Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Economic Stimulus

Economic Stimulus

Unlike most weeks when I have little of value to say in this column, this week I actually have a message of some import, which I will state now at the outset, before wandering of into nonsensical, stream-of-consciousness prattle, as is my custom.

Here it is:

In the next few weeks, most readers will be receiving nice, fat economic stimulus checks from the federal government. I hope you’ll use those checks to stimulate our local economy by remembering the hundreds of smaller, local retailers and service-providers who are the backbone of our community.

There! I’ve said it. Now I can wander off into my normal, bizarre commentary before once again returning to the point. However, it’s an important point to be made – “Support those local businesses who support our community” – so I wanted to make sure I didn’t lose you with my verbosity before getting to the point.

You probably know that the economic stimulus package passed recently by Congress and signed into law by President W includes special “economic stimulus” checks for most taxpayers. In the next month or two, most taxpayers will receive big, fat juicy checks from the Federal Government. As I understand it, many families will receive from $1,200 to $2,000 or more, depending on the number of kids.

This is all designed, of course, to keep America from falling deeper into a recession. The government is giving you back your own money so you can spend it, and by spending it on your choice of goods or services, you are providing jobs and income for other Americans. That’s the way the economy works.

I won’t get into the whole concept of the government giving you back your own money. (It would take a book, not a newspaper column, for me to really give you my thoughts on that topic.)

Let me just say it’s a good idea. People spending their own money is what makes economies thrive. Government only gets in the way of the economy.

I’m reminded of my high school years as a school bus driver. During the training class, the instructor mentioned that each bus was equipped with a governor to moderate the speed. Not being mechanically inclined, I had never heard of that kind of governor before, only the ones who had been elected, like Hollings, Russell, McNair, and West. But I came to learn that engines on school buses were, indeed, equipped with governors designed to keep the engine from going too fast.

Since then, I have come to realize that governments have the same effect on economies. They restrict businesses and individuals. Governments slow us down with their endless rules and regulations, and hold back the economy by taking too much money out of the pockets of taxpayers.

But, now, this spring, they’re giving your money back, so that your can spend it. Let me repeat: The government wants you to spend the money. (Help save America… spend money!!!)

I did some figuring a few days ago, and I estimated that approximately $50 million of this money will be coming back to taxpayers in our small community… right here, where we live and work!!! That amount of money, if spent with local merchants, professionals and other service-providers, could have an enormous impact on our community.

You can bet that the giant multi-national chains have already launched massive marketing plans timed to capture as much of that money as possible. And I don’t fault them for it. I’m sure that their investors will profit handsomely, before sending on a share of our economic stimulus funds to the manufacturers of their products in China and beyond.

There is no question that Wall Street and China will benefit nicely from this infusion of our cash. So be it. The world IS flat, I guess.

But… I want to do my part to make sure that OUR little corner of the world also does okay. I want our community’s economy to be stimulated along with Wall Street and China! And I am especially interested in rewarding those struggling, smaller businesses who, despite their own challenges, always help support our community.

When you’re making plans to spend your new money, PLEASE take a minute to think about the business you’re spending it with.

Do they help support our community by sponsoring youth sports teams, band-boosters, and cheerleader camps? Do they participate in the local chamber of commerce or other civic organizations? Do they help underwrite the high school year books and sports program books with their advertising dollars?

Or do they simply take from the consumers in this community, without giving anything back? Are they really a part of our local economy, with local owners and well-paid employees, or do they just make all the profit they can, and then wire our money off each week to a home office a thousand miles away?

For our part, of course, we always try to promote the local businesses who advertise in this newspaper. They make your local newspaper possible, which is evidence of their local-nature.

But during the next few weeks, we’re going to re-double our efforts to encourage you to “Shop Local” and support our community. Whether you’re using your extra check for a new car, new furniture, as part of a down-payment for a new house, to fix up your old house, or just pampering yourself with lots of smaller items or services, you should pay attention to make sure the company you’re spending with is a good-neighbor to our community.

Let’s stimulate OUR economy!

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