Saturday, April 28, 2012

The Abandoned Countryside

Trey Smith

Post offices also have a huge non-financial impact: In a lot of small towns, the post office is the town, and shutting them down will basically remove the only casual meeting place for people in mountain areas and remote farming villages and so on. Of course, there's always one Wal-Mart for every dozen or so post offices, so people I guess can drive the extra twenty miles and meet there...
~ from Don't Let Business Lobbyists Kill the Post Office by Matt Taibbi ~
Yes, I quoted from this same column by Taibbi yesterday! But I think that the above snippet is important enough to discuss in a separate post.

Having lived in small towns for much of my adult life, I can tell you that two government institutions are critical to keeping communities alive and vibrant. These two institutions are public schools and the local post office.

As school districts have found themselves strapped for revenue in our continuing depressed economy, many of the small ones are struggling mightily to hang on. While some are able to putter along, in many instances, small districts are being absorbed by larger ones. In some cases, local schools are being shuttered which means that students must be bussed to adjacent towns to go to school.

When schools are shutdown in rural communities, it represents a blow to the image of the townspeople. In small towns like South Bend, the local school is a focal point of community morale.

What happens then if the local post office goes away as well? In many cases, this leads to the town's slow death. People move away to be closer to vital services. The tax base shrinks. Public services are cut back and cut back until they are virtually nonexistent. As these public services are cut back, more people leave. This situation creates its own downward spiral.

As more schools and post offices close -- in conjunction with fewer federal and state tax dollars flowing into the area -- we may end up with scads and scads of ghost towns across the nation. As people leave behind an abandoned countryside and flow to more urban areas, the budgets of big cities will come under greater strain.

In a matter of a few years, 21st century America may look more like 18th century England during the time of the Industrial Revolution. Instead of being forced off their land and into areas of urban squalor, today's serfs will leave of their own accord due to degraded or nonexistent rural services. But, just like our predecessors, a good deal of us will wind up in urban tenements with little prospects for the good life!

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