The Last Twinkie

Written by Gary Isbell *

From an economic point of view, it was an almost insignificant event. A major American firm lamentably went bankrupt as many do. These things are to be expected in the present financial climate. However, from a cultural point of view, this particular failure, and the manner in which it happened, resonated deeply inside the American soul. Its demise signaled the closing of an era.

The company was of course, Hostess, the makers of Twinkies, cupcakes and other popular products. Generations of Americans grew up with these snacks that reflected less complicated and more optimistic times. Hostess was an iconic American firm that harkened back to the days of great prosperity when everyone seemed to get along.

It reminds one of an America that ran much like one big Hostess Corporation where everyone was, as it were, a shareholder in the nation. Life was full of legitimate benefits with measured risks, voting privileges, few liabilities and plenty of recreational opportunities. Everyone looked after their personal interests, enjoyed life and made money. As long as an atmosphere of well-being and comfort existed, everyone got along in that America. Life was like the Twinkie, sugary sweet on the inside and soft and spongy on the outside.


Yet this consensus is an artificial one. It functioned well in prosperity but not in adversity. As the postwar boom waned during the seventies, this get-along world of unlimited prosperity began to unravel. America had to face problems, misfortunes and sufferings that are an unavoidable part of life. Instead of facing these problems head-on, many citizens of this nation-corporation acted like shareholders who demanded their benefits as entitlements and blamed the nation’s problems on everyone but themselves. Elections began to resemble boardroom brawls that never seem to get to the root of the problem.

Our nation has became fragmented and polarized. It is not by chance that Hostess was victim to an acrimonious labor dispute where no one could agree on anything. Union employees demanded unsustainable benefits as if they were entitled to them as the goose that laid the golden Twinkie died. No one could agree; everyone lost.

As the last Twinkie comes off the production line, it can be seen not only as the failure of a well-known firm but of a model of our society. It represents the crumbling of the sweet yet artificial consensus that long governed America. It leaves in its wake an uneasy feeling about harder times that are to come.

What is missing in our country is a vision that goes beyond self-interest, a comfortable life, easy money and an endless party. We must be able to brave adversity. There must be a return to an order where the common good is more important than the individual good. We need idealistic self abnegated leaders and a framework of principles to unify America, not as one big corporation, but as an authentic people willing to sacrifice and work together as a great nation.

Much of what plagued Hostess as a company, plagues America as a country. If we fail to recognize where we went wrong as a nation and do not begin to guide ourselves with sound principles, America too will suffer the same demise as Hostess.

  • Francis Slobodnik

    Hostess products also were a simple snack for simple satisfaction. Today, many are not satisfied with simple pleasures, they desire complicated and expensive pleasures, even if they are fleeting.  Today we have elaborate and expensive cupcakes that are consumed in around a minute.  
    I also think that everyone in some way probably shared in the demise, government by over regulation and excessive taxation, management by putting off the making of some hard decisions and labor by working against even their own interests.  When companies become so huge and inorganic they become monolithic and move lethargically, if they move at all.  By the time they realize there is a crisis it is sometimes too late.
    The demise of hostess is a wake up call for the rest of America.