You've heard it a million times before: The American consumer is the engine powering our nation. We spend, and the economy reaps the benefits. Of course, what with all the bad financial news lately, the American consumer is feeling a little, well, cautious.
"I would say that one of the things that's hurting the economy is people not buying at all," says Gordon Hickey, press secretary for Gov. Tim Kaine, while adding, "I don't think anybody in government is going to say spend money you don't have."
And no one at this magazine is going to say that, either, but we were wondering: Should we be directing what we are spending toward certain sectors in order to help the economy at large?
- "Small businesses in general are suffering from the credit crisis more than anyone," says Dean Croushore, a professor of economics and Rigsby Fellow at the University of Richmond. And getting an infusion of cash from consumer purchases can help.
- "Education is always a good buy," says David A. Brat, chair of the department of economics and business at Randolph-Macon College. "Investing in skills increases our pay and national income, and it produces economic growth well into the future."
- "I think consumers should spend their money on nondurable goods," says Kwadwo Bawuah, chair of the department of economics at Virginia State University. These are goods that can be used once or that don't last more than three years. Perhaps the most obvious example? Food.
- Travel is another sector that could use some assistance, Croushore says, adding that in many cases it's a win-win, with more than a few tourist spots offering good deals to entice travelers.
- Finally, Hickey notes that the old adage about buying local makes even more sense during tough economic times: "Keep the money circulating inside the Virginia economy and whatever locality you live in."