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Economic depression. We lack an equatable and just society, so we are depressed.

I have been reading much on the economy on Daily Kos and thanks to Bonddad, I have a better understanding of the situation at hand.
I would like write about the economy in Rockford, IL. We have been hammered by one of the worst winters in 30 years, our roads are in a state of neglect from the lack of road money. The schools erupt in mass melee. Chrysler hired  a 3rd shift only to lay it off a year later. Rockford is full of empty factories. We used to have many manufacturers. We were the screw capital of the world. Screw manufacturers with the names Rockford Products, Textron, Elco, Camcar, Rockwell, Greenlee to name a few. Funny how a smaller manufacturer is bought out by a larger one and then the smaller one is shut down and the machines are shipped overseas.

I have witnessed this city transform from a proud city to a shell of a community. The number of residents of Winnebago county that receive some sort of government assistance is 68,000 in a county of 270.000 this number is high compared to the numbers from the great depression.

I live in the urban area of Rockford on a street called Broadway.
Broadway is suffering from the lack of persons with money in their pockets. 40 years ago Broadway was filled with diners, shops, single room occupancy/hotels and the services needed to fill the needs of the workers. Around 15-17 thousand people worked with in a mile of Broadway, now it is around 2 thousand. The lack of work is heartbreaking. I mean real work, sure you can flip burgers or work at a retail store/call center, but a job were you can earn enough to join the middle class is a thing of the past. The word is that Rockford does not have a population that is employable, apparently we can not pass drug(cannabis) or background tests in enough numbers to warrant a major corporation from opening a manufacturing plant.

I read of the things we could build here. Such as Windmills, Electric cars, Solar cells, Nano-tech manufacturing and Titanium processing, the list can go on. Our city lacks capital to invest in itself. Gone are the days of the Industrialist who would build a plant here. We have lost the ability to shape our destiny. Our manufacturers were homegrown who cared for this community. They died off and their heirs, sold off the plants to the titans of finance, who looked at our capital as something to be shipped overseas. The City of Rockford has not recovered from Nixon/Ronald Reagan. My home town is now a place were the only way to earn a living is by selling drugs or your body to people from around Illinois and Wisconsin. That's why we have so many felons.  

  Rockford has many good things about it. Emigrants from Sweden, Germany, Italy, Ireland, Poland and Lithuanian settled in Rockford. To work in the furniture factories and other industrial ventures. Union organizing was part of our proud past. We had a Socialist mayor in our distant past. Rockford was a center of Socialist thought and is reflected in the number of parks in our city. Al Capone was a big player in Rockford using his money to develop the southwest quadrant of the city. Rockford also was the home of Camp Grant a Army training camp that trained boys to fight in WW I and later medical corpsmen for WW II, also Camp Grant was the home to German POW's. We are ideally located along the Rock river in Northern Illinois, just hours away from Chicago, Milwaukee and Madison. We as a city have a good infrastructure of rail, roads and air, along with a good quantity of empty factories. Improvements regarding rail service to Chicago are in the works. Rockford is also working to improve its waterfront by adding a river walk.

  The most important issue facing our community is the breakdown of society. Rockford is a microcosm of the nation. We are often used as a test market for new products. Reflecting that we indeed are a mirror of the nation. Rockford is suffering because of the lack of hope. We need hope to restore our faith in the Union. We are on the brink of becoming a feudal society. The permanent underclass that is established is a result of the war on drugs.
Felon's are unable to work in many fields.
Many of you think that is a good idea but when you examine an issue based just on money value. For example Drug possession is the quickest route to becoming a member of the permanent underclass. So $10.00 worth of a contraband product is enough to permanently alter your ability to earn money in the corporate world. Felons are being exploited for crimes that did not exist 100 years ago. Felons are lining the pockets of the robber barons. Felons have created a industry based on the misery of their incarceration. Corporate run prisons and industries based in public prisons are lining the pockets of the rich. Prisons are nothing more then warehouses full of workers. Then they soak the taxpayer for the care of the inmate. while extracting profit from the labor performed by the inmates. This is nothing more then slavery. Funny how most of the slaves are black or brown.

  Upon release from prison your life is forever changed. From this day forward you are now a member of the permanent underclass. A wide range of employment opportunities are permanently closed to you. I wont even go into the list of jobs it excludes you from, it would fill the entire page.    
So this results in hope being stripped away from you.
Folks start to act out when they lack hope. The lack of hope is a virus, it spreads through the community. The symptoms of this can be seen in the abandoned factories, houses and businesses of our city. The decay of America is heartbreaking. It seems overwhelming the amount of work that needs to be done to bring our Society in to 21st century.
Change is the only way towards a future of peace and harmony. Peace amongst the tribes of man and harmony with the natural world around us.

Barak Obama represent that hope for a better future. The speeches that he gives warms my heart, touches the part of me that has not been addressed. His oratory strength equals JFK or MLK. At this time what this Nation needs is a courageous and intelligent voice. To me Barak represents the healer of this nation. Let it be! whisper words of wisdom, let it be. He is the light that is shinning through the cold night, the darkness is lifted when he speaks. The audacity of hope is right. I was sitting on the side lines waiting to decide on the candidate to back as Dennis was not going to carry the day. I was at first backing Clinton. I thought it was time to put a woman into the White House as a president and not the First Lady. Part of me wants a return of the "goodtimes" that were associated with the Clinton years. That changed on the day I heard Obama's speech on a more perfect union. His speech moved me as no speech has done. If we can not as a nation come to the consensuses that our Society has become the victim of exploitation by the Upper classes, then we are indeed finished as a nation.
Society is divided by Class. The upper class has work very hard to keep the lower classes divided, at each others throat for the scraps that trickle down from on high.The

 Barak Obama represents to me the hope of a better way. A restoration of  the Constitution, of government for the people, not just rich folks. A return to a logical system of checks and balances that were established over 200 years ago and diminished over the last 30 years of conservative rule. Yes folks, the Clinton's are conservative. Mr Obama is a Constitutional Scholar, a teacher, a father, a husband, and he is the best candidate that we have been allowed to choose from in a long time.
The job of restoring our standing in the world is going to take a man of conviction and moral character that has been absent from the White House for 28 years. Barak Obama is that man.  

Originally posted to nuggatron on Sat Apr 05, 2008 at 01:11 PM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  As former resident of South Beloit, Illinois... (8+ / 0-)

    just a few miles north of Rockford, I feel your pain.

    Something must be done to help the industrial Midwest. There are many places in my native Wisconsin that are in the same tough times...

  •  I agree with you (6+ / 0-)

    I don't know what Rockford's problems are, but I've been there numerous times over the years, and it's getting uglier. I see other cities in the Midwest, and they look great. But not Rockford.

    It looks more like a Rustbelt town, than a Midwest town. A relative lost his job in the 70's and never again get one as good. Drugs got one of his kids.

  •  Good ol' Rockford (3+ / 0-)
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    musicsleuth, ebbinflo, willb48

    I live in the Main St/Auburn St area. Amerock is pretty much gone, Ingersoll is 1/20th of what it once was.

    Amerock does an interesting thing. The get parts made in Mexico and China. Half of it comes back as shit. US reworks it to make it decent product. Rework is charged to US, managers make great bonuses showing hoe much money they are saving making parts in Mexico and China, and how unprofitable the US is because they make no product but spend so much reworking the foreign crap. Good times. Good times.

    Good thing about Broadway- a fine "Lingerie Shop" and "Spa" economy! I kid! I kid!

    (-7.88, -7.95) I'm a non-union non-Chicago machine blue collar Illinois Democrat- because I care!

    by Poika on Sat Apr 05, 2008 at 01:45:53 PM PDT

  •  Sad, accurate, realisitc (5+ / 0-)
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    Poika, rilkas, ebbinflo, willb48, dotster

    I appreciate the diary.  I've passed through Rockford for many years on my way between Wisconsin and Chicago.  Like so many midwestern smaller cities, it's vitaility has slipped away -- in part through unintended consequences, but in part too as an entirely predictable result of short-sighted economics and bad policies (bad energy policy, bad transportation policy, bad development polic, bad agricultural policy, bad economic policy, bad education policy...).  

    The trends are part of a systemic problem, and turning them around will require systemic solutions that take notions of sustainability seriously -- social, economic, and environmental sustainability.  That I think is why we invest so much hope in Obama.  Most of know at some level that fundamental change is necessary if we are to reverse these trends.  We know that it won't come through McCain or Colinton.  We know that Obama will help at least to shake the shake up the status quo and get us out of this generational rut.

    So look to the future.  Rockford has a lot of advantages that other places don't.  I'm not smart enough to know what a sustainable future looks like, but my gut tells me it needs to be based on a revived local farming and small-scale manufacturing economy, on caring for and restoring degraded landscapes, on rebuilding viable communities, on a serious commitment to meaningful education, on a rediscovery of the uniqueness of the place.  We;ve tried bigger and cheaper, we've tried basing things on cheap fossil fuels, we've gone all out for homogenization... we need to walk in a new direction.  In Rockford, and everywhere.

  •  Reside in Grayslake, IL (3+ / 0-)
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    musicsleuth, Poika, dotster

    Or 60 miles or so east of Rockford, IL and know exactly what you are talking about.. Kudos for sharing and I also support Obama for the same reasons..

    It is dangerous to be right when the government is wrong.Voltaire-1694-1778 GO Cubs!

    by ebbinflo on Sat Apr 05, 2008 at 01:54:22 PM PDT

  •  I feel your pain, too (2+ / 0-)
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    ebbinflo, willb48

    I have family in Rockford and visit a few times every year. It's getting worse, worse, worse. It's in between Chicago, Milwaukee, and Madison. It's got railway and an airport. It's got a river. It simply makes no sense.

  •  good diary (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ebbinflo, willb48

    I'm very familiar with Rockford as I have family in southern Wisconsin & Chicagoland.

    One thing - I'm not sure I would list Al Capone being a big player under your list of "good things" about Rockford ;-)

  •  More than Forty Years Ago (2+ / 0-)
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    akeitz, ebbinflo

    The Brothers Four had a song, "The Rockford Line" - Rockford was already declining, it seems.

    The Rockford Line is a mighty good road
    The Rockford Line is the road to take

    This was written as the line was being shut down.  It had only historical significance.  The song begged schoolchildren to send in nickels and dimes to save the Rockford Line.  

    Once the railroad leaves, and the Interstate passes you by, is it all over?

    Get your ticket at the station
    On the Rockford line.

    We desperately need a new understanding of society, a new grasp of the reality that confronts us.  Instead, we seem to be regressing to Dickensian darkness.

    Perhaps Obama can lead us forward.  One can hope.  

  •  it's amazing how (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    your description of Rockford could apply just as well to the run-down parts of Philadelphia where I live. So much potential in infrastructure, yet so much poverty and sadness.

    The urban ghetto is now becoming the whole country. Or maybe it's that the whole country is turning into what the urban ghetto was.

    Probably the one reason things are going to change is that white people are waking up to what it's like to be part of the permanent underclass and joining ranks with brown and black people who have always known. We really haven't had anything like this since the 19th century.

    Thanks for such a heartfelt diary. I think more people should read what you wrote because this is the message everyone must hear. I wonder if it could be published somewhere else too?

    "I used to believe in the oneness of all religion. But now I believe in the noneness of all religion."

    by rilkas on Sat Apr 05, 2008 at 02:08:07 PM PDT

  •  As a resident of Freeport, IL (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    I agree with you assessment of Rockford. I have seen it first hand and I am not surprised it is one of the lowest ranked cities in this country. Good Diary.

  •  The Clock Tower Inn (2+ / 0-)
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    musicsleuth, ebbinflo

    ...always let me know we were getting real close to my Aunt's house on the long drive from Chicago.  

    I have not been there in a decade, since I left Illinois.  But I remember the slow and steady decline from my young childhood up until my early adulthood.  The city needs a good injection of hope and businesses investing in its future.

    Obama is your senator---and I am an Obama Mama through and through---What is he doing NOW to help your dying city?  I honestly don't know---is he doing anything at all?

  •  Greetings from McHenry County (3+ / 0-)

    30 miles east of Rockford, and you are right, the conditions there are a shame.  Admittedly, Rockford has been the brunt of jokes for a long long time.  It is only recently that I have become more familiar with the city.

    Two years ago my girlfriend began the RN program at Rock Valley College.  From my discussions with her, you can also add the tremendous health care resources as a reason that Rockford should be thriving.  But you can also add to the list of problems the city faces the strain that poverty puts on those same resources.

    A year and a half ago, I took a job with a company selling a maintenance device for industrial/commercial rooftops.  So I start making calls to old customers regarding up keep.  Taptite closed.  Chili's closed.  Culvers closed.  Velspar, either closed, closing, or production/budget cuts, I can't remember which.  And it went on and on.  Either no money or out of business.  

    My jokes about Rockford continued on.  But two weeks ago I had a job interview in downtown Rockford.  I saw the gorgeous architecture in the downtown area just east of the river and wondered why none of those streets are like State Street up in Madison.  I saw the nice area around Court street and wondered why all those empty storefronts are not packed with swanky lunch and cocktail establishments for the attorneys and government workers employed in the area.  I drove down Main street and imagined myself in a different era, when those mansions lining the River must have been grand.

    I am truly saddened by what I see in Rockford, and am ashamed at the twenty years of jokes I have made about what I only now realize must have once been a grand little city.  

    •  Mayor Morissey has tried to get the (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      downtown area revitalized.  Two old factory buildings down there, have been bought and sold over and over.  The County and City has offered great incentives for buyers, but nothing has happened.  There are some old buildings in the downtown area that have converted to lofts, and they've done well. Having New American Theatre close, hurt.  One of the big complaints for the downtown area is the lack of parking.  The Metro Centre has been remodeled.  It just needs more revenue from other areas than from the Rockford sports teams.  

      The sprawl on East State Street, Perryville Road, and 173 corridor, sent businesses from the core of Rockford, out there. Cherry Vale Mall is the only mall that survived and it is thriving.  

      My Dad worked for National Lock for 37 years, until they moved to the Carolinas.  There are a lot of empty factory buildings.  It just takes someone to have the incentive here and reinvent the base.  I think Rockford would be a great area for Green companies.

      You are correct about the medical facilities here.  Three large hosptials for the population would seem to be another good thing for the community.  Also, having the U of I College of Medicine.

      The airport is doing well, finally.  Now, it is time to get Metra here.  I think having Metra in the downtown area, would encourage more renovation for the downtown.  


  •  my Dad grew up there and Grandparents lived there (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    their entire lives. I still go back to visit Aunts, Uncles and cousins -- it seems to have been even harder hit than Pittsburgh. Hang in there!

    Note: Anyone talking about Obama's 'old-style Chicago politics' is not from Chicago

    by musicsleuth on Sat Apr 05, 2008 at 02:23:28 PM PDT

  •  Interesting Post (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    I agree with your assessment on drug crimes.  Most drugs should be legalized, regulated and taxed.  That would empty out our prisons, lower the price of drugs and bring in revenue.  

    But, the industrialists of the 19th and early 20th Century only built factories if they could make a profit.  They were not "non-profit" factories.

    We have lost manufacturing jobs for several reasons, here a few.

    1.  Cheaper labor and fewer environmental and labor regulations overseas.
    1.  The income tax.  We are one of the few countries that raises revenue this way.  Many use a value added tax (or sales tax).  So everything we export has 20% added on to the manufacturing cost.  Imports don't have local taxes added on to them so they come in 20% cheaper.
    1.  We are an advanced economy moving toward information and services and away from manufacturing.

    We can either accept these changes and adapt or go the way of the "Buggy Whip" manufacturers.

    If we make it profitable to manufacture things the factories will be built.

    In the 70's, in Texas we had usury laws that capped interest at 10%.  Interest rates went up and everyone here thought that the law was great.   However, after a short while we couldn't get loans because all the money was going to California where interest rates were 15%.  

    Beware of the law of uninteded consequences.

  •  Rec'd just for (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    We were the screw capital of the world.

    As a San Franciscan, I always thought we were the screw capital of the world.

    Thanks for the diary. I remember Illinois, I was a kid, and pretty much everywhere we ever went in the whole state, people were busy. I remember thinking what a great idea having three shifts working in a factory was, because the machines would never sit idle.  And I think Rockford was the first place I ate a chicken fried steak.

    Good G-d, what have we let happen to the backbone of our country?

    "The road to gas chambers starts when good people find excuses to justify torture and murder. Feinstein and Schumer are enablers."- Larry Johnson -8.25, -6.21

    by Jacques on Sat Apr 05, 2008 at 02:25:19 PM PDT

  •  My brother lives in Belevedere (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    He recently retired from Sunstrand, so he is one of the lucky ones who go tout in time and intact.  By his accuont the city has been hurting for a long time. It sounds like what he's spoken of has accelerated lately. His stories were bad enough.  It has been awhile since we've spoken of Rockford, but I'll ask him when he comes to visit later this month.

    Take your fear and shove it, it ain't workin' on us no more.

    by Quicklund on Sat Apr 05, 2008 at 03:02:46 PM PDT

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