Former President Bush was roundly derided a decade ago for urging Americans traumatized by the September 11 attacks to go shopping. He may, in fact, have been onto something.
Certainly, shopping on its own is a facile and inadequate response to a tragedy that required a new assessment of our national security procedures and how much of our revered American civil liberties we were willing to give up to achieve security—or perhaps, a sense of security. That conversation needs to continue, especially in the area of civil liberties retrenchment.
But Bush was right about something, and that is that ours is a consumer-driven economy. This is arguably a bad basis for a modern economy; there is only so much we can consume (the obesity epidemic is only one sign of our over-indulgence). And people were foolishly taking out home equity loans on wildly over-valued properties and then using the money not to improve the property (thus, theoretically, increasing its value), but to buy other things. This is not sensible. But the reality is, our economy runs on people buying things, and with the economy in the state it's in, people aren't shopping anymore. Since people aren't buying, companies aren't creating jobs. Many corporations are making record profits and holding huge amounts of cash, but they don't want to take on more workers because the demand is not there.
So, here's a 10-years-after tweak of Bush's suggestion: if corporate America wants to shows its collective patriotism, its leaders should hire someone. Hire even a dozen people, if you run a large company, or even one employee, if you own a small business. Some public officials are worried about raising taxes on the wealthy, arguing that the well-off are job creators. Well, create some jobs, first, and that argument will have more merit. And remember: taking on another employee isn't a cash loss, ultimately, because it creates a new customer (and a taxpayer who won't be getting unemployment insurance anymore, either). If shopping was the answer a decade ago, hiring someone is the answer now. It's the patriotic thing to do.