Every day I drive past a gas station and convenience store, the Grocery Boy Junior on Lake Wheeler Road in Raleigh. A few weeks ago, while fueling up there and muttering about high gas prices, I noticed something on the marquee outside of the building:
“HIGH GAS PRICES [A]FFECT EVERYONE/ VOTE FOR THOSE WHO WILL DRILL”
The Grocery Boy Junior is an emblem of all things that embody the passion — and the pain — of small businesses today. I was intrigued by the marquee so much that I decided stop in and ask to chat with the man responsible for it. As I waited to speak with the cashier, I noticed something else:
“Socialism is a philosophy of failure, the creed of ignorance, and the gospel of envy, its inherent virtue is the equal sharing of misery.”
This quote from Winston Churchill is affixed to the cash register with two small pieces of tape, positioned perfectly to be noticed by anyone making a purchase.
A few weeks later, when I sat down with owner Scott Byers, he grabbed a pack of gum and took a piece for himself. He offered me a piece and sighed. “10 years ago, this pack of gum cost about half of what it does now,” he said, “and people just don’t seem to realize that fuel costs are a huge part of that.”
He said he came from a military upbringing and attended a two-year college. He is involved with his church, working with several ministries within the congregation. He has three children, and beams when he speaks about them. He has dreams for them like any parent would; but above all, he wants them to understand that they are responsible for their achievements, not entitled to them.
He explained that his income is now half of what it was four years ago, a common plight afflicting the small business sector. He spoke with sadness in his voice about the heartbreaking decision to let go of employees that had worked for nearly a decade in his store. “It’s hard to hear people demonizing their bosses,” he explained, “because it’s not easy for us to make those choices.”
When I asked how he felt about local government and the bureaucracy endured by many small business owners, Byers said that he had been faced with many hurdles from various state departments amid his efforts to improve his business. He noted that it seems like these departments whose intentions are to protect the people in fact make it more difficult for businesses to operate. He said that many of the changes he would like to make “just [aren’t] viable right now.”
When I asked Mr. Byers what issues he was taking to consideration aside from the economy in this year’s election, he did not even blink. Education, he said, was the root of most of our nation’s problems because it perpetuates the culture of entitlement. Secondly, of course, he continued, is the topic of offshore drilling. Mr. Byers rattled off facts that astonished me. After hearing him speak about drilling, I was ready to go drill for him. For instance, there are nearly 3,500 oil tankers in action today, raising the risk of oil spills in the world’s oceans. Drilling for oil and natural gas right here in North America lessens that danger.
Byers noted that the environmentalists, much like the various North Carolina departments that impose restrictions on his business practices, have good intentions — but do not seem to realize that fuel prices affect the whole economy. High fuel costs do not discriminate, according to Mr. Byers. “It’s not just the middle class, it’s everyone. And people need to consider that when they vote.”
Victoria Wakefield is an intern for the Civitas Institute in Raleigh.