Monday, February 02, 2009

As Maine Goes, So Goes.................

Demeur's post "What A Mess" relates current economic conditions in his part of the World. The North West has been hit hard as has most if not all of the country. We all hear about woes in other places but generally it is from news sources and not from the people living them out. Demeur has asked for whoever reads his post to relate the current economic situation in our areas based on how we see it.

Maine is probably one of the more fortunate areas in all this. Maine does not really ever have "good times" economically speaking. Some years are better than others, but generally we seem to have become used to tightening our belt, making do with less, and generally living lower on the hog than we did last year. The cycles never seem to hit the extremes they do in other parts of the country. Our economic slow down began quite some time ago. Yes, it was accelerated by the jump in oil prices and then we were slapped hard while we were down with the banking madness, but it's like the weather here. Every shitty day we have ensures us that at some point a sunny one will visit us again.

As used to hard times as we are in this area in particular, some of us have taken notice that this time it is different. Pratt Whitney, one of our largest employers in the area laid off workers recently. Only it was not a lay off that affected the factory floor guys, it was a layoff in the mid management ranks. Employees with 35 years in were shown the door. Main Street in Sanford is looking like a ghost town with more empty storefronts than usual. My storefront will most likely be empty before the year is out also. Of the four car dealers in Sanford, only one remains. Sanford has the highest foreclosure rate in the state. The per capita income of around $17,500 has dropped and the percentage of people below the poverty line has climbed from it's somewhat steady level of around 13% to almost 18%. Both figures are well above the Statewide level of around 11% living below the poverty line.

Unless you live on the coast south of Ellsworth, the story is pretty much the same through the rest of the state. We thought we were used to hard times, but well I guess times can always get tougher no matter where you start off from.

Unemployment benefits have just been extended. Job openings anywhere are having way more people show up to interview than even have a hope of getting the job. I am seeing hitch hiking make a serious comeback. All my trades friends and ex co workers are scrambling to find work with low ball bids on renovation jobs. New housing starts have essentially disappeared. I tried to find some information on whether the times here have caused an increase in the numbers of people leaving, but according to Brookings, the previous migration model of the last few years has been turned on it's ear. Seems folks are not moving much at all. Where the Hell do they go that might be better than where they are?

That's my take here on the Right Coast. I am sure it does not differ much from the views elsewhere. This is not a series of isolated incidents affecting only certain regions or parts of our economic engine. This time everyone is involved. Poor, Rich, and the Shrinking Middle Class. I cannot believe that someone somewhere did not see this coming. It is just too broad and too inclusive to have snuck up unnoticed. And I think that is what angers me the most. The signs for me began around the time of the bubble bursting. That is when I realized our economy was based on no real tangible assets or base. Living off of demand can only last so long.
(663 / 1486)


Snave said...

Oregon is considered Left Coast, Pacific NW, etc. but eastern Oregon, Idaho, eastern WA are a bit of a different animal.

The timber industry is a big deal out here. Our county's unemployment is around 12% at this point. Other counties in the area are all ranging from around 10% to 15%. Of course it is all being blamed on Democrats, and mostly on environmentalists. Oh well. Decades of poor forest management, the fault of many parties, has created forests susceptible to disease and infestation in NE Oregon. The healthiest species are the ones that were cut most in days of old, and they have gradually been replaced with less hardy species.

If there has been clear-cutting out here in this dry environment, you can just about forget it re. the forest coming back right away... it can take 60-80 years to get harvestable trees again. There have also indeed been some hold-ups on timber sales, but that has never really been the cause for the timber industry's problems, at least not in the last 15-20 years.

The environmentalists are always the convenient scapegoat, but in reality "It's the economy, stupid!" To which I add "You can't fix stupid!" Too stupid to diversify, and too stupid to adopt better land stewardship practices.

At any rate, the timber industry has undergone a gradual decline in this part of the world. Most of the local mills in small towns have been closed. Unemployment has remained pretty high in comparison to other parts of the state. Sounds like we need the Republicans in Congress to stop saying "No" long enough for some kind of public works program to get going, so these people can have jobs.

BBC said...

The North West has been hit hard as has most if not all of the country.

Actually, much of the world is being effected. This area? Sure, businesses are shutting down just like anywhere else.

I have two friends I see almost every day that are close to having to shut their doors.

It's not all bad though, country folk like me just keep steaming along. We know how to get by on the cheap.

I cannot believe that someone somewhere did not see this coming.

Hey !!! Been trying to tell ya for about five years now. So have others, but nobody fucking listens to us. Other than the few that have and have been getting ready for hard times.

It's interesting that they won't bother us because we have prepared the best we can and are mentally and emotionally for it also.

You don't see folks like us blowing our brains out because things go to hell.

You won't see wise women freaking out and breaking down because their world is falling apart and they can't afford to spoil themselves anymore.

The wise women are digging in just as the wise men are. There is nothing worse on top of a depression than a whining woman that thinks she has gotten cheated out of something because she thinks she is special.

Well, they're not special to me, in fact they are a pain in the ass.

BBC said...

Like Sanve said, you can't fix stupid.

Randal Graves said...

It was seen to be coming, but as long as it affected the bottom 98%, no one cares. Now that those with loot are having problems, it's now A Very Important Crisis.

Demeur said...

Sad to think that Maine doesn't have any real "good times". That would be like living in limbo. Not good or bad just existing.

Good point Randal they didn't start screaming "the sky is falling" until the ubber rich started loosing when the banks started failing.

MRMacrum said...

Snave - In my opinion, the wood products industry pretty much has to look in the mirror if they want to find someone to blame for their woes. Sustainable forest management has been an idea and philosophy of that industry since before people even came to this country. That the greedy owners of the forest lands chose to go for short term profit over longer term profit through sustanibility is entirely on their shoulders. The enivironmental movement would not have gained half the strength it did had they been better stewards of their lands.

Maine is a good example of the state and private owners finally getting the picture. You can have your forest and eat it too, if you do it right.

BBC - You haven't been telling me nothing. I already said I thought we were in trouble 10 years ago. My reference was to the boneheads in charge of government and the private sector. I guess my point was not so clear cut. But if I knew something was amiss ten years ago, they had to know. That they act so surprised is what pisses me off.

Randall - You and Snave I think are on the right track. They did see it coming but did not care as long as their pockets were getting lined.

Demeur - I guess maybe I should have delineated between economic and actual good times. Does one have to always be making more money to have a good time? While our economy has not been a booming one in the last 30 years, it also has not dipped to the depths many other areas have felt in the past. In my mind, that is not so bad. Unless of course making huge bucks or owning more stuff is my goal.

Anonymous said...

As far as predicting the sky is falling before anyone knew about it, it's easily predictable when idiots outspend their income and government and corporate bigwigs are held unaccountable for their astounding earnings and spending habits.

*sticking my tongue out*

Good post Mr.Macrum.

BBC said...

Sad to think that Maine doesn't have any real "good times". That would be like living in limbo. Not good or bad just existing.

It depends on what you see as good times. A lot of folks that are just getting by seem to be more happy than those always working for more.