There’s a new term that has been birthed by politicians and pundits; that of the “food desert.” This is an urban area where it is difficult to buy affordable, nutritious food.
Why anyone would think that there is anywhere in the country in which food can be found that is affordable or nutritious, with food prices skyrocketing and quality going down the tubes, is beyond me; but only certain areas in major cities are being referred to by this name.
According to the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), there 76 counties across the United States which do not have a single grocery store; but those aren’t the areas that politicians are worried about. The majority of those counties are in flyover country, places that most politicians avoid like the plague.
The USDA is more focused on food deserts that exist in large urban areas, especially those which house a large number of people who fall under the poverty line.
According to the USDA, 76 percent of people who live in food deserts, live in urban areas. That’s 51.7 million people. But the definition of a food desert in an urban area is that there isn’t a major chain grocery store within half-mile. For rural areas, the distance is increased to 10 miles.
This phenomenon is becoming more and more frequent in our large urban areas, such as Chicago, Memphis, New York City, San Antonio, Indianapolis, and Riverside, California.
One interesting fact associated with this, which the pundits seem to have missed, is that many of those cities were also active in the “defund the police” movement and have been passing laws decriminalizing crime. These laws, such as shoplifters not being prosecuted for less than $1,000 encourage crime and end up costing major food retailers their profits.
It might be surprising, even shocking, to some; but retailers exist to make money. If they don’t make money, there’s no reason for them to exist.
So, what do those retailers do when they’re not making money?
They close their stores.
They might stay open a while, trying to turn things around; but they can only do that for so long, before they run out of money.
That’s when they close the store.
One might ask why stores like Walmart close, considering the massive assets available to a major corporation like that. But just like the smaller chains, Walmart needs to make a profit; and that means making a profit in each and every store. Staying open, just to be altruistic, is not sound business policy.
One city which has become an example is Chicago, which has lost four of their Walmart stores and a While Foods. While there are still four other Walmart in Chicago, those stores are facing the same business challenges as the ones which have closed. While the corporation is trying to keep those open, it’s probably only a matter of time till they close, as long as they keep losing money.
Governments Reacting to These Food Deserts
Some municipal governments are looking at the possibility of opening their own food stores, as a measure to ensure that people have access to food. These stores would probably end up subsidized by tax dollars, as an effort to make food affordable. But will it work?
Ronald Reagan was known for talking about the government being less efficient than private industry. He made a concerted effort, during his years in the White House, to privatize whatever government operations he could, seeking economy for the American taxpayer, through his Commission on Privatization.
Reagan had an advantage over us though, in that he had a living… or actually dying example of what happens when the government takes over the means of production, especially producing food.
The now defunct Soviet Union, which collapsed during his tenure in office, was the epitome of government run industry and they failed miserably at all levels.
They couldn’t even grow enough food to feed their population, let alone take advantage of the natural resources they had available to them.
Yet there are politicians who are overlooking this example, just as they do all the errors of the former Soviet Union. They are convinced that socialism is better than capitalism, even though it has failed every place it has been tried. In their book, those places just “didn’t do it right.”
There are those who are saying that any US government, at any level, who take over the distribution of something as important as food, is a dangerous step towards socialism. For those who have studied history, that ultimately means a step towards communism, the end result of any attempt at socialism.
Government Run Food Stores
It’s safe to say that government run food stores would be a disaster on several levels. Government bureaucrats are not capable of even thinking in terms of profits, let alone having any idea of how to produce them. To them, profits are merely something to be taxed.
It’s not that those government bureaucrats are necessarily bad; but rather, that they are working in an environment where profits are of no concern. If they need to spend more money, they just ask Congress for more.
If it doesn’t look like Congress will give them what they want, all they have to do is invent an emergency that has to be funded or a new project they can convince Congress that the country won’t survive without. They’ll get their money.
Due to their disconnection with how to make a business profitable, we can expect any grocery store run by the government to be unprofitable as well.
That will result in one of two things, or even both. First, they will use government subsidies to make sure they can continue paying their bills and employees.
Secondly, they will raise prices to the consumer. What that means is that people living in the poorest parts of our communities will end up paying more for food, than people living in more affluent areas, like the suburbs; and that will be called “help for the poor” by those providing such poor services.
On top of that, there’s an incredible amount of logistics involved in running a grocery store. Most have over 40,000 line items of inventory, which turn over rapidly.
Some items, like dairy and produce are delivered daily and the average inventory only level is only enough for three days’ worth of operations. Restocking all that, and especially restocking all that in a timely manner, will tax the bureaucracy to its limits. Bureaucracies aren’t agile enough to respond to anything quickly.
Keep in mind that all government purchases must be competitively bid. Would an exception be made, just to keep a grocery store stocked? I’d say that’s unlikely, as it would result in the store coming under the scrutiny of oversight.
With items being competitively bid, the number of line items would reduce drastically, as options were eliminated. Why stock dozens of brands of breakfast cereal, taking up all that shelf space, when you can cut it down to just a few, getting the best price on them?
Of course, “best price” is a relative thing, as the government ends up paying more for things than private industry or private citizens do. They might start out as the “low bid brand,” but those companies will find ways of raising prices quickly, especially with the competition cut out. Once again, that will result in higher price for the poor.
Taking it a Step Further
Government run grocery stores are bad enough.
But could you imagine what would happen if the government were responsible for the entire supply chain? It is possible that the move to open government run supermarkets is merely the first step in working towards that reality.
The types of politicians who are favoring such things are the type who talk about the government controlling everything.
Once again, we need look no further than the old Soviet Union to see the end result of such an experiment. There, the government “owned” all means of production.
Quotas were established for any and all product production and woe be to the factory manager who didn’t meet their quotas. But meeting those quotas was a challenge, as those same factory managers weren’t allowed to incentivize their workers by paying more to good workers or disciplining bad ones.
The solution to this problem was simple. Factory managers lied on their reports, knowing that nobody would really be checking on them. The reports were taken at face value and if stores didn’t receive the goods they needed, there were plenty of other people in the supply chain to blame. Nobody paid the price, because everyone was pointing their fingers at someone else.
This resulted in constant shortages, just like it would in our stores today. Without responsibility and reward, there is no reason for the average worker to take their job seriously. The old Soviet saying was, “As long as they pretend to pay us, we’ll pretend to work.”
Rumor has it that a lot of Kennedy’s success in the Cuban Missile Crisis was because he had intelligence information telling him that the equipment sent to Cuba was missing essential components. In other words, they couldn’t make it operational.
Kennedy was able to stare them down, because he knew he was facing a man who was holding an unloaded gun, while holding one that was fully loaded and ready to fire.
That’s the kind of results that come from a government run supply system.
Better Be Ready
If you happen to live in one of these areas, which the USDA is calling a food desert, I’d recommend getting ready.
If the idea for government-run food stores is being floated by politicians, you can bet your last donut that someone is going to try it. While it might start out okay at first, the chances of it staying good are minimal to none. Everything I’ve mentioned above, and more, will come to pass.
The best solution is to become self-sufficient. You’ll need some way of getting around the problems the government-run store will cause everyone else.
If you want to be part of the small few who will not be heavily affected by the government taking control of your food and probably much more, I strongly recommend this book. It will help you become independent and self-sufficient on your own property before the unforeseen happens. You don’t want to depend on anyone for your basic needs!
The really scary part of this isn’t that they open a few stores in a few of our major cities, it’s that the idea catch on in the halls of our State Legislatures and even in Congress. If there’s anything that is hard to kill, it’s a bad idea, especially in government.
There are many policy makers whose answer to any failure is always “We just haven’t done enough yet. We need to do more.”
So, they’ll keep increasing the system until it takes over. They might even try to drive out the free-market system that’s currently in place, just so they can’t be compared to it.
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