Camden – A sign of the times in America
8 Dec, 2010 20:27
Camden, New Jersey, just a two hour drive from Manhattan is one of the poorest and most dangerous towns in America. What happened to the former industrial giant and what does this mean for the rest of America?
What you see in Camden are ruins, hundreds of homes turned shattered garbage. Just two hours away from Manhattan, it is a city plagued with decay – the most broke town in the United States, with up to 35 percent of families living in poverty.A bus full of people asked to display whether they were happy with the US economy reacted was no movement and saddening silence.The town does not want any cameras to be witness to its shame, with most people walking away when they see a TV crew, and very few willing to be addressed or interviewed.Jobs in Camden are long existent; up to 40 percent of those living in the town do not have an income.“Because of the unemployment rate in Camden – more people on the corners, more people on street, more people looking for an alternative way,” said Helene Pierson, the executive director of “Hearts of Camden,” an organization which tries to help those in need. For many of the people living here the only alternative has become drugs.“It’s been a very active drug area. People from the suburbs come through and buy drugs here, a few people have died here in the last year or so,” said Pierson, walking through the slums, where our crew was chased away from by a suspicious young man who did not want TV presence in the area.Amid a drastically falling population, prostitution is also flourishing in Camden, with many of the women HIV positive.Up to 50,000 people have left Camden since it started falling apart, and thousands more are bound to leave eventually.Millions of dollars previously invested into the town which sits just across the river from Philadelphia have been robbed left and right, amid flourishing reports of corruption.“It’s messed up. Is it going to get better? No,” said one man who has lived in Camden his entire life. Much of the population has long lost any trust in politicians.“The mayor, the governor, I blame everybody, everybody,” said another man, who added that he makes far from enough to live off and has not been able to find more work with so few employers hiring.Almost no one expects a change for the better in the area, especially after the latest US election.“It’s going to get even worse with the Republicans running the House now,” said a Camden taxi driver who chose to keep his name to himself. Camden used to build war ships and host the headquarters of several big corporations.All of this was an attraction to workers from all over the country and abroad, but those days are long over.What used to be a major industrial area has turned into a town filled with former factory lots which are now abandoned areas filled with garbage. Camden used to pride itself in being a manufacturer for the US Navy, but decaying discarded wooden boats have become a symbol of something long forgotten.Homelessness has also taken over the town with no more than two hundred beds available for the hundreds of homeless in shelters.“This is the time of the year when the homeless population, they start to come in out of the cold. There can be upwards of five to seven hundred people at any given time,” said Rick Pernell, the program director at the Aletha R. Wright Vision of Hope Center which works with the homeless. While the United States is trying to get back on its feet, Camden is on its way to becoming one of the ghosts of a once industrial nation.Gerald Celente, the director of the Trends Research Institute in New York explained those with money are more likely to get a job and higher education, however, an education no longer guarantees you a job in the US market. “The gap between the rich and the poor in the US is the widest of any of the industrialized nations. Wages are stagnate. Median household income is below 2000 levels. It’s only a small level of the top that has all the cream,” Celente said. “Those handful of Wall Streeters are the equivalent to a country that would rank 49th out of 134 counties in the world.”He argued that Wall Street has hijacked Washington, twisting policy to benefit the rich at the expense of everyone else. The jobs that are available in America aren’t high paying jobs. They are non-living wage occupations designed to support those who make millions. “Yes, there are jobs open on the plantations, but look at the plantation owner’s income, record profits, the highest profits in American modern history,” explained Celente. There is a national problem in cities across the US; cities are unable to meet the growing costs of benefits, wages and healthcare costs. Celente argued the problem will rival that of Ireland, and be the down fall of the American economy. “The American empire is unfolding and collapsing in front of everyone’s eyes,” he argued. “This is just the beginning.”American politicians are controlled by Wall Street and the military industrial complex, he argued. Nothing will change if this continues.