The NYTimes has a stunning travel story, The Russia Left Behind, open free to the public. It is a journey from St. Petersburg to Moscow not by plane or high-speed train; but by motor car – sort of like a Route 66 trip in the USA.
The Times tells us at the journey’s outset:
On the jarring, 12-hour drive from St. Petersburg to Moscow, another Russia comes into view,
one where people struggle with problems that belong to past centuries
This is a look by the NYTimes at a Russia that echoes the milieu of Tolstoy and Dostoevsky – yawning inequality. It is as if nothing happened during the Russian Revolution and the Stalin years but to imprint a centuries old social impasse. Stunning photos, video and an ever present sidebar map that traces the trip from St. Petersburg to Moscow. there are no ads, no publishing chrome – just the searing images and stories of Russians livingat the edge of dignity between the two mega cities. But there is an echo trip in the USA
The Echo Trip – New York to Chicago
Just as the USA’s claim to be the Beacon on the Hill for Democracy wavers in the Washington’s machinations, there is a similar trip through the USA heartland that visits once powerhouse cities now rusted out and plagued with joblessness. And again Great Inequality of Economic Well-being is the driving force. Start in New York, the creator city through Wall Street of the Great Inequality by means of the 2007-2009 Great Recession and 30 Years of Trickle Down Larceny. Just across the river, Newark New Jersey with a 24.2% poverty rate among city families shows the poverty problem. Down US95 and Philadelphia PA has 10.2% official unemployment and 25.1% poverty rate. Swing onto US476 and arrive in Allentown-Bethlehem at 10.8% unemployment and twice rusted.
As you travel West along US76 the unemployement rate drops to just under 7% in Pittsburgh. But traveling West on US76 and Akron brings the unemployment rate up again while Cleveland has a poverty rate of 27.1%. But just down US80 and turn up at US75 and Detroit Michigan has a whopping 32.5% poverty rate. Heading West on US94 and Jackson, Kalamazoo, and Benton Harbor all show gradually increasing unemployment rates from 8.4 to 9.8%. The swing on Lake Michigan shows Gary Indiana, once a throbbing industrial city hovering around 10% unemployment. Ride on into Chicago and the unemployment rate dips to 9.2% but now you are in the Presidents hometown and Murder City USA.
Now this poverty and unemployment trip could have taken many USA routes – say Chareleston SC through Atlanta GA, Birmingham AL to NewOrleans LA with similar effects. Even following Route 66, has some harrowing scenes of poverty and unemployment along the way.
What is the common denominator between Russia and the USA? Great Inequality of Income and Wealth. Not for lack of trying – certainly in the USA. For many of these cities and towns just mentioned had great comfort and wealth just a few decades ago. The real Economic Well Being diagnosis is how did great swaths of America give up prosperity that was never truly available along great tracks in Russia?