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Something is amiss in Iowa


It was a fine fall day last Thursday as we breathed in the smell of manure from Ames to Storm Lake. The week before, our noses told us in the dark when we hit the Iowa state line. As we looked at the bounty rolling in, we thought for the millionth time that this should be the richest place on Earth.

Somebody else gets the money. We get the poo.

Iowa ranks 30th in median household income at about $80,000 per year. That high-tax socialist Minnesota’s median income is $96,000; Illinois is at $95,000. Storm Lake is at $51,000.

We have the best soil, though less of it every year. We have the best climate for growing corn, especially, but it is becoming more extreme. We have abundant water, but we are drawing it down and fouling it. We have an elaborate infrastructure that could support people and prosperity that we are leaving to decay.

We used to have a lot of brains combined with work ethic not afraid to get out there and hoe a row. We’re chasing the brains off to Minnesota and Illinois, where the money is. We’re hostile to immigrants who are perfectly willing to pick up the shovel. It’s not a good position for the future.

Iowa is the only state with a rising cancer rate. It is second in cancer incidence to Kentucky, tobacco central. Iowa is among the top four states in infant mortality, up there with Mississippi and leads the nation in childhood respiratory illness. We are second to Wisconsin in drinking.

There’s enough science out there to tell us that nitrate in the water leads to higher rates of childhood cancer and neurological problems for adults. Research shows higher asthma rates in children around meatpacking complexes. Bayer was just hit with another verdict finding that Roundup (glyphosate) causes cancer; its largest investor is calling for talks with the plaintiffs.

Consolidation is killing us.

Meatpackers used to make twice as much, in real terms. Now we make half as much in Storm Lake as someone in Illinois, which we like to scoff at as corrupt. Who owns Iowa? Koch Enterprises and Bayer. How do you fix pollution in the river? You don’t. You tell yourself it is the price of feeding starving children in Gaza with No. 2 yellow corn. Or it is the price of us not being involved in Middle East wars. You put up with the stench near Iowa Falls because Iowa Select is the only game around, so you play that game. We could have open markets but we elect politicians who let them lock up.

You should be damn glad for your $50,000 in median household income. Your kid doesn’t really need to go to college. So few jobs around here call for it. Yeah, we used to make twice as much, relatively speaking, but we sure are glad to be free of the union dues. The best you can hope for is a tax cut, even though you barely make enough to pay tax.

Tuition at Iowa State goes up and up while state appropriations go down.

The mechanic likes the realignment business from me driving state highways. Not much road work to bother you from here to Fort Dodge. All roads lead to Des Moines, which can barely be reached these days for all the construction. Why would you stay in Pomeroy? The main street is about to implode, literally, it is roped off by yellow tape. One of the buildings used to be a bank, once rock-solid and these days ready to explode into the street, which also isn’t in such great shape. Oh, and they’re going to tear down the old school building.

The chemicals were progress. So were the confinements and the sow sell-offs. The cropaganda told us it was the only way to go, so we went. You can’t be sure why Iowa is tops in cancer. You can’t just blame it on dust, we like to chuckle. But the dust is laden with ammonia and sulfide. It’s what you smell near the Boondocks. If you suspect a correlation you are anti-livestock. Were it not for ethanol and Iowa Select we might be making less than $50,000 per household.

Or would we?

What is causing Main Street to fall down and cancer rates among Iowa children to rise? Why is Iowa so much poorer than Minnesota, and Storm Lake so much poorer than Iowa? We bought the pig in the poke. Trade your independence for a yoke disguised as corporate security. Now nature is calling the bluff, and the science is adding up: This has not been the best experiment in agri-industrial consolidation.

If we can figure out how to get back to center, we could be better off than our neighbors. We should be. We were.


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