Mar 14, 2018

The "epicenter of troubled America"

Homeless in Biloxi, Mississippi, the poorest U.S. state. Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty

Harvard economist Ed Glaeser says something dark is going on within a chunk of U.S. geography stretching north from Louisiana to Michigan. The "Eastern Heartland," as he calls it, is an "epicenter of troubled America, an epicenter of hopelessness."

Why it matters: Some of the nation's most stubborn social problems are concentrated in the 12-state Eastern Heartland, and Glaeser argues there needs to be a new approach to attacking them.

What they're saying: In a new paper, Glaeser and two co-authors — former Obama Administration chief economist Larry Summers and Harvard Ph.D. candidate Benjamin Austin — argue that the government should recontemplate public assistance. Rather than attempting to revive blighted places by sending checks to people, such public assistance should be determined by places.

  • Just as the government singles out certain areas with insurance against natural disasters, they say, it ought to stimulate demand for workers in places like the Eastern Heartland that are "semi-permanent" problem regions of the country.

The geography: The states have a concentration of "non-employment, disability, opioid-related deaths and rising mortality," the authors write. These are: Alabama, Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Ohio, Tennessee and West Virginia.

The skilled are moving away, leaving the lesser-abled behind. Ever since the Pilgrims arrived, a hallmark of the people who became American has been their willingness to pick up and move for better lives. This is no longer the case — not even across the county, according to Glaeser and his collaborators.

  • From 1950 to 1992, at least 6% of the average U.S. county's residents moved. Over the last decade or so, though, the percentage hasn't exceeded 3.9%.
  • The outcome: People aren't getting the income gains that migration often provides, so inequality has burrowed in.
  • Those moving are the most skilled, Glaeser says, leaving a concentration of lesser-abled workers in places like the Eastern Heartland.
  • Over the last four decades, the Eastern Heartland has seen economic growth of 181%. But that's compared with 330% on the richer coasts, and 461% right next door in the "Western Heartland."

Over the last half-century, the number of jobless men aged 25 to 54 has nearly tripled, disproportionately living in the Eastern Heartland.

Read this fact: In 2016, 51% of 25 to 54-year-old males in Flint, Mich., were unemployed.

This paper is a reversal for Summers, who served in the Clinton and Obama White Houses and, critics say, championed policies that "contributed to the decline of the ... Eastern Heartland," Vox's Dylan Matthews writes.

  • In a gathering at the Brookings Institution last week, Summers said that he previously was certain that if you delivered assistance to people, you by extension would help towns and cities.
  • But now he is convinced that being jobless is worse than having a low income, and that jobs are not necessarily created person by person. "Markets need demand for labor," he said.

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Top Trump ally sounds 2020 election alarm over coronavirus response

Photo: Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images

There is growing concern among top conservative leaders that the Trump administration isn't addressing the long-term economic impact of the coronavirus, several sources tell Axios. One top adviser said if the recovery is bungled it could cost President Trump the election.

What we're hearing: "The next 4-8 weeks is really going to decide whether Trump gets reelected," Stephen Moore, Trump's former nominee for the Federal Reserve board, told Axios. If the administration mishandles its economic recovery efforts, he said, Trump is "in big trouble."

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 10 p.m. ET: 1,600,427 — Total deaths: 95,506 — Total recoveries: 354,006Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 10 p.m. ET: 465,329 — Total deaths: 16,513 — Total recoveries: 25,410Map.
  3. Public health latest: U.S. has expelled thousands of migrants under a CDC public health orderDr. Anthony Fauci said social distancing could reduce the U.S. death toll to 60,000.
  4. Business latest: The Fed will lend up to $2.3 trillion for businesses, state and city governments — After another 6.6 million jobless claims, here's how to understand the scale of American job decimation.
  5. 2020 latest: Top conservative leaders are concerned the Trump administration isn't addressing the virus' long-term economic impact.
  6. States latest: FEMA has asked governors to decide if they want testing sites to be under state or federal control.
  7. World latest: Lockdowns have led to a decline in murders in some of the world's most violent countries — Boris Johnson is moved out of the ICU but remains in hospital with coronavirus.
  8. In Congress: Senate in stalemate over additional funding for small business relief program.
  9. 1 SNL thing: "Saturday Night Live" will return this weekend in a remotely produced episode.
  10. What should I do? Hydroxychloroquine questions answeredPets, moving and personal healthAnswers about the virus from Axios expertsWhat to know about social distancingQ&A: Minimizing your coronavirus risk.
  11. Other resources: CDC on how to avoid the virus, what to do if you get it.

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Federal court temporarily blocks coronavirus order against some abortions

Gov. Greg Abbott. Photo: Tom Fox-Pool/Getty Images

A federal judge ruled Thursday that clinics in Texas can immediately offer medication abortions — a pregnancy termination method administered by pill — and can also provide the procedure to patients nearing the state's time limits for abortions.

Driving the news: The decision comes after federal appeals court ruled 2-1 on Tuesday in favor of an executive order by Republican Gov. Greg Abbott that prohibits abortions during the coronavirus outbreak.

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