By Gil Johnson of Dundee, Oregon. Gil describes himself as a "part-time chicken farmer and full-time martial arts instructor, and a former political hack."
In 2008, I gave the Obama campaign about $250, which along with donations to Steve Novick, and then Jeff Merkley, plus a host of other local candidates, added up to quite a bundle considering my meager income. It's nothing to brag about. I didn't get invited to any big receptions at the White House, but I do get plenty of e-mails from the Chicago headquarters.
This year, I think I'm going to take the same money and go shopping. Christmas in July---well, more like August now. And maybe September. If enough Democrats and progressives do the same thing, Obama will have a better chance of winning re-election.
Why? Because in the immortal words of James Carville, "It's the economy, stupid."
As President, Barack Obama has not inspired us the way he did as a candidate. Anyone who gives him better than mixed reviews is probably employed by his staff or by the Democratic Party. Nevertheless, given the weaseliness of his opponent, there is no way he should lose. Willard Romney is actually running against his own record as governor of Massachusetts. Romney is universally acknowledged to have no moral compass---even by his supporters. He has the albatross of Bain Capital to carry around his neck. A large portion of the rabid Republican base hate him because he is a Mormon. He can't connect with ordinary people. In fact, he may be the first person with Asperger's Syndrome to be nominated for president by a major party.
But the polls are close and we all know this election is going down to the wire. A lot of people will vote for Romney because the economy still sucks and Obama hasn't made it better (never mind that he kept the economy from getting worse). Romney is pushing jobs and the economy, and if the unemployment picture doesn't brighten up soon, he has a very good chance of winning. Americans always vote their pocketbooks.
And that's why I'm urging everyone to go shopping.
As all of you who read your Paul Krugman every Monday and Friday know, lower taxes don't create jobs. Fewer regulations don't create jobs. Austerity measures certainly don't create jobs. Jobs in the private sector mainly are created by greater demand for goods and services. Employers only hire more people when they don't have enough of a workforce to meet new orders.
So shop 'til you drop. If every registered Democrat in Oregon bought $200 worth of Christmas presents this summer, that would add up to about $180 million. If we all shop judiciously, buying stuff from local companies that are likely to hire Americans rather than Chinese, this could have enough of an impact to shave a point or two off the unemployment stats. The economy doesn't need to come roaring back by October; all we need is a good trend.
Since Oregon typically represents one percent of the U.S., economy, if this movement went national, it would add between $15 and $20 trillion to the economy. Of course, not every Democrat is going to spend this money now. Most Democrats don't have $200 to spend. But if only 10 percent of us do Christmas (or Hannukah, etc.) shopping way early, that's still around $2 trillion nationally.
In other words, more than double the Obama stimulus package of 2009.
You can quibble and say that the $200 we spend now means less for businesses during the holiday season (which inconveniently comes after the election). These business owners may get false hopes that the economy is really turning around. Don't forget, however, the multiplier effect of this spending, particularly if most of the purchases are made with companies that are likely to hire new employees. That would mean buying stuff that is locally produced, which in itself is a positive step towards a more democratic capitalism.
Besides, if Romney wins, 99 percent of us are going to be worse off for the next four years, if not longer. So shop early and shop often.