The Economy Today: Eye on Elkhart

A roundup of national and regional economic headlines

The major news outlets carry advance looks at President Barack Obama’s return trip to Elkhart, Ind., a Midwestern manufacturing town that one report dubs the nation’s “unemployment capital.” The president traveled to Elkhart twice in 2008 while on the campaign trail, returned in February to build support for the federal stimulus package, and is back today to announce federal grants and tout his administration’s response to the recession. The New York Times’s dispatch from Elkhart paints the scene there as grim, with the first quote given to a resident who describes the situation as “hopeless.”

A related NYT piece from Washington notes that GDP growth won’t mean much to Americans if national unemployment cracks 10 percent, as it may do when new data is released Friday. But the Los Angeles Times presents a somewhat more optimistic picture in its story from Elkhart, reporting that “[p]eople here say they have begun to see a slight turn in their world.”

In the other major papers, The Washington Post reports that the gubernatorial election in Virginia this fall is shaping up as a referendum on Obama’s economic policies. “Nothing’s changed for the common guy,” says one disillusioned supporter. “I feel like I’ve been punked.” The Post also features an interesting story from Standish, Mich., where residents are so eager to keep the local prison—and the 340 jobs it provides—open that they’ll accept prisoners from other states, or even Guantanamo Bay.

The Wall Street Journal, meanwhile, keeps following the stimulus beat. The WSJ reports that the flow of funds for infrastructure projects is moving too slowly to allow much of the work to start during the summer construction season. The story focuses more on the political fall-out than the economic consequences of the slow pace. The gradual start, according to the Journal, “is providing fodder to critics of the recovery act who say it was overhyped as a way to quickly boost the economy. “

There’s plenty of stimulus tracking in regional papers today, too, much of it with a more positive tone. The Dallas Morning News, last seen noting that some communities have struggled to put stimulus funds to use, reports today that federal money will help Dallas expand its police force. And in California, the jobs of officers in Santa Cruz will be spared thanks to the arrival of stimulus funds, reports the Mercury News.

Out in Montana, about 700 teens have jobs this summer thanks to $2 million in stimulus money, according to The Bozeman Daily Chronicle. Finally, from Wisconsin, two stimulus-related stories: The Superior Telegram reports that millions in federal money will help build stormwater systems in two towns. And with the House in recess, Rep. David Obey went back to Chippewa Falls, where he was warmly welcomed by local firefighters, according to the Chippewa Herald.

Has America ever needed a media watchdog more than now? Help us by joining CJR today.

Greg Marx is an associate editor at CJR. Follow him on Twitter @gregamarx.