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Ever heard of the Tower of Terror? It’s a roller coaster in Six Flags, famous for its scary turns and loops, giving people the ride of their life. Everyone has been on that roller coaster, it just happens that for some people that instead of visiting Six Flags, they watched the news and saw the coverage on the economic crisis, or maybe they just got laid off of their job. The economy is like a roller coaster, it goes through waves, up and down. Some people can handle it, while others not so much. Michael Moore, a movie director who has a tendency to portray controversial issues in a very raw light, decided he wanted to focus on the economy. Moore created the movie Roger & Me, which was the story of the economic crash that took place during 1998, in Flint, Michigan. General Motors, which happened to be the soul of Flint, was closing its buildings- leaving thousands of people jobless. The series of events had its consequences, which the movie shows, as well as showing the contrast between those cut off and those still on top. The differences between the unemployed and the employed are drastically shown in several ways, including the attitude towards the Flint economic crisis, their status financially, and the new real estate situation after the crash.
During the months leading up to General Motor’s decision to close its factories, not once was any effort made to warn its employees of the life change they were about to face. Flint was a company town, with the majority of its population working for GM. When the news hit that 11 factories were closing, suddenly more than 30,000 people had lost their jobs. One of the worst parts was the fact that General Motors wasn’t even financially unstable at the time, so they couldn’t use that as an excuse for their decision to close. The attitude towards the now apparent financial crisis was very different depending on who was asked. When a GM spokesperson was asked what their view towards what they had just done, it was simply stated that “GM has as much concern for anybody,” while thousands of civilians were then still trying to deal with their new unemployed status. The people who remained working for GM were those who were at a higher level in the company to begin with. Their attitudes seemed to be completely indifferent towards the crisis. From an employed point of view, Flint was still a perfectly wonderful town. They were content with how their lives were, and didn’t show any sort of concern towards all those who got dumped. While the remaining GM employees were still happy with their lives, and ignoring reality of thousands; those who were unemployed were still left over to cope. The unemployed had a completely different perspective towards what happened. GM was their life. Without a job from GM it meant no money for their home, their family, schooling, food, anything. The crisis left many people seeking superfluous jobs that needn’t even exist, but due to the fact that there was no where else to go, they did it anyway. The people who worked for GM were also qualified and skilled, giving them the potential to do so much more than help a customer find the right clothing to match their skin tone. The old workers for GM, who once had a role in American society, were then left with low income jobs or no job at all. The contrasting attitudes were obvious in the film, either you were on top, or you were on the very bottom, and you weren’t anybody elses concern.
With over 30,000 people fired, and the unemployment rate jumping significantly, many families found themselves in a new financial status. Those who were unemployed were struggling to get by. Because of the collapse of General Motors, it had the multiplier effect. Workers who were laid off stopped making an income, and then they discovered they suddenly couldn’t afford as much food as they wanted, leading restaurants to close. They suddenly couldn’t afford as much clothing as they could previously, causing some stores to go out of business. They suddenly couldn’t afford much of anything. Company owners began to go bankrupt. At a certain point, it seemed there was a very apparent difference between those employed and those who weren’t. Those employed had it really good, their financial situation was more than stable, and that was just getting better for them. While that was happening, the unemployed were becoming more and more poor. With little to no money, many people were driven to participating in theft and other explicit activities, causing the crime rate to also go up. Flint went through its own Depression. The rich got richer and the poor got poorer, with more and more distance between the employed and the unemployed.
After the crash, real estate was a whole different ball game. An empty bank account was the reality for many people, and with no money, how was someone supposed to pay the bills? Houses could no longer be afforded and maintained. People couldn’t sell their houses either, because nobody outside of the city would even dare move there. The unemployed found themselves in a hole that they couldn’t dig themselves out of. They were fired, couldn’t afford their home, couldn’t afford to sell their home, and so they couldn’t get out. The employed, on the other hand, didn’t even seem to care. They stayed in their nice houses, kept paying their monthly bills for the local Yacht club, and still went along with their day as if nothing was wrong. Around 28,000 people lost their homes, as well as their life savings, and were forced to start from scratch in a whole new place, while the employed didn’t even have to begin to worry.
The differences between those employed and those unemployed were harsh and drastic. In his movie, Moore captured the almost segregated-like feel in Flint at the time after the financial crash. The people in the top of the business showed no interest at all towards the laying off of 30,000 people, while those who were affected wanted nothing more than to go backwards in time. The wealthy became more wealthy, and the poor became more poor. Thousands of people left homeless, while there were still those GM workers living a perfectly happy life. In 1998, Flint had its very own Tower of Terror. The financial roller coaster took thousands by surprise, leaving them breathless, shocked, and their lives forever changed.
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