Commentary: Idaho and America at the Crossroad
Saturday I drove to Sun Valley. I listened the entire trip to Newsradio 1310 KLIX. Only during a couple of stops at intersections at the resort did I lose the station because of some nearby interference. Since we don’t any longer see many of the old 50-thousand watt AM boomers of my youth I’ve got to say a reach of 80 miles is a testament to a strong signal and a good engineer keeping it in tip-top shape.
Another observation is there certainly is some big money in Sun Valley. Just as I was told. And in Hailey and Bellevue but as you move away from the epicenter of the skiing resort it fades. I stopped at Mahoney’s Pub in Bellevue for lunch and may have been served the tastiest chicken wings west of Buffalo. The Mahoney brothers are from, I’m told, Minnesota. There is a shrine to Golden Gopher’s hockey above the kitchen window.
Those were the good impressions. I also drove through Shoshone. It looks a lot like Jerome. Apparently long ago people in many Idaho communities ran out of paint and shingles. I don’t believe anyone can say as a whole these communities believe in a little tender loving care. I’ve seen better looking downtowns in pictures of the dustbowl during the Great Depression. Was it Walmart? No, I don’t think you can simply blame one retailer for the decline of Main Streets across the state. Surely the plazas on the edge of town played a role in hollowing out the downtowns but from what I’m seeing it started long before the chain stores and plazas came along.
The Governor told me last week Idaho has the 5th fastest growing state economy in the country. This is great news and surely could bring some positive changes to small town Idaho but I’ll wager mostly the growth is confined to the larger population centers. We’re also growing while fighting a much more protracted battle. Walmart and other retail giants keep prices low by selling imported goods made by people living in far worse looking communities in Asia and Latin America. It’s why so many people from Latin America still want to come here. While we need a secure border and to stop offering a free lunch to illegal immigrants (undocumented is a political term introduced by the American left and its fellow travelers in media) some of them may be bringing an answer to our dilapidated Main Streets. When I lived on the Delmarva Peninsula I noticed the newcomers were opening up shops in what had been long closed downtown businesses and selling clothing and groceries to their fellow immigrants. Over time these stores started prospering and suddenly there was activity on the streets. Some of our bigger grocers and retailers have caught on and are now trying to grab the market share from the Latin entrepreneurs. For evidence check out the offerings on the shelves at Fred Meyer and especially WinCo.
As an aside, I’m sure there are foreign born workers changing bed-sheets in the hotels serving Idaho’s resorts but I didn’t see any on the streets in Sun Valley, Hailey and Bellevue. White liberals are strong proponents of open borders, however. They’ve walled themselves off and don’t live near any of the new people.
Idaho, along with much of the country, is at a crossroad. Free trade and the growth of mega-retailers selling goods from overseas (a story last week says the Chinese are now labelling goods as their own in reality being made in slave labor conditions in North Korea) will either lift a lot of boats or relegate all of us to Third World status. It’s quite a gamble because in 25 years if it’s the latter then reversing course could be a lost cause.
I grew up in a small town a lot of people here would find familiar. I left in 1985 because opportunity was fading while Main Street was still a bustling place not only at 5:00 P.M. but also at noon. Twenty years later I went back for a class reunion and thought I could shoot a cannon down Main Street at any time and hit nothing. We need to take a page from the immigrants and start growing, building and buying more locally but when you’re pressed to pay the rent or mortgage and buy diapers and groceries there isn’t much room for being a hero.