How People Are Spending Their Stimulus
I'm no economist, but I really don't see that sending most taxpayers $600 - an amount at once wildly generous and far too measly - is going to pull us out of the slough of despond the economy is slip-sliding into.
Not with gasoline prices above $4/gallon, given our willed and willful dependence on the "infernal machine". Think what you will about the European way of life - and, truly, we've got it better in a lot of ways - middle class people manage to lead a pretty darned good existence without a lot of sprawling, remote suburbs; grotesque, urban-life killing expressways; and big-box stores you can only get to in a ve-hi-cle.
In any case, I was interested in seeing what folks are spending their checks, which are being distributed based on Social Security Numbers, and began going out in May. So I headed on over to How I Spent My Stimulus, which invites people to share a few words and a picture that lets others know where the money's going.
The entries are gloriously, spectacularly American.
People are spending on: Laptop computers. Gas grills. Gas. Dining room sets. Diapers. Bills. Trips to Mexico. Trips to Disney. Trips to Las Vegas, baby.
Their saving for their wedding. For a house. For their kids' college education.
They're buying Euros.
They're paying bills. Making charitable donations. They're making political donations. They're fixing leaky roofs.
They're paying bills - sometimes the bills of others, but mostly their owns.
They're buying tires -made in America, dammit. They're paying off car loans. They're paying their car insurance.
They're buying groceries.
Did I mention diapers?
There's one woman on their self-righteously bragging about how she is doing the right thing by buying diapers for her baby, while most of the undeserving, free-loading whiners are looking for handouts to fritter away on stuff.
One guy paid his bail money.
Someone bought property - on Second Life.
Entrepreneurs are setting up businesses: one guy is going to sell "pepper spray, stun guns, survaillance [sic], and nanny cams" online.
One guy is buying campaign signs for his re-election.
One couple's buying savings bonds for their grandkids, "who will need it to pay for this stimulus."
A few are paying off their tax bills, a nice fitting circularity.
They're buying 41 copies of Ron Paul's The Revolution: A Manifesto. They're donating to Obama's campaign.
They're putting it in the bank. Or under their mattress (actually, in their home safe) because they don't trust banks.
One woman in Georgia saving it because she's "Too scared to spend my stimulus because I feel no good can come from it. Into savings it goes."
This being an open forum, some people are critiquing the choices of others.
This being the U.S., those choices are all over the map, gloriously messy, gloriously American.
But you can't help but thinking about whether this is the beginning of the end for our completely consumption-driven way of life. And what do with our time and ourselves when we don't have the money or the inclination to go shopping? When we don't build our lives around acquiring new stuff?
God help us, but could it be that we're actually going to have to find out?