"You just can't afford to buy the things you used to be able to buy," Williams said. "Wages can't go up at the rates prices do. Every month and a half they jump up."
When Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton were president, Williams had a factory job and made more money, but then something happened.
"The Bush and Obama era happened," Williams said, lumping two very different politicians together. "They ought to spend money fixing the things that need to be fixed - creating jobs - before they go and spend money on things that could come after."
From Fulton to Olive Branch, a team of reporters from the University of Mississippi found that voters are focused on the slumping economy heading into the 1st Congressional District election on Nov. 2.
The obsession with the economy - and, to a lesser extent, health care - mirrors what pollsters say is going on in other parts of America and could play a major role in the race between incumbent U.S. Rep. Travis Childers of Booneville, a Democrat, and the Republican challenger, state Sen. Alan Nunnelee of Tupelo.
Ask Vietnam vet David Rowan of Pontotoc, seated in his Bankhead Gallery in New Albany amid tables and shelves packed with eclectic metal work, wood work, furniture and jewelry - all, he boasted, "made by Mississippians."
A big problem with the economy, he groused, is that too many products are made overseas, products once manufactured in America, products that once meant jobs right here at home.
Rowan pointed to his rust-colored boots. After realizing they were made outside the country, he searched for a similar pair with the coveted "Made in the USA" tag - and came up empty.
Things like that happen all over America every day and the fallout is painfully obvious, he said. In Pontotoc, "there's about four or five empty buildings over there. One of them used to have about 650 employees."
Some voters who fretted about the economy were also concerned with the potential cost of the new health care plan.
Tony Mize, owner of the venerable Beacon diner in Oxford, worries about how health care reform will affect his business.
Over the years, the Beacon has fed countless Ole Miss students and Oxford residents.
But now, the steadily rising cost of health care is putting pressure on Mize and other small business owners.
"I hope that health care inflation does not rise too high so I can keep the same number of employees," Mize said.
Roger Woods of Tupelo, however, thought health care should be mandatory.
"Employers that employ over 20 employees should be giving the employees benefits," Woods said. "I think it should be law. Without the employees, there is no profit for business. Employees can't work if they are sick or hurt."
In Fulton, April Moore was celebrating the birthday of her niece at the newly built Playground Park. She and an in-law, Sonya Roper, took time to complain about health care - even though the changes are designed to expand coverage.
"Obamacare is killing folks," Roper said. "It is hard to get insurance. It is especially difficult for the elderly and young people."
Moore nodded and looked over to her 2-year-old son. "I can't afford to get him on insurance," she said.
At the Mississippi on Wheels Charity Classic Car Show in New Albany, Bill Hancock stopped admiring a classic cherry red sports car to groan about what he sees as an economy gone haywire and a government that can't control its spending.
"The fact that they're printing too much money and spending too much money, it won't work in personal life," Hancock said. "I can't imagine how it will work in government life, long term. Someone will have to pay for it, and it's getting beyond the realm of possibilities for us to pay for it and continue our lifestyle in the United States as we've known it."
Also dismayed was Miriam Clark, a retired high school teacher and small business owner of Antiques Downtown in Pontotoc.
"Sometimes you look at the ways things are going and you feel we are going backward instead of forward," she said.
George Creasy, 74, knows about suffering. The Kimberly Clarke retiree, who lives near Olive Branch, watched his wife lose her job at a sleep diagnosis center a year and a half ago. She hasn't been able to find work since.
"Jobs is the key issue for me. We need to stop making all our stuff overseas. That's just costing Americans jobs," he said.
Even in growing DeSoto County, economic concerns dominated.
"It's the economy. That and health care," said Stacy Terry, 39, a registered nurse at Desoto Surgery Center in Olive Branch.
"I'm very worried about the new health care plan. Everything is going up in price and we are going to have fewer doctors to handle it. It's going to get harder to find good care," she said as she hopped back in her SUV packed with four kids, ages four to 17.
Small business hit
In Tupelo, Rubye Del Harden emptied the contents of her attic onto the sidewalk of Spring Street in front of her shop in an attempt to bring in some extra income on a sunny Saturday morning.
Surrounded by children's clothing and knickknacks, Harden, who owns Sprint Print and Snap Dance Studio, said national politics is draining the lifeblood of the community - small business.
"Pretty soon, people will be looking at each other wondering what happened," Harden said. "It will be because they didn't take care of the people who take care of the community.
"When people want donations, they come to us, and we provide the jobs. But we are the businesses being hit hardest," Harden said. "When all of the commerce goes online or with big national chains, the community will suffer."
David Dawson of Tupelo was concerned about abortion, jobs and taxes - in that order.
"I am anti-abortion, anti-taxes and pro-jobs," he said.
Jim Shackelford, 77, sits at a desk in a little cubbyhole just inside the The Shack Antique Mall in Olive Branch - 24 rambling rooms packed floor to ceiling with antiques and collectibles.
"I've been in this business 15 years and I never had the trouble I had in the last 10 months," he said. "The moms and pops are really taking a hit."
He doesn't see much help coming from the candidates.
"I am much more interested in what these candidates want to do for me and those like me instead of just telling me how much they find fault with each other. Stop this video assassination and tell me how you are going to benefit me.
"I saw a bumper sticker the other day that a fellow brought from Texas. It said, 'Re-Elect No One.' How could you say it any better than that? We need to clean the slate and start over."
This story was reported and written for the Daily Journal by journalism students from the University of Mississippi.