Smart. Sharp. Funny. Fearless.
Thursday, September 29, 2016

The following has been excerpted from Land Of Promise: An Economic History Of The United States, a new book by author and New America Foundation co-founder Michael Lind.
Purchase it here
.

The history of the productive apparatus is a history of revolutions. So is the history of transportation from the mailcoach to the airplane. . . .This process of Creative Destruction is the essential fact about capitalism.
—Joseph A. Schumpeter, 1942

We believe that this country will not be a permanently good place for any of us to live in unless we make it a reasonably good place for all of us to live in.
—Theodore Roosevelt, 1912

In the early twenty-first century, Paterson, New Jersey, is a troubled city in a troubled country. The city that traces its origins back to Alexander Hamilton’s Society for Establishing Useful Manufactures (SUM) has lost most of its manufacturing businesses to other countries. Like other cities in America’s deindustrialized Rust Belt, Paterson has been plagued for decades by poverty, crime, and urban decay. Like other northern industrial cities, Paterson became a home of black migrants from the South just as many manufacturing jobs that provided ladders to middle-class status were disappearing. National shifts in demography are reflected in Paterson, where a majority in the city now consists of Latino immigrants and their descendants. Immigration has helped to revitalize the city, to some degree. But levels of poverty, illiteracy, and illegitimacy are high.

About twenty miles south of Paterson in Elizabeth, New Jersey, is something called Foreign Trade Zone 49. FTZ 49, established in 1979, is one of hundreds of special business districts created in recent years in the United States that provide special customs treatment for companies engaged in international trade. Operated by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, FTZ 49 is one of the largest contiguous foreign trade zones in the country. Its 3,587 acres include 2,075 acres in the Port Newark/Elizabeth Port Authority Marine Terminal; 41-acre Global Marine Terminal and 145-acre Port Authority Auto Marine Terminal, both in Jersey City/Bayonne; 125-acre Industrial Park at Elizabeth; 53-acre Greenville Industrial Park in Jersey City; a 23-acre site in Bayonne; a 40-acre tank farm and fuel-distribution system at Newark Liberty International Airport; a 407-acre industrial site in South Kearny; 316 acres in Port Reading Business Park in Woodbridge and Carteret; 115 acres in the I-Port 12 industrial park in Carteret; 72 acres in Port Elizabeth Business Park in Elizabeth; and 176 acres in the I-Port 440 industrial park in Perth Amboy.

FTZ 49 sponsors industries involved in manufacturing, pharmaceuticals, petroleum products, and special chemicals and hosts companies that include motor-vehicle importers and an importer of frozen-orange-juice concentrate. The industrial park is connected to world commerce by Newark Liberty International Airport and the ExpressRail Intermodal Rail System, with dedicated facilities at major container terminals in Elizabeth and Staten Island. Nearly ten thousand workers are directly employed at FTZ 49, while the multiplier effects of its economic activity create a far greater amount of indirect employment in the area and the nation.3

FTZ 49 is Alexander Hamilton’s SUM reborn. Power is provided by electricity rather than by water, and the products include many that did not exist when the United States was founded. Ingredients are brought in and products taken out by trucks, trains, and planes, not by boats and wagons. The purpose of American economic policy in the twenty-first century is no longer to catch up with industrial Britain, but to allow the United States to participate in high-value-added global supply chains in a world of transnational production, without sacrificing strategic industries. But the project of creative collaboration between government and private enterprise to ensure that America remains a land of promise is no different today than it was on that fateful day of July 10, 1778, when General Washington and Colonel Hamilton, enjoying a respite from war, admired the thundering falls of the Passaic and imagined what America might be.

  • There are several things that come to mind when reading the headline. What will America build next is a great question. The country’s electrical grid is many decades old and in need of a large upgrade. Highways, local roads, bridges and much more need urgent care. Unfortunately, I don’t see America building anything very soon. The austerity crowd seems to be in the drivers seat, no matter the potential result of such policies they are dead set against infrastructure spending. It would be nice to imagine the country doing big things again, but I just don’t see such a future on the horizon.

    • Don’t forget Lynda that the repuplicans passed the bill years back that allowed corporate giants to outsource AMERICAN JOBS to other countries, in particular, it was at the bidding of COMMUNIST RED CHINA. That way the fat pockets of corporate giants could be fatter still by saving money by means of cheap labor. Republicans have a convienient memory loss about this. They are the ones in bed with the Communists. Considering in China alone there a literally millions of jobs filled that belong in America, thus it is the major reason for the unemployment rate being so high. Taking this in mind, if the jobs were returned to America there would be no unemployment problem, everyone would have a job, plus an option for a second job if they liked.
      You are right too, that if there were more infrastructure spending it would create a wealth of jobs and our country would be well on its way to economic recovery. Go figure!

  • as long as we continue giving away the store, to the already wealthy, we are going to build nothing but hate, and inequality.

  • howa4x

    What happened in Paterson is indicitive of what happened to other cities in the northeast and midwest. During the great society programs of the mid 1960s thousands of poverty stricken share croppers Were shipped up north and plunked into large public housing projects, families piled on top of each other in high rises. They had no skills and no means of income, and they came at a time when the industrial base was starting to leave. In response to that the federal government who saw them as victims of a racist south, created the modern welfare system know a Aid to Familes and Dependent Children, and municipalites created a local welfare system known as GA for single adults. The catch to the Federal program was that whole families couldn’t be on it only unwed mothers and children. This created a condition where we had a large number of people held in place economically with no skills or jobs and being maintained by the goverment. Over the years for survival unwed women had kids to stay in the program, and the man was booted out of the house, not needed. This pool of people was ripe for a new economy that was taking the place of the industrial one and that was the undergoround economy of the drug trade, gambling, prostitution and the beginings of the gang culture
    Other populations moved to where jobs were. This is how the sun belt was born, or California during the great dust bowl, and new industries followed like silicon valley, but this new urban population didn’t move to where new jobs were developing. The cities went into decline with a population that was held in by a subsistance income that consumed 51% of the service base but paid no taxes. Industries left because the new population was unskilled and the crime rate was becoming unbearable.The schools declined and the infastructure declined.
    Cities regenerate when areas run down developers come in, and buy the properties cheaply and evict the population that is there. Philadelphia did that with the seaport project. The problem we face today is how are we going to recapitalize the urban area and what are we going to do to create a job ready population in the urban areas, free of drugs, crime, gangs and poverty. So far everything we tried hasn’t worked, but this is a problem that is not going away, only getting worse. This is a challange that won’t be solved by slogans or retoric, but only when we come together as a country and say it’s in everyone’s interest to solve it.

    • coraktp

      Your take on the ‘Great Migration’ is a great piece of imagination. First of all the Great Migration of black sharecroppers out of the south didn’t begin in the 60’s, it began in the late 1800s when Jim Crow was established in the South and continued through the 1950s ending sometime in the 1960s. My own sharecropper grandparents, the children of slaves, left Mississippi around 1900. The exodus out of the South was entirely voluntary because black people wanted to get the hell out of the Jim Crow South. No government, federal or state, shipped people to Northern cities. In fact white plantation owners, backed by local governments often used violence to get blacks to stay and continue to provide an agricultural labor force. As fast as the exodus was (2/3rds of the South’s black population left the South over a 60-70 year period) it would have happened even faster if wealthy white Southerners hadn’t fought it so hard. Blacks who came North were held back as much by the fact that they came from the South illiterate with no job skills besides farming, as much as they were by Welfare programs structured to keep people in poverty instead of helping them escape poverty. White people never give black people credit for doing things themselves to better their situation. If blacks moved North then it had to be somebody white who came up with the idea. And believe it or not, northern inner city slums – drug ridden and crime invested as they are – are still a major step up from the rural South and a life spent sharecropping for slave wages under Jim Crow. Black people improved their lives by leaving the South, as evidenced by better (although still bad) education, much higher incomes, better living conditions and longer life expectancies than what they had had in the South. You know how bad inner city slums are, so consider the fact that they make slavery and its’ successor sharecropping look like heaven on earth and understand what we came from.

      • howa4x

        I agree that there was a migration to the north from the south in the 40’s 50′ and 60′ My comments were based on a 34 yr career in public health and experiences of some of my friends that were up rooted as children in northern urban areas. 1st to my friends experience in Newark NJ.
        The Federal government came in to the Italian north ward in the late 50’s and knocked down his apt house plus many others and put in it’s place public housing high rise buildings. Into these high rises came a great migration of poor Afro Americans, under educated because they were deprived of it in the south and unskilled. Another part of the Federal government put an expressway between these high rises and the rest of the city. The migration of jobs at this time was leaving this area as well, due in part to the new highway system. I know this because my friend who is white experienced it . Neither of us are racists.
        I began my career in public health in a smaller urban area that had all the problems of a bigger one. I worked closely with social workers, and worried then as now that the way in which federal assistance was designed, broke up families , because the recipient couldn’t be married and get it. So while I agree with you that the lives were better because they were free, the system held in place this population. The area didn’t have enough jobs for people to work in so you had multiple generations raised on assistance. Because the males were sort of cast out, they rebeled and sought a haven in the drug trade which was the largest single youth employeer.I know this because I started a drug program and spoke to many abusers about their journey.
        Government programs are a 2 edged sword. Affirmative action opened doors that were closed and coupled with Pell grants allowed a number of generations to move up the ladder. At the same time these assistance programs became a way of life for many with teenagers having babies and moving next store, to their mothers. This is What I’ve seen.
        I’m not trying to demean anybody. We need to discuss the problem if we are going to create change, and in order to make this change we have to discuss what happened, so we don’t repeat the same mistakes.There are 2 milllion black men in prison and that’s unacceptable. They are there because we haven’t figered it out yet. Forget about Afganistan or Iraq ,our focus has to be here. We need to do it for the future generations.

        • coraktp

          Never meant to imply that you were bigoted so I’m sorry if it seemed that way to you. I just get tired of black people being seen as helpless victims who can’t or won’t take action to improve their own situation. You’re right about government programs, they’re sold as programs that help the poor, when they’re really set up as traps to reinforce the status quo. I could give example after example but if you worked in public health you know the score. Still, some people (from many different backgrounds and situations) manage to take advantage of the programs and use them to escape poverty. Americans, no matter their color, are survivors. Peace!