Austerity measures have gutted parts of the national budget and are about to go farther. Parts of the defense budget may disappear. Billions could be cut from federal discretionary spending over the next few years.
What is sometimes forgotten in the austerity process is that it is not just defense and school programs that are cut. Also gone is aid to parts of the US which are actually disappearing–economically. The media recently provided broad coverage of the plight of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. It is a large region geographically, larger in square miles than some smaller states. Its tiny population makes it easy to forget, at least politically.
Michigan is a study in contrasts and a microcosm of the trouble which has arisen as federal and state budgets have been reduced sharply. In the southeast corner of the state is Detroit, which has lost half of its population in the last century. Large parts of the city are abandoned. The situation is so dire and complex that it has been suggested that some of these areas be converted to urban farms. However, these farms would be impractical because they would need to be defended by an army of security officers against vandalism, which is a huge problem in the city. What is left of Detroit is a city inside a wasteland, a problem so vast that it is too costly to address.
The Upper Peninsula is as different from Detroit as it could be. Almost no one lives there. The people who do reside there–like the people of Detroit–are mostly poor though unlike the city they are mostly white. An economic rescue of the area would be ineffective because too few people live in too large of an area. That means the U.P. will not be rescued at all.
Detroit and the Upper Peninsula are not alone. There are other vast areas where few people live. Many are in the west. Others are in the northern most parts of the northen tier of states. Still others are in the areas of New Mexico and Arizona outside the large cities. On the other hand, large cities like New Haven and Providence have problems similar to Detroit’s though less dire, at least for now.
One of the things that has begun to happen and will go on happening is that some parts of the US will be left to decay to the point where they will be nothing more than wastelands. It is a strange thing to happen in the United States but unavoidable.
Douglas A. McIntyre