Don't miss

Replay


LATEST SHOWS

ENCORE!

Music show: Metronomy, Celine Dion, Snoop Dogg and Jazz

Read more

TALKING EUROPE

UK votes to leave the EU: What now? (part 2)

Read more

IN THE PAPERS

'Iceland: How far will they go?'

Read more

IN THE PAPERS

'Hollande and Merkel don't have a real project for Europe'

Read more

BUSINESS DAILY

$3 trillion wiped off global markets since Brexit

Read more

EYE ON AFRICA

Michelle Obama visits Liberia

Read more

MEDIAWATCH

Post-Referendum Racism

Read more

THE DEBATE

Messy Divorce: EU, UK scramble after Brexit vote (part 1)

Read more

THE DEBATE

Messy Divorce: EU, UK scramble after Brexit vote (part 2)

Read more

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

REPORTERS

REPORTERS

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

2016-06-23 World War I

World War I: When northern France was on German time

During World War I, thirteen of France's regional departments were under German occupation. For four years, two million French citizens took their orders from Berlin. No more...

Read more

2016-06-17 USA

Video: American conservatives strike back

Some southern US lawmakers have launched a legislative offensive to protect the "religious freedom" they believe is under threat. In Mississippi, homosexuals can now be denied...

Read more

2016-06-09 Iran

Video: A year of change for Iran since nuclear accord

It’s now been a year since Iran struck its historic nuclear accord with six world powers under which Tehran vowed to curb its nuclear programme in exchange for the lifting of...

Read more

2016-06-03 Nigeria

Welcome to Nollywood: The world’s second-largest film industry

In just a few years, Nigeria has climbed the cinematic ladder and pushed Tinseltown into third (with Bollywood in India holding the top spot). Today, Nigeria is inundated with...

Read more

2016-05-26 Ukraine

Ukraine: Searching for missing people in Donbass

For the past two years, Ukraine has been divided. Despite several truces, clashes continue in the eastern regions between pro-Russian separatists and government forces. According...

Read more