Don't miss

Replay


LATEST SHOWS

THE WORLD THIS WEEK

Syria alleged chemical attack: Gunfire delays deployment of weapons inspectors

Read more

FRANCE IN FOCUS

Cashing in on local French currencies

Read more

YOU ARE HERE

Life on the canals of northern France

Read more

INSIDE THE AMERICAS

What lies ahead for Cuba after the Castros?

Read more

#TECH 24

Discovering and harnessing the power of the sun

Read more

DOWN TO EARTH

Can France bid 'adieu' to popular weedkiller glyphosate?

Read more

#THE 51%

Harmful for your health: When gender bias affects medical diagnosis

Read more

REPORTERS

Africa’s donkeys slaughtered for Chinese ‘miracle elixir’

Read more

FOCUS

Pashtun Protection Movement speaks up against extrajudicial killings

Read more

REPORTERS

An in-depth report by our senior reporters and team of correspondents from around the world. Every Saturday at 9.10 pm Paris time. Or you can catch it online from Friday.

Latest update : 2012-11-02

Lost Vegas

For decades, Las Vegas symbolised the American dream. But the economic crisis has hit hard. Today's recession has left Americans and foreign visitors with less cash to spend in the casinos. The glitz has given way to unemployment, uncertainty and evictions. Once Nevada’s leading source of tourism, Las Vegas is now dragging the entire state down.

Beaming with smiles beneath bright sunshine, tourists queue up to have their photo taken in front of the famous “Welcome to Las Vegas” sign. No one notices the tunnel a little to their left. It is the entrance to a labyrinth of storm drains that criss-cross Sin City, beneath the neon light, where some 300 people have set up makeshift homes. Many of them are victims of the economic crisis.

Cindy and Rick have been camping out in the tunnels for over a year and a half now. Their home is regularly flooded, but Cindy still tries to separate their part of the tunnel into separate spaces. Pointing to wooden slats with a thin blanket, she indicates their guest bedroom. The kitchen consists of a stack of plastic bags with food and cutlery wrapped up. When it rains, the tunnel can fill up with more than 12 inches of water a minute. A few weeks ago, Cindy’s ID was washed away in the floods, so currently she cannot even apply for jobs. Rick manages to pick up some odd jobs working as a mechanic, but nothing stable enough to get their heads back above water.

Downward spiral

The downward spiral unravels quickly. Within weeks of missing rent, people find themselves on the street. Dozens of people are being evicted every day; last year alone, some 3,600 households faced eviction.

The Week in the Americas: election special
Cristina is a hairdresser who moved to Las Vegas 18 years ago for a better life. She saw it as the heart of the American dream, the money-making capital. Until recently, her expectations had been met. But with the downturn, her clients have become fewer, her income has dropped by over 50% and at 52 years of age she finds herself being kicked out of her home. Cristina voted for Barack Obama in the last presidential election, but she is changing her vote this year and opting for Mitt Romney in the hope that he can turn the economy around.

The winds of recession were already blowing before the elections of 2008, but the full force of the economic downturn struck the state in the four years since Barack Obama took office. Despite this, the commander-in-chief is not being held responsible by the majority of the newly unemployed.

At a job fair in Las Vegas, most of the jobseekers we met said they felt the crisis had been a long time in the making. Even if they were down to their final few dollars and feared that very soon they would be living on the streets, many saw the advantage of extending Obama’s mandate rather than voting for change yet again. Similarly, those who backed Romney admitted that the current state of the economy could not be entirely blamed on Obama.

Blood for money

The state of Nevada has the highest rate of unemployment in the US and the highest rate of foreclosures. The level of jobseekers there jumped from 4% in 2007 to a historic high of 14% in 2010. It’s currently just below 12%.

The financial crisis hit everywhere hard, but with an economy built on leisure, Las Vegas suffered more than most. A drop in income meant fewer people visiting, and those that still came let less of their hard-earned cash slip through the slot machines. As a result, the income of the vast majority took a hit.

Teresa Edwards has been looking for a job for a year. She has tried a variety of avenues but the only steady income she has been able to find is selling the plasma in her blood. She donates twice a week, bringing in enough to pay for her internet and some petrol. Were it not for the fact that she can live rent-free at her parents’ home, she says she too would be looking for shelter on the streets.

For decades, Sin City was seen as the epicentre of the American dream, the place to make one’s fortune. But Lady Luck has left.

Watch our special debate on poverty in the US: Saving the American dream

By Eve IRVINE , Cyril VANIER

COMMENT(S)

Archives

2018-04-20 Africa

Africa’s donkeys slaughtered for Chinese ‘miracle elixir’

Every year, China slaughters millions of donkeys to make Ejiao, a traditional medicine hailed as a ‘miracle elixir’ which is used to treat various ailments. As China’s donkey...

Read more

2018-04-13 Americas

From Brazil to Canada: the new odyssey for African migrants

Canada has become the new El Dorado for many African migrants, who have seen Europe and the United States close their borders. But they face a dangerous journey across South and...

Read more

2018-04-06 Africa

Video: Mauritanian Sahara delights tourists again after years blighted by terror

After years blighted by terror attacks, tourists are beginning to return to Mauritania. Charter flights between Paris and the Mauritanian Sahara resumed in December 2017....

Read more

2018-03-30 Middle East

Video: Fighting for survival in war-torn Yemen

Since 2015, Yemen has been locked in a civil war in which Saudi Arabia – a supporter of Yemen’s President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi-- has led a Sunni coalition against Houthi...

Read more

2018-03-23 terrorism

Inside the Kurdish courts trying IS group militants

The long and gruesome war that the Kurds have waged against the Islamic State (IS) group has not only left thousands dead but also produced many prisoners. For the first time, a...

Read more