Each month when I read Virginia Business magazine, there is a common thread: cities and counties in the so-called urban crescent of Virginia are largely thriving while rural areas and Southwest Virginia are struggle. With the expansion of Medicaid under Gov. Ralph Northam, many of these rural areas are less likely to lose their local hospitals, but this will not change the reality that younger Virginians are fleeing rural Virginia for the cities and their suburbs leaving those rural areas with an aging and declining population. Meanwhile, due to the "God, guns and gays" fixation of the populace, most new businesses prefer to avoid the areas and, instead, locate in the more progressive urban regions of Virginia. The result is that the downward spiral in rural Virginia - and rural America - continues. A piece at PBS News Hour looks at the reality that job grow even in a supposedly strong economy is mostly focused on progressive, Democrat voting areas. Trump has not delivered to his rural supporters who continue to allow themselves to be swayed by Trump's racism and pandering to gun and religious extremists. Here are excerpts:
On average for the year-ended this May, 58.5 percent of the job gains were in counties that backed Democrat Hillary Clinton in 2016, according to an Associated Press analysis of monthly government jobs data by county.Despite an otherwise robust national economy, the analysis shows that a striking number of Trump counties are losing jobs. The AP found that 35.4 percent of Trump counties have shed jobs in the past year, compared with just 19.2 percent of Clinton counties.
As more money pools in such corporate hubs as Houston, San Francisco or Seattle, prosperity spills over less and less to smaller towns and cities in America’s interior. That would seem to undercut what Trump sees as a central accomplishment of his administration — job creation for middle class and blue-collar workers in towns far removed from glitzy urban centers.
Job growth in Trump’s economy is still concentrated in the same general places as it was toward the end of Barack Obama’s presidency — when roughly 58.7 percent of the average annual job gains were in Democratic counties.
Yet the lack of transformative job growth in Trump areas hasn’t seemed to erode his support among Republicans, while hiring in Democratic areas have done little to improve his standing with those voters. For Trump’s core supporters, cultural issues such as gun rights, immigration and loyalty to the president have become dominant priorities.
But other issues preoccupy the minds of the party faithful in Trump strongholds such as Beaver County, Pennsylvania, northwest of Pittsburgh.
Chip Kohser, the county Republican chairman and the bristle-bearded founder of a farm share company, said his party members are rallying around their staunch opposition to gun control. “Our No. 1 motivating factor,” he said, “is Second Amendment issues.”
Since May 2017, Beaver County has lost 191 jobs. With the warmer summer weather, hiring is now on an upswing. But employers have fewer job applicants available as the labor force has shrunk by roughly 1,000 workers in the past 12 months, the result of decades of population loss that hit former steel towns such as Aliquippa, Beaver Falls and Midland.
The tax cuts haven’t stopped the outflow of people. Chatting over eggs, bacon and home fries, Kohser estimated that the tax cuts have added perhaps $1,200 to his annual household income and roughly the same to many others in the area — not likely enough on its own to rejuvenate the local economy.
Many of those forgotten men and women might cheer the president for slapping tariffs on imported goods to defend U.S. factory jobs or his vow to build a wall on the Mexican border to block illegal immigration. But for struggling communities waiting for jobs to be restored, Trump’s tax cuts — which were skewed toward corporations and wealthy individuals — have yet to deliver.
During the past year, the healthiest job gains have been in counties containing such vibrant cities as Houston, Dallas, Los Angeles, Las Vegas and Seattle, all of them places that have favored Democrats.
Texas, which Trump won handily, reflects the geographic split in the economy. Within that state, Clinton — not Trump — won the counties that have accounted for bulk of that state’s job growth.
When the Pew Research Center asked voters in June to identify the nation’s most pressing issue, more of them chose immigration, race, political gridlock or Trump himself than the economy. The proportion of people who said the economy was their top priority fell to its lowest level in more than eight years.
Sixty percent of Americans told Pew that they see their midterm vote as an act of either supporting the president (26 percent) or opposing him (34 percent).
[C]onservatives and liberals have become more sharply split on such issues as confidence in the government and social institutions, religious participation and stances on marriage, sex and abortion.
In Pennsylvania, many Democrats see the choices made by Trump as putting democracy itself at risk. Their fears stem in part from his administration’s initial policy of separating refugee children from their parents and his seemingly deferential relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin, whose nation interfered in the 2016 election, according to U.S. intelligence agencies.
“What I’m hearing daily is fear amongst people as to whether their democracy is slipping away from them,” said Nancy Mills, the Pennsylvania Democratic chairwoman. “I’m really hearing that more than anything else.”
[T]he economic growth he [Trump] promised would revitalize Beaver County may depend on its ability to attract immigrants as it did a century ago when the steel mills brought Germans, Italians and Eastern Europeans workers to the area.
Beaver County never fully recovered from the steel mill closures in the 1980s that caused the unemployment rate to spike at nearly 30 percent.
Many young workers with college degrees migrated east for Pittsburgh’s technology and medical care jobs. The result of this population flight is that Beaver County is rapidly aging, with a median age of 44.8 years old, compared with 37.7 nationwide and 32.9 in Pittsburgh.
Republican Rep. Keith Rothfus . . . said there was a clear path for generating job growth: Immigrants. You look at areas of the country that are really thriving — there’s a significant immigrant population,” he said. “We need to do a better job of attracting immigrants here. This place was built on immigrants.”
Rothus, like most Republicans and their supporters would rather pander to white nationals and bigots than speak the truth that GOP policies are harming their base economically. Meanwhile, the bigotry of the GOP base makes their strongholds unattractive to the very businesses that they need to attract. Nothing Trump says or does will change this reality. His supporters need to look in the mirror if they want to see the real cause of their problems.But Rothfus has also been outspoken on the importance of tighter border security. . . . As of now, Beaver County is still waiting on the job surge.