Sinkin’ Down in Youngstown

If you really want to know what’s going on in a city, consult the motel clerk working the graveyard shift—not the clerk at the chain motel, but his counterpart at the inn that advertises the cheapest rates at the interstate exit with the truck stop.  The kind of inn where you find cars patched with Bondo in the parking lot, mixed in among pickup trucks with utility boxes, plastic buckets, and waders.  In Youngstown, Ohio, that would be somewhere along I-80 west of the Pennsylvania state line and east of the Warren-Ashtabula exit.

The clerk on the graveyard shift at our motel does not disappoint.  “Our area’s economy,” he explains, “has been downsized, globalized, and sent offshore.”

Waitresses at 24-hour coffee shops are also excellent sources of information.  They know more about the local economy than most economists employed by think tanks.  Near the interstate, we sip our coffee and listen as our waitress explains, “Youngstown has never been the same since Campbell shut down.”  She is referring to Youngstown Sheet and Tube Company’s Campbell Works on the east side, which closed in 1977, laying off 5,000 steelworkers.  Her sentiments are confirmed by state and federal employment statistics, which reveal that manufacturing jobs in greater Youngstown declined under Democrats Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton and Republicans Ronald...

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