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The recovery? Just trucking along…

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Kai Ryssdal: Last summer, we talked to a guy named Don Holzschuh. He’s a truck driver in the Midwest. He’s 56 years old. He delivers to hardware stores all up and down Iowa and Minnesota. And we had him on to get a sense of the actual economy, the one that has nothing to do with presidential campaigns or congressional debates.

We figured it’d be good to check in again as the new year starts. Mr. Holzschuh, good to have you back.

Don Holzschuh: It’s nice that you called.

Ryssdal: Where did we track you down?

Holzschuh: Right now I’m in Floyd, Iowa, which is west of Mason City, Iowa. They have the beautiful highway of 218.

Ryssdal: 218. What’s in the back of your truck today?

Holzschuh: Nothing. I just got done unloading this morning in Wellman, Iowa, at the last hardware store, and I’m heading home.

Ryssdal: Heading home, all right, very good. Listen, I want to play a piece of tape from the last time we spoke, back in August. And I want to get your thoughts on it. Here we go, let’s hit that tape:

Holzschuh: The first time in my life that I am cutting back, cutting back and it doesn’t make any difference. It’s frustrating, where everything has gone up and seems to go up all the time. And I have a budget, and before and three years ago, I was able to make it no problem. But now I’m one nostril above the water.

Still the same way for you?

Holzschuh: Well, I’ve cut back, I’ve bundled a lot of services, and I’ve actually kind of steadied out. I’m still not prime, but we’re making due. We just have to make adjustments.

Ryssdal: Do you have more room to cut, I mean, if you had to? Do you have more room?

Holzschuh: Uh, no. That’s it.

Ryssdal: I brought this up last time we spoke, and you laughed at me actually, when you answered. But there are actually signs the economy’s getting better. Are you seeing any of that where you are?

Holzschuh: No. It’s flat. It’s not like a full recovery, you don’t see a full recovery going on. You know, the unemployment figures — I don’t know. And everybody else that I talk to, they don’t believe it. I’ve got four, five friends that are unemployed still, and three or four working part-time at a job that they can barely even get by.

Ryssdal: You sound a little more resigned to things just staying flat than when we spoke last time.

Holzschuh: I’m sorry. It’s just, I just don’t see anything in the horizon. Maybe it’s just because the recession’s lasted so long, but people don’t really have an outlook for the future very well. You know, especially people over 50, like myself. I’m going to have to work until whatever, you know? It’s wearing on me. The mood, it’s getting long.

Ryssdal: Don Holzschuh, by the side of the road in Floyd, Iowa. Mr. Holzschuh, thanks a lot.

Holzschuh: Thank you very much.

Ryssdal: Drive safely.

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