The Obama Permanent Campaign Team blew into Elkhart, Indiana, earlier this week. The residents of Elkhart have been hurting lately as the community has seen the unemployment rate rise from 4.7% a year ago to 15.3% today. Their sad story made them a perfect prop for President Barack Obama to use in selling his “Porkulus Spending Plan.” His pitch is based on the argument that job losses will continue unless his plan is passed immediately. But like most snake oil salesmen, the Obama sales pitch is so much better than the product.
Elkhart has not seen its unemployment rate skyrocket because of the “Bush tax cuts.” Nor is its misery a product of the “evil rich” making out at the expense of the middle class. Elkhart is in economic free fall is because it has virtually built its entire economy upon the foundation of a product that is not selling today. And it’s not selling largely because of the policies of President Obama and his Democratic Party cronies.
Elkhart is the “RV Capital of the World. ” About 50% of the recreational vehicles made in the U.S. are made in Elkhart, which was a good thing when they were churning out and selling hundreds of thousands of trailers, campers, and mobile homes each year. But the market has plummeted in the past two years. Sales have dropped 75% since 2007, with the bottom dropping out of the market in 2008, when gasoline prices spiked towards $5 a gallon.
As a result of the implosion of the RV market, the manufacturers located in Elkhart have been closing up business and eliminating workers. Jayco — one of the larger employers in the area — has laid off half its workforce: over 1,000 people. In September 2008 Monaco Coach closed its plant, putting 1,400 out of work. And just last week another manufacturer — Keystone — put 350 workers on the streets. The rest are hanging by a thread. The economic ripple effect of the collapse of the RV industry has threatened the livelihood of everybody in the community.