There are 14,321 Dollar General stores in America. It’s a chain that many shoppers have never heard of, yet it has more stores than Starbucks. According to the Wall Street Journal, the Dollar General company is worth $22 billion—far more than the nation’s largest grocery chain, Kroger, which has five times the revenue.
however, Dollar General is thriving because, as the Journal puts
it, “rural America is struggling.” The chain builds stores where
folks are down on their luck, where 20 percent of customers receive
government assistance, and where even Walmart won’t bother doing
phoned several Dollar General stores and learned that none sells
fresh meat or produce; the grocery aisles feature mostly canned and
frozen goods. Many products, such as soft drinks, come in mini-sizes
to keep unit prices low. And few locations had newspapers for sale.
that’s just as well, because headlines these days report that the
stock market is remarkably high and unemployment is surprisingly low.
But for rural America, news like that doesn’t hit home.
are looking up in Donald Trump’s America, except, of course, where
they are not.
administration’s proudest accomplishment is a tax bill that
benefits millionaires and billionaires. The Joint Committee on
Taxation finds that the Senate version of the bill would increase
taxes on all Americans making less than $75,000 a year.
Paul Krugman summarizes in the New
“Everything this president and this Congress are doing on economic
policy seems designed, not just to widen the gap between the wealthy
and everyone else, but to lock in plutocrats’ advantages, making it
easier to ensure that their heirs remain on top and the rest stay
rural America, where about 46 million people reside, employment and
economic growth have not recovered from the last recession at a pace
seen elsewhere in the nation. Childhood poverty—perhaps the most
critical metric in determining a population’s well-being—is
considerably higher in rural areas than in urban centers.
crisis facing rural America is rooted in the fact that peak-level
employment related to natural resources, such as mining and logging,
is never coming back.
America is mired in a permanent recession. Its problems are difficult
to correct because of a sprawling landscape, scattered government
support structures and what often seems to be federal indifference.
among the predominantly white rural population voted for Trump in
2016—a sign, perhaps, of utter desperation rather than considered
opinion. But according to recent reporting by Politico, Trump now
intends to make the most sweeping changes to federal safety net
programs in a generation, using legislation and executive actions to
target recipients of food stamps, Medicaid and housing benefits.
the rural poor need is greater federal assistance, not less. They
would welcome jobs such as repairing the nation’s infrastructure,
which Trump campaigned on but doesn’t mention much these days.
things stand, you don’t need a degree in economics to predict rural
America’s future. Just consider: By this time next year Dollar
General expects to have nearly a thousand more stores.
>> The article above was written by Peter Funt, and is reprinted from In These Times.