People in small town America are bitter, or more than halfway down the road to bitterness, in my opinion, at least is the neck of the woods I’m from. Twenty-five years ago, most small towns in Central and Southern Illinois had their own grocery stores. This is rare now. Rare also, are local hardware stores, local eateries, local bowling alleys, local outdoor theatres, local drug stores, local manufacturing plants, and so on. The only common businesses in small towns are gas stations and small banks. There are of course other business but they tend to be sole proprietors. Not places many people looking for work would be able to become employed.

Companies like Walmart locate in the county seat and eliminate rivals in small towns in a forty to fifty mile radius of their store through discounts garnered through the power of nationwide bulk purchases. They haven’t yet, as far as I know, shown movies or offered bowling at their stores. However, they are essentially now the local hardware store, pharmacy, car repair shop, and grocery store, among other things. They employee workers part time, at low wages, and poor health care benefits, if any. Agriculture is more productive than ever through the use of expensive machinery, so employment in agriculture is down. Coal mines in small towns in Illinois have been laying off or closing down. One can make the case that their high-sulfur coal is the culprit. So what? The end result is lost employment, people not trained for anything else, and bitterness. Just because there exists a reasonable explanation for the unemployment doesn’t take away people’s right to be bitter about it.

People who do find work in cities with populations greater than 20,000 often find the local employer being purchased by a large city (Chicago, say) competitor and everyone is let go except the sales staff, which is often reduced and pay slashed. Due to Internet connections and electronic commerce, the support positions that used to employ people are folded into the corporate parent operations, hundreds of miles away.

Many people in small towns who are employed have seen their pay stagnate, or reduced if they are in union jobs. A barrel of oil cost $20 before President Bush invaded Iraq; it is now close to $120 per barrel. Yet, for all its wisdom, the government still maintains the inflation rate is 3% or less. The minimum wage has failed to even keep up with the government’s official inflation rate, much less the real rate that goes unmeasured due to exceptions, exclusions and supposed non-core one-time events that are omitted.

People feel this every day and are complaining. Complaining about the price of gasoline, the price of groceries, the low wages, the underemployment, the cost of medical care, the lack of government assistance in re-training and for college. I have heard the government in the last eight years has incurred more public debt than in the entire 224 years combined prior to President Bush and since the Declaration of Independence.

Senator Obama is right in my opinion. People in small towns are bitter and frustrated.

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