on
Flint — like other poverty stricken municipalities — has the vexing ability to resist broader economic upturns. Real growth, let alone bubbles, never seem to visit. The city continued to decline during the boom years of the Clinton administration and kept sinking during the modest but historically long-running economic recovery that President Obama orchestrated. Clearly, a rising tide doesn’t lift all boats. U.S. Rep. Dan Kildee, who is an exuberant practitioner of metaphor, describes these cities as “anchored to the bottom of the ocean.” 
“I don’t think we can chip away at the problem,” he told me recently. “We need a big, bold, and very significant effort to help areas where you have chronic poverty. Until we fix the fundamental problems, we are really just managing the decline.”

Places to Park by the Factories and Buildings

I see the shapes
I remember from maps
I see the shoreline
I see the whitecaps
A baseball diamond, nice weather down there
I see the school and the houses where the kids are
Places to park by the factories and buildings
Restaurants and bars for later in the evening

Then we come to the farmlands, and the undeveloped areas
And I have learned how these things work together
I see the parkway that passes through them all
And I have learned how to look at these things, and I say

I wouldn't live there if you paid me
I wouldn't live like that, no siree!
I wouldn't do the things the way those people do
I wouldn't live there if you paid me to

I guess it's healthy, I guess the air is clean
I guess those people have fun with their neighbors and friends
Look at that kitchen and all of that food
Look at them eat it, I guess it tastes real good

They grow it in those farmlands
Then they bring it to the storeThey put it in the car trunk
Then they bring it back home
And I say

I wouldn't live there if you paid me
I wouldn't live like that, no siree!
I wouldn't do the things the way those people do
I wouldn't live there if you paid me to!

I'm tired of looking out the windows of the airplane
I'm tired of traveling, I want to be somewhere
It's not even worth talking
About those people down there

Goo goo, ga ga ga
Goo goo, ga ga ga
Goo goo, ga ga ga
Goo goo, ga ga ga
Goo goo, ga ga ga
Goo goo, ga ga ga
Goo goo, ga ga ga
Goo goo, ga ga ga
Goo goo, ga ga ga
Goo goo, ga ga ga
Goo goo goo goo, ga ga ga ga!

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Happy Birthday Tiger Stadium

"April 20, 1912 —the day should be trumpeted. There should be balloons and bunting. A celebration. A cake. There is none of that. Just silence. They would prefer we forget.

"It opened in the era of ragtime music and black Model T's. Airplanes were still aeroplanes. Mary Pickford was becoming a star, and Jim Thorpe soon would be. The First World War had yet to begin and women wouldn't get the right to vote for eight years. It was a time when fans wore sports coats and dress hats and paid to stand in the outfield, separated from the players not by a home-run fence but by a rope that defined the playing area."

           — Tom Stanton, The Final Season

Deindustrialization, Decline, and Opioids

Andrew Sullivan, writing in New York Magazine, on "the emptiness" and opioids:
"If industrialization caused an opium epidemic, deindustrialization is no small part of what’s fueling our opioid surge. It’s telling that the drug has not taken off as intensely among all Americans — especially not among the engaged, multiethnic, urban-dwelling, financially successful inhabitants of the coasts. The poppy has instead found a home in those places left behind — towns and small cities that owed their success to a particular industry, whose civic life was built around a factory or a mine. Unlike in Europe, where cities and towns existed long before industrialization, much of America’s heartland has no remaining preindustrial history, given the destruction of Native American societies. The gutting of that industrial backbone — especially as globalization intensified in a country where market forces are least restrained — has been not just an economic fact but a cultural, even spiritual devastation. The pain was exacerbated by the Great Recession and has barely receded in the years since. And to meet that pain, America’s uniquely market-driven health-care system was more than ready."
"Market capitalism and revolutionary technology in the past couple of decades have transformed our economic and cultural reality, most intensely for those without college degrees. The dignity that many working-class men retained by providing for their families through physical labor has been greatly reduced by automation. Stable family life has collapsed, and the number of children without two parents in the home has risen among the white working and middle classes. The internet has ravaged local retail stores, flattening the uniqueness of many communities. Smartphones have eviscerated those moments of oxytocin-friendly actual human interaction. Meaning — once effortlessly provided by a more unified and often religious culture shared, at least nominally, by others — is harder to find, and the proportion of Americans who identify as “nones,” with no religious affiliation, has risen to record levels. Even as we near peak employment and record-high median household income, a sense of permanent economic insecurity and spiritual emptiness has become widespread. Some of that emptiness was once assuaged by a constantly rising standard of living, generation to generation. But that has now evaporated for most Americans."