As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Welcome To Mendota

This isn't an article from 1933, it's from 2009:

The customer seemed interested in a black blouse offered for $1 at the thrift store. But instead of buying it, she set it on the front counter.

Maybe tomorrow, she told the cashier, she would have the money. Or the next day. But not now.

"That is the way people are now," said the cashier, Alicia Reyes, as she watched the middle-aged woman walk out of the store. "They just come in here and look. They just come in here to kill the time. And then they take off."

Welcome to life in Mendota — the unemployment capital of California. With a 41 percent jobless rate, the town's social fabric is tearing at the seams. Alcoholism and crime are on the rise. To save money, some mothers wash and re-use disposable diapers. Unemployed men with nothing to do wander the streets and sit on benches.

The irony is obvious: In a large swath of the nation's most productive farming region, many struggle to fill their own cupboards.

There are many factors here - the economic meltdown and struggling economy, of course. But the third year of drought conditions have devastated harvests, leading to less workers needed to pick crops. This is the sad future of a dry California. With housing cratered throughout the state, the fallback option of construction is closed off as well. And as seasonal workers stay home, the businesses that support the economy have less consumers and suffer as well.

This is a disaster area, and the signs are it will only get worse. The state jobless rate is projected to grow as high as 15% before subsiding, and will remain in double digits until the beginning of 2012. The FDIC has issued warnings to at least six state banks, telling them to increase capital levels. "Two-thirds of the state's banks will be operating under cease-and-desist orders" by the end of 2009, according to one analyst. And housing prices continue to fall off the cliff.

The Central Valley is in a Depression. The rest of the state may not be as far behind as you think.

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