MB: You make a great point about the declining cities reinventing themselves. I grew up in Pittsburgh. I live one block from the Jones & Laughlin mill on the South Side. Pittsburgh always had an interesting dynamic where the Republican millionaires (Mellons & Hillmans for example) and the Democratic politicians worked together to constantly improve the city. As a result when the mills closed they threw themselves into redevelopment. As a result Pittsburgh is a very livable city with high companies growing with the likes of the conglomerates like Heinz food. My last trip to Pittsburgh I had lunch with my sister and her husband at an upscale restaurant on the former site of the steel mill.
What did it take, it took people with divergent points of view looking to the future and doing what was best for the overall good. Strong family ties, pride of place and an ethos of hard work all played a part. People were poor but they made sure the sidewalk was swept, the windows were clean. People look at the success my wife and I and our kids have achieved and wonder where the determination and drive came from.
Whether its the Upper Midwest, New England, or the South hard working people forged a great country, and wonder how it could have gone so wrong. It went so wrong because not enough people passed it on to their kids.