Lou Mervis, Republican, businessman and Danville civic leader, discusses the recession:
The next six months are the crisis period. The reason I say that is we haven't seen the worst of what's coming next. The banks, although they don't like to talk about it, for the first time are starting to have a great number of failures. They're carrying people they would have shucked a long time ago.
But what else are they going to do with that business? So they're going to carry them as long as they can. But how long can they hold out? How long can some manufacturing companies hold out?
And when I say the next six months are the crucial period I mean we're approaching winter when people are hurting more and their bills are going up and they're going to get locked up in their homes and can't get out.
We're not putting any of these people back to work, and living costs are going to go up dramatically.
Food costs have to go up because the poor farmer, he can't make it on $2 corn and $5.50 beans. On top of that, people just got a 60 percent increase in their water bills, and they're looking at a 20 percent increase in their Illinois Power electricity bills. So you've got a 60 percent rise in water and 20 percent more in heating.
Danville's really at a crossroads.
First of all, we've lost maybe 20 to 25 percent of our industrial base, but that doesn't tell the whole story. The people who are out on the streets without benefits are the highest-paid workers in the community.
These are not $5- and $6-an-hour people. These are people making $13, $14, $15 an hour. Not only that. They had all medical and dental expenses paid, and so they had the expendable dollars that went into a community. Not only that, but psychologically they'd been on their jobs 10 to 17 years.
We're not talking about people who didn't give an honest day's work for an honest day's pay. People don't hold jobs for 15 to 18 years and not be able to perform. They never thought they were going to have a problem. That is the difference.
We've had slowdowns before, in '62 and '75, but never to the extent that we have it now, never to the depths that we are in today.
I see a lot of people who have always been positive, leaders of the community who have done all the right things as you and I would call them--put their money back in the community, developed housing and commerce--and now through no fault of their own have been hit by unbelievable costs of borrowing money.
They are at their wits' end. They don't know who to blame or what to blame. They are just withdrawing into themselves. And now we're seeing the old problems, the worst in people, coming out: the latent anti-Semitism, the blacks, the Puerto Ricans, the why-do-we-worry-about-the-Vietnamese-and-Hmong-refugees-we-have-here? Those are the kinds of things that are starting to hit. I'm seeing more and more of it.
That is the most frightening thing of all. Maybe it isn't so frightening in Danville, but it scares the hell out of me when I look at Chicago and New York and Los Angeles where the vast majority of unemployed are minorities who are also the vast number of people we've trained in our volunteer Army.
We have a housing project over here that is a tinderbox. It's loaded with something Danville has never seen before: black street gangs. People don't want to talk about it. It's a real time bomb sitting over there.
Do you think we have the same kind of people we had in '29 or '32 who are going to stand in line patiently waiting to get milk or an apple on the corner? They're going to take what they want, and then we're going to have anarchy instead of democracy.