America's Municipal Meltdown

Towns and small cities dependent on one or two industries are reeling in the face of the economic downturn and major budget cuts. Can the nation's large cities be far behind?

"[T]owns and small cities across the U.S...have proven particularly vulnerable to tough times simply because their economies relied on just a few major employers, or a single industry, or even a single company that has gone under or cut back drastically. [They] are feeling the pain in ways most of the country isn't -- yet; and even worse, from the out-of-work to local officials, no one knows how to stop the bleeding.

A few months ago, stories of economically-troubled towns were strictly local fare. Now, more and more of them are rising to regional or national attention. Most of America's desperate towns and small cities, however, still remain relatively anonymous. [But] towns and cities in surprising numbers...are now hurt or possibly, in some cases, even dying -- with little in the way of hope or help in sight. Under the circumstances, they should no longer be treated as individual stories, locally or nationally. They represent a pattern, and putting even a small number of their stories together casts a light on a disturbing countrywide trend that may determine the tomorrows of a remarkable number of Americans.

It isn't surprising that towns which relied heavily on the collapsing auto industry and the building trades are going belly-up first, but what about the rest of America's towns and even big cities? The same economic forces are battering them, and while they may have been able to withstand immediate collapse, there's no guarantee that town after town won't be deep in the red, drowning in joblessness, and facing catastrophe as the American depression drags on."

Full Story: Tough Times in Troubled Towns

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