After re-reading an old blog entry of mine about what money actually means, I thought of something.
Two summers ago, the summer break To-Do item was additional attic insulation.
Last summer, the items included a sprinkler system repair, a newly expanded driveway, and a garage conversion into a music room.
This summer’s To-Do list items include total decluttering of the house, patching old nail holes in the wall, a piano tuning, planting flowers in patio planters, fence repair, new maintenance on the sprinkler system, long-needed alteration of old clothing, a replacement of the soaker hose, installation of shrubbery for the front of the house, and a possible repair and assembly of the well-used outdoor playset equipment (depending on the cost) that Technogypsy gave to Daniel before he was born.
To fulfill these items, the Hubby and I contributed, are contributing, and will be contributing to the local economy — equal parts to big box stores here in Irving (Home Depot, Lowes, Kroger, Aldi, Target, WalMart, Tom Thumb, Big Lots, Fry’s) and equal parts to local-area small business owners, like contractors, seamstresses/ dry cleaners, thrift stores.
We are not rich, by any measure. Yet, because of our stable middle-class income (without the middle-class consumer debt), we are able to contribute to our local economy on a consistent basis. I guess, in our own small way, we are improving the U.S. economy, just on a microcosmic level.
What needs to happen, to get us Americans out of this rickety “recovery”, is for more of people like us — those with stable employment and income that isn’t de facto garnished by consumer debt. The federal consumer protection stuff against some of the more amoral big business practices is somewhat in the right direction –after all, if Enron, Bears Stearns, and BP haven’t proven to folks that big business needs oversight, I don’t know what will.
But such government protection will do NADA if private citizens don’t take full responsibility for their own financial health. (Personally, I advocate that financial literacy becomes required in all schools, beginning in third grade.)
Similarly, the bailouts and stimulus spending and extension of unemployment benefits of the government are lovely safety nets, but all nets break if the load is too heavy. And currently that load is still a lot more unemployed people — as seen nation-wide — than what we as Americans would find economically comfortable: about 9.5 percent on average, according to 14 May 2010 data from the U.S. Bureau of Statistics. (Texas is 8.2%, while hard-hit Michigan is 14.9.)
Job creation, however, is dependent on supply and demand, and that’s where the chicken-and-egg come in: How can a business hire people if no one can afford to do business because no one is hiring them?
But let’s turn that 9.5 % on its head — that means 90.5% of able-bodied Americans ARE employed. Of course, that number starts to drop when we take into account part-timers, seasonal workers, military and government employees (of whom I am one of them, being employed in a public community college), and chronically underpaid workers (many of whom I find as my students).
Still, that leaves plenty of people in the “full-time employment in various non-government industries” category. The number rises if you *do* include the public sector, like academia and the the military. It is in that “stable, full-time, and middle-class” category that many many people — in and out of government — are hoping will consumer-spend America into a recovery.
But — from the vantage point of someone in that category — if we want a recovery that will be stable, then what we need to be spending needs to be more durable. Sure, there’s the “durable goods” of a car or a home appliance (of which the Hubby and I bought a refrigerator a couple of weeks ago when the previous one started to die). But the motive for such purposes needs to be more prudent — because the previous item wore out, as opposed to “keeping up with the Joneses.” I believe that the demand for maintaining what we already have will grow — improving the house we already have, improving our job skills via education, maintaining our vehicles, and so forth — and will drive a new kind of consumer economy. Less on a “throw away” economy, more on a “recycle, re-use, re-purpose” economy, with an eye on improving our overall lot in America…
… one local consumer responsibly contributing to his/her local business owner at a time.