A new film about the real estate crash, the story of a farm town in Montana, and a lecture about the cultures of the Great Depression all give very different but very clear pictures of the economy and how we got here — then and now.
The new feature-length documentary from filmmaker Leslie Cockburn was recently discussed on the Economy Project blog at the University of Missouri. But the film doesn’t focus on casinos like the ones in Las Vegas. Instead, this film looks at the entire economy as one American casino – the idea that the finance industry was gambling with peoples’ homes and bank accounts as you might put money in the slots.
One of the places that’s fallen short after all this gambling is Ronan, Montana, a farming town in rural Montana. Patchwork Nation blogger Carly Flando writes about how the town is having to explore other means of survival, now that the farming industry is suffering.
But for all the talk of new businesses and hospitals, David Sagmiller, the owner of Westland Feed, still sees the farms and ranches that surround Ronan as the foundation of the entire Mission Valley’s economy. The valley, which stretches north from Missoula, Mont., toward Flathead Lake and Glacier National Park, is known as one of the best seed potato areas in the state, and eight potato seed farmers live near Ronan.
“The community relies on agriculture,” he says. “The hospital would never get the community to survive. You can’t live off that.”
Rich Janssen, sitting sideways in a booth at the Ronan Café, agrees that agriculture is an important part of the community. However, the dynamics have changed.
“There’s a lot of government and school workers here, too,” he says. “It’s a blue-collar town with a little white collar mixed in.”
For more perspective on how we got here, a new lecture on WGBH’s Forum project from CUNY Professor Morris Dickstein recalls the Great Depression and its effect on culture. Will there be a similar impact 60 years from now?