BY SHARON MARTIN
When the economy flounders, the people are asked to go shopping. Workers are asked to be more productive, for the same amount of money. Thankfully, there is no inflation … except for the cost of food, fuel, and health care.
The middle class gets squeezed. A few with skills, connections, and luck get squeezed into the upper ranks. Most get squeezed down, into the pool of the poor.
Still, we measure the health of the economy by how much spending has improved. Stores put up Christmas decorations alongside Halloween costumes, and Black Friday becomes Black November.
Colin Beavan, in his book No-Impact Man, asked why we should serve the economy. Shouldn’t the economy serve the people, he asked.
Of course, there are those who disagree, who believe markets take care of everything. Freedom means the right to starve or die from lack of health care. Real men trample the rights of others in their race to the top. But it’s all for a good cause; we are raising GDP.
For this reason, we can’t raise taxes, even to pay for the wars we declare, even if people who earn more than a million dollars a year think we should pay for what we spend by taxing them properly.
Mark Wise, in a Yahoo commentary said that the millionaires have it all wrong. “The higher income you have,” he wrote, “the more likely are you to reinvest it into the economy by purchasing things. This benefits everyone.”
It appears that Mr. Wise has bought into the argument that buying more stuff is the answer to our economic woes.
President Obama has suggested that we must become a nation of manufacturers again, not a nation of consumers. This is true, with some caveats: workers must have good quality of life. Manufacturing impacts the environment, so we must be smart about how we manufacture. And resources from which we manufacture goods are finite, so we must consider sustainability.
What do people really need anyway?
We need clean water, nutritious food, shelter, clothing appropriate to the climate and the work, broad-based education, and affordable health care.
What do people want? We want community, joy, love, entertainment. We want meaningful work that provides for our families, that provides more than just a bare existence.
How do we turn this economy around? Very few of us need more stuff. Maybe we should change the conversation from spending to satisfaction.
We could all use some of that.
– Sharon Martin lives in Oilton, OK and is a regular contributor to The Oklahoma Observer