Tuesday, April 03, 2018


This morning, Greg Sargent noted that measures taken by China in retaliation for President Trump's tariffs are aimed at Trump Country:
New data supplied to me by the Brookings Institution show ... that those who are vulnerable to negative impacts from these trade tensions are mostly concentrated in counties carried by Trump....

The Brookings analysis ... shows that the largest sum of vulnerable jobs is in fruit and nut farming, with the majority concentrated in Trump counties. Most of the jobs in hog and pig farming and pipe production are also concentrated in Trump country....

[Mark] Muro [of Brookings] noted that the job concentrations in California are fruits, vegetables and wineries. The concentrations in the Northwest are tree crops. The concentrations in the Midwest are pipe producers. The concentrations in the South are mostly dried food and scrap aluminum. And the concentrations in the Plains are made up of some agriculture and hog and pig producers. Taken together, the concentrations constitute “an often rural map,” Muro said.
So if rural Americans are hurt economically, will they blame Trump?

I wouldn't be so sure. When I think about this, I think of a New York Times story from April 2016 that was a test the opposite premise: Would the heartland give credit to Barack Obama for an improving economy?

The answer was no:
ELKHART, Ind. — Seven years ago President Obama came to this northern Indiana city, where unemployment was heading past 20 percent, for his first trip as president. Ed Neufeldt, the jobless man picked to introduce him, afterward donned three green rubber bracelets, each to be removed in turn as joblessness fell to 5 percent in the county, the state and the nation.

It took years ... but by last year they had all come off. Elkhart’s unemployment rate, at 3.8 percent, is among the country’s lowest, so low that employers here in the self-described R.V. capital of the world are advertising elsewhere for workers, offering sign-up bonuses, even hiring from a local homeless shelter.

Mr. Obama, whose four trips here during 2008 and 2009 tracked the area’s decline, is expected to return for the first time in coming weeks, both to showcase its recovery and to warn against going back to Republican economic policies. Yet where is Mr. Neufeldt leaning in this presidential election year? He may keep a photograph of himself and Mr. Obama on a desk at the medical office he cleans nightly, but he is considering Donald J. Trump.

“I like the way he just won’t take nothing off of nobody,” Mr. Neufeldt said....
More from this story:
Mr. Obama is not getting the recognition historically accorded a president who presides over economic revival....

“Whether he gets the credit or not, people’s home equity has gone back up, fuel prices are the best we’ve had in a long time, there’s a lot of things that make this all go,” Larry Thompson, a former longtime mayor of nearby Nappanee and a Republican, said as he showed off an expanding cabinetry factory, Kountry Wood Products.

“But I think that maybe it’s just some of the other things he’s been involved with that people in our area” — Mr. Thompson stopped, shaking his head in unspoken reference to various social issues.
Elkhart wasn't prepared to give credit to Obama for what was pretty close to a local boom. Maybe the reason was the slowness of the recovery, or maybe it was, um, "various social issues."

I think Trump might avoid blame in rural America for just that reason. Voters there like him, and may well adjust their perception of reality to fit that preference. If China hurts them financially, they may well blame China. Or immigrants. Or Obama. They like Trump, so how can anything be his fault?

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