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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 11/11/18

Amazon, and America's Real Divide

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Yes, corporate rents and housing costs are skyrocketing, as are the costs of sending kids to school (even many "public" schools are in effect private ones because nobody but the rich can afford to live in the school district).

But the incomes and profits more than make up for it. Which is why Amazon chose New York and metro Washington.

As money pours into these hubs, so do service jobs that cater to the new wealth -- pricey lawyers, wealth managers, and management consultants, as well as cooks, baristas, and pilates instructors.

Between 2010 and 2017, according to Brookings, nearly half of the America's employment growth centered in just 20 large metro areas, now home to about a third of the U.S. population.

Relative to these booming hubs, America's heartland is becoming older, less well-educated, and poorer.

The so-called "tribal" divide in American politics, which Trump has exploited, is better understood in these economic and cultural terms: On one side, mega-urban clusters centered on technologies of the future. On the other, great expanses of space inhabited by people left behind.

Another consequence is a more distorted democracy. California (now inhabited by 39.54 million) and New York (19.85 million) each get two senators, as do Wyoming (573,000) and North Dakota (672,591).

Even though Democratic Senate candidates in the midterm elections received 12 million more votes than Republican Senate candidates, Republicans still gained at least one more Senate seat.

The biggest talent hubs -- like San Francisco, Seattle, and Washington -- also harbor large and growing populations of poor who have been stranded by the turbo-charged gentrification. These gleaming cities are becoming the most Dickensian locales in the land, where homelessness and squalor mix with luxury high-rises and toney restaurants.

So as the American middle class disappears, the two groups falling perilously behind are white, rural, non-college Tumpsters, and the urban poor.

It's not Amazon's business to know or care. That falls to the rest of us.

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Robert Reich, former U.S. Secretary of Labor and Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley, has a new film, "Inequality for All," to be released September 27. He blogs at www.robertreich.org.

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