Misery in Ft. Myers

We’d heard many of  the President’s words before– in Elkhart the day before, at that White House press conference that night. His arguments in favor of a stimulus package sounded pretty familiar by now.

What stood out today  in Ft. Myers were the words of the people who came to see him and plead for his help.  Henrietta Hughes, homeless, who was near tears as she told the President:  “We need something more than vehicles and parks to go to. We need our own kitchen and bathroom.  Please help.”

Julio Osegueda became the most famous burger-flipper in the land– for this news cycle, anyway– as he described to Mr. Obama how he’d been stuck working at McDonald’s for 4 1/2 years now.  No sooner had Osegueda finished speaking than my cell phone rang.  The producers of MSNBC’s “Countdown” wanted Julio to chat with Keith Olbermann.  He’s scheduled  to be live from Ft. Myers at 8:30.

The hall was full of heart-breaking and compelling stories that didn’t get a national airing, folks who weren’t picked by the President to come to the mike.  The Loroms, who just returned to Ft. Myers after living in Canada for a while, can’t believe what’s happened here.  Shannon’s been looking for work for three months.  “My emails, my phone calls, I get nothing, just nothing,” he told me.  The Loroms know 5 people who are losing their homes right now, and say that half the houses in their Lehigh Acres neighborhood (now famous, thanks to the NY Times and New Yorker, as a “future slum” and “the American Dream in high reverse”) are empty.

Wayne Howard, the Human Resources director for the city of Cape Coral , says applications are up 30-40% for openings in the city.  A rep for the plumbers & pipefitters union told me earlier, he saw a house just like the one he bought in Cape Coral 20 years or so ago listed for less than the $45,000 he paid back then.

On the Politico web site, Roger Simon describes Obama’s mission on economic stimulus this way:  “Petrify people and restore their confidence.”

There are a lot of petrified people in these parts, and I’m sure not all of them are sold on the stimulus package.  But as she left, grocer Agnes Thompson said Obama’s confidence– which critics sometimes find off-putting and arrogant–  made her feel better.  “My confidence in him is very high and my confidence in the American people also is very high.”

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One Response

  1. This stimulus package is a joke!

    More wasteful spending from Washington, not just Reb/Dem, but both sides. If they want to stimulate the economy get Big Government out of the way. Cut taxes!
    I know where we can create some jobs. Lets fire all the life long politicians who want to tax and spend our hard earned money.

    I am going to buy a Touch and a Pitch Fork….Who’s with me!

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