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.
All of this makes for a great national backdrop for Obama to sell his spending/stimulus plan and promote his promise of creating “three to four million jobs over the next two years.” But the reality is that nothing in the Obama plan is likely to do anything to save Elkhart. The Obama administration is already scrapping Bush administration plans to open more areas in the U.S. for oil and natural gas exploration and drilling. The new administration’s focus on exploiting any and all energy sources except American oil will help push gasoline prices back up to the $4-5 a gallon range that eviscerated the RV industry in Elkhart in the first place. Obama’s “cap and trade” plans will certainly not rescue Elkhart’s primary manufacturing base from oblivion. And will the new, more restrictive environmental rules and regulations that are intended to wean America from pickup trucks and SUVs (whether we like it or not) provide any help to industries that rely on those vehicles to tow their campers and trailers?
President Obama plans to help 95% of the taxpayers at the expense of the “evil rich top five percent.” But that top five percent are the ones who may buy the expensive RVs that Elkhart makes … if they have the money left over to do so. And exactly how are the billions in pork barrel spending on smoking cessation programs, electric golf carts, and Frisbee parks going to revitalize the RV industry?
The bottom line is that the trillion dollar spending orgy that President Obama touted in Elkhart and reiterated during his prime time press conference, will not cure the economic woes of that community. Once again, he is offering false hope and phony policies when people need results. A year from now will the mainstream media return to Elkhart and document the lack of results that flowed from Obama’s promises, or will they simply follow the roadshow to another gullible town?