America's economy is a lot like the sinking Titanic, and instead of a shiny lifeboat, today the Bush administration is throwing us an old, deflated tire in the form of a $600 rebate check. I agree with the large contingent of experts who don't think this will do much meaningful stimulating. And while I reject the notion that it's my "patriotic duty" to buy more junk I don't need, let's face it - it's far more fun to spend it in a creative way that reflects my values than to save it or do something equally responsible. Since "the check's in the mail" no matter how much we object to this policy decision, here are 3 ideas of worthy ways to spend the money that could do some social and economic good.
1) Plant a garden. $600 is more than enough to get tools, supplies and seeds for a garden where you can grow some of your own food. It's spring and not too late to get started. Author Michael Pollan suggests that this is one of the most powerful individual actions a person can take to combat climate change and transform our cheap-energy-minded culture. You'll get the satisfaction of growing your own ultra-local vegetables, know you're doing something great for the earth, and you'll support the economy with smart purchases. If you live in a concrete jungle like New York City, look into a community garden.
2) Generously distribute among service sector workers -- aka -- leave big tips. Many people like waiters, busboys, and baristas may see their tips dwindle as people cut back on discretionary spending. Start leaving 25% instead of 20% until you estimate you've reached $600. Not only will you feel personally virtuous, you can help out workers who are more likely to live paycheck to paycheck than salaried employees. Their economic wellbeing is more subject to patrons' whims, so when business is slow they may feel the impact most acutely.
3) While Bush's educational policies leave many children (and teachers) behind, donorschoose.org is a website that lets teachers post wish lists and project needs and then individuals can purchase the items for the classroom, whether it's school supplies, textbooks or electronic equipment. No, this won't fix the systemic problem of educational inequality in America, but it does provide a platform for purchasing something that will have a meaningful and worthy impact. The students will even write you a thank-you note.
Got some creative ideas for great ways for Bush-hating liberals to spend their $600? Leave 'em in the comments.