The Key West Mystique

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Key West Island News connects Key West residents and friends of the island, fosters our One Human Family culture and advances understanding of shared goals for our island community

Save the economy: Shop ’til ya drop

By Linda Grist Cunningham, editor and proprietor

Linda Grist Cunningham is editor and proprietor of Key West Island News and KeyWestWatch Media LLC. She and her husband, a park ranger at Fort Zach, live in Key West with their Cat 5s.

10/26/2011

Oh, how we love shopping. Think not? Take a few minutes to ponder this consumer nuttiness — the “out of the box” or “unboxing” experience.

I swear to all the retail gods, we’ve made an art of describing, experiencing and reviewing a product just as it comes out of the box. Sleek, smooth, enticing. That ah-moment new car smell. The buttery swish of a leather shoe that’s just so. The Apple iWhatever. Even the new white cotton skivvies we had the clerk roll up and stick in a bag.

One of the whoppers we tell ourselves is that not shopping ensures we will assuredly become “healthy, wealthy and wise.” We believe that Ben Franklin exhortation because somehow we think we should. Some sort of holdover Puritan guilt, I guess.

We lament the credit-card swiping culture that wants three flat screen televisions, a dozen pairs of shoes and unlimited downloads from Kindle and iTunes. We shake our heads at teenagers who wander the malls. At the Sunday afternoon lookers in the Anderson Automotive lots. At the lookie-lous driving from one Open House to another. We really go nuts over pet parents who spend small fortunes on doggie — and now cat — costumes.

(Sidebar: There is a difference, of course, between shopping and buying. Shopping’s more the process leading to buying. Buying is pulling out the cash and wrapping up the box. Not all shopping requires buying. All buying requires at least some shopping. I had to explain that to an irritable hubby several years ago.)

Back to the point. We love our shopping, especially the kind that ends in buying so we can glory in the “unboxing.” Now there’s proof that if we shop-and-buy we can jump start the economy, get the country growing again — and, well, shop some more.

We’ve known forever that consumers are the foundation for 60-70 percent of the U.S. economy. Whether we’re buying cars and houses or those white cotton skivvies, it’s the “little people” — the 99 percenters — who are the engine. We buy and those companies, big and small, make and making means money, which means gotta run the factory, staff the front desk, fly the planes … You get the picture.

James Livingston, a Rutgers University history professor is my new econ hero. Here’s what he says his research proves: “If our goal is to repair our damaged economy, we should bank on consumer culture — and that entails a redistribution of income away from profits toward wages, enabled by tax policy and enforced by government spending.”

The regular dude and dudette. And the government. Government spending and consumer spending are the real drivers of economic growth. Oh, I can see the frothing now….

A proposition: Give up the frugal-til-we-atrophy charade. Go buy something. Shop ’til you drop. Save the economy. Because it doesn’t sure as heck doesn’t look like the “private corporations” are going to do anything except hoard their cash.

Let the frothing begin. The rest of us will be at the mall.

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Linda Grist Cunningham

Linda Grist Cunningham is editor and proprietor of Key West Island News and KeyWestWatch Media LLC. She and her husband, a park ranger at Fort Zach, live in Key West with their Cat 5s.

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