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Neighbourhood Video Series

Gary, Indiana: Unbroken spirit amid the ruins of the 20th Centry

A look back at the effectiveness of federal stimulus past and present by the BBC. Gary In was a town that received federal stimulus money after the great depression and once again when the Obama administration announced its stimulus package after the recent economic collapse. The movie takes a look at how effective stimulus can be, and the politics behind its delivery.

Watch this video over at the BBC.

To put this in context you have to know that Gary, home to what is still US Steel Corp’s biggest plant, is suffering from one of the most advanced cases of urban blight in the developed world. Its city centre is near-deserted by day. The texture of the urban landscape is cracked stone, grass, crumbled brick and buddleia.

Gary is one third poor, 84% African American, and has seen its population halve over the past three decades. If crime, as the official figures suggest, has recently dropped off then – say the critics – that is because population flight from the city is bigger than the census figures show.

Gary in the end got $266m of stimulus money and has, according to the federal “recipient reported data” created a grand total of 327 jobs. That’s $800,000 per job.

I went back determined to find out how the stimulus dollars had been spent; to get beyond the ideology and recriminations and see why President Barack Obama’s stimulus has failed to turn the country around.

The striking thing is that they are all structurally dangerous and yet totally accessible. I did not have to cross a single piece of wire, tape or fencing to get in, nor did I encounter a security guard or dog patrol. The city seems to have given up even securing these ruins.

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Photos on flickr

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