Michael Harris Expert Analysis South Bend Tribune, Commentary by Indiana University Kokomo Chancellor Michael Harris
Planning the future, post-bailout - South Bend Tribune
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Planning the future, post-bailout
October 02, 2011
With the American auto industry collapsing, Kokomo, a city highly dependent on
automotive-related jobs, suffered an unemployment rate of 20.4 percent in June of
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latest story of progress:
All of Indiana, much of the Midwest and perhaps the whole nation faced the
possibility of the economy being driven by the auto industry into a second Great
What is known as the "auto bailout," sometimes still with derogatory adjectives by those who opposed it, was
successful in saving the American automotive industry and Kokomo and beyond, all the way to South Bend and on
north to Detroit.
Economists estimated that demise of the auto industry would have brought depression-type 35 percent
unemployment to Kokomo, so dependent on four Chrysler plants and also on General Motors and Delphi.
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Well, Kokomo's unemployment rate is not 35 percent. Not still at that 20.4 percent. Or even at the 11.7 percent of a
year ago. In the recently released August jobs report, Kokomo's rate was 9.7 percent.
That's just about the national average, not exactly bringing economic joy to everybody in the city, but better than
anybody could have expected -- except for dreamers who thought Barack Obama had some presidential wand to wave
and turn recession into boom times with three magic words: "Yes, we can."
But what now?
Indiana University Kokomo Chancellor Michael Harris, an economist who has studied the automotive industry for
more than two decades, including while serving as provost at Kettering University, formerly General Motors Institute,
in Flint, Mich., says it's time to look ahead to "what now?" rather than focusing on past partisan bickering.
"We'll never know the answer," Harris says of whether failure to act quickly to bail out Chrysler and General Motors
really would have brought another Great Depression. He knows that it kept Kokomo from "taking a terrible hit."
But did the bailout save the day or just put off nightfall?
What happens now, Harris said in a telephone interview, will determine whether Indiana and Michigan continue to
bounce back as "the world automotive center."
http://articles.southbendtribune.com/2011-10-02/news/30236848_1_mayor-greg-goodnight-auto-industry-auto-bailout[2/11/2014 12:06:31 AM]