The Elkhart Project

MSNBC, whether you love them or hate them, has a very interesting piece on what they call the Elkhart Project — a series of stories and videos from our fellow Hoosiers up north in Elkhart County:

ELKHART, Ind.— Coroner John White is presiding over a sad tally in this northern Indiana county, tracking rising numbers of suicides he believes are linked to the lingering recession.

Rumors of an economic recovery may be whispered elsewhere, but here, where the downturn remains entrenched, 22 people have killed themselves this year, and two more cases were likely suicides, outpacing the county’s annual average of 16 self-inflicted deaths.

In more than a quarter of the cases, White said, distress caused by job loss or financial failure was cited as the last straw.

“We have a real problem,” said White. “They left notes specifically stating that the reason they did this was because of the economy.”

Debra K. Gibbs, a 54-year-old homemaker in Goshen, in Elkhart County, didn’t leave a note. Instead, she simply sent her worried daughter out for soda pop on a summer morning — and then shot herself in the head.

The infographic as part of the story is very interesting, particularly when you look at Gov. Mitch Daniels’ claims that Indiana, for much of his first term, was “an island of growth”. It seems that claim was buoyed by the Indianapolis-Carmel metro area and left out the other 2/3 of the state.

Starting in June 1994, when the data starts, Indiana wasn’t in a recession. Nor were many other states. Then, in December 2000, Indiana slipped into a recession along with nine other states. Indiana was the only midwestern state to be in a recession. A few months later in March 2001, Indiana was still in a recession but was joined by Michigan, Kentucky, West Virginia, Tennessee and Iowa (in the midwest). This was during the O’Bannon Administration.

Come August, 2001 Indiana was “an island of growth” — during the O’Bannon years.

Then, 9/11 hit and pretty much knocked the whole nation into a recession.

Fast-forward to November 2005 when Gov. Daniels took office, Indiana was “at risk”, likely from ballooning state debts. By December, we were expanding. A year later in 2006, we were in recession. During the 2008 campaign, Gov. Daniels was evidently twisting numbers because we most certainly were not “an island of growth”. We were more like a boat going down with the entire eastern seaboard.

Today, ironically, we are the “island of growth”. We’re one of the first states in the nation to be entering a recovery period.

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