What’s Going On: How you (yes, you) can save America

What’s Going On

The American economy is under attack, and we don’t even know it.

There is an evil force lurking amongst us that if allowed to grow unchecked, will destroy our retail base, employment levels, and infrastructure.

It is so powerful and invasive that its consuming small, family-run businesses. And I’m not talking about the weak, struggling ones. I’m talking about the mom and pop places that survived the onslaught of box stores, increased government regulations, and massive spikes in basic expenses like health insurance and wages.

But what makes this destructive trend so dangerous is how well it is embraced by the American public. The same people who bemoan the death of Main Street USA are doing every thing they can to make sure that demise is quick, severe, and permanent.

This enemy to which I refer?

Amazon.

We are on the verge of the holiday shopping season. This is by far the most important 6-week period for retailers of the entire year. In fact, many smaller retailers will tell you the last six weeks of the year are more important to their overall performance than the previous 46 … combined.

But thanks to Amazon, that holiday boon is becoming less and less prevalent.

Two things Americans love: cheap, disposable goods and convenience. Amazon brings you the best of both of those worlds.

Whether it’s a $150 television, $49 tablet, or $22 microwave, anything and everything can be ordered on Amazon and depending on your patience level, delivered to your door in as little as 24 hours.

And if you happen to already own one of those $49 tablets, or something similar, you can literally do all your Christmas shopping without ever leaving your couch.

It’s the lazy, American dream.

And it’s killing our retail base, especially in towns like New Ulm.

Folks, we have to support our local businesses, whether they are owned locally or not. Even spending money at the “box stores” has a lot more benefit to this community than spending your dollars with Amazon, or any other online retailer.

Amazon doesn’t put payroll dollars into New Ulm. Amazon isn’t paying property taxes to help with the levy on the new high school. Amazon isn’t donating to the After Prom Party, one of New Ulm’s many festivals, or the Brown County Relay for Life. They aren’t buying a Chamber membership, and they aren’t sponsoring your bowling team either.

So why again do we support a business that doesn’t support our community?

Unfortunately, the answer is we are spoiled and we are lazy.

Part of Amazon’s appeal is typically, merchandise is cheaper. Without the overhead of all those pesky expenses I previously mentioned like taxes, utilities, payroll, etc., etc., the products can be discounted.

As such, as consumers, we believe we can stretch our gift dollar even farther and get more stuff for the same amount of money.

The reality, though, is selling more for less actually causes the exact opposite to happen in terms of “savings.” Consumers who feel like they are getting a “deal” end up spending more money than they would have. So not coincidentally, as online shopping increases, overall holiday spending has increased as well.

All of that means the “present count” under the tree is also increasing. So while 5-8 presents would have been adequate before, the new expectation might be in the 8-10 range.

So yeah, we are spoiled.

And of course, we are lazy too. We don’t want to leave our couch, well, for anything. We don’t want to fight traffic, or the parking, or deal with “the crowds.” Or the good-ole Minnesota standby for not doing anything outside for three months: it’s too cold.

I’ll admit, the convenience factor is the lure online shopping has with me. I hate shopping and even more so during the holiday season.

But what I hate more is closed businesses and shuttered Main Street storefronts. Its depressing and its bad for the community and our country.

Between the national anthem protests, political scandals, tainted elections and second amendment debates, a lot of people are talking about patriotism and (pardon the phrase) making America great.

You want to be a patriot? You want to support this country and your community? You really want to Make America Great Again?

Then put down that dang tablet and go buy something … from someone you can look at and talk to. You might have fewer gifts under the tree, but you will get better service and more importantly, you will be reinvesting in the community you call home.

Support America. Support Minnesota. Support New Ulm.

Shop locally.

——

Gregory Orear is the publisher of The Journal. His award-winning weekly column, “What’s Going On,” has been published in four newspapers in three states for more than 20 years. He can be contacted at gorear@nujournal.com.

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