of Lizabeth Cohen's article “Trying to Buy Our Way Out of Trouble”
the article “Trying to Buy Our Way Out of Trouble,” Lizabeth Cohen
writes about a message that the media and politicians sent to the
American public in December of 2002. The message was that “consuming…is
our best hope for keeping recession at bay.” They hoped that after
9/11 our economy would not crash if we kept spending money.
reminds the reader that encouragement from the government to spend
more money happened after the Great Depression as well. It was also
at this time in the late 40's and 50s that “consumer credit inflated
that purchasing power” and many Americans started buying expensive
household items on credit. Cohen does not think that Americans bought
on credit just so they could have more “purchasing power” though.
She believes that Americans thought being able to spend more money
would bring more equality to social classes.
Cohen thinks that increased spending power has not brought equality
to Americans. Instead, she feels it has increased inequality. She
writes that retailers “distanced themselves from consumers deemed
undesirable because they were too poor, too black, or young and unruly”
(Cohen). She also notes that transportation to malls was (and still
is) encouraged for white, suburban women but not for people who live
in the city or even the people that work at the malls.
short, Cohen wants readers to think about the fact that it doesn't
just matter how many dollars are spent but “who has dollars to spend—and
where they are able to spend them.” We are fooling ourselves if we
think that spending more money makes Americans more equal.
of Cohen's Article
makes an argument about the detriments of consumption on equality
in America . She is responding to the government's and businesses'
call to "spend more" after 9/11 to help boost our economy.
Cohen's goal is to show that consumption, as it is currently, is problematic
and that we, as consumers in America , need to think more carefully
to Cohen, the problem is historical and dates back to the recovery
from the Depression in the 1930's. Then, as now, the government
and business leaders and workers called for more spending and increased
consumer credit to enable this. As a result, a pseudo-democratic
idea that spending more would create more equality among classes in
the U.S. was born. "Citizens, living better than before,
would be on equal footing with their prospering neighbors" (Cohen).
Cohen does not believe spending more creates more inequality.
In fact, she argues just the opposite and cites many examples of the
negative effects increased shopping and malls have had on society,
and she concludes by saying, "So before we praise consumer spending
too lavishly this holiday season, it is worth recognizing that totaling
up the dollars spent is not enough" (Cohen). Cohen wants
us to think about some of the less tangible effects our holiday shopping
and make a change.