March 11, 2009
In early February, President Obama was looking for a place to symbolize the recession. He wanted to rally support for his proposed $800 billion bailout of the economy, a bailout that he admitted would send the Federal government’s annual deficit to $1.7 trillion in fiscal 2010.
[efoods]He chose Elkhart, Indiana, which advertises itself as the recreation vehicle capital of America, and hence the world. Elkhart’s economy has collapsed. There is 15% unemployment and no hope in sight.
For years, the RV industry grew. The scene in About Schmidt was representative. The retired middle manager bought an RV for his retirement. Then his wife died. He went out on the open road by himself. He went back to his home town. Nothing remained of the places he remembered.
This industry is today representative of the profound economic breakdown we are experiencing. This is not business as usual. The industry is close to collapse.
In 2005, the Indiana Business Magazine ran a story: "On a roll? What’s behind the dramatic growth of Indiana’s RV industry? Baby Boomers buying vs. higher fuel costs." It reflected the final year of Greenspan’s decade-long bubble economy. Like California housing, the RV industry seemed to levitate high above economic rationality.
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