My buddy called me yesterday. I heard a lot of noise in the background.
"Where are you?" I asked. "A party? Sounds like there are a lot of people around you."
"I'm at Lenox Mall. Man," he said, "you know what they need to do with that bailout money? They don't need to give it to the banks and the carmakers. They need to give it to black people."
I started laughing before he could explain, because I knew exactly where he was headed.
"Hey man," he said, "are you listening to me?"
"Dude, I can hear you. I just got this visual-"
"Don't say anything else. Just listen. You know that seven hundred billion dollars? They need to take the all of it - the whole thing - and just give it to us. We'll have the economy back on its feet in no time, because we will spend it all. Every last dollar."
It was kind of hard to argue with his logic. We did have a consumer driven society. And the president has told us over and over, whenever we've had huge problems with the economy stalling, to "get out there and shop."
"Dude, you have absolutely no sense. But it would bring the automakers back to profitability almost overnight."
"Come on, man. You know we'll spend it. This mall is full of brothers shopping right now with no money. I just saw a brother trying to pay for some stuff at Macy's. The cashier repeated "no sir, that one won't go through" each time she swiped one of his credit cards through her register. So the brother pulls out his last credit card. He looks at her and says, 'I know this one will work.' And it did."
Many of us have literally transformed our brains into barcode readers.
Buying stuff at the mall every weekend has become one of our favorite pastimes. Bragging about the stuff we get that has not even been paid for yet is our second favorite pastime. Dreaming about the stuff we're going to get next is our third.
I have several cousins who could be professional shoppers, they spend so much of their free time in clothing stores. One of them, who aspires to be the black Imelda Marcos, seems to have forgotten that the Marcos credit cards were paid with stolen government money. And our own resident shopping diva-in-training gets as excited about "store credit" as you do about your tax refund.
So my buddy might be onto something.
I decided to do the math, just to humor myself. There are approximately forty million black people in the United States. Seven hundred billion divided by forty million is $17,500 per person.
If you assume that half of us are adult aged, and only divide seven hundred billion by twenty million, you get a nice, even $35,000 per person.
Think of all the car downpayments, plasma TV's, roofs, home additions, hairdos, restaurant outings, dental work, home furnishings, and yes, shoes, shoes, and more shoes that would be bought in the next
Henry Paulson, I know you read this blog on the sly, while you are waiting by the phone for all those banks you gave all our money to call you back with status reports. You might want to run the numbers on my buddies idea.
The "trickle up" effect could be enormous.