The life histories of the men allegedly shot by Kyle Rittenhouse in Kenosha, Wisconsin, spotlight the deep economic and civic damage done to the Midwest by the federal government’s free trade and outsourcing policies.
But that economic cause-and-effect chain was downplayed as the Washington Post portrayed the Kenosha shootings on August 25 as a clash between an “armed right-wing group” versus “anti-police-brutality demonstrators.”
Elites do not want to “see the connection between social dysfunction — whatever it is — and the [economic] policies that our political and business elites have been pushing for decades,” said Mark Krikorian, director of the Center for Immigration Studies.
The Post described Kyle Rittenhouse as “a heavily armed teenager who had answered the call for ‘patriots.” Rittenhouse allegedly shot the three men during a night of demonstrations and arson following the prior police shooting of a black man.
Video from the riots suggests the three men may have attacked Rittenhouse before he shot them. But the three men were not Antifa college-graduates, ideological activists, or abused minorities. Instead, the three men are a stand-in for the blue-collar discards of the Midwest’s deindustrialized economy.
That economy’s wealth has been redistributed to the coasts as work opportunities were outsourced to immigrants, visa workers, or to factories in China and other developing countries. Those policies have left many Kenosha men reliant on welfare, drugs, multiple part-time jobs, and lower-wage warehouse jobs.
Rittenhouse allegedly shot Joseph Rosenbaum, who allegedly chased Rittenhouse across a parking lot. The Post described Rosenbaum as:
[…] depressed, homeless and alone — didn’t belong to either side. He had spent most of his adult life in prison for sexual conduct with children when he was 18 and struggled with bipolar disorder. That day, Aug. 25, Rosenbaum was discharged from a Milwaukee hospital following his second suicide attempt in as many months and dumped on the streets of Kenosha.
Rittenhouse also allegedly shot Anthony Huber, who allegedly hit Rittenhouse with his skateboard. The Post described Huber as a friend of Jacob Blake (the black person shot by police) and as someone with a very troubled upbringing:
Huber said his mother was a hoarder, according to Gittings and Huber’s friends. The layers of garbage and cat feces that accumulated in the house had been a source of constant stress for Huber, who also was battling a bipolar disorder that went undiagnosed until he was an adult.
“He had just gotten out of prison and was having a hard time finding a job that doesn’t make you want to f—ing kill yourself every day,” [girldfriend Hannah] Gittings said. She was coming off the breakup of her marriage. Both were on the verge of homelessness, sleeping on friends’ couches.
The third person allegedly shot by Rittenhouse was Gaige Grosskreutz, whom the Post reported was carrying a pistol in the fight with Rittenhouse:
In a recent interview, Grosskreutz said he had been attending protests since late May, when George Floyd was killed in Minneapolis police custody. He had grown up in a working-class neighborhood just outside the Milwaukee city limits. His mother was a dental assistant and his father did not work, he said. After high school, he had spent a few years as a paramedic, but the steady diet of gunshot wounds, drug overdoses and poverty wore on him. So he decided to attend Northland College, a small liberal arts school where he majored in outdoor education.
In 2019, median household income rose by 7 percent nationwide as wages climbed by a little over 2.1 percent in President Donald Trump’s economy. But that modest prosperity did not reach the three men in Kenosha which had been deeply hurt by the prior decades of outsourcing and migration.
Kenosha’s decline is a familiar story, according to a September 2020 article in the left-wing The Nation magazine:
It began with manufacturers moving South in the 1980s, looking for cheap labor in states with right-to-work laws and weak unions. By the 1990s, when Democrats and Republicans had reached a consensus that what was good for the boardroom was good for America, corporations had begun looking abroad. In 1993, President Bill Clinton ratified the North American Free Trade Agreement over the desperate opposition of labor groups and Midwestern Democrats such as House majority leader Dick Gephardt, who called the treaty “a threat to our wages and our standard of living.”
But factory closure came early in Kenosha: Chrysler bought AMC in 1987 and shut down the lakefront plant. The county began rebuilding with non-union warehouse jobs, eventually attracting the Amazon and Uline distribution centers by offering tax breaks and free land. In 2009, Chrysler received $12.5 billion in government bailouts, then promptly announced that it would be shuttering its only remaining factory in the region, an engine plant a mile inland that employed some eight hundred people.
Another article in Harper’s Magazine sketched out the gradual loss of civic pride as large businesses fled:
Kenosha was once an iconic union town—home to a massive United Auto Workers local, to say nothing of the Jockey, Snap-on, and American Brass plants that had, not too long ago, made it one the world’s great manufacturing centers.
“You’ve got a group of people out there, and a fairly large group of people, that are angry, and they feel like they’ve been left behind,” said [Democratic mayor, John] Antaramian. “I don’t know if NAFTA was reversed they would come back. I think it’s not policy but root policy.”
By root policy, Antaramian was talking about offering ordinary people a sense of meaningful participation in public life. And even though I hadn’t seen much outright anger, I thought I knew what he meant—that the anger he saw wasn’t so much rage against elites or ethnic resentment or a hankering for lost industrial glory as it was a desire for an America that was actually responsive to their voices and input.
The record of job losses and outsourcing is shown at the Department of Labor’s Trade Adjustment Assistance site. In 2012, for example, the Envelope Product Group fired 120 workers as competition forced the company to consolidate production in Canada.
Visa programs are also outsourcing Wisconsin jobs to foreign graduates. In 2017, for example, Wisconsin companies asked for visas to import 10,770 foreign white-collar workers to take jobs from local Americans.
The stock market cheers 'diversity!' as it outsources factories & cubicles.
Blue-collar jobs to Mex, China, Vietnm
White-collar jobs to India & imported diversity.
So blues elected Trump 4 US jobs.
Under-employed Antifa grads fight for more 'diversity.' https://t.co/DLx5EAyqi4
— Neil Munro (@NeilMunroDC) June 7, 2020
The federal delivery of low-wage immigrants and visa workers to employers shifts investment, jobs, payrolls, and wealth from Wisconsin and other Midwest states out to the coasts. The greatest victims are lower-income workers, including blacks in nearby Milwaukee.
GOP and Democratic politicians defer to business demands for compliant workers, instead of voters’ pleas for decent wages. In May 2017, for example, Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wisc., announced his support for a bill that would allow state official to import foreign workers for local employers, saying:
Why can’t Wisconsin manufacturers, why can’t small businesses, find enough people to work? You got to ask those hard questions… It is not going to be a government program that is going to solve that [worker decline], but smart government policy, things like the [immigration] bill we’re going to be introducing with the help of CATO today … [It] is a really good direction to move. Give a it a shot. Let’s see how much better the states do. My guess is that they will do a whole lot better than a one-size-fits-all federal [foreign worker] program.
For many sidelined Americans, drugs fill their time. In May 2019, James Poltrock, the emergency services division chief at the Kenosha Fire Department. told Kenosha News:
“Between April 20 and May 9, a 20-day time frame, we responded to 23 opioid overdose calls,” Poltrock said. “Fifty-seven percent of all the opioid overdose calls we have had this year occurred in 20 days.”
“The youngest victim was 21 — we had three who were 21. The oldest was 64. The average age was 38,” Poltrock said. “Of the 23, 17 were male, six were female.”
From Jan. 1 through May 12, Poltrock said, there were 79 overdose calls in the city, 40 of those opioid related.
The Washington Post’s article about the Rittenhouse shooting largely ignored the state’s downward economic history. Until recently, the liberal editors and reporters would have been eager to showcase the connection between government or corporate policy and poverty, drugs, or violence.
But the Washington Post‘s coverage now reflects the easy alliance between the nation’s business establishment, their allies in elite left-wing groups (dubbed progressives), and many alienated blue-collars and white-collars
The paper is owned by Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon, an advocate for migration and outsourcing, and the world’s richest man. His progressive editors are loath to show the impact of Bezos’ political priorities on the deteriorating income and status of ordinary Americans. “College-educated coastal folks just don’t [want to] see any connection there,” said Krikorian.
Mass immigration shifts investment, jobs & wealth from the central states to the coastal states.
NY shows how Trump partly reversed the wealth transfer by curbing migration.
Yet GOP pols keep voting for immigration that makes their states poorer. #H1B https://t.co/NsKy7qY76V
— Neil Munro (@NeilMunroDC) September 19, 2020