And all the time, whether in farm country or steel country, the closed independent shop and the collapsed bank were as much monuments to the new political order as the sprouting number of Walmarts and the blizzard of junk-mail credit cards from Citibank. As Terkel put it, “In the thirties, an Administration recognized a need and lent a hand. Today, an Administration recognizes an image and lends a smile.”
Regional inequality widened, as airlines cut routes to rural, small, and even medium-sized cities. So did income inequality, the emptying farm towns, the hollowing of manufacturing as executives began searching for any way to be in any business but one that made things in America. It wasn’t just the smog and the poverty, the consumerism, the debt, and the shop-till-you-drop ethos. It was the profound hopelessness.
Within academic and political institutions, Americans were taught to believe their longing for freedom was immoral. Power was re-centralizing on Wall Street, in corporate monopolies, in shopping malls, in the way they paid for the new consumer goods made abroad, in where they worked and shopped. Yet policymakers, reading from the scripts prepared by Chicago School of Economics “experts,” spoke of these changes as natural, “scientific,” a result of consumer preferences, not the concentration of power.
Madison’s property tax base has benefited enormously from influence (Obama stimulus) and federal taxpayer largesse through a nearly $40 billion electronic medical records back door subsidy.