The Wall Street Journal (ht: Drudge) is reporting that the boyhood home of Ben Bernanke has been put on the block and sold in a foreclosure action. The Bernanke family sold the property more than 10 years ago and the most recent owners couldn't make the payments. The town of Dillon, South Carolina has an unemployment rate almost twice the national average and like many other small towns in America, it is reeling from the economic downturn.
The small town that gave the Fed its chairman is suffering more than most from the financial and economic crisis he's struggling to fix. Already hit by the long decline of the local tobacco and textile industries, Dillon County is facing a fresh assault of plant closings and layoffs that have pushed its unemployment rate to 14.2% -- almost double the national average. A foreclosure wave that began in mobile-home parks is spreading to more-established neighborhoods.
Mohawk Industries has shuttered a plant that made yarn for carpeting and employed 137 people. Wix Manufacturing, a unit of Affinia Group Inc., has cut hours and a few jobs at its automotive-filter factory. Smurfit-Stone Container Corp., which makes corrugated-cardboard packaging in nearby Latta, filed for bankruptcy protection last month.
This is becoming an increasingly common story in small towns across this country. The factories are closing, the industries are moving away or going out of business, and there are more and more people becoming dependent on the government for survival. Without a genuine, long-term economic recovery plan for the United States that isn't just a quick injection of federal money and a welfare spending spree, over the next decade more places in America are going to look like Dillon, South Carolina.
There are very stark and unpleasant choices coming in the next decade if this trend continues. There won't be enough business investment going on to employ people to pay taxes to fund the programs that are coming down the pike, folks. The State and Federal governments still haven't gotten the message that their spending levels need to be reduced. And families aren't going to earn their livings and pay college tuition selling inexpensive trinkets on eBay. They're not going to prosper ever again unless the United States finds the political will to make America the best place in the world to do business again, so that it can capture a large part of the necessary investment when capital starts moving again. If we miss it because our President and Congress are asleep at the switch, we're in for a long, hard time.
I wish I could say that I was surprised when I read this story, but I was told more than a month ago by the director of a credit union that the foreclosure wave was just beginning. The people who are being thrown out of their homes and onto the unemployment and welfare rolls are going to have a hard time getting back on their feet unless our politicians really start taking the requirements of an economic recovery seriously.