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The Think Tank Blues
June 11, 2009 - Joe Gorman
To paraphrase Bob Dylan, you don't need a think tank report to know which way the wind blows.
In the past two days, different reports have come out detailing the economic woes of the Mahoning Valley, how we got here and what might be done to combat them.
I know these people are well meaning, but after seeing the headlines for both stories I have a one word response:
``Duh.' (Perhaps that is not a word).
The fact that the economy here is awful, that there is trouble with blight and poverty, has not been news to me since the early 1980s, when the seismic shift of things caused by Black Monday went full speed ahead and never really stopped, because I have seen it practically every day.
Yet, how to stop that trend is mind boggling. And these reports, which have come out in the past, have lots of ideas, but they never seem to get beyond the first press conference. I just read the other day that another think tank named Pittsburgh the most livable city in the US. They have their share of problems (including a rising homicide rate) yet maybe we should study what they did to rebound from the steel industry.
Report after report has always stated that we have to leave our manufacturing roots behind, yet I think one of our problems is we never really did that, and now, with this economic slump, we're paying for it. Actually, we've been paying for it since the beginning of the decade, with the loss of CSC and woes in other steel and manufacturing industries whose number one way of competiting is to slash labor costs by moving jobs elsewhere.
I wish I had the answer to why we have been struggling for over 30 years. People claim the one party monolopy, or the strength of labor unions, or an entrenched mindset against change are the reasons for the struggle, and why there is some validity in each argument, somehow, I think the answers are deeper than that.
I'm no expert. I only know what I've seen and experienced here my whole life. It's a shame. The people deserve better. That is our strength. The people here are the best anywhere. How that ``people power' can be harnessed to turn this place around is something a think tank somewhere can study.
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