Author: Bailey Reutzel

Iowa

There are three things everyone from Iowa does: detassel, attend the Iowa State Fair and go to the caucus. But Iowa is also a home for high-tech, with the success of its tech startup poster child Dwolla encouraging a budding startup scene. This just isn’t San Francisco’s idea of high-tech. “[In the midwest], agriculture becomes part of your DNA,” says Jordan Lampe, director of communications and policy at Dwolla. Dwolla builds software for faster payments and has seen success in signing up merchants, and several Des Moines government agencies. Now, they’re trying to get in the ring as the...

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Oklahoma

“How do you know when to stop?” I ask. “I usually don’t,” says the middle-aged man playing digital blackjack. We’re at the main bar of the WinStar World Casino in Thackerville, Oklahoma, the biggest in the US. “Well, we all have our vices,” I say, holding up a Budweiser. “I’ve got plenty of vices,” he replies. ——— My plan was to venture back to the casino in the morning, to ask about its Chickasaw Nation owners and the plight of Native Americans in this country, or head to Oklahoma City. But I finally hit bad weather. It hadn’t stopped raining in days and there was a big ice storm headed my way. So instead, I sat and thought about the man with many vices. Isn’t that the American way? We seem to be a country of rebels, spurred by a story of our uprising against the British in the 18th century. We tend to slag off the rules or use them to condone extremism. And it’s great, in some ways, no doubt. But in others, it’s appalling. For instance, I’m chatting with a guy from the UK on a New York City subway one morning last year. There’s discarded newspapers hiding under seats and sticky spills nearly every step. I’m recalling seeing two women cracking pistachios on the train one night, dropping the shells right on the ground. “I feel...

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Texas

Being an entrepreneur isn’t easy, especially for a freckle-faced 10-year-old, but it does teach invaluable lessons about money and work and wanting. “It’s taught him so many positive skills,” my aunt JoAnn says as she hands me a business card with Cole’s fourth grade school picture smiling up at me. My young cousin sells chicken and duck eggs at the community center in Denton, Texas. “Most people buy their eggs from the store; it’s not that easy,” he says. “Having a business is about service, that’s why I offer free delivery to local homes.” He’s up before school, cleaning the coops and feeding the animals, of which they have plenty–three dogs, a cat, two horses, a miniature donkey, a llama, a handful of long-horned cattle, several pot belly pigs, two bunnies, coops of turkey, chickens and ducks. “Half of the money goes to mom, for chicken feed and taking care of the farm, and the other half goes to me,” he says. It’s taught him beneficial social skills, talking to strangers and pitching them on the benefits of buying locally. Plus he’s learned a lot about managing money. It’s probably a compounding of things, but in my mind, since Cole took over the egg business he’s become much more mature. In stores, he doesn’t ask for toys anymore. Instead, you can see his little brain working, thinking about how...

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New Mexico

Hungover and feeling estranged from my host, I drag my feet into High Desert Brewery in Las Cruces, New Mexico. The fact that only one older guy slouches at the bar while the rest of the patrons sit coupled off at the tables doesn’t give me much confidence, and the brewery’s tagline–“None of our beers suck”–didn’t help. I order a peach wheat and start reading the paper. I’m choking it down when another man walks up. He’s smiley, every once in a while turning his head in my direction but my eyes are down on the ink. Somehow a conversation gets started. “I write about economics and money and people.” “Really? Well I started that tent city, Camp Hope about five years ago.” “Excuse me? Tent city?” “Yeah, it’s a homeless encampment. You should come over there and see it tomorrow. I’ll be working.” It’s sometimes hard to believe how lucky I am. ——— The next afternoon I’m walking in and out of the organized rows of tents, being introduced to weathered men and watching a Latino woman with a young daughter about her legs pulling clothes from a huge pile. As James said the night before, Camp Hope was established in the fall of 2011 on land owned by the Mesilla Valley Community of Hope, a local non-profit. At that time, the Community of Hope only had temporary...

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Arizona

As I drive closer to the Mexican border, the color of Americans gets darker. The weather is warmer, the sun shines brighter and the Latino population is larger. But the latter might be changing.  Reading the The Arizona Republic one afternoon, it seems there’s a slow shift in Mexican immigration to the States. Between 2009 and 2014, an estimated 1 million Mexicans returned home while 870,000 came to the US, according to Pew Research Center, making this period the first time in four decades the number of Mexicans returning home outnumbered those that are coming to America. They’ve come up...

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