Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Obama And Small-Town America (5)

Let's take a look in a greater portion of Senator Obama's response to a question at a fund-raiser on April 6, 2008. He said:

You go into some of these small towns in Pennsylvania, and like a lot of small towns in the Midwest, the jobs have been gone now for 25 years and nothing's replaced them. And they fell through the Clinton administration, and the Bush administration, and each successive administration has said that somehow these communities are gonna regenerate and they have not. So it's not surprising then that they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.

There are a lot of factors contributing to the loss of jobs in small towns across the U.S.A. The list might begin, only begin, with a corporate and political culture, only currently characterized by outsourcing, which has favored profits over the creation and preservation of jobs; computerization; globalization; and a transportation policy which has favored air travel and highways and nearly gutted a railroad system which once connected numerous towns across the country. (Think television's "The Fugitive" and Richard Kimball traveling everywhere by train.)

Surely among the causes of employment in, and the vibrancy of, small towns are free trade, rarely free to the American workers who sacrifice their jobs, often for the benefit of the wealthy; and immigration/illegal immigration. There is a strong argument to be made for immigration, and a good one; and a weak economic argument to be made for immigration. But there is no question that corporate America has found our weak enforcement, at the borders and at the job site, of immigration laws a boon to their profits and a bust for good-paying jobs. Arguing, therefore, that when people outraged by the deterioration of their communities "cling" to "anti-immigrant sentiment" they are being delusional is condescending, politically damaging, and just plain inaccurate.

And by the way: "cling to antipathy to people who aren't like them?" Is that a shot at Reverend Jeremiah Wright? (Probably not- Wright was born and raised in Philadelphia and Trinity United Church of Christ is in Chicago.).

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