I left Athens in 2003 and took 3 nuggets to guide me. Through my involvement in Cru and church, I had learned to love and follow Jesus. From Dr. Bugeja I discovered that ethics is about setting your price tag (great story, ask me later) and from Professor Haggerty I heard I should “follow the money trail.” All three came full circle this election.
Simply put, I’d like to remind my friends of all persuasions that the government doesn’t create all jobs, consumers do, too. Hands down, jobs and economy were key issues for this election. Now we have about half the nation upset at the outlook for the next 4 years, whining and complaining that jobs and markets look bleak.
So, I say it again, vote with your dollar.
The powers-that-be maintain their status because we’re writing their checks. And we do it in the name of “cheaper and easier.”
I have a friend who owns a store. It’s a beautiful store filled with products she adamantly believes in and uses at home. She won’t sell me something she wouldn’t use for her own kids. But her store contains niche products, not created for masses but for those who specifically seek them out. She can tell you the place in which each of her products are made, and probably even the first names of the product creators. She can explain advantages, disadvantages and proper uses. She’s filled with a wealth of wisdom that anyone seeking this niche lifestyle would come and sit at her feet for hours.
And you know what happens? Customers come in and check it out. They listen to her advice and take copious notes. Then they buy it on Amazon. In the name of a few dollars.
We like to bicker and complain about the dismal shape of the economy yet we’re not willing to keep a local storefront thriving because we like to save a few bucks. It happens in nearly any industry. But our unwillingness to direct our dollar towards the local people who provide product, leadership, commerce, not to mention jobs to our local community will be the death of our economy, not any political figurehead.
I’ve heard – and used – the argument that such a lifestyle is simply too expensive. I buy $4 lettuce from my co-op when I can get it for under $2 (without a 40% off sticker) at Meijer. Sometimes local is expensive because it’s not afforded the luxury of mass production. (But increase the number of local buyers? Perhaps you’ll see prices begin to dip. The farmer can grow more, afford to hire a few hands, and compete with his prices while creating jobs.)
Our challenge isn’t that we don’t have enough money to support our local merchants – the problem is that we don’t have enough money to have everything we want. Sometimes we have to make choices. For our household, it came down to Cheetos vs. local lettuce. (Okay, The high amount of crap in Cheetos did weigh in on that decision). We could afford to buy local designs if we didn’t feel the need to fill more than one closet with clothes. We would put the money out for a nearby photog if we didn’t believe that every month needed to be captured on
film canvass. And don’t get me started on art.
Sam Walton convinced us that we could have it all because it’s cheap enough. But when we buy in, we choose consumption instead of supporting our very neighbors – the people down our street, the parents of the kid on our son’s soccer team, the folks buying ads for our school programs. The tax-payers of our schools, which we complain need more help (enter: more jobs).
For the past 12 months we’ve been inundated by the republican and democratic parties who spent billions
trying to persuade us that their candidates were the only hopes for our future. According to an “official” site
the grand total was $1,171,000,000. According to my “unofficial” FB poll, only 1 in 12 individuals contributed “minimally” to the Presidential election*. If that stat translated, then he spent $59,906 (based on Census
results). (BTW, friend, could I get a loan?)
So, how did our mailboxes really
get stuffed? Haggerty said, Follow the money trail
. For instance: my Republican teacher friends ought to be awfully frustrated, as their NEA union spent their hard-earned salaries-turned-dues to the tune of $10,928,466
(Thanks David Guggenheim
for pointing me to that relationship). Our biggest Democratic-minded businesses seem to be Google and Microsoft. For the Republicans, it’s Goldman-Sachs and and Bank of America (so, that’s where my late fee goes…) (source
). These are just the super-big players. I completely avoided the research involved with PACs and SuperPACs. That just makes my head spin.
Friends, can you imagine what politics would look like if we took away the power of the corporate dollar?
Can you imagine the shape of our communities if we rerouted that influence to our downtown, to the people who actually know our names and faces and children and needs?
Large organizations have their place; several corporations do a splendid job providing for their communities (Honda, Nationwide and Hobart come to mind). Not all big business is evil and we all find a place for it in our lives (I still shop at Meijer. I’m not a purist.) But let’s be careful just how much their voice is heard over ours. I’m not sure power is ever really stolen, but rather purchased. So, the next time you find yourself swiping the plastic, ask who will be speaking on your behalf.
**A note on sources: Opensecrets seemed to be a popular one as I did some very basic, non-journalistic googling. I can’t vouch for it’s accuracy, but Google does when they put it in the top 10 search results.
*However, 2 others did support local politics. Another tally in the Power of Local column.