Politics from the Palouse to Puget Sound

Friday, April 18, 2008


In today's New York Times, Timothy Egan has a unintentionally hilarious elegy to the "lost small town" of Spokane (metro area population around 625,000) that was "devastated" when Kaiser Aluminium collapsed. I'm sure Spokane seems like Dogpatch to the New York urban sophisticates sipping their skinny, half-caf, soy milk, no foam lattes and tut-tutting the plight of the poor rubes out there in flyover country. If only they would vote Democratic!

Conspicuously absent from Egan's apologia of the Obamessiah is the role labor unions and asbestos lawsuits played in Kaiser's demise. So is the fact that none of the natural resource industries that built Spokane (timber, mining, etc.) would be possible now under current environmental regulations, not to mention concern over "climate changing" energy usage and emissions and the lawsuit-happy NIMBY-state Washington has become. All these business- and job-killing factors, promulgated and championed by liberal Democrats, are somehow Dubya's and the Republican's fault.

And in Egan's eyes, the sins of Crackerquiddick are washed away, because rock star and patron saint of the working class Bruce Springsteen has endorsed Obama. After all, "The Boss" once sang a song that had the line "these jobs are going boys and they ain’t coming back.”

I especially like some of the online comments on the article:
"The bad lands of eastern Washington have been dead and gone for years."

"From my perspective, there is a cultural inbreeding and resistance to change and better ideas in small-town heartland America that is more responsible for the decay there than any of the factors many inhabitants of the heartland blame."

"Another aspect of small town living is their isolation. Making a sweeping generalization you can say that the people between the mountain ranges are different than those that are on the coasts. The former are protected and look inward the latter are unprotected and look outward. Spokane is even more isolated."
You know, come to think of it, I did see a boy playing a banjo on a front porch the other day while I was driving around Pullman...

As the Dems focus on class and culture, instead of the economy, Iraq, immigration, etc., they are snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.


Satanic Mechanic said...

Kaiser did not "devastate" the economy. I should know because I lived in the "greater Spokane metro area" for the first 20 years of my life. I can tell you the fall, rise, fall of the greater Spokane metro area.
early 80's Fall:
The price of Silver crashed from $50 to $5, shutting down the mines in the Silver valley in the early 80's. Carter flooding the wheat market in 1980. That hurt Spokane big time. People left to go to California for greener pastures.
Late 80's Rise:
Timber was still around but not as strong. The economy of Coeur d'Alene and Spokane converted over to a tourist-service economy. Californians started to move in. High tech companies started to move in around Liberty Lake (between CDA and Spokane). Boeing put in a plant at Airway Heights. Manufacturing was starting to rise.
Mid to Late 90's fall:
Meth appeared, grew and took over some areas of Spokane. Spokane council and the state of Washington created a hostile environment towards business. Fairchild AFB lost its bombers and became a refueling base. Boeing left, HP moved three manufacturing divisions to Oregon and other high-tech companies left also. The timber industry is almost gone except for small companies.

Yes, Kaiser had two plants, one in the valley and one in Mead, but there were not that many jobs there in the 90's. Spokane is now a service-tourist economy, it is trying to clean up downtown and areas through renovation but it will never have a strong manufacturing backbone.
Companies would rather go across the border into Idaho for manufacturing. Not because of labor costs but the pro-business attitude of Kootenai county.

Leave a "hostile to business" county to go to a pro-business county. Sounds familiar....

JBelle said...

huh. Stereotypes die hard, huh Tom? The most Republican people I know are New York city born and bred. And are New Yorkers, as opposed to people who currently live there. And Tom, New Yorkers don't drink coffee with cream and sugar. Let alone whipped and flavoring. Just doesn't happen. People who have moved to New York in recent years do. But still, if you want to put a Costa Rican New York Starbucks barrista in a complete 'Aw yuuuu kiddin' me?' stare, step up and order lattte, grand, half -caf skim. They don't hoot, they snort and the others snicker amongst themselves as the order is filled.

Don't forget: New York was and is a city of immigrants. And not just international immigrants. Immigrants are not the kind of people who snicker or sneer at others. They are just trying to get by and make a go of things. So while I loved your opener and your piece is quite interesting, don't flaw it by stereotypical ranting that frankly, is typical of small town thinking. Don't do that.

Tom Forbes said...

Of course, Obama didn't characterize Costa Rican baristas, Asian restauranteurs, South Asian and Korean convenience store proprietors, Latin American hotel maids and landscapers, African-American pro athletes, or any other minority stereotype. If he had, there would not be the hallelujah chorus of urban liberals defending him now. His campaign would be over faster than you can say "Monkey Business."

Luckily for Obama, his comments denigrated white, small town residents. We hayseeds desperately clinging to our God and our guns are the last victims of institutional racism in this country.