Tough times don't last; tough people do.
That's the theme of author John S. Cohoat's new book "No Thank You, Mr. President," which tells the story of 10 private companies in Elkhart County, Ind., that made their own way to economic recovery without government handouts.
"My hope is that these stories provide some inspiration for you or make you remember why our capitalist economic policies and truly American way of life is the answer," Cohoat wrote in his first chapter, titled ‘Why This Book? Why Now?'
Cohoat characterized Elkhart County, in the northern part of the state near South Bend, as a hard-nosed area able to take care of itself. His portrayal stands in contract to the national media's portrayal of the county as the "poster child for all that is bad with our economy."
In 2009, President Obama visited Elkhart County to promote his "stimulus" legislation. All the networks used his visit to supplement their infomercial for the $787 spending plan. NBC's Chuck Todd went so far as to claim that Obama's and Elkhart's fates were intertwined when Obama returned to the county in August 2009.
"Of all the hard-hit places, Elkhart, Indiana, is the barometer by which President Obama believes he will be and should be judged on his ability to turn around the economy," Todd said.
MSNBC.com kept a running blog called "The Elkhart Project" that ran from March 2009 until March 2010 chronicling the "tales of struggle and recovery from the epicenter of America's economic meltdown." The blog presents Elkhart as a victim in need of a government savior.
Cohoat's book, however, focused on the confidence and entrepreneurial spirit of the residents and workers of Elkhart County. He directly refuted the "victim" label in the chapter titled "Victims Need Not Apply," which profiled Larry Shank of AE Techron Inc.
"Larry's attitude is that government officials often see their role as finding a way to fix problems for its people," Cohoat wrote, "but Larry says Elkhart County's message is, ‘just get out of our way, and we'll find a solution.'"
Compare that with Mike Stuckey's February 2010 story, ‘A city's mixed feelings about Obama's impact.' The "Elkhart Project" post didn't cite opposition to the stimulus until 22 paragraphs into the story and wrote it off as conservative, Glenn Beck-inspired resistance.
"'I honestly think if the government would just get out of the way and let us go back to work, it would be better,' said Graber, a founding board member of the Michiana 9-12 Project, a group inspired by conservative TV and radio host Glenn Beck that stresses family and religious values over government solutions," Stuckey wrote.
Rather than underreporting stimulus costs or championing further intervention, as many in the media have done, Cohoat's book provides a picture of America's ability to recover by working hard and letting the free market work its way out of the recession. Additionally, Cohoat broke the media trick of exclusively interviewing stimulus supporters and discovered business owners who not only oppose the stimulus but are actually succeeding without its help.