We’ve written quite a bit about the decline of America’s once proud manufacturing industry which is now but a shadow of its former self and long ago ceded its place in the public’s heart and mind to the service industry, as US citizens are far more concerned with whether they can get a $6 latte than with whether the economy provides enough breadwinner jobs to keep the majority of the population from having to... well, serve $6 lattes for a living.
And if it was already bad, it's getting worse.
In fact, as we noted just days ago, the last time manufacturing was this bad in the US, Ben Bernanke introduced QE3.
Make no mistake, the decline of American industry isn’t something that can be reversed.
In other words, no populist presidential candidate promising to “make the country great again” is going to turn this around - and it won't be for lack of effort. It's just economics. The jobs aren’t coming back from China and the “made in America” stamp is a relic a bygone era. The American economy is now a bartender and waiter creation machine and it's come at the expense of the still declining manufacturing sector.
Needless to say, this has gutted America's Rust Belt, which is now nothing more than a now desolate reminder of a golden era in America's history that has long since passed and as RealtyTrac reports, "among 147 metropolitan statistical areas with at least 100,000 residential properties, those with the highest share of vacant properties were [unsurprisingly] Flint, Michigan (7.5 percent), Detroit (5.3 percent), Youngstown, Ohio (4.4 percent), Beaumont-Port Arthur, Texas (3.8 percent), and Atlantic City, New Jersey (3.7 percent)."
Port Arthur has never been a bastion of stability and the decline of Atlantic City has been well documented, but the malaise in Flint, Detroit, and Youngstown clearly reflects the decline in American industry and suggests the pain (exacerbated by China's acute overcapacity problem) is only beginning. In Flint, for instance, one in six houses is vacant and in the metro area, the vacancy rate is 7.5%. In all, some 9,800 homes are empty in Flint. Some of this is attributable to the water scandal. “The water crisis did not cause the high vacancy rate in Flint, but it will certainly exacerbate it,” RealtyTrac VP Daren Blomquist said. Here's more:
"Distressed cities like Flint struggle to generate enough revenue locally to reinvest back into critical infrastructure, such as water systems. Decades of disinvestment and job and population loss have led to a phenomenal erosion of the tax base, both in terms of the number of taxpayers and in terms of the value of the land. As a result, cities with high levels of abandonment, like Flint, are faced with the financial challenge of needing to maintain and reinvest in a scale of infrastructure that was once supported by a tax base more than twice its current size.
In Detroit, there are 53,000 empty homes - that's one empty home for every five.
Below, find a graphic from RealtyTrac which documents the struggle:
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Blame China? Maybe. But some officials say other factors are at play.
"There’s a philosophy of government that has been writing these places off -- places like Flint get written off,” Rep. Dan Kildee (D-Mich.) previously told HuffPost. “And, to me, even though those people making those decisions might not see it this way, it’s hard for me to accept the fact that race is not the most significant factor.”