Adopt a simple forumula to rescue economy

Few among us look forward to the 2012 election campaigns. The vitriol that dominated the 2010 campaign remains fresh in our memories, and judging from the past few weeks, it appears we’re all in for more of the same in 2012.

Do you hear a collective sigh?

The one concern of people who live primarily outside a media spotlight gets lost among Washington’s rhetorical debris, and that is: When are you going to Put People to Work?

According to the Wall Street Journal, eonomists estimate that US businesses will continue to sit on one trillion dollars in cash, waiting for a “more favorable” economic climate.

Big corporations are making money. Banks are making money. Oil companies are making unseemly profits. That sounds like a pretty good “climate” to most people.

But corporations are not hiring fast enough to put a dent in either the unemployment rate or in their wallets currently holding $1,000,000,000,000, in case you’ve not seen that many zeros recently.

Few disagree that people must have decent jobs so they can become consumers who can pay a mortgage and still have disposable income in order for the economy to rebound.

We hear this over and over and over again, yet the message still gets lost, maybe because our legislators already have jobs?

Some credit is due the people who elected Barack Obama in 2008 to tackle the country’s severe economic woes. He continued on the TARP path President Bush had started—adding a few steps of his own—until the economy backed away from total collapse.

Then Medicare reform took center stage, draining time away from the most pressing need—battling back that unemployment rate—and in 2010 the electorate sent the President a very loud and clear message:

Focus, sir. Focus on the economy. We’ll tackle Medicare’s big picture when Americans get their feet on the ground.

He got the message, he said, after his famous “shellacking.” Yessir, he did. He tackled Medicare. He got a bill signed. It must be a pretty fair plan, we must admit, because no one likes it.

Although we applaud the new law enabling those with pre-existing conditions to purchase medical insurance, how can the unemployed buy insurance in the first place?

How can small businesses, which traditionally lie at the heart of the American economy, expand insurance coverage to employees when no one is buying its products or services?

The Republicans fought back. Now we have a plan to consider, not for putting people to work, but to reform Medicare.

There’s that collective sigh again.

Apparently, if something is going to be done about the economy–which at its most basic requires that people have money to spend–we must do it ourselves, and we can.

We start first with local merchants and businesses. Towns and cities across the country have joined the 3-50 Project, a campaign to support local merchants, and it’s making a difference.

During tough economic times, it’s the independent retailer who suffers the most, because budget-minded consumers look for the cheapest price, the best “deal,” usually winding up at big “box” stores like Wal-Mart and Home Depot or others.

Never mind that we need a GPS to manage their aisles, never mind there’s not room to navigate two passing carts, and never mind that we must hunt down an employee when we need to ask a question.

Never mind we’re removing dollars from the local economy that otherwise would circulate here within our own community.

For every $100 spent at our local, independent businesses, $68 comes back through taxes, payroll, and other expenditures, according to the project’s founder, retail consultant Cinda Baxter, but that return falls to $43 when it’s spent at national chains, and to ZERO when it’s spent on the internet.

Baxter does not propose a boycott of internet shopping or shopping at the big chain stores. Not at all.

She simply promotes balance in consumer spending habits that can significantlly impact local business districts, which, in turn, means more money available in the local economy that, in turn, affects an even broader range of businesses that, in turn, allows more employment and that means more spending—our economic elixir.

The formula? Identify the three stores that you would miss the most should they disappear. A grocery store? A gift shop? A restaurant? A boutique?
Ace Hardware!

Think about life without them. Then pledge to spend a minimum of $50 a month at each. (That’s just a mental pledge. No contract except with yourself.)

That’s it. Nothing complicated. Real simple.

The Wall Street Journal reports that more than 100 U.S. communities adopted the project in its first year, 2009, and it’s continuing to grow.

This campaign, however, does not negate businesses’ own responsibility to attract new customers, to differentiate themselves from the competition, or to become more valuable to their customers.

Good business practices just need a chance to prevail.

All it asks is that you rethink where you spend some of your money. It asks that you realize that everyone benefits by spending a little money, regularly, among your chosen few.