You could forgive the good folks of Elkhart, Indiana, where President Obama held a town meeting Monday, for viewing the current impassioned debate about dueling economic stimulus plans as so much arcane abstraction, full of the sound and fury of insider politics but largely unrelated to their RV-vanishing, haircut-challenged lives. As always, they're just trying to get by, thanks.
Obama apparently chose Elkhart to stump for his stimulus plan because it so perfectly, painfully reflects the new hard times. With RV production and sales, its largest industry, plummeting, unemployment there has tripled in the last year, jumping more than any metropolitan area in the country, according to ABC News.
These days, the feet-on-the-ground news from Elkhart has little to do with centrist cabals and alternative minimum taxes. Much as they always have, folks seem intent on getting by as best they can. They have to work harder at it now, of course, though like many people in many places they are finding creative ways to do it – by buying local, keeping their spirits up, helping out at the homeless shelter. Even when pummeled by disastrous Republican policy, we are a resilient species.
And talk about your nitty-gritty. Haircuts, at such times, are a luxury. Enter Lowell Thomas, longtime proprietor of Lowell's Barber Shop, who is now offering his usual $13 haircuts for a nicely trimmed $8 to the unemployed. Some people are embarrassed to take him up on the offer, but they shouldn't be, he says: "Five bucks is five bucks, anyway you look at it."
Let the cabalists and commentators and filibusters keep it in mind, and keep it real. For more on Elkhard, where the hard times have also brought more robberies at the 7-11, go here