Monday, November 24, 2014

Business As Usual

In driving through the nearest town this past week, I couldn't help but notice the vacant storefronts and for sale signs.  The appearance of "business as usual" is still present, but the reality is a much different perspective.  I remember watching the town near the first homestead, die under the DREAM initiative, and now, a six year history here with a gradual slow decline of this smaller town.  The first town is struggling so much, the Chinese buffets and Mexican restaurants are closing.  The square appears to be at about half capacity for businesses, with many of them being offices rather than retail.  I've spoken with men who began their businesses forty or more years ago, and they resignedly shake their head as they tell me, their hopes of children inheriting their business are simply gone.  When they retire, the business will simply be sold or shuttered.  These men did, however; provide well for their families and employment in the community at one time, but there is no longer a future for local, independent family owned business in America.

The change has been so gradual, we apparently didn't realize what was actually happening.  As a very small child, I remember the downtowns were thriving.  My grandma referred to the main retail business street as "The Avenue."  I was still a child when the malls were built.  I didn't notice at the time, we stopped going to The Avenue as much, and since we lived in the country, our small town "down town" became just a pit stop for odds and ends.  Major shopping was done in the city . . . at the mall.  I'm not really much of a shopper, so I failed to realize the malls were declining until we were shopping for rings at the beginning of this new millenium.  So many places in the mall were vacant, and there were recliners in the middle for the walkers to gather and take a break!  It then dawned upon me that mini-malls had become the convenient trend for stylish retail, and Wal-Mart Supercenters for economical shopping.

In relocation through the summer of 2005, I spent a quite a bit of time on the road, seeing a great deal of road construction.  In all the highway construction, looming in the background were shuttered malls and dormant businesses.  So many businesses were already gone, so many buildings standing vacant, while the plan seemed to already be in place, to divert access to the businesses that were left.  Independence was foundational in the building of America, or so we've been told.  As the years have continued many local independents did not withstand the great recession, which I have termed "the great repression."  These independent business people didn't receive any bailouts.  As the news has reported recovery, I simply do not see it.  Of course, there were jobs created for a time, such as more highway construction and signs, but the only promise that appears to have been created to be lasting is the loss of independent business on the American landscape.

While this economic collapse has been gradual and seemingly isolated, it has spread and continues to spread.  Detroit didn't come back.  Ohio's unemployment rate is still staggering.  The statistics are terribly skewed when it comes to those actively seeking employment and those who have simply given up and sought assistance or taken early retirement.  There are ads everywhere to apply for disability.  Our nation isn't building business and this country is not making products.

The primary employers in this country are government, health care, and Wal-Mart.  Wal-Mart has replaced General Motors as a primary employer.  I was married to a General Motors employee several years ago and I remember our standard of living.  Wal-Mart does not offer that same opportunity to the majority of it's employees.  There is much busy-ness and great chasing, but a drive down main street USA gives clear indication the American standard is far from business as usual.

But thou, O Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book, even to the time of the end: many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased.  prophecy of Holy Scripture  



              
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