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I’m Creating Jobs – How About You?

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Just about every day we hear about how consumer spending is the main driver of the economy.  If only we’d spend more money, we could get the economy back on track. (Of course, this is overly simplistic, and fails to account for any number of factors, not least being the continued drag of housing  on the economy, as well as the mountains of cash that businesses are sitting on as they fail to hire workers.)

So I’m doing my part—in fact more than my part.

You see, in a few days, I’m getting married.  I never would have imagined the amount of money that my wedding is plowing into our local economy: thousands of dollars to a caterer, a bartending service, an equipment rental outfit, a DJ.  We’re renting a municipally-owned venue, so the City should be getting a taste, too.  Plus the local retailers where we bought clothes, flowers and various gifts.

This is only the tip of the iceberg, of course.  Friends and family are flying in from across the country and two other continents.  This means tens of thousands of dollars to various airlines, as well as thousands more dollars to a local hotel and rental car companies.  Plus the thousands more dollars that will be spent at local restaurants, and also at L.A.’s tourist attractions.

All told, by my back-of-the-envelope calculation, between travel, accommodations, meals, gifts and everything else, this wedding is putting somewhere north of $100,000 into the economy.

If spending money is what is needed to create jobs and get the economy moving, then why do I feel conflicted about the whole thing?  (I mean, come on, I have plenty of other things to be worried about right now!)  Partially, to be sure, this is because I’m crazy cheap.  I don’t like the hegemony of the $12 cocktail, I don’t like to buy new clothes, and I don’t like to eat at any place that could be described as having any sort of ambiance.

Partially my ambivalence is because of the whole wedding-industrial complex, and how it tells us about all the crazy things we need to spend money on at a wedding.  And partially, my queasiness has to do, broadly, with the idea of conspicuous consumption.

How insane is it for us to walk around believing that the economy depends on each of us spending money we may or may not have, on things we almost certainly don’t need?  Is the constant conflation of conspicuous consumption with patriotism what it takes to prop up our economy?  And if that’s the case, then aren’t we headed for a crack-up the likes of which will make the current downturn seem like a picnic?

There do seem to be some other models we could look to, of course, but then we might be called socialists – and we might also wind up with an economy that produces things that we actually need.

But what do I know?  I’m the hypocrite who’s headed to a beach in a few days.

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