Brother, Can You Spare a Cot?

Throughout the economic downturn that plagued the nation during the past two years, North Dakota has been immune to the catastrophic loss of jobs afflicting the rest of the U.S. This can be explained in one word: Oil.

The explosive growth of the oil-drilling industry in the Peace Garden State (yes, that’s its official nickname) has given it the lowest unemployment rate in the country. While population centers like California and Michigan still are grappling with double-digit joblessness, North Dakota’s unemployment level has not exceeded 4 percent.

However, according to a front-page report this week in The New York Times, the robust employment news in the northern Plains has been accompanied by an unexpected down side. The Times reports that laid-off workers from states across the country who have flocked to North Dakota have had little trouble getting hired—but they have been having a difficult time finding a place to live.

Joey Scott drove from Montana in his pickup truck to Williston, ND. He found work in the oil fields a few weeks ago—but he is spending his nights sleeping in the truck in a Wal-Mart parking lot. “It’s hard to know where this might end,” Williston Mayor E. Ward Koesler told the Times. “It’s the one thing that sometimes wakes me up in the morning and doesn’t let me go to sleep.”

Mayor Koesler has been asking the state for emergency housing aid for Williston after watching his town’s population grow to 15,000 from 12,000 in a fortnight.

We’ve got a better idea.

When the economic collapse hit bottom, Elkhart, Indiana was cited as a symbol of the national malaise because it had one of the highest unemployment rates in the U.S. The Indiana town got a special visit from President Obama, who gave the workers at one of its manufacturing plants a pep talk. The facility the 44th president visited makes huge RVs—as in recreational vehicles, the kind that are big enough to live in.

So here’s a helpful suggestion: If President Obama isn’t too busy rounding up loose nukes and reining in Wall Street fat cats, perhaps he could scoop up some federal stimulus bucks and arrange to purchase a fleet of Elkhart’s finest RVs and send them up to Mayor Koesler.

More jobs for Elkhart. More beds for Williston. Problem solved.

Pleasant dreams, mayor.


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