Monday, October 13, 2008

Elkhart makes The New York Times

Surprised in too many ways when I saw the subject of the headline As Industries Dry Up, Frustration and Despair was Elkhart, Indiana:
ELKHART, Ind. — To understand just how grim things have gotten in this northern Indiana town, consider a new law passed last month by the City Council that limits residents to one garage sale a month.

It seems the perpetual garage sales — which for scores of people in this town are a sole source of income, and for others the only source of clothing — were annoying some residents. The restrictions will make the financial pinch that much tighter.

Guess I missed the local paper or the Indianapolis Star reporting on this.

Elkhart, near the Michigan border in an area known as Michiana, is the white-hot center of the meltdown of the American economy. Its main industries, the manufacturing of recreational vehicles and motor homes, have fallen apart over the last year because of high gasoline prices. That has taken down ancillary businesses like R.V. parts suppliers and storage warehouses.

The jobless rate in Elkhart has increased more than in any metropolitan area in the country; it rose over 4.8 percentage points from August 2007 to August 2008. According to labor statistics released this summer, nearly 10,000 people were out of work, a rate of 9.3 percent.

“I’m just dwindling to the bottom,” Melinda Owens, 24, said as she emerged from the unemployment office.

City services are on the decline, and hold-ups are on the rise — there were nine armed robberies or attempted armed robberies on convenience stores in just the last two weeks. On Friday, the front-page news of the paper, The Elkhart Truth, was about a local plastic company that was actually not closing its plant.

Since The Times could care less about Indiana politics, the following is both interesting and not:

Political yard signs in the area seem to be about half and half, and interviews with people on the unemployment line break about even, too. But that in itself may be remarkable. Indiana has voted for a Democrat for president exactly once since 1936: in 1964, when Lyndon B. Johnson took the state.

In some of the political talk, there are undercurrents of something other than concern about Mr. Obama’s relatively short experience in Washington.

“I think Obama’s kind of arrogant,” said Theresa Ghrist, 40, whose work schedule has been reduced at her R.V. plant. “When it comes down to it around here, people are going to vote color, and I don’t think people are ready to vote for a colored president. I don’t care myself, but at work a lot of people talk color there.”

A co-worker, Jim Podemski, agreed with her assessment, but added, “I wouldn’t want to vote Republican again.”

I wonder a bit more how this will impact the governor's race. I guess the governor's claim that he is improving the state economy depends on where you are looking. I suspect it does look rosy where he looks around his office.

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