WILL SHOPPING SAVE US?
By Danny Schechter, author of the Crime of Our Time
image from youtube
day. It's "Black Friday" ("black" as in the day our business supposedly go into
the black.) This may not have been such a wise use of language since the Wall
Street crash of l929, ushering in the Great Depression, started on a "Black
Throughout America, an advertising-dominated media is plugging all the "bargains" while shoppers, hungry to save a few bucks, in a country where more than half of our families are barely making it, are off to the malls in an annual ritual that each year barely saves the retail outlets but adds costly bills to already squeezed and debt dependent consumers.
The easy availability of credit has created what Robert Manning calls our Credit Card Nation, where we are encouraged to shop until we drop. In the aftermath of the terror attacks of September l1, 2001, recall that President Bush made that point shamelessly when he told the American people that the best way to help in that traumatic period was to go shopping again.
He knew, even if most Americans didn't, that it is their non-stop consumption that drives the economy. Without it, I guess, the terrorists could have won.
"In fact," Robert Manning writes in his seminal book on credit cards, "with the ascendance of the post-industrial economy, bank credit cards have become an essential technological and financial tool for commercial transactions as well as an increasingly important macro-economic tool for U.S. policy-makers."
And that is why this year, lobbyists for the retail shopping industry are begging (and suing) the Federal Reserve Bank to further cut the costs of debit cards imposed by avaricious banks.
To have more impact, these stores should be supporting the Occupy movement that's also protesting bankster greed.
Shopping may be our real national pastime, but it comes, as Manning warns, at a price that is not advertised in the malls.
"The idyllic wonderland of consumer credit too often belies a reality of unknown sacrifices and enduring debt. ... the credit card industry is playing a crucial role in transforming American consumer attitudes. The promotion of "immediate gratification' ruptures the cognitive connection between earnings/saving and credit/debt that has traditionally shaped consumer behavior. It is this "cognitive disconnect,' with its siren song "Buy, buy, buy. It could be free, free, free' that constitutes the cornerstone of the Credit Card Nation."
And so, it is not surprising, that holidays are used or created as national events, to spur consumption. After months of financial volatility, "Black Friday" is seen as a make-or-break event.
Will it send a cathartic and upbeat signal that the economy is back? Can all the shoppers be counted on to launch the Holiday shopping season with a big bang?
In the malls, preparations had been made for five months with advertising dollars set aside for promoting sales and deep discounts to lure the shoppers who had, in effect, been boycotting the stores in September and October. Ingenious plans for opening earlier and staging "midnight madness" sales to trigger a stampede were put in place.
You have seen the commercials disguised as news stories, featuring perky local news "correspondents" stirring a buying frenzy with upbeat reports on manic consumers waiting feverishly to rush into malls the night before.