American Decline

The Plague of American Deindustrialization

By Travis Cunha July 05, 2023

Destruction In the Wake of Deindustrialization

It has been a decade since the residents of Flint, Michigan confronted a severe water crisis. City officials detected elevated levels of lead as well as the spread of legionella bacteria. The media circulated images of town hall participants holding contaminated brown water and stacks of bottled water. Even today, the children exposed to lead continue to suffer from its effects, including increased behavioral issues and a higher rate of miscarriages. Although a group of scientists have now determined Flint’s water to be as safe as that of any other city in Michigan, many residents continue to harbor doubts about the quality of their drinking water.

The Shining Days of the Rust Belt

Flint, Michigan was once seen as an ideal city for post-World War II residents to pursue the American Dream. Situated in the Rust Belt region, the backbone of America’s economy after the defeat of the Nazis and the destruction of Europe, cities in states like Michigan and Ohio were equipped with factories ready to support the post-war reconstruction efforts. The manufacturing of automobiles played a particularly prominent role in providing well-paying, unionized jobs across the Midwest, spanning from Wisconsin to Massachusetts.

Detroit, Michigan, in particular, experienced remarkable growth, emerging as the fifth largest city in the United States by 1950 and boasting a population of 1.8 million people. The Great Lakes location offered additional employment opportunities through ports that facilitated the transportation of raw materials and finished products for the global market. On the East Coast, textile factories provided jobs for European immigrants who did not venture to the Midwest. With an unemployment rate as low as 2.7% and affordable real estate throughout the country, it seemed that these cities would continue to flourish and prosper. But the interests of the wealthy elite and politicians of course took precedence over the needs of working families, and the American Dream soon transformed into a veritable veritable nightmare.


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