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Buying local strengthens economy

The middle class has a very powerful tool in affecting significant change that could put the brakes on this growing divide. They can choose to shift their spending and shop at locally owned and operated businesses instead of corporate chains.
The middle class has a very powerful tool in affecting significant change that could put the brakes on this growing divide. They can choose to shift their spending and shop at locally owned and operated businesses instead of corporate chains.
Lisa Poole, Associated Press

Why is there a McDonald's and/or Walgreens on nearly every corner of nearly every town along the Wasatch Front? Are these really “our communities” when there are so few stores that are locally owned? Of course we need jobs and investment and wealth creation, but is our future a world of corporations that we completely rely on for jobs, products, services and tax revenue?

The working poor are becoming more subservient to corporations. Low-skilled workers rely on corporations for both steady employment and cheap products and services. Symptomatic of this growing trend, we see that corporations such as Wal-Mart and Dollar Tree thrive in our poor economy and spread all over Utah.

This is because these types of corporations provide a trifecta for investors and politicians: cheap products, consistent employment and steady tax revenue. As long as there are working poor, there will always be those who seek cheap products and low-wage jobs.

Therefore, developers build our communities for corporate chains and local politicians hand out corporate welfare to entice them to invest, which in turn provides a steady stream of tax revenue. Those who suffer as a result of corporate welfare are the local business owners, especially retailers and restaurants.

How is it fair that these corporations should receive such huge tax subsidies while local businesses receive nothing? This is not a level playing field and not a free market.

As long as power continues to concentrate in the hands of corporations and communities and the poor rely on them, towns become slaves. Further, the working poor are becoming stuck on the socioeconomic ladder, unable to climb due to an inability to gain new skills at low-wage jobs where they are trained to behave like automatons. But who can blame the poor and unskilled for working and shopping at these places? They offer the best deals for a scarce income.

But there is another part of this equation that causes so many of our communities to become homogenized by corporate chains: Investors love stores that cater to the poor. They are a very safe bet. Local businesses, on the other hand, are not such a safe bet.

Who can blame investors for holding stocks in these companies that consistently perform so well, even if they are based on a less-than-desirable model? Millions of Americans' 401(k)s and retirements depend on these companies earning money. It has become obvious in recent years that the main reason the wealthy seek to control our political leaders through campaign contributions is to protect their investments and ensure their success.

We see the growing divide between the rich and the poor. The rich own the stocks and provide the capital for corporations to grow. The working poor provide the cheap labor and earnings that provide the record profits that ensure the rich get richer. But middle-class Americans can take some steps to change the equation.

Members of the middle class have a very powerful tool in affecting significant change that could put the brakes on this growing divide. They can choose to shift their spending and shop at locally owned and operated businesses instead of corporate chains. If more people chose to buy more products locally and buy more locally made products, we would see fewer local politicians bending over and kissing the corporate ring of steady tax revenue. But are we too late?

Karl Marx feared that capitalism would create a world in which just two basic classes would exist: the rich, who control and operate corporations, which control and operate the government, and the poor, who are dependent on corporations for both jobs and products.

Our most powerful vote can come from our pocketbooks. We literally have the power to shape and form our communities into places that create more wealth, jobs and opportunity simply by choosing to buy local.

Richard Markosian is the editor and publisher of Utah Stories magazine. Utah Stories is an independent news provider located in Salt Lake City covering the other side of Utah news in detail.