Is More Consumer Spending the Answer?

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by Sr. Brenda Walsh, Racine Dominican

As we approach the season of Thanksgiving and Christmas, people are already thinking about gift-giving and what they can afford during these lean economic times. Many are experiencing economic hardships because of job loss, threat of bankruptcy, health care costs and more. At the same time people are being encouraged by some policy makers to spend more as a way of boosting the economy. Many feel a need to save more to meet future needs and to take a close look at what they are spending on gifts for their children and other ways, anticipating that the economic slow-down may linger for a long time to come. They are also looking at how their money is spent. "Will it bring happiness to the family, or could something less expensive also bring them much pleasure and joy? Would sharing some of their limited resources with those who have very little also bring joy as well as hope to the recipients and to the givers?

Polls say that 89% of people are spending less or the same as last year on gift-giving. Many are feeling it is time to evaluate how they spend their money and decide to spend more responsibly. This will call for a discussion with their family members to help them understand the reason for the change. It will help the entire family to re-evaluate their spending habits and make needed changes.

People can also look at the items they are purchasing. Are they made in America? Can they use some fair trade items that also help the people in poor areas who made them and do not exploit the workers who made the items?

What are other ways that the economy can be bolstered in these languishing economic times?

      We can examine our lifestyles and see what we need to change to live simply. This will help people have less debt and more opportunities to share with those most in need.

      Examine our beliefs: Is bigger always better? Does more bring you happiness and security? What are the ingredients of a happy life? For healthy living, we need to address the mind, body, spirit connection and respond accordingly.

      Do material goods bring happiness? Many are discovering that they don’t need as many things to make them happy.

      Are there substitutes for expensive vacations? What are they?

      How would we define a healthy economy?

      Can we challenge our legislators to spend less money on wars that do not bring solutions to problems but only create more violence? We also need to challenge political leaders to support small companies that can create jobs and offer fewer tax breaks to those who have no need of them. Urge legislators not to balance the national or state budgets on the backs of those who can least afford it.

    Perhaps churches and faith communities could gather people together to discuss these issues and help them to find ways to come up with some answers and help each other through challenging economic times. Recently Archbishop Dolan, head of the US Bishops Conference urged people to take some direct action on what he called "the poverty scandal" and bring hope to people in need. No effort is too small to make a difference.

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