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Farm country feeds America, but try buying groceries there (nytimes.com)
188 points by kilovoltaire 7 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 320 comments





Grocery Stores closing really is happening, and really is a problem. And it's part of what's killing towns - if only because attracting new folk without one is hard.

We live in John Day, Or (pop 1700)(County pop 7200, area: about 2x Delaware), which we chose partially because of it's supermarket. The next closest supermarket is 90min away. (Walmart: 2h). Not having to commute hours for groceries is a big deal, as is being able to get vegetables of season - and in the rural west these things not a given.

When looking to relocate from Seattle to rural town in the west with hospital (wife's a doc) and broadband (for me), it soon became obvious that the quality of the food available was going to be the next most important thing on the list (and much harder than broadband). Too many places we looked had long commutes to groceries - or stores with almost no fresh food‡. Most places have no farmers markets or farm stands outside of summer, and early fall. And for us at least - living off of canned and frozen food just isn't fun (at least if we've not canned/frozen it.)

This really restricts immigration which is critical economically when your town's youth mainly move to the city as is really common. These small towns are dying a death of a thousand cuts, but loosing your grocery store is a pretty big cut.

‡ My favorite story here is once when living in a small town with 2! stores for a short while, we decided to have a dish that called for cooking some spinach. Neither had fresh spinach, nor any substitute - kale say. Neither had any frozen spinach, the second store did have canned "creamed spinach" - and an ingredients list that included both condensed milk and corn syrup. We made something else.


> Not having to commute hours for groceries is a big deal, as is being able to get vegetables of season - and in the rural west these things not a given.

What you are describing is a de facto food desert: https://www.cdc.gov/features/FoodDeserts/index.html

There might be an easy (albeit costly) way to fix this. Just today I learned about a govt agency called the Essential Air Service:

> The United States Department of Transportation (USDOT) subsidizes airlines to serve communities across the country that otherwise would not receive scheduled air service.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Essential_Air_Service

Because seats are paid for in advance, airlines don't have to worry about route popularity, and that allows them to financially justify serving towns that otherwise would never be considered by any airline.

I wonder if taking the same model and applying it to food a la the Essential Food Service might make sense. If federal or state governments subsidized every grocery store purchase so the owners can afford to keep the lights on, we can stop or even reverse the grocery store death toll and enable shorter commutes for rural residents.


Why should we be subsidizing rural communities with free services that are terrible for the environment? If people want the benefits of modern civilization like air travel and grocery stores, they should move to cities. We are doing enough harm to the world in cities, we don't need to encourage sprawl even more.

Have you ever, like, left the city, man? Do you really think everyone can just live in the city without anyone out in the rural areas, you know, growing your fucking food?

Everyone hates government spending, until they want another handout.

We already massively subsidize rural living costs, stop that and the free market would raise wages to compensate without the need for government intervention.

Subsidized, farms, roads, healthcare, telecoms, deliveries, airports, etc etc it’s just wasteful.


If you think the free market would serve markets better, then why are there food deserts?

The truth is that the free market optimises for maximised ROI to the exclusion of all else.

There used to be a lot of smaller retailers serving communities - smaller markets, corner stores, delis, etc. Large retailers came in and set up super stores which offered comparable goods at lower prices (due to the larger purchasing power and ability to take a local loss subsidised by other areas).

Once the local retailers were run out of business - the business eventually looked at what stores wern't turning enough profit and shut them down. After all, there's no local competition - customers will be required to go further.

This lead to lots of local unemployment and communities in which it's impossible to get food and other necessities locally.

In a free market, wages only rise where the business doesn't have control over the market. Once they do (through consolidation and driving out competitors) - wages drop, positions disappear, and conditions degrade.


Food deserts in urban areas are a direct result of people’s spending habits. There is plenty of people, but stores don’t stock products people don’t buy. Further if they did it would just go to waste.

If you want root causes, I would propose it’s a combination of subsidies on other foods combined with the reduced taste of modern fruits and vegetables.


The "free market" is a myth. Do you have a mortgage? Do you drive a car? Do you use the internet? Do you eat food? Do you spend money? Go to national parks? Drink water?

You are the recipient of govt subsidies. We are a society and as such, some things are more valuable than people are willing to pay for them, but yet still essential to keeping society functioning.


Sure we’re a society, but we’re not a post scarcity society and wasteful programs divert money from things that are more important. When we have guaranteed lunches for every school student, then we can talk about subsidizing services for people in rural areas. (Who often aren’t exactly poor, because of the massive subsidies we pay for agriculture.)

> When we have guaranteed lunches for every school student, then we can talk about subsidizing services for people in rural areas.

Why do these have to be a one or the other?

It's like the argument of "Why are we doing stuff in space while we still have poor people".

As a society we're capable of solving multiple problems simultaneously.

Many farmers are going out of business because of major corporations driving out independent farmers.

There's huge numbers of farmers that are being required to undertake terrible short-sighted practices because that's what they're contractually required to do for $BrandName to buy their product.

As for 'not exactly poor' - no, they're the modern working class, for the most part. They're asset rich, but free cashflow low, and operate in conditions that are highly unpredictable, and much of their ability to turn a profit is based entirely on things out of their control. They depend on huge amounts of credit to buy the machinery and resources they need to operate.


You can get voters to part with only so much of their own money to help other people. You can always appeal to them for more, but in the meantime you need to be spending what you’ve got effectively.

For individual issues it’s not one or the other, but collectively it becomes that way due to finite resources. In a finite economy wasteful spending ends up costing lives in the short and long term.

Subsidies rarely help people in the long term because the markets adapt. Increase corn production and prices drop to match, but now you need to dump all that food on the market. Worse this is directly resulting in increased obesity and related health issues.


Many of the problems that we have are not so simple as finite resources. It's like those glib articles about how we could completely solve world hunger with a mere $50 billion or whatever.

There is plenty of food and money to go around, but the complexities of getting it there, navigating the politics, culture and myriad of other issues are the real barriers.

Which is why it is so short sighted to think we should only spend money on the most pressing issue first, until it is solved.


Those farms would be undercut by foreign farmers with less sustainable practices.

Can't they use the Essential_Air_Service and then fly back home to needleville SFO? (j/k)

They get paid money for that fucking food.

We need to have at least some people living in small towns and sparsely populated areas to produce food and manage natural resources that cities depend on.

Then the government can pay the people in rural areas enough cash to fly in food, or enough to pay for prices high enough to make it worthwhile to open a grocery store.

Costs should be as transparent as possible. If there is low supply and high demand, you can increase supply by moving the prices up.

Alternatively, people in rural areas have to charge far more money for what they sell.


Everything you say sounds good in theory, until you spend a bit of time studying the history of economic policies. It's...really fucking complicated, which is why nobody really knows what they're doing (I mean how many people can predict when the stock market will crash?). But what you're proposing is the sort of thing that works with a small group of people, but then as you scale more and more you realize there are so many complicating factors you never thoughts of - not just resources but political alliances! Oftentimes there are military reasons for these justifications. One of the reasons high-fructose corn syrup is subsidized in the United States is so the US would not be dependent upon Cuba for its sugar supply back when Cuba was a communist country. One of the main motivations of the international freeway system is emergency runways for military planes. And while many subsidies are controversial, such as corn and soy, nobody can deny that we have all the corn and soy we need and it's all affordable - which was always the goal.

The truth about subsidies is simple: they're too fucking complicated to make meaningful generalizations. Each case really is unique enough it needs its own context, analysis, and decision for what's best.

I agree with your sentiment, but I encourage you to really dive into the details of any economic subsidy and realize how many confounding factors there are. There's the old economics joke "it works in practice, but not in theory" for a reason.


> I mean how many people can predict when the stock market will crash?

I agree with the spirit of the post - subsidies should be implemented for non-economic reasons and are therefore justified with arguments that say there are other good reasons to pay the price.

But this specific example isn't the best example because the stock market is a competitive human-driven environment where if a signal is predictive people will make money off it until it stops being predictive.

That is quite different from real-world processes where the laws of physics tend to remain in effect no matter how many what people figure out. Eg, resource depletion behaves differently to the loss of signal in a stock market.


Fair point, I could've chosen a better example. I was trying to point out an obvious shortcoming of economists anyone could understand, rather than keep the example in line with the rest of the comment.

From the Wikipedia article,

> “Per passenger EAS subsidy in the 48 contiguous states plus Puerto Rico ranged from $10 to more than $977 per passenger in 2014.”

> “EAS subsidies have increased by more than 500% since 1997, not accounting for inflation”

> “According to a 2006 New York Times article on the program, the subsidy per passenger, averaged across the entire program excluding Alaska, is approximately $74, and much higher on some particularly poorly patronized flights[6] where subsidies are as high as $801 per passenger.”

> “Patronage on many flights is very low. The majority of EAS airplanes have fewer than 20 seats, and flights typically are less than half full.[8] However, the program is politically popular in the cities receiving the subsidized flights, many of which use an airport with scheduled service as a selling point to attract industry to their regions. Several subsidized airports are within an hour's drive from an unsubsidized airport.”

This sounds like a profoundly terrible service for everyone except ~10 people per flight getting $100 - $800 subsidies (sometimes even when commercial airports are an hour away).


I don’t know if nexuist found out about the Essential Air Service the same way that I did, but I learned about it today from the latest Wendover Productions video [0]. A fantastic and informative channel with high production values, if you’re not familiar.

[0] https://youtu.be/U1a73gdNs0M


Yup, exactly through this. Was on mobile at the time, would've linked the video otherwise. Thanks!

The essential air service is an enormous waste of money that could be going to people who really need it: https://crankyflier.com/2008/01/08/essential-air-service-thi...

You could use the exact same service and just mule fresh food about on these flights

These places (with the exception of Alaska) have populations of a few thousand people. That is plenty big enough to have one or more supermarkets--and probably a Walmart too.

How many of these same small towns that will gladly take government subsidies scream “socialism” anytime someone mentions government provided health care, increasing the earned income tax credit, education subsidies etc?

And the people screaming the loudest in my experience will turn out to derive their living from some government directly or indirectly.

All of the states that resisted medicare expansion are seeing their rural hospitals dwindle; so you're not far off.

What’s crazy, is that I would have no problem subsidizing rural America by providing access to transportation, broadband, healthy food options, etc and even farm subsidies for small farms.

But they continuously fight against programs that help other people.


They refused Medicaid (for poor people) expansion. Medicare is for old people.

Maybe form a local consumer's coop: Say, once a week, say, Saturday, refrigerated truck makes the run to one or a few good local grocery stores. The truck takes with it specific orders. Or for some grocery stores, they have Web sites where can order items ready for pickup.

Actually, have the truck start in the city, get the grocery lists or pick-up orders via e-mail, get the groceries, drive to the small town, off load everything, and return empty.

For the off-load, maybe the small town has an old building with some refrigeration that can store fresh/frozen foods for, say, 24 hours.

For the truck, maybe just find someone in the town just to DO this service -- they rent a truck for, say, six hours, pickup the groceries, drive the two hours, and then return.

If once a week has the trucking cost be too high compared with the grocery costs, then make the deal each two weeks: Most fresh foods will keep a week, maybe two. Frozen foods can keep months.

Good way for everyone in the town to meet!


I grew up in Westport WA and it was similar in some ways, next closest town with a grocery store is ~40 mins away. The local grocery store closed down for nearly a year before reopening with new ownership. You really appreciate what you used to have

Out of curiosity: why did you choose to live in such a remote/rural place?

As a nerd who also married a doctor and went rural -

1) Doctors tend to make more money in rural areas. Hospitals/practices tend to offer higher salaries/bonuses/etc in order to draw talent. My wife makes roughly 50% more in an area of 30,000 people (mind you, we're talking a pretty large geographic area) than she would in Miami.

2) Money goes further. My 4500sq ft home on 1.2 acres of land is worth considerably less than my previous 1700sq ft townhome on .1 acre of land back in northern Virginia near DC.

personal opinion:

3) Some of us just don't want to live in a city. A weekend trip to a city a couple of times a year is enough for me.


As yet another nerd married to a doc in a rural area (Hines, OR, 90 min south of GP's John Day, and similarly remote), I'll also point out that rural docs have a broader scope of practice - to some extend they make more money because they do some work that is done by specialists in urban and suburban areas.

Glad it worked out for you, currently still stuck (near) a city. But at least it's an hour from downtown and parking a truck is not a problem at all.

I wouldn't mind at all to live in the remotest of nature, as long as there is internet. My SO would probably be bored shitless.


stevehawk's reasons are not far off.

I'd add that my wife really loves the scope of practice - she does literally everything from delivering babies (w/an occasional C-section) to gerontology, from addiction medicine to ER. This just doesn't happen elsewhere.

And we like the space. The road we live on ends in a wilderness area, the hiking and X-C skiing and so on is amazing. And both us and our 6 year old love having sheep and alpacas and a dozen chickens and a greenhouse. Hobby farming like this just doesn't work in Seattle.

We miss live shows and restaurants and all the city stuff, but for now at least we like this more.


Thank you both for your answers!

I just looked at the dining options in John Day, OR. I see a pizza place, a Subway, and a Dairy Queen. That covers my needs :)

It seems a lot of people “suffer” from the problem of wanting to live in a nice rural area without a lot of people or hassles but then want most of the same amenities of large cities.

And by working remotely and exploiting the situation it never occurs to them to open up their own business/ grocery store.

I’m sure other people that live in those areas would love to have a well stocked grocery store as well.


Yes, and then they often blame "the system" (could either be corporations or the government, or both) for the natural outcome of living in an area without many people, which is that there are fewer useful services around, or that they're more expensive.

Rural America as it is, is already heavily subsidized by urban America, but it's common for people to say that we're leaving them behind, when even as it is they're being carried along. Collectively speaking, rural Americans are extremely dependent people.


I don't believe that rural Americans are any more or less dependent than urban Americans. It is just different. In a lot of places there just isn't enough population density to have everything.

Obesity statistics, proximity to healthcare - and relatedly - life expectancy, insurance coverage, taxes paid, and average job provider (for some rural towns, you'll notice the upper middle class families work in public sector (post office, government, schools, hospitals, public works)

In addition to the mentioned ESA air travel subsidy the federal government subsidizes a lot of programs for only rural citizens. https://www.usda.gov/topics/rural Along with the USPS mandate to provide service at a loss to rural Americans.

Of course this is probably result of US Senate and house giving a bit more power to states with more rural citizens in federal elections


They absolutely are subsidized and dependent. Rural areas receive far more in government spending, in social welfare and roads and whatnot, than they receive.

The sad part is that they think urban areas are the dependent ones. They want to think of themselves as ruggedly independent compared to city slickers, so the willful ignorance runs deep.


Did you actually run the numbers? Did you include all the welfare, county hospitals in violent cities, urban renewal programs,subway subsidies?

I don’t think I know any “rural person” who is complaining or even speaks about “being left behind”. Just my data point, but I grew up in rural America and still have lots of connections, so your claim is, uh, surprising to say the least. Maybe the impression of “rural Americans” you received while in the Bay Area / Munich was less than accurate?

I grew up in the backwoods as well. My parents are getting up in years and at some point they will have to move closer to a city just because there is no healthcare near where they live. My father had a health scare earlier this year and they couldn't even get an ambulance to pick him up.

Everything worked out but that made them think that living out in the middle of nowhere was going to have to come to an end soon.


Seriously? A huge cultural meme when it comes to Trump being elected was this idea that rural America was disaffected and disheartened because it had been 'left behind' economically.

Another example, every once in a while you'll see an article or a politician talking about what a tragedy it is that broadband is more expensive/worse in rural America, and how we need to, say, support some government program to fix that through subsidies. Usually said articles will include some quotes from people who are in relevant areas. I'll see comments on articles -- including places like HN -- talking about how satellite internet operators are "price gouging" people for mediocre speeds.

But I admit that I'm far from an expert on this topic, it would be interesting to read studies or polls on how people in rural areas feel about this.


Don't believe all of the cultural memes that you see on TV. I think the reason that the smaller population areas were dissatisfy was the outcome of globalism and off-shoring of jobs.

Your second sentence goes right along the lines of the above post; outsourcing, globalism, corporate farms, the recession -- all caused job losses in America, and for the most part (at least up to 2016) the new service, sales, and technology jobs moved to more urban locations.

Fun Fact; post 2008 recession was the first time since the depression that many food banks saw more need in suburban and rural areas than inner city.


I'd say it's less about feeling "left behind" and more about feeling like they're being attacked and hated.

Whether that's the kind of "attacked" that sounds like Obama saying they "cling to their guns and their religion" (that is, personal attacks), or the kind of attack where policies are created intentionally to harm them (like subsidizing international shipping and trade, or free trade deals which had the direct consequence of shipping many of their jobs overseas).

Of course, like all topics, the truth is more complicated than the meme, but these are the kinds of feelings you'll hear about if you start listening to Trump voters.


> Seriously? A huge cultural meme when it comes to Trump being elected was this idea that rural America was disaffected and disheartened because it had been 'left behind' economically.

I don't know where this meme came from, but I don't think it was from rural people and to the extent that it's true, I think it's more a response to the contempt ruralites have felt from the urban elite (ranging from the incessant depictions of rural America as backward and racist to the general neglect with respect in response to the most recession to the pro-illegal-immigration stance which entails competition for the rural/poor and cheap labor for the urban/elites).

Another problem with your argument is the attitude of "why do you choose to live there?" implies that people elected to move to rural areas in a time when these globalization issues were reasonably foreseeable, and it implies that it's trivial for everyone (including the rural poor) to uproot their lives and move to a city.


I think it's mostly about racism /tribalism and lack of decent education. The stuff about being left behind is just air cover to make it harder to hear the dog whistles. Disclosure: I live in a rural US location. Oh and I built my own Internet (last 10 miles) because the subsidies are all tailored to big companies who already have plenty money.

It occurs to us, but doing tech work remote is much more lucrative and reliable. Also, are you sure people want it? If so why do these stores close?

> If so why do these stores close?

Because for every one or two fantastically wealthy-beyond-all-belief-for-the-area technologist who moves in, five people who don't have a job like that leave the region in search of something that pays an income. A lot of these bucolic rural areas with a few thousand people in a county exist because of an industry that was present decades ago that has now collapsed. So, sure, the property is cheap and the town is relatively uncomplicated...but people who don't make six figures (and, thus, can pretty much choose to live wherever we want) are leaving because the opportunities are gone. One or two tech-paycheck-family households can't sustain a set of businesses that had 7,000 potential customers before.

I've watched this happen with where my parents grew up and in my grandparents' hometowns before them. Everyone I know in Seattle who isn't in tech didn't move to Seattle to get a tech job; they moved from Idaho and Utah and eastern Oregon and eastern Washington to find work because their sub-10,000-person towns are (in some cases literally) drying up and blowing away yet, even here, they're being pushed out because of salaries. Yes, I'm leading into wealth inequality and it having gotten so bad that people are squeezed on the starting end because the towns where they grew up are collapsing and squeezed on the destination end because trying to live where the jobs are increasingly doesn't result in the level of income required to actually live there.

But those of us in tech can simply decamp to our 5,000sqft houses on three acres of land and pull in Silicon Valley wages in a Montana property market and feel quite clever. I don't blame the individual who makes this decision but it still seems quite perverse.


Oh, I know - I meant it rhetorically basically. If the last grocery store failed I'm not likely to think it's a good idea to start another.

And I suppose I do feel a bit clever (though in my case it's a ~500 sqft house on a few acres - quirky and cheap) but mostly am just angry that the city decided it was OK to add thousands and thousands and thousands of good jobs and ~0 homes.


I always like using the example of minimalism. It really only works when a small number of people do it. If everyone did it the economy would collapse. And the coffee shops would be unusable because everyone would be in there trying to use the Wifi.

Capitalism kicks in. The proprietor would build a bigger coffeeshop. Or someone would open a Starbucks.

If enough people with six-figure incomes moved in to a small town, they could revive a grocery store there.

The problem is that they try to live as much away from other such people as possible, to keep the low prices and the feeling of living in an extremely uncrowded countryside.


For what it's worth I prefer the city. I miss the city. I moved to a tiny town for one single reason: it's insanely cheap. So cheap I can buy a house, decide to move somewhere in a few years, and just keep the old house around in case in case I need it in the future Instead of giving my money to my landlord I can keep it. Ironically this might mean I can afford to move to the city in a few years.

More people joining in would be really nice, actually.


John Day and the area around it are gorgeous. For the price of a nice home in Portland, you can have a home and acreage. Room to garden, enjoy the outdoors, and nice people. I visit there every spring, and think about it. Then I see how horrible 4g coverage is with the hills and valleys, and how slow most of the wisp are...

Starlink might really change things for rural internet


> Grocery Stores closing really is happening, and really is a problem. And it's part of what's killing towns

No, it's a symptom.

The real problem is "the town should shut down". This is the standard "people are gung-ho about capitalism when things are going up, and angry about it when things are going down."

There is a lower limit past when a town no longer makes sense from a self-sufficiency standpoint.

If people in small town genuinely want to change that calculus, then they need to start talking about Universal Healthcare and Universal Basic Income. Unfortunately, those are the kind of solutions which small town people tend to oppose.


Universal healthcare and UBI aren't going to magically make a town economically viable. It'll just result in other places subsidizing some people to live in that place and sit on their asses mostly. It might work out if lots of such people congregate in one place, which will turn it back into an economically viable location, with people starting businesses (since UBI does help entrepreneurialism after all), but if it's just some little village, it'll just be some people doing little to nothing for extra money and complaining that there's no grocery stores there, because even with 100 people with UBI, that's still not enough to sustain a business.

Many of these towns just need to shut down and become ghost towns. Whatever industry that used to sustain them decades ago is gone now, so they have no more reason to exist. This isn't new: the Western US states are full of actual "ghost towns" from the late 1800s and early 1900s, most of which died out because the nearby mine got tapped out and shut down. The towns died, and the people actually (unlike these days) accepted reality, and packed up and moved out. All that's left now is usually building foundations, though some places have some collapsed buildings left.

Conservative small-town people in the US these days are really a strange lot. They whine about "socialism", but then they complain about their little town dying out, but refuse to do anything to improve their situation such as moving to a city for work, and then seem to want a government handout.

I'll also add that universal healthcare isn't going to magically bring hospitals to rural areas. Lots of rural people are so far away from medical facilities that they're basically screwed if they have any problems that require help quickly. Hospitals require a lot of money, and a lot of highly-trained staff; universal healthcare isn't going to make all these people suddenly want to relocate to some small town.


I mostly agree with you but this is a fairly uncharitable read of small town Americans. You say yourself that socialism won’t fix the plight of their towns dying out, so they’re not wrong to be against socialism in this case. Furthermore, moving to a major city is expensive, so it can be very difficult even if the desire is there. Having family or a struggling farm or business that depends on you is another way to get stuck in a small town. If they get to the city they may not have a support network. Even immigrants have a support network of other co-immigrants, usually.

It seems that the big complaint isn’t against socialism but against offshoring and globalization. Money and factories leaving the country for cheap labor abroad. Not sure that socialism has the answer to this any more than capitalism.

Encouraging businesses to open up in these towns could be good policy. Other towns should close, but there would need to be some help buying people out of their homes where most equity resides. There are programs for doing this in some flood-prone areas already, so maybe they can do the same for these rural towns.


>You say yourself that socialism won’t fix the plight of their towns dying out, so they’re not wrong to be against socialism in this case.

How are they not wrong, and not hypocritical? If we leave them to pure capitalism, they would all just die out. So why should they get any help at all, when that's socialism and directly contrary to their stated values?

>Furthermore, moving to a major city is expensive

It's not expensive to live in your car. Countless immigrants come to this country with basically nothing, and manage to grow roots and even start thriving, successful businesses. But you're telling me some small-town American can't do that, because it's "too expensive to move"?

>Having family or a struggling farm or business

If the business is struggling, it's time to sell it and move on. And what does family have to do with anything? As I said above, countless immigrants come here across oceans and manage to thrive, and they don't whine about their extended families they left behind.

>Even immigrants have a support network of other co-immigrants, usually.

Maybe, maybe not. Someone had to be the first.

>Encouraging businesses to open up in these towns could be good policy

Why would they do this? There's no skilled workforce left there, there's not enough of an economic base; it really makes no economic sense. There's a reason people have been building and living in cities for several millennia now. Small towns only make sense when there's some industry there supporting it, usually having to do with resource extraction (e.g. mining) or agriculture. Once those dry up, the town's reason for existence is gone.

>Other towns should close, but there would need to be some help buying people out of their homes where most equity resides.]

Why should these anti-socialist people get a socialist benefit program like this?


We gave up on farms in the 80s. Agriculture is just another industrial process now.

Since we subsidize growing vegetables in the desert and abroad, the market for stuff like vegetables, dairy and meats is hyper-consolidates. There are viable farms on the fringes, but they cannot get capital to grow and cannot compete.

I grew up in an area of upstate NY that was a breadbasket at one time, with a rich, diverse agriculture market that is dead. If you're a baseball fan and drive to Cooperstown on US Route 20, you can see the communities that you drive through rot away a little more every year.

In my town, 12 dairy farms operated in the late 90s (down from 30+ in the 60s). One remains today. Across New York, 60-70% of remaining farms will be bankrupt in the next couple of year.

The farm I worked on as a teen was about 750 acres and operated continuously and profitably since an ancestor received a land grant from the Dutch colonial government in the 1600s. Today, they were forced to be hobby farmers -- they board horses and hay to pay the property taxes and work elsewhere. (Due to limited water table, they can't subdivide the property enough to make enough money on the land)


I'm from upstate NY, and the loss of "breadbasket" status was great for the local ecology. When we were the breadbasket of the country (when the country was much younger), all the forests were cut down and erosion and water quality were a much bigger issue.

Did that just move the same problems somewhere else?

Kinda. The breadbasket became the Great Plains, which resulted in the destruction of that habitat. The question is, is it worse to replace forest with farmland or plains with farmland?

An illustrative discussion of the death of small dairy : https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=19368542

Boy was that a depressing article to read. I felt bad for the individual farmers who go out of business and lose their livelihoods, the towns which suffer as more means of production are lost to either globalization or big business, the animals who likely suffer at factory farms far more than they did in small-scale farms, and at how an entire way of life is being lost in a few short generations.

It wasn't so much "gave up on" as it was "deliberately destroyed".

Since the late 1800's, the banks and the governments have pursued a continuous policy of economic centralization and integration, and key to that policy has been the gradual ratchet of making farms unprofitable and uneconomical.

We could have a thriving agricultural economy — just change the policymakers.


> We gave up on farms in the 80s.

1880s or 1980s?


I really do think automation and the logical efficiences of getting a robot to transport produce from 200 miles away vs 20000 miles away will fix this problem.

Farms will come back, they will just be run by corporations instead.


> Farms will come back, they will just be run by corporations instead.

I believe that is already the case.

https://www.cnbc.com/2014/05/06/state-of-american-farming-bi...


This doesn't make a lot of sense to me. Stores like Walmart and Dollar stores opened up, and consumer made the choice to shop there rather than at local grocery stores.

Sounds like they are getting exactly what they wanted?

Reminds me of folks in SF who bemoan the loss of a local butcher store. Sure, they may like buying organic cuts of meat at $15/lb, but it's obviously most people don't, that's why those stores went out of business.


Exactly this. The article somehow skips from "the grocery store closed" to "we need to open a new one" with almost no attention to what would be different the second time around. (If I may be cynical, the extensive focus on co-ops and community markets makes me think the reporter assumed the old grocery stores just weren't sufficiently profitable, and didn't ask whether they were even solvent.) It has one line which invalidates almost all of the other commentary: "In town after town, people said their greatest challenge was enticing their neighbors away from dollar stores or the Walmart four towns over."

There are lots of things worth talking about here. The way low incomes push people towards unhealthy diets to save money. The tradeoff between lower prices at chains, and more money leaving the community. The loss of indirect social benefits which don't show up on a balance sheet. Even the physical and mental effects of more time spent driving.

But reducing the discussion to "the town needs a grocery store to open" misses all of the most interesting questions.


An effective way of stopping people from driving an hour to save 5% off their grocery bill is making driving more expensive. Raise gas taxes to European levels and people will think twice before burning 10$ worth of gas to save 10$ on food.

If we're talking about Walmart vs a non-chain supermarket, 5% is going to be about the best possible case. Things like bulk goods or cheap cuts of meat can pretty easily be 30% cheaper. Even looking at a pickup truck and the higher European prices, I don't think a 30 mile drive would rise by more than ~$6? That might still persuade people to make fewer trips and buy more food at a time, though. Which doesn't save local grocery stores, is still a pretty good outcome - cheap grocery bills with less gas burned, and decisions that are closer to reflecting the overall cost of driving.

There's a reason people who live "10 miles from anything" absolutely hate rising gas prices, though. If you commute 20 miles a day for $25k/year, an extra $3/gallon would eat about a week's pay just getting to and from work.


Choice is an interesting word. Our purchasing decisions are constrained by income, which is limited by education and experience.

If someone grows up with poor education in an economically stagnant area, their likely minimum-wage severely limits the freedom to choose. Surplus unskilled labor translates to downward pressure on wages which implies the same for goods on the market - it's a nasty feedback loop that undercuts the local economy.


Huh? At some point in time these people had $X. They decided that it was better for them to shop at Walmart versus their local grocer. Is this surprising? No. Walmart offers better selection and prices. Economy of scale plays a big part in that.

They had every choice to keep spending their dollars at their local grocer. And they decided not to.


The never-ending blame-shifting has to stop.

Nobody killed the local grocer except for consumers.

Consumers killed the middle class. Sometime, somewhere, someone walked into a store and saw a Philco radio made in Pennsylvania by unionized middle-class manufacturing workers and a cheap Japanese/Tawianese copy of the radio and bought the cheap radio.

Sometime, somewhere, someone saw a mailer from Walmart and saw that they had eggs for 98 cents a dozen instead of the 99 cents a dozen at the local grocer, where the employees were unionized and fairly paid, and they went to Walmart instead.

The same thing happened with air travel. People complain about poor service but the vast majority only ever sort by price and click on the "race to the bottom" fare that shows up first. And then they complain about being nickel-and-dimed.

Now the malls are dying and people are blaming Amazon for physical retail centers turning into ghost towns and eyesores. No shit Sherlock, when you buy everything on Amazon you go to the mall less often and the stores start turning into physical manifestations of the stuff you can get on aliexpress, or they close the doors completely.

If people spent 1% of the time they spend complaining about Walmart into shopping conscientiously, there would be a butcher closer than one hour away from my house and I could support a small local business, paying more in exchange for ensuring a higher quality of life for me and my neighbors.

But I can't because sometime, somewhere, in the past, someone went to Walmart and saw floor-scraping ground beef for 95% the price of the butcher and started getting meat at Walmart, so the butcher locked his doors.


It's ironic that this comment and the article blame Walmart so much, because Walmarts are often serving the most local produce because they have focused on the supply chain (local fresh food lasts longer than shipped fresh food and costs less to ship)

It's also ironic because we blame Walmart for killing the local grocery store (Ingles, PigglyWiggly, Winn Dixie) -- but ignore that they first took down the corner produce store, butcher, etc.


Competition only works for similarly sized players in a fair market.

As soon as any portion of the above is invalidated it's time to have a strongly regulated market, rather than just a lightly regulated one (the fair part).


Importing goods from countries that have no environmental regulations, literal slave labor, little-to-no tariffs is what drove the local stores out of business.

You can't have such a lopsided system and expect it to survive.

If we're talking about food stores and food producers, same thing. The large corporations receive the subsidies from the government to produce the crops, and the large retailers control the market for those crops.


agreed. But there is also a more aggressive and hostile side of capitalism that is not necessarily consumer driven. As an example, Where I live (in Boston) 7-Eleven bought out and converted or simply closed pretty much all white hen pantry locations that they were competing with. 7-Eleven's quality, products, pricing and selection was far inferior and instead of competing, they simply threw money at the competition to dissapear. Nothing illegal or immoral with that, just that we are now stuck with a dirty 7-eleven in my neighborhood with no deli nor bakery. But plenty of lotto tickets and cigarettes.

The decision of how $X is spent is just part of the bigger picture... what is $X, why do people accept those wages, what options are actually available to them, and how does the presence of conglomerate importers influence the local economy in the long run? That's what I was alluding to.

This is how I feel. A major point that is missed is that Walmart has brought many more products to a small market that otherwise would not have been there.

You can cry that Walmart killed the town square, but when pushes comes to shoves consumers value lower prices and greater variety.


Even on the employment side I'm not sure that local small businesses are better. I (unsuccessfully) ran my own small retail business for a few years. I could barely afford to pay minimum wage. Never mind offering any sort of pay bumps over time or medical benefits. I didn't blame my teen workers for moving on to employment with big chain stores as soon as they could. The pay and benefits from chains might be "terrible" from the perspective of someone with a good salaried job, but they're better than what a really small retailer can offer.

Being employed by a small business owner you know face to face probably has some social benefits over being indirectly employed and controlled by some fabulously wealthy out-of-state people you've never met. I'm not sure it's good for the material prosperity of the employees.

I think that stories about "big chain retailers devastating small towns" often confuse weakened community feeling with economic unfairness. Sam the local grocer was not economically great for his employees or customers. He never had the economies of scale to offer high wages or low prices. But Sam was part of the community in a way that the Walmart board and CEO can't be.


Another possible advantage of the chain stores is that I suspect they're an opportunity for a young employee to learn the processes and systems big businesses often have in place. My children are still young, but I plan to encourage them to do a teenage stint with a big brand just to see how it's done. I didn't and my business operations are fairly ad hoc.

A smaller business, as you said, has social advantages, but they're likely to be flakier, limited recourse if there's an HR issue, etc.


The town square has more value that that which can be measured in simple economic terms.

What real choice did consumers have?

Walmart came in and drastically slashed prices on groceries because they had the size, money and infrastructure to cheaply move goods around. This was intentional behavior to kill local grocery stores and it worked, because consumers in these areas tend to be poorer and will shop at places that save them the most money. This is intentional behavior abused by Walmart to intentionally push out competition.

Local grocery stores can't compete because they literally cannot drop prices without going bankrupt. So they end up dying, leaving Walmart as the de-facto local Monopoly.

And then when Walmart decided to pack its bags, the town is devastated because they relied on it for everything [1]. At the very least educate yourself a bit on the way Walmart operates.

[1] https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/jul/09/what-happene...


Once the local competition got pushed out, did Walmart raise prices or did they keep them low? Because if they kept low prices, I'm not sure I see the problem here.

How do these towns even exist if there are no jobs? One guy talks about a collection of 100+ guns(from my understanding guns are worth quite a chunk of money if well maintained)

This story makes no sense to me, just sounds like a town where people don't want to leave and have no incentive to stay.

The only sane person is the one who started sustenance farming - that's the way to go if you want to live in the middle of nowhere.


Anyone living actually out in the country has already been driving 30-60min each way a couple times a month for "major shopping" including groceries, and maybe gardening or raising some livestock to supplement that if they're so inclined. The folks in these marginal towns are just getting introduced to that way of life, I guess, and that's the story here? If they don't like it... well, sorry, but it costs a lot more to get groceries at small volumes out to little, remote towns, so unless your town grows a bunch (unlikely) people are gonna keep driving farther away for better prices, killing new stores that try to start up, just as TFA describes. Start living like a real Country Person or move to where the grocery stores (that everyone actually wants to shop at, apparently) are.

Exactly. Small town grocery stores have significantly higher prices and lower selection than in bigger places. So it turns out that the people with cars only use the local grocery store for perishables/emergency shopping trips and do their grocery stock-up trips in bigger places.

These towns exist because they used to have jobs. Then those jobs dried up due to manufacturing leaving, companies dying and so forth.

These people can't up and leave because their homes are worth very little and they don't have the money or skills to pivot to anything new. So what else is there for them to do but nothing?

That's the reality of many small towns in America.


It's starkly obvious in New England outside the orbit of Boston. In the 90s, there were still many, many shoe shops, textile mills, clothing manufacturers, furniture shops and lumber and paper mills. And around those businesses were a whole constellation of other support industries. When the mills got outsourced to China, or Bangladesh or Mexico, everything else went down like dominos, and there's nothing left; in my hometown, people are struggling to hold on, with the school district, a small local university, the regional hospital, a ski resort, and yes, the Walmart, as the only large employers left. Nobody who gets an education ever comes back, so what's left is a shrinking, greying population.

Going back further in time, agriculture was once tenable, but refrigeration and processed foods largely killed the regional market, and trying to farm rocks in New England is much less efficient than doing so in the Central Valley or the Midwest.


There are jobs, but only so many. The farmers need mechanics to work on their tractors; salesmen for seed, fertilizer, and equipment; teachers for their kids; and all the other things that you need in life. However they only need so many. Farmers have discovered that with bigger equipment they don't need as many people to get the job done, and so there is a surplus of people who don't have a job in rural areas and can't get one.

However if you - you personally - have a useful skill that is needed you can get a well paying job in any of those towns and buy a nice house for under $100k - next door to someone who isn't stupid but has no job or opportunity to get a job because he doesn't have the skills needed or the "drive" to get those skills. If they all did some would have to leave town anyway because there are more people than jobs.

There is a lot of money in small towns - thus the 100 gun collection. However it belongs those who earned (or inherited) it long ago. Perhaps they sold the family farm for a few million. Perhaps they sold their small factory to a big company that closed it down. Maybe they still have a small factory and earn a nice income from it while paying 10 employees a nice for the area wage.


Those evil corporations offering consumers lower prices and better selection!!

They need to stop hurting consumers!!


Is that really the only response you have to large corporations artificially lowering prices to brute force local markets?

What next, are you going to defend regional monopolies by ISPs because consumers should just choose a different ISP?


With Walmart, it seems like they lowered prices because people prefer lower prices. Is there evidence they did it to brute force local markets, or is that your interpretation of the facts?

If you’re goal is to stop competition and keep prices higher, then yes we should stop Walmart.

I for one don’t want that.


You're saying that we shouldn't stop Walmart monopolies because it would stifle competition?

The proof is in the fact that Walmart has came to many smaller towns and wiped out local competition due to size and economy of scale. The only companies that can compete is ones at similar scale while local businesses go bankrupt and money is drained out of the community.

When did free market economics turn into support for massive monopolies and allowing single corporations to control entire markets?


Is Walmart really the kind of one-size-fits-all solution you want, though? Can't you see the value in having specialized, higher quality stores compared to a giant store that may sell you anything, but only garbage? I find that to be a sad perspective. You're literally placing the fate of entire towns in the hands of a single company with a de-facto monopoly. Free markets right, but how is that good? How much does the lower price Walmart offers you help to live a good and sustainable life?

What "higher quality" stores? Have you ever been to little mom-n-pop shops in the days before Walmart? They were generally pretty terrible: the prices were high, the service wasn't very good (they didn't have liberal return policies), they might even be rude to you, and the selection was absolutely terrible. How is that "higher quality"?

You seem to have some naive idea image of quaint little small towns in the "old days" where everything was great until big, bad Walmart showed up. It wasn't like that at all. Go read about "company towns" and "company stores", where there was only one store in the town, that was the only place where the local workers could shop because they got paid in "scrip" instead of real money, and where the prices were terribly high, effectively making them all indentured servants.

>You're literally placing the fate of entire towns in the hands of a single company with a de-facto monopoly.

These little towns generally had monopolies anyway. They weren't big enough to support multiple stores of the same type.

The bottom line is that these towns just aren't economically viable any more. They need to just shut down, and the people in them need to be relocated.


I don't disagree, but were they always like that, or more so as the proprietors faced increasing cost pressures and competition, and became jaded?

No, they were always like this, because they could be. Take off the rose-tinted glasses; everything wasn't quaint and wonderful in "the old days". Those were the days when those wonderful mom-n-pop shops would refuse service to black people, for instance.

Yes and no. Walmart often is not going to have food as fresh as a Farmers market or community store. But farmers may feel the need to shop there anyway due to prices.

Perhaps they still wanted fresh produce too, but because they weren't buying enough, the result was that couldn't buy any.

People are not good at predicting long term effects of their purchasing decisions. This had been a trend for the last 20 years: Walmart comes in, local businesses close down. But no one said the people are happy. The issue is the people need to coordinate their purchases to get what they actually want.


> Walmart often is not going to have food as fresh as a Farmers market or community store

Supposedly, Walmart fresh produce and meat is more locally sourced than the chain grocery stores. Because Walmart focuses on supply chain costs and order in larger quantities, they order more food from the region than anybody else.


My local walmart has adverts on the shelves in the produce/deli/butcher areas that show the sourcing is actually quite local.

A homeless heroin addict is also getting exactly what he wants from his dealer.

Sometimes, what you want in the short-term is not what's good for you in the long-term.


Definitely true, but this article feels a bit like saying "heroin addiction is unhealthy, so we need to offer addicts jogging paths and art galleries because those are healthier".

Excluding brief mentions of business consolidation and state tax credits, there's almost no engagement with why the problem got started or what will be different the second time around. If we want to look at why the heroin addict got started, that would probably involve aging rural populations, rural young adults leaving for cities, lower rural labor force participation, and higher marginal costs in remote areas. Community markets don't reverse any of those patterns except maybe young adults moving away, and co-op ownership doesn't escape the fundamental question of whether rural grocery stories can cover costs at competitive prices. Reopening a grocery store is an early step towards renewal, but it's framed like the main challenge.


Exactly, those towns were going to die anyways and the Walmarts came in coz they got tax subsidies - which they got because they would keep the towns alive a little longer.

If there's nothing in an area to give you income besides a single unknowable unexciting corporate employer, people will move away.


Wow! So shopping at Walmart is the same as heroin addiction?

Your attitude is just the old paternalistic "You're too stupid to know what's best for you, so I'm going to force you to make the right decision for you."

Thank god we don't live in a country where that's broadly supported.


No, that's not the point that I'm making.

The point that I am making is that platitudes about 'The people asked for it, now they got it, therefore we have optimized overall good' are poor arguments. Satisfying wants don't always result in locally, or globally optimal outcomes.


How is this not optimized for the greater good? Because some people miss their local grocery store?

What is the greater good in your mind? What end would you like to see here?

People have the freedom to spend their money on groceries as they choose and businesses have the freedom to sell groceries as they choose.

This is kind of a trite example, but I'm trying to illustrate how a simplistic application of the concept of "freedom" can lead to situations where most people are actually less free in the end.

Take the Walmart pushing small local grocers out of business as a case study. Suppose there's a valley consisting of about 3 or 4 small towns spread out about 10 miles apart in a big chain. The locals for each town each go to the local grocery store to buy food. When a Walmart opens in town 3 of 4, many locals from towns 1, 2, and 4 also start going to town 3 to shop for groceries because they can buy in bulk. But it's a relatively expensive trip for many people in towns 1 and 2. And the lack of custom from the more wealthy citizens in those towns means the local grocery stores go out of business in all the towns in the valley, and Walmart becomes the only game in the entire valley allowing them to set prices however they choose.

Do you think it's a good idea to make poorer people in towns 1, 2, and 4 drive an additional 10 miles out of their way to buy groceries, when many of them couldn't afford to drive to town 3 regularly in the first place? Isn't that a kind of impingement on their freedom to buy groceries as they choose? What kind of lifestyle changes might that cause if buying groceries becomes more of a hardship than it used to be?


Most people aren't affected by ocean acidification so that must mean the activities that cause it are okay? Sometimes the invisible hand is invisible because it's not there.


These stores have massive invisible subsidies in the form of tax breaks and infrastructure built to support them. That's a huge factor in how they're able to undercut local shops. The city is really footing the bill.

A local butcher shop takes up a tiny amount of area, and therefore a tiny amount of infrastructure. It pays way more in taxes than Wal-Mart, compared to the amount it costs the city to support.

This is a central part of the strong towns message, about why our towns and cities are all going broke: https://youtu.be/K0AZXUWr_Rg?t=3723


You're exactly right. Walmart gets gigantic tax abatements that consumers never chose.

Think of it as the end of rural sprawl.

Most small towns were built to support surrounding farming and ranching. Once that stopped being labor-intensive, the small towns lost their economic reason for being. Farming today is something like 1.2% of the US workforce. Most of the income in many small towns is now from Social Security, disability, and welfare for the people who didn't leave. In time, they will die off. Their town will then go on this list.[1]

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_ghost_towns_in_the_Uni...


Sprawl is non-contiguous growth - subdividing land for housing that is not adjacent to already subdivided land. These towns are not that. In most cases, they are where they were planned to be based on euclidian zoning.

A lot of the small towns are gone. The towns that used to be medium sized are now small and its hard to get services and groceries there.

A lot of these towns would be viable if there was decent internet.

Missouri Start Quilt Co started in a small town and used the available buildings and infrastructure to jump start their business. Would not have been possible without good internet.

https://www.missouriquiltco.com/content/aboutus


There need to be towns in picturesque locations (Been to western Wyoming, it's basically that non-stop) supported by industry other than agriculture.

The ability to remote work should draw a subset of developers and other workers into the area as long as the corresponding infrastructure has been met. Especially for self contracting / employed software engineers.


Maybe someone should create a bit of a tech-oriented template for helping it happen - core element checklist and then ways to invite/entice the rest. Start with decent internet, get some keystone employers, operate out of a co-working space that also brings a cafe/bar to the area. Let the residents of a community vote for what they'd like to see added to the mix of businesses.

Then let entrepreneurs scour town lists for the need that interests them. "I want to paint houses. These two towns in my state need a painter." Or "I moved to this town with my partner; the community is begging for a small garden store - I can do that."


This happens. Not everywhere because as you say it needs basic infrastructure: e.g a Costco within 1h, jet airport within 2h, 100Mbit connectivity, and some other things like neighbors you'd want to talk to. There are plenty of software developers around here in southwest Montana.

"Walmart and the like killed local competition."

I disagree (kind of). I grew up in the most rural part of Virginia. There was no competition. We had a local grocery store, for sure; but it sucked. No ethnic food, not even soy sauce. No seafood. No link sausage, three kinds of salad dressing. Maybe four or five green vegetables. It was like a grocery store in some third-world countries I have visited. And there was literally no other option for almost an hour in any direction.

There were also no department stores. Nowhere you could buy a paperback, or a toy, or clothing. There was the local supermarket, the dollar store, and the auto goods/ammo store. And that was it.

Then a grocery store chain moved in. Sure enough, the locally owned grocery store went under. But not because of prices; it was because the chain had actual goods the local consumers wanted to buy. Soy sauce and Thai curry and fresh garlic and actual seafood, and a full produce section.

Then Walmart moved in, and suddenly you didn't have to drive an hour to go Christmas shopping or to pick up a pair of sneakers.

To be sure, there is a lot to dislike about Walmart. I am not arguing that they haven't put a lot of mom-and-pop places out of business. But like most things, the whole story is complicated, not least by the fact that many of those mom-and-pop places weren't great places to shop when they were in business.


The mom-and-pop stores cannot reasonably compete with Walmart or any other chain store. Their suppliers charge more because they lack the volume for the discounts the big stores charge, they lack the skills/manpower/IT to purchase, stock and maintain the thousands of products in a big store, and last but not least mom-and-pop stores don't get the massive tax breaks and other incentives/bribes that the state provides for huge stores.

Your description makes it sound like Walmart is better in every way.

Walmart is better for the consumers - more variety in stock, affordable pricing, one place to shop instead of half a dozen - but bad for everyone else: the workers, the suppliers, the local communities around a Walmart that lose their small stores as people will rather drive 20km and have everything than go to the local store and spend more money on the goods than the gas costs for the 20km, the taxpayer...

Every way except keeping the profits in the local economy.

Can't such stores get together and create a co-op with a set of stores in the same county/state or even country in order to get reliable supplies and better rates?

There are such co-ops, in fact -- actually most of them operate on a franchise model. In our area, IGA was one. Our local grocery store was not a member.

For what it's worth, the IGA near me seems pretty nice. I think it's the best grocery store in town.

Counterpoint, IGA near me (rural area) is dark, dingy, looks like death worn over, over priced, and bad quality on everything.

But I’ll be damned if everything on the shelf isn’t cheap as dirt. Wouldn’t do my grocery shopping there but mine was a solid improvement on the CVS nearby.

Yep. I worked IT for a small business co-op for a short while, and it had over a thousand businesses in it. They had increased their purchasing power by banding together, and were able to negotiate with wholesalers.

> Maybe four or five green vegetables. It was like a grocery store in some third-world countries I have visited

I'm curious which third world countries? The only one's I've visited have been Melanesian, some with people literally living in shacks about the size of a queen bed, they didn't exactly have the number of products we do in the west but always had a cornucopia of fruits and vegetables. I always found it aggravating that I didn't have access to a kitchen when I visited.

I always assumed this was typical but I guess other places don't have the climate for it.


I grew up in a very small town (pop ~300) where I pumped gas in the summers.

Guys would roll up running on fumes and ask me to put two dollars of gas in it so they could drive one town over and save a few pennies a gallon on gas.

Pretty soon after, the owner of the station stopped selling gas entirely. Yay!

If you weren't a farmer with your own tanks on site, you were pretty much forced to drive 6 miles to go get gas after that.


6mi in the context of places where a town population is in the hundreds really isn't much at all. No wonder people were buying just enough to get to the cheap station. I drive 2mi to get gas and that's in a city.

This way of thinking would make sense if the only thing that mattered in life was money.

I kinda felt like this was an article that had a missing Character, like covering the 2016 election but not mentioning Bernie or Comey.

The reality is that Walmart's Chinese-sourced non-food goods (including clothing, auto parts, and general household supplies) were priced 50+% cheaper than many non-food (and higher profit) items one could get from a grocery store, once you're at Walmart then, well you're at Walmart. This, combined with the insane Dollar General growth mentioned likely is why many of the local stores died. I always kinda felt that this kind of marketing positions sometimes actually harm the market, kinda like how Amazon's $50 android tablets trashed the non-iPad market by taking all wind out of their sails.

Also, for those not familiar, dollar General is not a dollar store as its name implies. They sell cheaper, lower quality items at a markup vs department stores but their secret weapon is incredible organization efficiency with cookie cutter free standing stores that are made simply using cinderblock construction and templated layouts. Their turn around after starting construction to store opening is less than two months at a very low cost in strategically placed places that lack close grocery/department stores. If you made a heat map of all the grocers and department stores in a rural area in the northeast with red for 'near grocery store' and green for 'not near', the dollar general onslaught would almost exactly be an inverse map, identifying low income areas. This is even true in suburban areas where driving is required to get to a grocery store, with dollar general's popping up in the projects.


I don't think Dollar General targets places without any businesses, at least around Iowa where I have experience with them. They target places where there is some community, but not enough to support a bigger general store (i.e Walmart).

There is a Dollar General about a half mile from my house. It is literally next door to the local grocery store. They serve similar but different purposes.

Dollar General is where you go to get something that you'd usually get in the city. Obviously, less selection and lower quality, but focused on stuff rather than food.


The entire strategy for dollar stores (Dollar General, Family Dollar, Dollar Tree, etc.) is to out price their local competition - hence why yours is right next to a grocery store.

They carry higher-profit margin goods, which are mostly canned and processed foods, but ditch the lower-margin items like fresh produce. Grocery stores can't compete with them unless they also ditch their healthier foods.

There are entire communities in the U.S. who don't have access to fresh produce but do have access to five dollar stores. There was an interesting planet money podcast on it called "Dollar Stores vs. Lettuce".


I would argue that Dollar General has morphed itself away from the traditional "dollar store" model and is focusing much more heavily on the "general store" idea of old.

Sure you can get cheap stuff there, but not significantly cheaper than the similar products that a grocery store would have.

Their edge is that they are open later and have more of a focus on stuff that you are likely to need last-minute.

For example, when our kids were still wearing diapers, Dollar General was a typical stop as soon as we got to my mom's house for the weekend.

Similarly, if you're out of shampoo, toothpaste, etc. Dollar General is going to have a better selection than the grocery store.

Need a birthday card? Dollar General.

My mom likes to go there for cheap outfits for the grandkids. We don't get clothes there, but they have a decent selection.

In my experience Dollar General is an asset to a small town. It complements the other businesses rather than driving them out. Contrast to Walmart, which will do its best to kill small business.


I can't recall which episode (maybe the one you linked but there are others) but one NPR Planet Money had a local shop owner complaining that Dollar General even stocks SKUs unavailable for sale to other stores due to purchase agreements, such as intermediate sizes of canned food at a more attractive price point.

It would seem the issue is with low incomes rather than with Dollar General.

This is the thing @lotsofpulp that everyone else seems to be missing. The amount of your income that is available to spend on goods after all of your other fixed expenditures. This has been so solidly tracked in terms of stagnant wages and applies to the SMB in the area as well.

Open a grocery and try to staff folks and have consistent supply of goods. Deal with shrinkage, spoilage and inefficient supply chains.

Meanwhile Wal-Mart (or other MNC) has a ton of capital, their employees are on social services and the cost of their goods for this town's store is in a negotiation of not one store but thousands.

People spend what they can. The middle class shows us this in their consumption of target over walmart and other such brand divides.


> their employees are on social services

I find this point irrelevant. As other posters have posted, the local store could rarely pay above minimum wage. Walmart not only beats minimum wage, but has a rather extensive benefit plan. (The same can be said for McDonald's, Chipotle, ChickFilA, and Starbucks.)


Oh for sure, but stores focused on bringing high margin cheap imported goods and base minimum wage jobs into communities that formerly bought locally produced goods does not exactly help this problem. Dollar General's expansion would burn if the minimum wage were raised.

> communities that formerly bought locally produced goods

The communities I'm thinking of here never bought locally produced goods for most things. The communities set up along the railroads in the late 1800s never had enough of their own industry to make most things, and a lot of them in the Great Plains never had a climate fit to grow much beyond wheat and cattle. They owed their entire existence to the railroad, and the relatively lucky ones were able to transition to owing their entire existence to a highway when the rail industry bottomed out.


Revitalization of a rail network, especially commuter, could work for some of these. If you add a stop that's a 30 minute high speed (150 mile) rail away from 2 major cities, that town, and towns around it would boon.

> If you add a stop that's a 30 minute high speed (150 mile) rail away from 2 major cities, that town, and towns around it would boon.

And the majority of towns that aren't near that one stop would falter even faster.

And if you added one stop per town, your rail isn't high-speed anymore.


That would be a pretty strong incentive for certain groups to oppose a minimum wage hike then. In my experience, a small town in the midwest is likely to have 1. A grocery store, 2. A hardware store, and 3. a Dollar General.

If you come along with a plan that is going to shutter one of the three remaining businesses where you can buy actual day to day goods, people aren't going to be too thrilled.


Very much so.

communities that formerly bought locally produced goods

How long has it been since these communities actually did that? Small towns can't really support the diversity of industry it takes to buy more local goods than shipped-in goods in a modern-day lifestyle.


Never for most of rural areas. By the time most towns in say Iowa were getting setup the industrial revolution was underway: the town wasn't making anything, the blacksmith was taking mass produced horseshoes and fitting them to the horse. What the town did produce (example: brooms...) wasn't for the town it was for the whole country.

The newspaper was produced for the town. Everything else was either services that can't be mass produced or the town was doing their own mass production for export.


Sorry, by locally produced, I'm referring to (mostly) foodstuffs, additionally, local small retailers that were resellers.

> Sorry, by locally produced, I'm referring to (mostly) foodstuffs, additionally, local small retailers that were resellers.

A town in the Great Plains doesn't have a climate fit to make most foods locally, unless you call taking shipped-in ingredients and cooking them "making" food.


It certainly can (and did) make most food locally, it's just that it has to be different food - you eat what you can make from locally produced ingredient and don't eat what you can't. The type of food we eat has changed a lot, and the expectation to have "ethnic" food with products grown on another continent, or to have the same vegetables available year-round instead of them being seasonal - that's a relatively recent thing.

> It certainly can (and did) make most food locally, it's just that it has to be different food - you eat what you can make from locally produced ingredient and don't eat what you can't.

No. Not in eastern Montana. There are regions where you can't live off the land year-round like you think.


"After President Barack Obama expanded the program, limited-service convenience stores began moving into neighborhoods where low-income people already lived, in order to get some of the $68 billion spent through SNAP every year."

https://psmag.com/social-justice/to-save-a-neighborhood-ban-...


>The reality is that Walmart's Chinese-sourced non-food goods (including clothing, auto parts, and general household supplies)

A surprising amount of stuff in home good stores is US/Canada/Mexico made. The production of many home goods is a natural fit for developed nations (this is way outside the scope of this comment but they're generally highly automated and clean eroding the two primary advantages of offshoring) and then when you tack shipping on top it makes sense. North America makes a heck of a lot of stuff, it just doesn't employ many people to do it.


I can think of recently-constructed DGs that are in the middle of nowhere, but I can also think of a few that are like a block from an existing grocery store. I think DG development are more concerned with seeking high traffic (at least relative to the local area) than with low density. They're never going to be in a "good" location, but usually their "bad" locations are right on a busy highway.

Solid comment.

It'd be interesting to see how much of an effect DG stores in areas with few to no businesses have on mega retailers like Wal-Mart.

My parents are 15 mins. from a Wal-Mart, but 4-5 mins. from a DG that opened two years ago. They've probably reduced their Wal-Mart spend by at least 20% from what it had been for two decades.


The article talks about Illinois as an example, but their main agricultural focus is corn and soybean production, which mostly becomes animal feed. It doesn’t surprise me that it would be hard to buy actual food in a place like that.

I can only see the first two paragraphs, but it is apparently about Winchester Illinois which is in Scott County. According to Wikipedia, it now has a smaller population than when the county was created just prior to 1840.

Less than 5000 people are supporting the costs of administering an entire county. It should be merged back into Morgan County, which appears to have a stable population at least.

A lot of places in Illinois are heavily burdened by the sheer number of governmental units that they pay taxes to support. Consolidation would dramatically improve the situation and help bring a more vibrant economy that can support things like grocery stores.


Illinois isn't particularly sparsely populated compared with the rural areas of the Dakotas and Montana. It's not uncommon to drive over 20 miles for groceries. Closer towns might have a convenience/general store, but prices will be high and selection minimal. You might make the trip only every other week, though. People tend to have freezers and root cellars to store the food they raise themselves. Canning, sadly, seems to be a lost art.

It also mentions greens & beef being agricultural output. They then mention a Florida town with the same issue.

We are very fortunate. We live in a very rural, conservative, very northern coastal town of California (next door to Oregon). Our typical shopping day has us first visiting a local farm to purchase Eggs, Cream, Beef, and Pork products all organic and locally grown (Alexandre Family Farms). Our next stop is the farm stand for our local organic farm to get in-season fresh vegetables picked very recently (Ocean Air Farms).

After that, our local organic food market which is expanding, having taken over the next door suite's lease. We get whatever staples they carry that were not available at the first two stops (Wild Rivers Market).

Last, we visit a major grocer, such as Safeway or Fred Meyers to get any items not available at the previous 3. Our shopping basket at this stop is progressively getting lighter and lighter as time goes by, thanks to the increased offerings at the first three shopping stops.

Seasonally, we also have two farmer's markets locally, one on Wednesdays and one on Saturdays. We stop at those when they are open, getting locally made goods, crafts, herbs, etc.

We have a local coffee roaster that feeds my caffeine habit, with some custom roasted beans as well as his normal fare... Wild Rivers Coffee - Thanks, Norris!

All in all, we are lucky to be able to stay mostly local.

My motto: Small is beautiful, and Think Locally, Act Locally. Supporting our neighbors keeps our commerce locally centered, sustaining (and growing) the health of our community.

This said, there is a Wal-Mart in town, as well as a Dollar General and DollarTree stores, so for those of my neighbors who prefer their items from these venues (and their lower prices) they can be accommodated.


This is time, effort and money people tend to find difficult to allocate. Do they spend their day off across four locations going shopping and neglect their yard or catching up with friends? It's possible to do it all, but easier to convince yourself you can't because you're tired, saving money, stressed from work/kids/etc.

I agree. And I would also go further to suggest this set of priorities are part of what goes into my consideration of "quality of life."

I have worked very hard to get myself to the point where I have the luxury of choosing to allocate my time and money this way. Definitely not all of my efforts have been successful, but as I continue to apply myself to my perceived values, I find success far more often than failure.

And those successes for my efforts give me great satisfaction.

I frequently find at the base of this the example of the children presented with the "marshmallow" test - The ability to delay gratification.

Or as others have summarized: Work hard, then easy, rather than easy, then hard: By working hard in the beginning, later the work/living is easier. The alternate makes for a dim prospect for my future, so I make my choices appropriately.


Crescent City?

Yep. A few miles north of town. Beautiful area, mostly nice people. The few who are not are easy to avoid :)

I get the feeling that half the "problem" is bigger stores moving into grocery (e.g. Walmart, Costco, Dollar General) and some serious problems with distributors. If you live in a rural area, then "local" can often mean 45-90 miles. Heck, go to Sam's Club or Costco a couple hours away every couple of weeks is not a big deal. The quality of store bought food I can get now as an adult far outstrips what I could get during my childhood. Frankly, Walmart is a whole lot less corrupt than the local grocery place.

The interesting part is that the old truth seems to still work, if you have a good butcher, you can survive fairly well.


This is true. We drive 30 minutes to a butcher in Roanoke, AL and it is seriously packed on a Saturday. Reasonable good meat and local flash frozen southern vegetables.

So the town in the article is going to be nearly completely unlivable without a vehicle and is about 20 miles from a Walmart.

There will be few decent jobs that are walkable, limited medical care, etc, in a town of 1,500, it is just the way it is.

Which isn't to say that these folks can't lament reduced access to food, but the literal availability of food is low there only if you ignore that other circumstances already pretty much force owning a vehicle to live there.


The town in which I grew up was 30 minutes from the nearest Wal-Mart by car, and 15 minutes from the nearest real grocery store by car. Hell, "town" was three minutes by car from my house and we lived "close" compared to several of my friends. We had no police department. We had a volunteer only fire department and first responder unit. We partnered with a town 5 miles away for our school district. We were 13 miles from the nearest 4 lane highway. Most of our county roads were gravel. We had few problems with safety, food access, or economic access to plentiful jobs.

Living in a tiny, remote, rural town presents one with a ton of low level, low overhead, low skill, and valuable entrepreneurial opportunities. Property and office space are cheap. Housing, which would go for well into the $300k range in cities within commuting distance of an hour or less, costs between $50,000 and $200,000 (for a pretty luxurious place). Agriculture, inevitably the bedrock of most rural communities, provides needs for mechanics, scrap management, custom application, fuel, carpentry, veterinary medicine, real estate, law, education, commodities trading, banking, environmental protection, equipment dealerships, various parts suppliers, hairdressers, food and entertainment, communications, rental property management, accounting, coaching, and pretty much every other economical human endeavor. The opportunity is that most of these needs are met by people in the community - people who you know well and trust - and are insulated from competition by distance and the small market size. Many people were self-employed; as doctors, vets, concrete masons, farmers, restaurateurs, gas station franchise owners, specialty parts wholesalers, junkyard operators, etc. Sure, there was only one store where you could get plumbing supplies, but that family lived very comfortably in that niche, and had for two generations. You either chose to stay and start your own business that could meet a need in the local community, usually some specialized unskilled construction or mechanical labor, or got a degree and commuted to the nearby cities. Food was procured once a week from the far away grocery stores; but other than commuters and the weekly grocery errand, you often didn't need to leave the vicinity of the town for weeks or even months at a time. In cities, even with suburban life, not needing to leave your community for extended days at a time is exceedingly rare, even for suburbs with approximately the same population as my old small town. I drive thirty minutes across town to my clients' offices, for example. New Yorkers take the subway across burroughs to get to their jobs. The authors overstate the problems people in small towns face.


The car dependency of rural America is certainly worth discussing, and this specific grocery store case does have consequences. As one example, in towns like this retirement homes or apartments catering to older people are often within walking or shuttle distance of a town center with a grocery store, which helps preserve independence for people who no longer drive. But the focus of the article is strange, and seems to come from a rather urban mindset. Lines like "nowhere to buy even a banana" don't square with "the only grocer within 15 miles shut down last year" or "5 million people in rural areas have to travel 10 miles or more to buy groceries". A ten mile drive is not short, but it's not actually unusual for many services in the (mid-)western US. (Which is probably why the people interviewed don't share the reporter's focus on distance.) People living on actual farms may well have been ten miles from the grocery store too!

The most telling line in the piece is: "In town after town, people said their greatest challenge was enticing their neighbors away from dollar stores or the Walmart four towns over." Meaning, one, that people are already driving for groceries. And two, that finding out there's a grocery store in down didn't persuade them to switch. I looked up Mountanair to see where people were shopping, since 45 miles to a grocer is unusually long. (It's Family Dollar or a 45-mile drive to Belen.) In the process, I ran into this review for B Street Market, the new local grocer discussed in the story: "It's the only grocery store in town... Nice people that work there but[...] prices so high that you don't even want to go in there.... It's worth the drive to Belen[...] to go get groceries plus a lot better selection." Ending Mountainair's story with the happy news that it once again has a grocery store was only half the picture.

I think that poor choice of focus causes the story to neglect any truly interesting analysis. The obvious place to start is not "ten miles to a grocery store" but "the last grocery store went out of business", which leads to a larger discussion of rural America's economic prospects, the price disadvantages faced by non-chain businesses, and the vicious cycle of box stores taking money out of communities and so creating more dependence on low prices. Or else keep pursuing the briefly mentioned topic of where people are shopping - there's a fascinating comparison to urban food deserts, which enforce a similar choice between distant grocers and unhealthy processed foods nearby.

Fundamentally, this feels like pretending that one example of a much larger pattern is special, rather than just a human-interest way of approaching the topic.


The reporter made the mistake of not measuring distance in a unit of time! 10 miles in rural areas is just more than 10 minutes if you obey the speed limit - nobody actually does that though, so in reality it probably is less than 10 minutes.

The same distance in NYC could be well over an hour (Note that I don't live in NYC so I have to guess). Depending of course on where you are going and how you get there, but most traffic is running much slower than rural areas. If you drive there is the time to find a parking spot and get to your destination - time that rural areas with plenty of parking don't bother count. If you take transit there may be a few transfers and the time to wait for your bus/train at each one. In NYC you may think about walking to the grocery store: 10 miles is hours each way.

Car dependency isn't worth discussing because there is no other option. When you are by definition in the middle of nowhere there isn't any other option. Rural areas exist for farms: there is no way to move them in.


It's particularly surprising since the story references "rural food deserts" and cites the USDA "number living 10 miles from a grocer" statistic, but doesn't put 2 and 2 together. The USDA publishes that stat because of its food desert definition: "more than one mile from a supermarket in urban or suburban areas, and more than 10 miles from a supermarket in rural areas".

Now, the USDA definition sound weirdly broad to me. I apparently grew up in a suburban 'food desert' which encompassed most of the town, including several extremely rich subdivisions. Since it was a suburb with practically no traffic or stoplights, that means "desert" applies to a ~15 minute walk or ~3 minute drive to the store. And in a town with brutal winters and minimal public transit, even the sub-poverty-line families outside that 1 mile radius completely relied on cars. So looking into this has made me more skeptical of "23.5M Americans live in food deserts".

(Ironically, people did what this story promotes: bought short-lifespan foods at the close store, and expensive or bulk goods >10 miles away. The USDA just needed to apply its rural definition to that suburb.)

But the USDA at least has the right idea: access is defined by time and effort, not distance. Time is fairly obvious; walking, public transit, and driving in traffic are all slower. More subtly, my experience living 20+ minutes from groceries in a rural and an urban setting is that it was much more pleasant with a car than on foot. With a car, you can freely get heavy or bulky stuff, stock up for longer, go after dark when you're tired, or shop in summer and winter without spoiled groceries or frostbite.

There's no way to write this story effectively without understanding that 10 miles can be 10 minutes, or that for farms outside these small towns everything is 10+ miles away. Hence the people in New Mexico saying that a grocer right in town is still less good than driving 45 miles to a better store: you're already planning major trips to get goods regardless.


Exactly. The closest grocery store to my house is an upscale one about 7 miles away. I rarely shop there: I go to the Walmart 10 miles away because (1) it's on my way home from work and (2) prices are lower.

Basically, if you live in a rural area, having to drive places is table stakes: not even worth thinking about. Unless there's a major snowstorm or the roads are covered in ice. Then it becomes a pain in the ass.


45 miles is like what, a 35 minute drive in a rural area? Costco runs in Westchester NY took about that long when we depended on public transit.

No. That would mean an average speed of 77 miles per hour. And given that you need to slow down in the small towns and before passing that means your normal speed would be more than 85 mph. Around here the rural speed limit is 55 mph so people drive about 60 mph.

It does depend a bit on where the rural area is - in the Dakotas and other western states the highway limit is 80 mph, without much in the way of interstitial towns. Even so, you're not starting or ending on an interstate, so averaging higher than 65 or so is largely out of the question.

Autonomous rural delivery growth will be huge(!) as the population ages out. Perhaps there can be a federal subsidy for that.

Better to subsidize moving these folks to rural "cities" where the stores are if you're going to be spending the money, right? Unless you're also discouraging more people from moving out into the sticks unless they can afford/are OK with the costs (actual, unsubsidized costs—so, more than it costs now) & challenges of living there, so the delivery subsidy program naturally tapers off over time.

Otherwise you're committing to indefinitely subsidizing inefficient living (again, fine if people can and want to bear those costs themselves, but IDK why we'd subsidize it, especially more than we already do)


That isn't possible. Rural areas exist to serve farms which need a lot of land and only a few people per unit of land. The farmers in the area need mechanics, teachers for their kids, and all the other things you expect in a town including groceries. All of the above of course depend on each other for the same types of things, but there are not a lot of people in total.

Of course there are also people in rural areas who really would be better off if they could move in most ways. However one way they would be worse off is the need to find new friends.


People will NEVER support a government that asks them to move. That's the whole reason these towns exist.

Look at China - they literally forcibly relocate people at economic gunpoint(their jobs will be moved and their homes will no longer exist by this date, their choice of what to do) and somethings actual gunpoint.

That comes with a whole slew of societal issues. The elderly simple cannot adjust to different lifestyles, they freak out.


Asks -> helps / co-ordinates (a planned and orderly shutdown of towns that are no longer necessary).

Yes, this exists. A majority of my family lives in Ohio, and the town they live in is about 20 miles to the nearest Walmart.

I don't understand this. By the time you drive 20 miles in Germany (starting from a city) you not only have passed a "town" you have also arrived in the next city.

It isn't complicated. The population density of the US, excluding Alaska, is about 1/5 that of Germany, and we are probably relatively concentrated in mega-cities.

Can you explain what you mean by "this"?

Towns that are unliveable without a car.

"What is 'most cities in the US', Trebek?"

But it doesn't have to be that way. I'm in Munich now, and little Bavarian towns of 10k or less are nearly always much more walkable than US cities 20x their size.


I see this point of view a lot, but it's got one major flaw: A lot of my trips to the grochery store/Costco/Sams Club include far more things than I can carry. The idea of not owning a car sounds like the exact opposite of a paradise to me.

Oh, plenty of people own cars in these little towns. Most households have one, I'd bet. And getting from town to town without a car is...challenging. Possible, there are trains and buses, but it's hard.

But for day to day errands, you don't need a car, you can get by fine without one. That's the difference. You have a choice, whereas in the states you don't. Small towns in the US are mostly hilariously walking-hostile, and public transportation is effectively non-existent.

I admit, it's a bit amusing to see how often Americans treat this as something that must be either-or. When I talk about German cities being more walkable, or having public transit, so many assume that this means driving is either impossible or impractical, as if it was not feasible to support more than one mode at a time.

Though I suppose I can't really blame them, because that's more or less how things work back in the states: most cities are designed for cars to the near-exclusion of all else. You can walk, but there's nothing in walking distance from the residential areas. You can bike, but it's dangerous and uncomfortable. You can take a bus, if you're okay with tripling how long every errand takes.


While it would be nice to be within walking distance of many daily places, there are real downsides: Noise, air quality, crime. I live in an incredibly quiet and peaceful neighborhood. I do have to drive a good 20 minutes to get to a major grocery store but Walmart is 10 mins away and a small grocery store less than 5. I do wish there was a coffee shop within 10 minutes of walking distance, but otherwise I can't imagine any upside for me personally in "walkable" cities. People selling their public transportation and walk-able cities just doesn't resonate with me at all, in fact it sounds horrible, but I'm glad the choices are there.

The thing with walkability is that it changes the frequency of shopping. If going to buy food requires me to drive to a supermarket, I'm going to want to buy enough stuff to do that rarely and that will be more bags than I'd like to carry. However, as I'm usually buying food by entering one of the multiple stores that's on my way when walking home from work, I do that almost every day, and then it's just a few items.

Most countries don't rely on bulk buying groceries at warehouse stores like Costco. That'd be bizarre to most people outside America.

A lot of cultures you go up to the grocery store to buy what you need for what you're cooking that day. Not going once a month to fill a truckload of year long supplies.


Living in Germany now we go more frequently, but I do miss Costco for a lot of stuff. Costco is easily one of the best parts of American retail culture.

" About 5 million people in rural areas have to travel 10 miles or more to buy groceries, according to the Department of Agriculture"

is that supposed to sound like a lot? It's probably a 12 minute drive. I know people who drive 60 miles to and from work every day in Texas without batting an eye.


Agreed. It can take that long living in town, to drive a mile to the grocery store. I drive 12 miles to the edge of town, rarely seeing another car until I'm almost there, to a grocery on the edge of town. Takes 15 minutes

It's a lot for people who can't drive, like children or the elderly.

I don't see how it would help, then, if it were closer, like 2 miles? What would they do, instead not be able to walk there?

Two miles is still really far. That grocery density would mean only ten grocers or so in a major city like Berlin. Small towns should be able to achieve much shorter distances . Nevertheless, 2 miles is well within the ability of people to cycle. Elderly people with poor balance can use electric tricycles.

The topic was not major cities. It's rural areas. It's very unrealistic for them to be expected to be even as dense as one in every two miles, when in many cases there might only be four houses or less in a one mile stretch.

It seems unlikely that people who are physically unable to drive would be walking that distance or using electric tricycles. I would think that what is going to be helpful for these people is grocery delivery service.

Also, children are not typically expected to be responsible for grocery shopping.


But has anything changed?

60 years ago, you wouldn't have been able to get bananas in entire regions (this is easily evidenced by how quickly organic bananas go bad), much less avocados within a 20 minute drive.

Even 30 years ago, the selection of fresh fruits and veggies was much more limited. It's a big reason for juices by concentrate, dried, and canned goods.

There are certainly still local (farmers stands and pick your own (apples, strawberries, tomatoes) in much of the agricultural southeast, and true farmers markets - but would you know about them unless you drive by some country road, or know somebody that runs a farm.


I don’t see the problem. If you are making 200k in one of these places you can afford to hire a couple workers to farm your land and deliver groceries. Problem solved and you are probably still saving money over living in SF or Seattle

Bigger businesses have all the advantages - negotiating with towns for tax incentives; huge overseas buying power for lowering prices; paying a few locals a local (small) wage for work that would pay double in a larger town. Add to that, WalMart & co know to position themselves on the edge of town, near the major highway. So folks in town must choose to go downtown, or go to the edge of town and do all their shopping at WalMart. And folks out of town drive into town, come across WalMart first and generally just stop there and do all their shopping. Starves the downtown almost completely.

Can confirm, live in a rural farming/ranching area. Drive past farms (vegetable, grass, ornamental, and commodity) every day. Local grocery store trucks produce in from all over the country. The local grocery stores (Wal Mart, HEB) are also higher priced than even their stores in the nearby suburban area. We drive weekly to Aldi for most of our groceries, or to the bigger, nicer HEB with better food. The local farmer's market is overpriced trash / antiques and junk. We do have a local friend that gives/sells/trades eggs with us though.

I grew up in rural Texas and when I visit back home I've noticed the farm stands are considerably worse than what I remember them being growing up. On the other hand I live in rural New England now and the farm stands here are excellent, albeit strictly seasonal.

I am an Air Force brat. We didn't live on the base, but it was a bit of a drive to get to the base. All our grocery shopping was done on the base. Since it was a drive, maybe 30 min, we'd buy 2 weeks of groceries at a time.

During WWII, the government urged urban citizens to plant Victory Gardens so that farmed produce could go to the troops. Home and community plots resulted in an estimated 10 million tons of harvested produce, equal to the commercial production of the time.

The cause of these food deserts must be addressed, but in the mean time, I think a return to the Victory Garden would be useful (assuming it doesn't work too well and end up tanking agro prices). You just need south or east facing windows, porches or roofs, and you can easily construct (or buy) window boxes and raised beds.


I suggest you do the math. My mother was a fanatical gardener and food preserver, so I know full well how much land it takes to grow enough produce to feed a family for a year from a season's frozen/canned produce. I personally did a lot of literal spade work (and harvest work) to make it happen.

A couple of window boxes will about cover 1/4 of your need for herbs(1). I am not sure how big mom's gardens (plural) were, but I would guess an acre or so all together.

Really, it isn't hard to do the math. There are a zillion books on gardening that address space planning starting from your desired yield estimate. It isn't difficult math -- my mom taught it to a herd of 4-H kids over the years, and as the 4-H garden judge at the county fair expected your notebook to include the computations.

So, I encourage you to grow a Victory Garden. Tell us how that works out for you. I guarantee that at least some of the food that you grow will be astoundingly good. Not everyone finds the process satisfying, though.

The ironic thing is that the farm country we are talking about in this thread is exactly where mom's gardens were, and gardens were common in the day. But not any more -- people would rather work at Walmart, and buy their canned corn there, than grow it and can it themselves. The rural economy has changed -- at least the farm country economy -- because it is rare to be able to make a living full-time farming any more.

(1) Never trust a sentence with the word "just" in it.


The "math" can be quite complex, because estimates range anywhere from 1/4 acre to feed a family of four to 1 acre to feed 1 person. It depends on how intensely the land is managed, climate zone, caloric requirements, etc. I pack my veggies in much closer rows than you're supposed to, but they do fine.

It's funny, I built one 12"x48" window box just for herbs and I barely use them! I have oregano, thyme, thai basil, mint, lavender, bee balm, parsely, cilantro, even green onions, and I kind of forget they're there. A shaker of dried herbs provence works for me most of the time.


This makes for an interesting comparison to Japan. I’ve lived in rural Tokyo for about two months, and local produce is a thing there. The produce doesn’t need to be sold at a market. The farmers just sell their produce on the roadside, right next to their plots of land.

This is also true in some places like semi-rural parts of Dongguan city, Guangdong province of China.


>I’ve lived in rural Tokyo

Did you mean to say rural Japan?


No, I really mean rural Tokyo. Tokyo is BIG and not all wards are like Shinjuku/Chuo.


Walmart and the like killed local competition. There’s a gas station I stop at from time to time in the country with a Walmart next door. It’s insanely busy.

I have family in the country and they accept having to drive to get decent groceries. There are seasonal vegetable and fruit stands but you couldn’t get everything you need. A local ranch sells beef but it would be quite expensive to buy year around unless you want a whole or 1/2 cow.

The county has something like 12,000 residents. It’s about the same population as a 2-3 mile radius is the suburb I live in.

To be honest I don’t feel bad for some of these people in the article. They are opposed to the word co-op.

Edit: Removing the last 2 sentences of the last paragraph as it’s against the guidelines for flamebait topics. Reading between the lines of the original article I can only assume “speak the the language” is referring to politics.

> “It’s ironic because it was farmers who pioneered co-ops. They’re O.K. with ‘community store.’ They’re the same thing, but you’ve got to speak the language.”


The political flamebait in your last paragraph breaks the site guidelines. That's not ok because it leads to flamewars, as it did—wretchedly—in this case.

If you'd please review https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html and edit that out of your posts in the future, we'd be grateful. Your comment was great otherwise.


Whoa Dang, you've got a hot one here! Glad to see the site guidelines being applied equally, as other times I've felt you were a bit too lenient with the left leaning comments (perhaps that's just my own bias).

Understood.

[flagged]


That is standard moderation practice, no different from many warnings we've given you over the years.

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=21140529

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=21139071

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=17618865

Generally we try to persuade people before banning them, especially if there's evidence that they're otherwise using HN in good faith.

Speaking of which, why not follow https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html? It's in your interests for at least three reasons. First, those rules are what keep HN interesting and prevent it from burning to a crisp. Scorched earth is no good for anyone. Second, I realize that you have reasons to be angry about things some other commenters say, but if you just blast everybody with a flamethrower, it only discredits your positions. Keeping your cool, staying neutral, and explaining your point of view in a positive way would be more effective and have more dignity. Third, following HN's rules takes discipline and self-control, two classical virtues which we all profit from cultivating.


> A local ranch sells beef but it would be quite expensive to buy year around unless you want a whole or 1/2 cow.

A 1/2 cow would probably require buying a new freezer, but splitting a 1/2 cow is quite common. (splitting a half gets you a better mix than buying a quarter)


Not to mention that if you can come up with the cash, a quarter is far less expensive than buying beef at the supermarket. Last time I did it (2 years ago?), it came to under $3.00/lb total (farmer's price + butcher shop) for about 200 lbs of beef.

There's a natural incentive for a couple families to band together and buy a whole or half beef.


"Lots of people vote against “socialism” and then collect Medicade, social security and disability."

That reasoning is shallow. They can't opt out of paying the taxes that support those programs; so what sense does it make opting out of the benefits?


It's a poorly worded and incisive line. However the sentiment that they were trying to express does have merit in discussing under more specific and civil terms.

I too have observed an apparent abundance of individuals that decry various forms of social support programs only to change their story when it's suddenly a program that more-obviously hands them support. (There is also a strong argument for social support programs as a method of minimizing the loss to society of productive labor as well as prevention for forcing individuals towards lives of crime so they can put food on the table.)


So... Many people are hypocrites and/or inconsistent in their politics?

Not exactly insightful.

Go ahead and point out whatever bad policies you think lead to this outcome, and why you think they should be changed. But calling people hypocrites on a tangential topic (social services) doesn't add anything.


To be honest, 3 years later and you still can’t figure out why Trump won.

And no, I am not a Trump supporter. I didn’t vote for him. I won’t vote for him. But it’s really easy to see how he won.


There is a lot of blame for Walmart, but let's not forget the car culture that has everyone leaving their town every day and commuting instead of living and working in a community.

Yeah, this isn't really a relevant critique in farm country. You can live in a town and walk to the grocery store, but then you need to drive to work. Or else you can live on a farm and drive to a town to buy groceries. But in no scenario does farming and density work together. Industrial-scale farming doesn't happen without car travel. Subsistence farming does, but if all the farmers are subsistence farmers then the cities don't get fed.

If you want to be a proponent of dense urban living, that's great. Dense urban living is good. But dense urban living is only feasible because farm country exists.


I'm not critiquing dense urban or rural living. However, when 70% of the people who live rural pass a couple grocery stores on their way home, the ones who don't commute are going to suffer.

Roads should be designed to travel between communities, not bypass communities.


wut?

I'm an engineer. I live on a small farm. If not for this "car culture" I wouldn't have a job. The closest business to my house is a bar about 3 miles away. The next closest is a gas station 7 miles away. There is no "community:" that's a fiction perpetuated by people who live in cities. Maybe there was 100 years ago, but there sure isn't now.

You can hate on cars all you want, but there's no denying that they opened up people's options. The fact that the small towns are emptying out is pretty much all the proof you need.


Interesting, most of Europe has much less of a car culture, and engineers seem to get jobs okay.

How many engineers in Europe live on small farms 20+ miles from their employer?

Look, engineers can get jobs in the United States without owning a car, too -- but they'd better live in an urban area with public transit, or work remotely (and live in an area where they can still get where they need by transit, bike, or walking). I suppose it's possible that engineers in the French or German equivalents of rural farm country do just peachy where they are, but I'm betting most of them are actually living in and around Paris, Berlin and Munich.


There is a lot between "urban" and "rural". You could be car-free in my non-urban area. I don't do that, but you certainly could. It's the Florida cities/towns of Melbourne, Indialantic, and Palm Bay.

From my house in Indialantic it's not more than a mile to my workplace, to Ace Hardware, to Dollar General, to an organic food store, to a seafood store (raw or cook-to-order), and to the beach. There are closer houses even, often below $400,000 for a 3-bedroom on a quarter acre.

Melbourne and Palm Bay are similar, but cheaper and with many more jobs for engineers.


>How many engineers in Europe live on small farms 20+ miles from their employer?

Not many, because their urban planning is better.

Bottom line, car culture is not some fundamental invariant of reality for getting a job, as the original comment was suggesting.


Please don't take HN threads further into national or regional flamewar. It's not necessary and never ends well.

https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html


What should I have said differently to substantiate my point that that circumstance wasn't an inherent necessity?

Citing "they're already doing X" is the best way to refute "things have to be not-X", right?

I wasn't trying to start a national flamewar, and I don't see how what I said was unnecessarily inflammatory. If no one has a better way, I think I was within the guidelines.

In case it matters, I don't live in the place I was saying does things better.


"Not many, because their urban planning is better" reads like a swipe. It's clear from your reply that you didn't intend it that way, but unfortunately intent doesn't communicate itself on the internet. The burden is on the commenter to disambiguate. There are two main ways to do that. The first is to include more information in your comment—in this case you could have spelled out your argument more clearly and relied less on one-liners. The second is to use neutral and factual language. For example, you could have macroexpanded the nearly-informationless "better" into an explanation of just what the relevant difference is.

There's another point about how your comment was flamebaity: it steered the thread in a more generic direction. When discussions go from more-specific to more-generic, they typically get more divisive. This is what your comment did. All it said was "their urban planning is better" and "car culture is not some fundamental invariant". Those claims were larger and more generic than where the discussion was just prior to your post. This is basically always a step down in discussion quality, and nearly always makes a thread more divisive.

If you're going to do that, you should include enough specific information to put meat on the bones. Large claims with little information amount to provocation on the internet. https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=21456176 was a predictable response to the provocation, and you reacted by taking a swipe at the poster ("I'm glad that gave you the opportunity for the zinger"). That's what I mean about taking threads further into flamewar.

This whole dynamic usually starts with the swerve towards more generic discussion. This is a subtle point, but a surprisingly reliable one.

https://hn.algolia.com/?dateRange=all&page=0&prefix=true&que...


I appreciate your elaboration and reference to the guidelines, but I think your application of them here is dubious.

>There are two main ways to do that. The first is to include more information in your comment—in this case you could have spelled out your argument more clearly and relied less on one-liners. The second is to use neutral and factual language. For example, you could have macroexpanded the nearly-informationless "better" into an explanation of just what the relevant difference is.

Sometimes greater detail is warranted, yes, but elaborating that way wouldn't have added relevant or decisive information. "Better" was already implicit from the previous post (enabling residents to get to destinations without a car); and the greater ease of such living in Europe, in more locations, is already undisputed. No one contested that point except to note that there still exist car-necessary rural areas in both places, which is exactly how they would have replied if I had done as you suggested. No loss of conversational efficiency.

>There's another point about how your comment was flamebaity: it steered the thread in a more generic direction.

I could maybe understand that in the absence of my next sentence, which was:

>>Bottom line, car culture is not some fundamental invariant of reality for getting a job, as the original comment was suggesting.

That was specifically aimed at preventing the discussion from broadening to the generalities of "Europe vs the US", by reminding readers of the original issue in dispute (necessity of car culture and accessibility of typical destinations) and asking that any discussion of European planning be mentioned with an eye for whether it speaks to that.

>id=21456176 was a predictable response to the provocation, and you reacted by taking a swipe at the poster ("I'm glad that gave you the opportunity for the zinger").

Only in the sense that you "took a swipe at me" by calling my comments flamebait. The comment you linked was unprovoked and itself flamebait in how it elevated an accident of wording to an opportunity to humorously ridicule someone with a pithy remark (rightly called a zinger). And you don't seem to have a problem with that, or the commenter's refusal to make a good-faith effort to read context.

Just as you felt the need to call out aspects of my comment that hindered quality discussion, I felt a need to call out aspects of that comment that did the same.


> Not many, because their urban planning is better.

I don't disagree, but I think it's easy to overstate how "planned" the differences between the population distribution in Europe and the United States are -- and I honestly think it can be easy for Europeans to underestimate how dramatic the population density difference is. The EU has over 50% more people in under half the square kilometers, giving Europe a density of ~118 people/km^2 and the US a density of 33.6/km^2 -- and there's almost certainly a wider variance in density over here.

Doing the numbers just now, over three-quarters of the US population lives in states that are less dense than Europe, and over a third lives in states half as dense or less. Car culture is not a "fundamental invariant of reality for getting a job," but for a lot of America, not having a car is simply not a realistic option.


What does living on a farm have to do with urban planning?

Probably a lot more in Europe. Density there is so much higher that you really can't compare their rural areas to those of the U.S. In Germany you can live on a farm and commute by train to work in a city.

Yes, I should have used a more general term, like "land use planning"; I'm glad that gave you the opportunity for the zinger.

In any case, (literal) urban planning is definitely relevant to determining how many places someone can affordably live without owning a car, and lead to less people being in the kind of boxed-in situation where their best option is to live far out and car-dependent while having to drive far for necessities.


I see.

It wasn't a "zinger," I just had no idea what you meant.

That said, one important aspect that even US journalists sometimes don't get is that most of the people who live in rural areas are doing it by preference. It's not because of urban sprawl or limited housing options. Most of us just like having lots of space and keeping our neighbors at arms length.


>It wasn't a "zinger," I just had no idea what you meant.

That's why you read the rest of the comment -- for context that can disambiguate it.

>That said, one important aspect that even US journalists sometimes don't get is that most of the people who live in rural areas are doing it by preference. It's not because of urban sprawl or limited housing options. Most of us just like having lots of space and keeping our neighbors at arms length.

Of course, but I doubt it can account for the fully difference. In the later 20th century, there was a vast movement out to the suburbs, and I doubt it was from a spontaneous desire for more space.


Go to any rural area in europe and everyone has a car.

People in rural areas used horses, then horse and carriages, and now cars. If we didn’t use a faster mode of transportation we’d be stuck where we were born.

It’s not feasible to connect every single small town.


This is missing from this. There aren't many small towns anymore. Those have been decimated. It's now random strip malls in random places. There is no reason that people should need a car to do everything in life, and that's not how things used to be, but that's how things are now.

In fairness to individuals, the federal government drove this with subsidizes for highway expansion and making it hard to get loans on denser building types (even something like an apartment over a store was hard to build).

The federal government basically forced this shitty sprawl on all of us and played a major role in destroying small-town America.


You seem to be confusing small towns for suburban sprawl.

Small towns don't have the problems you list: build a massive McMansion on the edge of town you are still walking distance to the other edge of the town. The whole value of your house will be more than a tiny house in San Francisco despite having 10x the floor area and 100x the land.

Hiways have been good for rural areas overall, because the few people who live there can get the things they need quicker. (when the trains existed before they didn't come often enough to be useful). In the suburbs the hiways killed the possibility of useful trains, but in rural areas that possibility didn't exist anyway. (if the hiways were worth the cost is a different question)


Actually OP is more right than even he knows, because the small towns themselves should never have been built but for massive federal government land subsidies for railroads in the 19th century - huge sections of which were never sustainable even when built, let alone a century later.

Someone in a different forum just pointed out to me that the federal subsidies for railroads were not massive in the 1860s. Today that land is worth a lot and so the subsidies seem massive, but back then the federal government had a lot of land that was essentially worthless - except for a few recluses nobody wanted it because you had to live a solitary life. By giving it to the railroad they were able to build a railroad that meant someone who moved to railroad land could get somewhere (IE back east to visit family for Christmas), and goods. The railroad made out great on this, but land that didn't have a railroad nearby wasn't nearly as valuable because you were stuck living there alone, with no opportunity to buy nice things to make your life better.

Interesting argument, but I'm not sure if it is correct. In the 19th century farms didn't have tractors so they had to be much smaller. Thus there were more farmers, and so more towns were needed to support the farms. The railroad helped things along, but many of them were built without federal land subsidies. The farther east you go the more likely the railroads were built without federal subsidies.

>vote against “socialism” and then collect Medicade, social security and disability.

Much like people rally against sprawl, but move the burbs for their kids; or rally against global warming, but don't live minimalist lifestyles.

It is reasonable to optimize your life around the world as it is. And if you use the extra resources this world provides to move things in a direction you consider better, then it isn't even necessarily hypocritical.


[flagged]


Please don't use HN for political or regional flamewar.

https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html


One can look at it from another perspective -- when Walmart comes to town, typically they'll receive a tax break, which is an unfair advantage over a local grocery store. They'll also typically get a massive investment in terms of newly built infrastructure -- roads all around the lot, pipes, electricity, etc, compared to a local grocery store.

When you compare the revenue the WalMart (or any big box store) brings in compared to the amount of space it takes up (with a massive parking lot), it's typically WAY less than a small neighborhood grocery store built in the older traditional style. It's only because towns and cities have effectively subsidized these big-box stores that they've taken over. They're really a terrible deal for municipal governments in terms of economic benefits.

In many places (such as Texas), people don't consider space to be valuable because it's so plentiful -- which is true in one sense. But it's not just space we care about, it's infrastructure-supported space. Space that has roads to access it, water pipes, electricity, police and fire services, etc. will ALWAYS be scarce. These resources are expensive, and the more spread-out things are, the more money we're forced to spend on infrastructure.

This is a good way to present the issue to anyone who identifies as a free-market capitalist. Free markets require a level playing field to work properly.


> This is a good way to present the issue to anyone who identifies as a free-market capitalist. Free markets require a level playing field to work properly.

If people were ideologically consistent in their views, yes.

However, look at the reaction here on HN and elsewhere to where AOC opposed such a tax-break for Amazon's NY HQ, and blamed her for Amazon deciding to not build the 2nd HQ there.


You might need to update your stereotypes of New Mexico...

[flagged]


We've asked you repeatedly not to use this site for political and ideological battle. Since that's all you're doing, I've banned this account.

If you don't want to be banned on HN, you're welcome to email hn@ycombinator.com and give us reason to believe that you'll follow the rules in the future. Please don't create new accounts to break the site guidelines with, though.

https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html

magashna 7 days ago [flagged]

Red states that vote the most against social programs are the biggest beneficiaries. It's the leech screaming "Leech!" in the mirror

It's not ok to use HN for regional flamewar here, or political flamewar. If you'd please review https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html and not post like this again, we'd be grateful.

Blue states filled with people who claim to be liberal generally support restrictive zoning and housing policies that make housing impossible for the poor and lower middle class to afford. Looking around the country it's generally "blue" areas that have the least affordable housing with very few exceptions.

Hypocrisy is pretty universal. Most people vote based on superficial affinity signaling, not any understanding of actual policies or their implications. The present political situation is what you get when people vote based on who they'd like to have a beer with, not whose ideas they support (or even understand).


NIMBYism is terrible, and so is whataboutism.

Whataboutism is sometimes a good way to point out rank hypocrisy.

I didn't vote for Trump and won't, but I totally understand why he won. He won largely by taking traditionally Democratic counties in the Midwest who are fed up with having their jobs sent to totalitarian countries in one-sided trade deals for the benefit of huge corporations. He also won because people look at the coastal "blue" cities and see unaffordable enclaves of the super-rich, not some kind of egalitarian paradise.

They also hear it in the rhetoric. The worst example was Hillary's "deplorables" comment. Yes I know that she meant Nazis, but a ton of people heard "poor and working class." I also must point out that while the Nazi types are noisy there are not really that many of them. Trump could not have won on their support, but he did win with the support of a ton of disenfranchised poor and working class voters.

Note that many of these people hate conventional Republicans as much as they hate Democrats. Trump was viewed as the outsider "fuck you" candidate, basically as a walking Molotov cocktail to toss into DC. "I hope he does as much damage as possible" is one quote I heard from a friend who lives in Ohio. I also read a lot of comments framing the election as Trump vs. Bush/Clinton, seeing Bush and Clinton as interchangeable "establishment" names.

BTW I take whatever opportunity I can to call out NIMBYism. My favorite quip: Texas is more liberal than California because in Texas a poor person can afford a home.


I take whatever opportunity I can to call out NIMBYism

Good! NIMBYism is a scourge on our country.


In Lafayette (LA), there was a gas station right off I-10 that put up a huge sign after she said that that said “The Deplorables”. That’s when I knew she was in deep shit. That and her “I believe in Science!” line at the DNC and Trump’s “I’ll make every dream you ever dreamed come true” ads. Although even I laughed at the online ones about Hillary and the emails with Pac-Man

A poor person can't afford a home in either Texas or California. Not unless you cherry pick living in the middle of nowhere, in which case both states are perfectly affordable.

And if you get sick or injured in Texas, well, I hope you have good health insurance from your job.


Maybe not outright poor, but compare home prices vs. median income in most of Dallas (excluding the most expensive neighborhoods) vs almost anywhere in LA or SF.

Ninja edit since I can't reply: no, they are not even comparable:

https://www.trulia.com/TX/Dallas/

Just wow. Try finding that anywhere in SF, LA, OC, or SD. I see a lot of decent homes under $200k. I don't mean trailers.

My point is about optics as much as reality. A lot of people look at San Francisco to see what liberalism is going to do since that city has a reputation (right or wrong) as being a kind of capital city for the Democratic left. When they look they see a city with massive wealth divides where nobody but the rich can afford a reasonable home and there are drug addicts on every street corner. They think "wow, so this is the future that liberalism is going to give us."

I'm not sure this is totally wrong either. I wouldn't want the country run by the head-up-the-arse crowd that runs San Francisco any more than I want it run by the current bunch of clowns occupying the executive branch.


If you think Austin or Dallas isn't going to go through that same reality then you would be ignorant of how things are playing out.

I live in Texas. Dallas and Austin are no different and home prices are already soaring off the backs of tech companies moving down here and the local government being unable to build infrastructure or support a growing population. This has nothing to do with 'liberalism' and everything to do with cities in America built on top of bad city design, terrible infrastructure, gentrification and unsustainable growth.


American city designers love the von Neumann bottleneck! They see two problems. Jobs and homes. They solve them independently and then connect them with a central bus. The end result is that everyone has to cross the central bus to get from one to the other.

Really? Because this poll suggests that Republicans are pretty supportive of things like Social Security and Medicare.

https://socialsecurityworks.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/N...


Sure, and yet somehow they are consistently voting in people who want to dismantle both.

> Sure, and yet somehow they are consistently voting in people who want to dismantle both.

I think they vote Republican mostly because of social wedge issues (and to a lesser extent, the appeal of tax cuts and associated propaganda).

I come from a farm state. They used to elect a lot of Democrats to federal office, until relatively recently. Remember Tom Daschle? I'm personally convinced that a party that's credibly socially conservative but fiscally liberal would clean up in those states.


Despite this consistently happening, I doubt you can name a single Republican politician who has run and been elected on this platform.

> I doubt you can name a single Republican politician who has run and been elected on this platform.

A whole lot of Republican politicians since around 2000 (including George W. Bush) have run for and been elected to federal office on an overt platform of dismantling both the revenue and benefit payment sides of Social Security.

Sure, the soundbite has been “saving social security”, but the concrete policy of dismantling that lies behind the soundbite hasn't been secret, it's been explicit and public, widely covered, and defended by candidates on debates, etc. The people voting for them either support it, don't think it's an important issue, or aren't paying any attention. They might be duped on what they'll get out of it, but the substance of the policy hasn't been concealed.


Yeah, same George Bush. George Bush's effort to privatize social security: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_Security_debate_in_the_...

RE: Medicare Part D, that's a pretty controversial topic. In the political air of the time, passing something like that was an absolute necessity. Bush/Republicans got it passed in a way that (a) involved big benefits for big pharma (e.g., no ability of government to negotiate drug prices) and (b) failing to pay for it in budget, thus hugely increasing deficits and national debt.


George W Bush pushed through Medicare Part D, which was essentially an entirely new social program, fist proposed by Bill Clinton.

You're right that they do want to undermine these programs (they certainly talk about it), but they've proven consistently happy to toss aside their beliefs and values to win elections.


Are you talking about the same George W Bush who lead the expansion of Medicare to include Medicare Part D?

That one?


Medicare Part D is one thing GWB did, and that solution was acceptable to pharma.

Another thing GWB did is proposing partial privatization of Social Security. As linked nearby: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_Security_debate_in_the_...

From a certain PoV, these are not contradictory, because there were profits to be made in both cases.


So, can you name a single Republican politician or not? I'm still waiting for a name and a winning campaign from this century.

> So, can you name a single Republican politician or not?

I did, though there are more.

> I'm still waiting for a name and a winning campaign from this century.

Nice moving goalpost, but George W. Bush’s 2004 campaign (where social security privatization was a central theme) still counts.


Paul Ryan.

Rick Perry in 2017: https://www.thedailybeast.com/cheats/2011/08/29/rick-perry-s... -- comparing Social Security to a Ponzi scheme

Newt Gingrich in 2011: http://politicalticker.blogs.cnn.com/2011/11/21/gingrich-unv... -- replace Social Security with private accounts.


Perry was appointed. Gingrich hasn't served in office in 20 years. He even had a campaign since then without a peep of this.

These are both mainstream politicians. Perry was a governor of Texas, a plausible Presidential candidate, and is now DoE Secretary. Gingrich was and is quite active politically.

You're arguing in bad faith, and I will not engage any more.


This is a classic example of actions vs words. I don't care what Republicans campaign on, I care what they do once they are elected, and they have gone after these programs more than once.

Yes, they like the benefits restricted to the reliable voter base of 65+ year olds.

But not for anyone else. See Medicaid, tuition, infrastructure, etc.


> Red states that vote the most against social programs are the biggest beneficiaries. It's the leech screaming "Leech!" in the mirror

You're assuming in a "Red State," all those using social programs are the same ones screaming "Socialism!"

This entire premise is based on your stereotype of one's politics.

Perhaps you need to step back and re-examine your assertion.

> Or based on what the politicians elected by those states say and then vote for. "Vote the most against"...

You're stereotyping entire states and condemning the value of the people therein based on your ghostly spector of a Red State politician.

Yours is a stereotyped, bigoted position.


You are assuming my political leanings. I'm more conservative than you think.

I'm only stating what I observe in regards to states like Kentucky and Mississippi. The people continue voting in representatives that say one thing, then work on doing the opposite.


Or based on what the politicians elected by those states say and then vote for. "Vote the most against"...

[flagged]


Please don't break the site guidelines by taking the thread further into flamewar, regardless of how wrong another comment is or you feel it is.

https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html


Sorry. Not trying to fan flames. Admonishment taken.

> Not OP. It's more like they're willfully choosing to suffer. So in that case, enjoy your misery!

They're not "willfully choosing to suffer." They're actually starting co-ops but choosing not to call them by that word. The OP just decided to be needlessly judgemental over that, and lead us down into this stupid, prejudiced subthread.


> They're actually starting co-ops but choosing not to call them by that word

What are they calling them? I'm curious.


> It's more like they're willfully choosing to suffer. So in that case, enjoy your misery!

So, you're going to speculatively stereotype an entire group of people and condemn them based on your own hunch as to their politics and station in life.

While you're certainly entitled to an opinion, nothing about your entitlement precludes that opinion being a bigoted one.

What a bigoted existence.

> Yea I am stereotyping people based on my personal experience and what the author echos in the article. I’m in the Deep South and the article spoke about Illinois. Pretty far away but also the same mindsets.

Ah yes, the classically conservative Illinois which shares so much in common with the Deep South.


Yea I am stereotyping people based on my personal experience and what the author echos in the article. I’m in the Deep South and the article spoke about Illinois. Pretty far away but also the same mindsets.

There’s nothing bigoted about it. Every one has an opinion, call it what you want. I don’t feel superior compared to them.


Read about Cairo sometime.

> To be honest I don’t feel bad for some of these people in the article. They are opposed to the word co-op. I am assuming it’s too liberal for them.

You might want to talk to some farmers in these small towns, because co-ops aren't what they used to be and farmers often don't have a kind word anymore for the local co-op.

As the food economy consolidates around large producers and the small farms that built the co-ops are going broke, co-ops are complicit in switching their support to the corporate producers and not sticking up for the little guys who built them, sometimes actively kicking them out to make room for larger contracts with the bigger producers.

Historically, co-ops were ran by and populated by workers who were ex-farmers or who had other close ties to farming. Nowadays they're managed by suits, and the workers have no ties to agriculture and could care less about inefficient practices burning through struggling farmers' capital. Ask a farmer who is working 18-hour days and can barely pay his bills how he feels about his local co-op showing up with 3 trucks to spread fertilizer and 2 of the trucks sit with engines idling for hours while the guys inside play slither.io.

Anyway the ignorant sweeping dismissals towards white* rural America I see so often from urban bugmen really disturb me. You think you have your finger on the pulse of "the country" because you have a vacation home there you visit once a year or you have some distant family members that live there (which you apparently secretly disdain?). Your brain is so infected with ideology rooted in urban leisure-time that you project that onto people who don't even have a grocery store and think it's perfectly logical they'd continue driving hours out of the way for supplies rather than patronize something with a "cursed word" in the name. You're living in la-la land if you think the majority of these people have the time to mentally masturbate to politics to your extent, much less burn time and money for some kind of political statement.

* Because you never ever see this kind of callousness directed towards poor minority communities, only whites deserve to suffer.


Please don't break the site guidelines, regardless of how wrong someone is or you feel they are.

Counterattack doesn't help, and is not the way to argue against callousness.

https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html


people opposed to "socialism" always say they don't want to queue for bread. it looks like these folks don't even have a queue

> To be honest I don’t feel bad for some of these people in the article. They are opposed to the word co-op.

You don't feel bad because of their word choice? That reflects poorly on someone, and it's not them.

They're solving their local problems by starting co-ops, who cares if they use your preferred branding for it or not?


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