During the past two weeks my computer has been flooded with e-mails from various interest groups concerning the U.S. Senate race in Massachusetts.

Since I am not — and have never been — a Massachusetts resident, I paid little attention. Frankly, it appeared to be a given that a seat held for more than 46 years by Sen. Ted Kennedy would go toward a progressive Democrat.

In the end, the Democratic candidate turned out to be so out of touch with voters that she handed the election to a candidate who vowed to kill health care reform at the national level.

Analysts are trying to dissect the election and figure out how a conservative could have easily won a seat in the most progressive state in the nation. One reason mentioned frequently is the frustration and anger the public has over the longest economic downturn since the 1930s.

When the economy is in distress, the party in power is always targeted by the voters. Citizens want to blame someone. And in this recession, there is enough blame to share.

But the public has a short memory if it places the blame for this economic downturn on the current administration. That would be analogous to President George W. Bush driving a car with President Obama in the passenger seat. President Bush drives the car over a cliff and halfway down the free fall, he hands the steering wheel over to Obama. Should the resulting destruction to the car be blamed on the passenger or the driver?

The origin of the current sorry state of our economy rests with decisions by members and presidents of both the Democratic and Republican parties who have approved trade agreements that have decimated our manufacturing base. The so-called free trade agreements have benefited only the stockholders of multinational companies at the expense of the many U.S. citizens who once held high-paying, benefit-providing jobs.

The Midcoast has seen its share of pain over the past few decades from these corrupt policies approved by our so-called leaders in Washington. There have been some members of Congress who have warned of the destruction of our middle class but their voices have been largely ignored by the national broadcast media outlets — which are run by large corporations.

Manufacturing jobs once accounted for one out of every six jobs in the Rockland area. Those jobs were the backbone of our economy. They paid a living wage that allowed families to buy a home, afford the mortgage payments and put the children through college.

Over the years, however, those jobs have disappeared, with the companies shifting work overseas to Third World countries that pay near slave wages, provide no benefits, adhere to no environmental regulations, and offer no safety standards for their workers.

Nautica Enterprises is the classic example of this shift in jobs. Nautica was once one of the largest employers in the region with a manufacturing plant on Camden Street in Rockland. The company employed hundreds of local people who worked hard to produce high-quality clothing.

About 1990, however, Nautica’s board of directors decided the company could earn far more money if it closed plants in the United States and sent those jobs to Asia. The Nautica plant became a distribution center and later a vacant building. The robes and other apparel produced in Rockland are now produced in plants where workers make 25 cents an hour if they are fortunate and work 60 to 70 hours a week.

As the country and region lost those jobs, citizens had to instead find jobs that paid far less and offered fewer, if any, benefits.

By 2008, manufacturing jobs made up less than one in 10 jobs in Knox County. Those remaining manufacturing jobs, however, paid far more —  $42,175 a year — than the average job in the county. The greatest growth in local jobs over the past 20 years has been in the leisure and hospitality industry. These jobs have paid an average annual wage of $18,943.

Clearly, a person earning that kind of money is not going to be able to pay a mortgage, pay normal living expenses, and have any chance of putting their children through college.

The anger that has been fueled by insurance companies and other large corporations over the attempt to provide universal health care insurance for citizens has been misplaced. The anger should be at our elected leaders who have allowed our jobs to be lost in the name of profit for the wealthy stockholders of multinational corporations.

The presidents and the majority of members of Congress have allowed our wages to decline as we embark on a race to the bottom.

The country should look for politicians who focus on this issue rather than those who try to convince us that health care is an evil plot by progressives to take control of our lives.

Until we protect our manufacturing base with reasonable trade deals that prevent our country from being flooded with cheap goods produced by countries with no minimum wage, no environmental regulations, and no occupational safety regulations, there is little hope for a sustained economic recovery.