I don’t want a Walmart world

Feels a little risky to be starting this blog just days after Standard & Poor’s downgraded the U.S.’s credit rating. Even though I’m not in “the States,” we’re still all holding our breath, feeling like we’re standing on the brink of something. Friday night, as I watched CNN with much of the rest of the continent, I couldn’t help thinking that the situated reminded me a trip to Walmart earlier that evening.

I’m no economist—something that may become painfully obvious in this post (and also evidenced by my own personal spending habits. $70 for hair care products online? Really?). Walmart three weeks before back-to-school is no place for a sane person without children to be.  But the displays of leftover plastic summer dishes marked down and unmatched cheap yard ornaments made me think about the current economic situation.

Thing is, have we (as in the general “we” that includes the policy makers and those of us who have to live with their choices) saved ourselves into this crisis? That by being chisel cheap and cutting every corner, squeezing every dime with outsourcing, downsizing, reigning in spending—we’ve created a situation where all that’s available to the majority of us is cheap junk, made offshore. Stuff that nobody really wants. Are we living in a Walmart world? Sure we may want to visit the place on occasion for cheap cat litter or deodorant, but you want to live somewhere better. A world where there are decent jobs that pay enough so that average people can afford to buy stuff made here, in North America—which would bring our companies more profit, so they could (in theory) offer better paying jobs—which would in turn let people buy more even more stuff made here. And so on. I know it’s not an original thought by far, but could it be that’s the way out? Is it that simple? Spend more to make more? Because the cutting and saving doesn’t appear to be getting us anywhere.

I’m tired of the doom and gloom. I get scared when I hear about the whack of personal debt people are carrying. I’m tired of hearing about how things getting worse and of being nostalgic for the better times behind us. I want to look ahead. I’m hoping these recent events can be a lesson—that this is where we changed course. This needs to be the bottom you have to hit before you smarten up and make things better. I want this to be the point in our history where we (all of us) decided not to live in a Walmart world.

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