Washington Post: America’s forgotten towns: Can they be saved or should people just leave?

Washington Post, January 2, 2018: America’s forgotten towns: Can they be saved or should people just leave?

One of the great debates in American politics and economics in 2018 is likely to be how to help the country’s forgotten towns, the former coal-mining and manufacturing hubs with quaint Main Streets that haven’t changed much since the 1950s and ’60s. Many of these places turned out heavily to vote for Donald Trump. He talks often about wanting to help them, but it’s unclear how he can.

Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz says Trump’s obsession with muscle jobs is shortsighted. Stiglitz is advocating for totally transforming what these towns are known for, taking them from blue collar to green collar — or even high-tech hoodie. Stiglitz points to Pittsburgh as the true American success story, a place that evolved from a steel city into a tech and health-care hub.

Stiglitz and Trump are about as far apart on the political spectrum as you can get, but they agree that these forgotten towns were clearly hurt by globalization and new technologies. They differ on the solutions — and how much government funding should be involved.

“Too much in the mind of Trump is just the old industrial economy,” Stiglitz said. “Look at where we are spending money and how we are living today. Millennials have a new view of the world.”

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