Hard-Hit Hoosiers Grill Obama

Elkhart, Ind., has lost hundreds of RV jobs in failed economy

Obama traveled today to Elkhart to talk about the American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan, his economic stimulus plan. 

The president spoke directly with Elkhart residents about the impact the plan will have on their lives. He then answered questions about the challenges that they face.

Making his case in the most dire terms, Obama said that if Congress does not quickly pass an economic stimulus package, the nation will slip into a crisis so deep that "we may be unable to reverse" it.

"We can't afford to wait. We can't wait to see and hope for the best," he said. "We can't posture and bicker and resort to the same failed ideas that got us in into this mess in the first place."

In Elkhart, where 8,000 jobs were lost and unemployment tripled in the last year alone.  The increase can mostly be attributed to layoffs in the RV industry which dominates local manufacturing.

Obama shared his specific plans to bring jobs back to the community, provide tax relief, and help lower the cost of health care and college for working families. Click here for Indiana-specific information detailing the employment, infrastructure, education, and health care impacts of the recovery plan.

The President was joined today by Secretary Ray LaHood, Sen. Evan Bayh, Representatives Joe Donnelly, Baron Hill, Brad Ellsworth, Fred Upton, and Andre Carson, and former Representatives Tim Roemer and Lee Hamilton.

The northern Indiana community is at the heart of the nation's recreational vehicle industry. 

Hundreds of workers have lost their jobs at RV makers such as Monaco Coach Corp., Keystone RV Co. and Pilgrim International. Only a year ago, the unemployment rate in the Elkhart area was 4.7 percent.

The president is trying to sell his economic plan in the area where the unemployment rate hit 15.3 percent in December -- up from 4.7 percent a year earlier.

Elkhart Central High School student Anna Davila said she waited for five hours to get a free ticket on Saturday and came early to Concord High School to be at the front of the line so she would be sure to get a good seat.

Concord High continued to hold classes Monday as the town hall meeting took place.

In the meantime, Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin is urging his fellow U.S. senators to approve Obama's stimulus package, which he says is big enough to get the job done the first time.

Durbin said he's afraid lawmakers will have to pass another stimulus package if they cut corners with this one. Durbin added that "tossing a tea cup full of water on this fire may not put it out."

At a news conference Monday, the Illinois senator said history won't care who voted for the bill. It will care that they turned the economy around.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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