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Wednesday February 28, 2001

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Cutting back on confidence

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By Cory Spiller

Do you have high confidence?

No, I don't mean your self-esteem, I mean your consumer confidence. According to economic research groups, the American people's consumer confidence has dropped considerably. The big guys, the one's with suits and yachts, want you to get out there and buy, buy, buy - but Americans aren't confident enough to do so.

President Bush is struggling to keep our economy afloat, but he doesn't understand that we must have confidence in our country to have confidence with our wallets.

I can remember the very instant I lost my confidence in Bush as the premier money manager of the country. It was during the Barbara Walters interview the day before he was inaugurated. Walters asked Bush why he had sold all of his stock before he moved to the White House. Bush responded with stutters and smirks, and had no reasonable explanation.

If the president doesn't think he'll make a profit in the stock market, why should we? What does he know that we don't?

Many people lost their confidence when they realized how desperate the oil industry was to drill in the Arctic National Refuge. In 1980, President Jimmy Carter set aside 5 percent of the Alaskan coast for protection. The proposed drilling area is a national refuge. It is owned by the American people. Drilling oil in this refuge is like drilling in Yosemite or in the Grand Canyon, it is just as precious.

Scientists have estimated the amount of oil to be about 5 billion barrels. That sounds like a lot, but it's barely enough to run our engines for 300 days. Why do they need it so bad? What do they know that we don't?

Even more working-class Americans lost their confidence when they realized Bush is going to give their tax dollars away. His Social Security plan will give money back to the workers, money that usually went to their Social Security accounts. His plan is supposed to encourage workers to invest that small amount of money in the stock market. The very same stock market Bush pulled all his money out of when he got into office. Furthermore, Bush is trying to pass off a tax cut that he says will benefit all tax payers. The tax cut will allow working-class families enough to buy a dishwasher, while allowing the wealthy to purchase a new Lexus. How gullible does he think we are?

Could it be that people are realizing that mass consumerism is an empty ideology and that we are better off saving our money for worthwhile investments? Could it be that the American people are realizing that the orange sweater they bought from Gap last year is just as warm as the pink one the store is selling this year?

Our confidence has been run through the ringer. We've had enough with capitalist manipulation.

America is a strange country. We don't have royalty, but we do have palaces. Places where fountains flow, where every type of food is at your fingertips and where servants dress you in the latest fashions. These palaces are our malls.

According to economists, the American people's consumer confidence is at levels usually only seen during recessions. Consumer spending accounts for two-thirds of the nation's economic output, and unless it turns around we will be looking at a full-blown recession.

I say, bring it on. Let's stop wasting our money. A recession might actually help the politics of this country. When people are not blinded by the false prosperity of our country, they will consider third parties that fight for the common needs of the American citizen.

When people realize that money is scarce, they won't support a president who wants to give money back to the rich.

When prices at the pump become absurdly expensive, maybe people will look at their bicycle in a new light and realize that the natural areas of our country are our true treasures - not the oil that lies underneath them.