I found the Vilsack-Lucas exchange interesting considering I spent the better part of Tuesday evening and Wednesday morning in Southeastern Arkansas. On Tuesday night, in Monticello, Ark., at a political candidate forum, one older man complained about the lack of jobs for people in small towns. All of the manufacturing jobs were gone. A spec building built by the town a decade earlier was never used. The man said, "We got fast-food jobs, though. We have a every kind of burger in this town you want it, but people can't live off those jobs."
(I thought that also dovetailed nicely into the obesity debate.)
On Wednesday, I traveled a little way farther southeast. The blight really was surprising. There were a couple of towns with almost completely boarded former business districts. Any kind store other than liquor or convenience was gone. There was just nothing there in terms of work or economic development. It was depressing and made me wonder just how in the world you return jobs back to these small towns.My answer is: you can't return jobs and people to small towns. At least you can't consistently and on a national basis. Small towns have been declining for over a century and there's nothing on the horizon which would change the process.