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By Robin McDermott
Just a day before this past Valentine's Day, President Bush showed his love for the country by signing the 2008 Economic Stimulus Package. Sitting behind a small desk with a banner that shouted "Boosting Our Economy" he inked the deal that will send tax rebate checks ranging from $300 and $1,200 to middle and low income taxpayers. Joining in on the photo-op were Nancy Polosi and crew, all gleaming about this brilliant "booster shot" that is supposedly going to steer the country around a recession.
So, according to this brilliant plan, all we need to do, immediately upon receiving our rebate check, is go out and buy a new computer, television or car. It's that easy and everyone wins! We get some cool stuff, kickstart the economy, and we love our politicians more than ever, coincidently in an election year.
I think that the Economic Stimulus Plan is an absurd Band-Aid solution to a deep, systemic problem and most people I have talked with agree. In a recent blog on the Vermont Commons website I proposed an idea that would keep Vermonter's tax rebates in the Green Mountain State:
...So, here is an idea I have for how we can all spend our checks that we will get in April. If we all do it, we will stimulate the Vermont economy -- our little way of bucking the "system." Imagine if all of us spend our checks on Vermont farmers. April is when most vegetable farms are starting to sell their CSA shares. Take part of your check and buy a CSA share for the summer. If you have something left over, hide it in your sock drawer and treat yourself to fresh fruits, vegetables, meats, eggs and cheeses at the farmers' markets that will be coming back to life throughout the state in May.
...If we do with our check what "the man" wants us to do, we will go online and buy a new computer or TV from a big box store headquartered on the other side of the country. Whoosh...there goes the cash right out of the state. On the other hand, if we give our windfall to our local farmers and they spend that money at a local store who in turn pays a local employee who spends some money on a nice dinner at a local restaurant whose chef pays a local farmer for the food served in the restaurant we will truly stimulate the local Vermont economy.
The idea resonated with others and I began receiving e-mails from people who, like me, could smell a rat. I discovered a webpage on SimpleLiving.net urging us to "wake up and smell the rebate." Rob Williams, fellow Valley resident and editor of Vermont Commons, and I kept bumping into each other at the NOFA (Northeast Organic Farming Association) conference in mid-February and talked about the idea that I proposed in the blog. Each time we saw each other and talked we became more convinced that we needed to act on this idea. By the end of the conference, not only did we have tips on how to grow better organic food, but we had a plan -- www.KeepItInVermont.org .
The idea of KeepItInVermont.org is to give Vermonters ideas on how they can put their tax rebate money to work to support neighbors, farmers, businesses and not-for-profits right here at home. At the website, Vermont citizens can make a pledge indicating how they will spend their tax rebate money giving others ideas for boosting our own economy and enabling us to track how much rebate money Vermonter's have kept in-state. So, check out the website, make a pledge if you are so moved, and tell your friends and neighbors to Keep it in Vermont
Robin McDermott lives in Waitsfield. This article originally appeared in the Mud Season Issue of Vermont Commons.