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article imageThe death of Cleveland- America’s heartland as a ghost town

By Paul Wallis     Oct 21, 2010 in Lifestyle
As the foreclosure wars drag on, the reality has become a brutal testimony to the financial catastrophes the US is currently enduring. The sheer devastation is nowhere more visible than in Cleveland, once the heart of the heartland.
The diminishing of America is now a social psychological problem as well as an economic problem. The traditional views of the nation are being replaced by an ugly, uncompromising economic reality in which the American Dream is now a non-issue. Even more startling, the “service economy” which replaced the industrial economy is also vulnerable to offshoring.
One economist, Alan Blinder, is concerned that 28 to 42 million service jobs are able to be shifted offshore, and is looking at a re-categorization of jobs into those which can be done anywhere and those which can’t. A customer service job, for instance, can be done from anywhere on Earth, while the job of a doctor can’t. The short message, however, is that things can get a lot worse.
TIME Magazine has a long article on the subject of Restoring The American Dream, and it’s not pleasant reading. In the midst of this article is a truly grim series of pictures by Anthony Suau, which show a Depression-era landscape of situations among the incongruous relics of former prosperity, like a practically empty shopping mall which used to be one of the biggest in the country.
You’d expect Charlie Chaplin and Laurel and Hardy to step out of the photos. There were a lot of photos of the Depression, mainly sanitized for the public’s peace of mind, but these show the collapse of a major city in detail. A cop searches a house for squatters, gun drawn. The place still has furniture, and his caution seems fully justified. Crack dealers, apparently, are doing well out of the sudden supply of abandoned houses.
A nasty looking set of documents, eviction notices waiting to go out, sits in their cardboard holders. The first photo, advertising a house for sale at $500 down and $375 a month, refers to a two bedroom brick building, an older place circa early 60s. A whole street, boarded up.
The dilapidation of people and places is staggering. The homeless, and those trying to avoid homelessness, form a sort of continuum of misery. Life stops as these hideous financial nightmares play out.
At the truly black humor end, an elegant $300,000 home is protected- and empty. $300,000 used to be the median scale, now it’s the vacant house price range, apparently. Thieves elsewhere have removed copper pipes to sell.
The picture of mortgage brokers and their lawyers buying foreclosed homes is a sort of postcard from the era, where misery obviously pays off for someone.
The empty shopping mall, with a lone person in a mall that’s actually still open, is poignant. The Randall Park Mall was once one of the biggest. It’s now down to a few struggling businesses, showing how far down Middle America’s cash has gone.
In old horror movies, abandoned cities only had a few monsters to deal with. The hero and heroine never had to fight things like this. Maybe new forms of life will evolve and live in Cleveland, but it’s sure looking like humans won’t.
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