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Struggling Americans to candidates: Fix the economy, stupid

By MIRA OBERMAN
October 25, 2010

helsey Nusbaum picks out food at the Church Community Services food bank in Elkhart, Indiana (AFP/Mira Oberman)

Boarded-up homes and empty storefronts dot the once-prosperous town of Elkhart, Indiana, where those still struggling to recover from the economic collapse of 2008 have a simple message for politicians ahead of key mid-term elections: fix the economy, stupid.

While the worst economic downturn to strike the United States since the Great Depression may have officially ended in June of last year, some 14.1 million people across the country remain officially unemployed.

That’s a strong improvement from the 16.1 million who were actively looking for work when unemployment peaked at 10.6 percent in January.

But it’s a far cry from where things were a couple years ago when jobs were plentiful, and the unemployment rate hovered around five percent.

Polls show that around 60 percent of Americans think the country is headed in the wrong direction and about three quarters think Congress is doing a bad job.

Incumbents across the country — and President Barack Obama‘s Democrats in particular — are expected to take a big hit at the polls on November 2.

Roger Fox, 57, laughed when asked if he thinks politicians are doing a good job of handling the economy.

He’s been out of work for a year now and would rather place his faith in prayer.

Things are starting to look up, he said as he filled a cart at a busy food bank in Elkhart, Indiana.

“Target called me for Christmas help,” he said, referring to the large retailer. “This is the first time in a long time I’ve had a call for an interview.”

Elkhart Mayor Dick Moore is unabashedly optimistic about the economy and credits Obama’s stewardship and a massive government-funded stimulus program for averting a much deeper downturn.

“If the rest of the nation underwent the same recovery in unemployment as we have we’d be in good shape,” Moore told AFP.

“The problem for us is we have further to go.”

Elkhart has become a bellwether for the state of the nation’s economy after Obama visited the town four times — twice as a candidate and twice as a president — to highlight his economic policies and efforts to turn things around.

The midwestern town of 53,000 is largely dependent on manufacturing, particularly of recreational vehicles, and it was one of the first places to feel the pinch as RV orders dried up in 2008 amid high fuel prices and economic uncertainty.

Elkhart soon had the highest unemployment rate in the country, which topped out at a whopping 22.2 percent in January 2010.

The official unemployment rate has fallen to 15.3 percent — or 3,341 people in August — but that’s more than double the 6.6 percent posted in January 2008 when there were 3,316 more people in the official labor force.

DeCarla Lane, 37, is among those who want a job but aren’t officially unemployed. She was laid off two months ago, but was told she can’t collect unemployment insurance because she had only been working for about six months.

“They need to do more about jobs around here,” Lane said of politicians. “I’m about to lose my apartment. I don’t know where to turn to. It’s really hard.”

Moore, a Democrat in a Republican-leaning state, doesn’t think his party has done a good job of “tooting their own horn” and explaining to the public how much they’ve accomplished despite some pretty tough odds.

“We’ve done so much in 18 months, it’s incredible,” said Moore, 76, who watched his parents struggle through the Great Depression.

“It’s not going to work as fast as people want, but it’s going to work.”

Moore estimates that about 40 million dollars of stimulus projects have come to the Elkhart area to help repair roads, rebuild the local theatre, tear down an abandoned downtown foundry, and install energy-efficient windows in city hall, among others.

Elkhart’s high profile has helped it draw in new business — like the Norwegian electric car company Think which plans to build a new plant here — and established companies are starting to hire back workers.

Things aren’t working fast enough for Chelsey Nusbaum, 22, a stay-at-home mother who voted for Obama in 2008 and now thinks she made a mistake.

“I think the president could do more for our economy,” said Nusbaum, who has seen too many friends and family members lose their jobs and their homes.

“We’re struggling a lot more now than we were. He should be able to accomplish so much more.”

Copyright © 2010 AFP

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5 Responses to Struggling Americans to candidates: Fix the economy, stupid

  1. woody188

    October 25, 2010 at 8:04 pm

    Folks, you ain’t seen nothing yet. Just wait in two years when the social programs grow too large to support all those in need and fail. Then we’ll see real desperation and despair like has never been seen in this country in over 100 years.

  2. Carl Nemo

    October 25, 2010 at 9:40 pm

    People are suffering the collapse of the “FIRE” economy; ie, finance, insurance and real estate. Due to the emergence of this corrupt, lazy man’s way to riches that emerged in the 80’s to present. The end result has been the destruction of respect for labor in this country with labor intensive industries massively off-shored to zones of cheap labor, the end result the disappearance of tens of millions of jobs from our shores. They aren’t coming back either unless someone at the top realizes we need to start manufacturing our own household items again; ie., tools, textiles, clothing, shoes etc. while Americans aggressively shun products from these engineered offshore bastions of NWO manufacturing such as China, India and Malaysia. We really don’t need them to make the vast majority of our domestic products. This “FIRE” economy paradigm is also responsible for our massive and seemingly shameless ‘trade deficit” which is another sorry aspect of the national plight in which we find ourselves, along with a collapsing currency valuation and astronomical, unpayable public debt.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/FIRE_economy

    The main exports from this country from the ports of New York and Long Beach are scrap metal and cardboard; no doubt from the boxes of cheap “beanie baby” crap we relentlessly purchase from these offshore suppliers. Just visit a “Dollar Store” and one’s head will swim as they survey the mountains of cheap crap that’s headed for the local landfill in short order. They surely can make it cheaply, while we took pride in making a product last. Our main exports are raw materials, ag products and the weapons of war which don’t supply enough jobs for the general population to survive. We now have over 40 million people on food stamps and true unemployment, both short to long term is probably closer to 18% and not the cooked stats provided by our now criminally disposed government with a “dark agenda” for “We the People”.

    Since our duly elected criimpols do the bidding of their corporatist masters through their puppet paddling lobbyists it seems there is to be no turning about until the entire system or lack thereof collapses under its own market inefficiences.

    People need jobs. Everyone cannot be an engineer, scientist, doctor, lawyer or some other higher order profession. Our leadership needs to wake up and realize we need to reinstitute a business friendly environment that encourages the replacement of manufacturing jobs that cater to what is referred to as “blue collar” class while supplying everyday goods for the very sustenance of life.

    What happens if hostilities break out between China and Japan, Korea or the U.S. directly? People are going to be hard pressed to replace their clothing, housewares, tools and a host of other goods and services that are now being handled by these offshore entities. Our current batch of politicians never address this issue and are generally evasive when it comes to rebuildiing our manufacturing base. They’ve been compromised by dark forces that are hell bent on reducing the nation state status of the U.S. to simply a minor plantation within their greater global enterprise.

    Maybe we should all think about ending so-called free-trade. Lincoln was deadset against it. Only the South was for free-trade.

    *****

    “I do not know much about the tariff, but I know this much, when we buy manufactured goods abroad, we get the goods and the foreigner gets the money. When we buy the manufactured goods at home, we get both the goods and the money.” — Abraham Lincoln

    *****

    Carl Nemo **==

    • Thomas Bonsell

      October 28, 2010 at 2:41 pm

      “We need to reinstitute a business friendly environment.”

      Are you sure this is what’s needed? We have had a succession of “business-friendly” administrations since World War I and look at where that has gotten us.

      Cal Coolidge said “the business of America is business” so he stopped enforcing trust-busting introduced by GOP Teddy Roosevelt and instituted a series of tax cuts for the wealthy. Result: the Great Depression.

      Ronnie Reagan took up the Coolidge agenda with tax cutting for the wealthy and deregulation of business, That’s business friendly and look what we got. Massive recession and out-of-control deficits.

      George Bush the Daddy and George Bush the Deluded followed in the Coolidge-Reagan footsteps and we have disaster.

      Do you not know that every ‘business-friendly” Republican administration since WWI has presided over a recession (Eisenhower had three, Bush the Deluded had two) or a depression. Only two Democrat administrations have had recessions: Harry Truman in 1948 when the economy came to a virtual halt as we switched from wartime production to peacetime production and Jimmy Carter whose recession was the shortest and mildest of them all and caused more by the iranian revolution’s oil embargo than by policy.

      Our “business-friendly” politicians have been running the country like a business for all that time — like Enron — and look where it has gotten us.

      We need an environment in which under-handed fatcats get their butts kicked hard and often. There was nothing wrong with “bailing out” Wall Street; that was needed to prevent a collapse of the financial section of the economy, which would have brought down other sections. The problem was those who caused the catastrophe have not gotten their well-deserved comeuppance. Letting them off the hook is about as “business friendly” as can be expected.

      Up here in God’s Really Excellent And Tolerant (GREAT) Northwest we have an idiot politician outside off Seattle running for Congress who promises to balance the federal budget by eliminating “waste and fraud.” Gee, how genius of him. One wonders why such an astute solution never occurred to anyone in the Reagan, Bush the Daddy and Bush the Deluded administrations. Perhaps it was it isn’t that easy but this fool assumes he can fool the voters into thinking it is.

      Yes, we need better, but going back to the same stupidity that caused our problems isn’t the answer.

      • Carl Nemo

        October 28, 2010 at 4:43 pm

        “Our leadership needs to wake up and realize [ we need to reinstitute a business friendly environment ] that encourages the replacement of manufacturing jobs that cater to what is referred to as “blue collar” class while supplying everyday goods for the very sustenance of life. …extract from post my brackets

        Hi Thomas,

        I thought I’d supply the entire paragraph rather than simply a phrase that can be taken out of context. My thoughts on this revolved around the concept of rebuildinig our domestic manufacturing base in order to supply jobs of some kind for the greater unwashed masses that are now milling about unemployed and with little to no hope of regaining their former way of life with what’s available in the labor markets. There’s nothing to fill the vacuum created by the massive off-shoring that’s been allowed to occur since Nixon opened up China at the behest of David Rockefeller & Co, looking to exploit the massive cheap labor markets in the Far East, India and Malaysia. Everyone cannot be an engineer, scientist, doctor, lawyer or some other higher order profession.

        I have no quarrel with your post concerning Republicans vs. Dems of yore, but now they’ve merged into a duopoly and there’s little difference between the two; ie., both being rabid spendthrifts of taxpayer money, indebting this nation til the 12th of forever…! We’re suffering the ravages of capitalism gone bad; ie., “pirate capitalism” with CEO’s and CFO’s running modern corporations no differently than “Black Beard” wreaking havoc while plying the high seas; they with their criminally disposed management of finance, real estate, insurance and the markets themselves. To put it simply, they are crooks that need to be brought to justice. Will it happen? Most likely not. We’re headed for a “Brave New World” indeed. / : |

        *****
        “I am a most unhappy man. I have unwittingly ruined my country. A great industrial nation is controlled by its system of credit. Our system of credit is concentrated. The growth of the nation, therefore, and all our activities are in the hands of a few men. We have come to be one of the worst ruled, one of the most completely controlled and dominated Governments in the civilized world no longer a Government by free opinion, no longer a Government by conviction and the vote of the majority, but a Government by the opinion and duress of a small group of dominant men.” …Woodrow Wilson-Dem re: creation of the Federal Reserve

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Woodrow_Wilson

        *****

        Thanks for your response to my post.

        Carl Nemo **==

  3. eve

    October 27, 2010 at 11:15 pm

    Great Abraham Lincoln quote CarlNemo!