Why is it that rural Americans have such a misconception about what it is like to live in a city?
It is far from the dystopic place that was portrayed in movies and on TV 40 years ago. Yet we cannot shake the Charles Bronson “Death Wish” movies from our minds even today. One thing is for sure…for every stereotype, there is a different reality.
Today our perceptions are guided by political motivations. It is unfortunate because most of our cities are the incubators for formation of wealth for our nation. Places like New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago have the necessary concentration of talented people who produce innovation and new technology.
The top five most dependent states in total federal largess are: New Mexico, Alaska, Mississippi, Kentucky, and West Virginia. They are all rural and four of the five are deeply red states. The states with the highest GDP are Massachusetts, New York, Alaska, North Dakota, and California. Alaska and North Dakota are rural, and their GDP is based on energy production. Senator Mitch McConnell’s Kentucky has the highest per capita inflow of benefits to federal taxes paid at $14,000. That beats New York and other blue states by thousands of dollars which send more money to Washington than they receive.
Social indicators from alcohol and drug addiction to unemployment rates show that rural areas are not examples of the idolized small-town ideals that are often portrayed by politicians. The United States is now an information-based economy. Manufacturing output continues to increase, but the percent of the work force devoted to it has decreased to 8% of workers in 2017…down from 28% in 1960. White, rural, and non-college educated have been the ones that have lost the most during this period as factories now operate with brains over brawn.
Instead of looking for solutions, the politicians in these states were and are looking for bogeymen to blame and demonize. Crime rates are lower in rural areas than in cities. Though most crime in cities are not the poor (Black & Hispanic) residents against the more affluent (white) residents. Rather, it is perpetrated by residents in the very neighborhoods where they live against others who live in their neighborhoods. The pols who inflame the situation between city and rural most are those that count on urban economies to keep their states afloat through federal programs.
It is mind boggling that McConnell and his ilk claim the most productive parts of our country are nothing but dystopic wastelands. While it might provide a good sound bite, it is far from the truth and ultimately counter productive for rural residents.
J.D. Vance. the “Never Trumper” who became a convert to the “Church of Trump” when running for Senator from Ohio, could not wait to leave the heartland for New York as soon as he could as a young man. He became Ivy League educated and made his money the old fashion way…on Wall Street. Now that Vance is back in Ohio for election season, he is playing up his roots as a hard scrabble rural hillbilly. At some point in the future, he will be back in a big city hellhole to make some more money.