President Barack Obama: What About a Build America Creatively Program?

Posted: February 5, 2012 in Uncategorized
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Throughout my life, I have met some creative and inspiring individuals. They write their own books, design their own jewelry, carve their own woodworking projects, crochet beautiful afghans, sculpt imaginative designs, take outstanding photographs, and paint magnificent artwork. These individuals could make a living from their work if only they were given the opportunity.

At one time a writer could open the trunk of her vehicle and sell her own books. But she isn’t allowed to sell anything from her car or front lawn today unless she owns her own ice cream truck. Why? Because the law won’t allow her to set up shop and work out her home or auto unless she has a special permit and (sometimes) permission from her neighbors or landlords. As a matter of fact, unless she owns her own ice cream truck, she cannot drive down suburban neighborhoods and sell her goods.

I understand the dangers – with child abductions posing a genuine threat, vehicles roaming through neighborhoods selling anything other than ice cream could be cause for alarm and should not be allowed (though even ice cream sellers can be suspicious). And let’s not even talk about Uncle Sam following closely behind her to make sure he is extracting his percentage.

But how are creative individuals supposed to sell their items? If they sell online through etsy, ebay, or other sites, they compete with millions of other people, they get charged for posting their items, and they have to share the money they make with the web site hosting the sale.

In the “real” world beyond cyber space, consignors ask for up to 50% of the selling cost, and unless sellers want to increase the cost of their items by 200%, who, among their neighbors and friends would be willing to buy handmade items at such hiked-up rates?

Take a crocheted scarf as an example. Materials might cost between $2-3. Time spent could be approximately 3-4 hours. If the crocheter wanted $10 for the scarf, she would have to charge $20 at a consignment shop in order to get her asking price, because if she asked the consignment shop to sell it for $10, after she deducted the cost of materials and the consignment shop’s portion, she would make less than $1.00 per hour for her efforts. Yes, $1 is better than $0. But can she sustain herself (and her family if she has one) on less than $40 a week (assuming she works 40 hours)?

People who’ve lost jobs or suddenly found themselves dealing with catastrophic diseases or any of the myriad reasons for joblessness, could use help in rebuilding their lives. They may have to depend on the government or others for help, but if they contributed to their own independence, they wouldn’t have to depend on welfare to afford a life, and they would feel better about themselves.

In the spirit of helping people to help themselves why not, for one full year, allow them to sell items from their homes, their garages, their yards, and the trunks of their cars? FOR JUST ONE YEAR – as often as they wish. Many counties prohibit garage or yard sales if they occur on an ongoing basis, but one year, selling handcrafted items, could help a LOT of people.

I’m not talking about a lifetime of selling from their homes. And I’m not referring to year-round garage sales where people sell used items from their homes – I’m asking for just one year for the sale of handmade items only, whether they are greeting cards, artwork, books, knitted hats, framed photography, crocheted booties, shelving units, hand-carved tables, or anything else creative individuals make.

For just one year, allow the residents of the United States to sell their handcrafted items outside their homes (in public view) without having to out-price their own items. The ability to sell items from home would give these individuals a sense of worth. An added benefit would be that they would be able to contribute to their own communities, because sellers would now be in a position to purchase more goods from other individuals in the community.

After one year, buyers will have become familiar with sellers and they will know where to go for future handcrafted items. They could also help each other and enrich community spirit by displaying business cards from local businesses they endorse.

An exchange of goods would stimulate the economy and contribute to community support. After one year sellers might make enough money to open their own stores, or they might gather neighbors together to open a shop that combines all of their talents. If nothing else, allowing people the ability to work and giving them the opportunity to sell their own items would enrich their lives with meaning and self-worth. Being able to support their own families would contribute to their sense of accomplishment.

What about taxes, you ask? Well, if most of these people are benefiting from the welfare system because they’ve lost their jobs or they’re suffering from ill health, chances are they don’t pay much in taxes anyway – if they pay anything at all, and if they already pay taxes, you could offer them an incentive for reporting their sales.

Also, keep track of sellers by demanding these individuals to get permits from their local county office, but don’t force them to pay for permits. Permits to sell items should be free for one year – with the stipulation that they have to report earnings every month. Having a permit holds sellers accountable for their sales. The county or the IRS could monitor them, and if they fail to report their earnings after the first month, revoke their permits and don’t allow them to sell their goods the following month.

I know that some people reading this will be concerned about the proliferation of drug sales on street corners, but I believe that if more people were allowed to sell items in front of their homes, they might squeeze out drug traffickers.

Our economy is suffering because people are suffering. Unused talents have fallen by the wayside. Loss of self-esteem, loss of hope, and loss of honor all contribute to an ill economy. The state of our country reflects the state of the residents who call this country home. And an ill economy comes from ill citizens.

President Obama, you said that our economy is improving, and that may be true for a lot of people, but it isn’t true for all of us. The “Build America Creatively” Program would instill a little hope in, and bring excitement to, these creative individuals. Help them heal what they perceive to be a dying economy. For just ONE YEAR allow the citizens of the United States the opportunity to jumpstart their own personal economic progression.

If you can’t allow the entire country to benefit from this program, at least start with the dying state of Illinois. If ever a state needed help, Illinois is that state. Illinois is so dismally broke, the residents of Illinois already see it on a stretcher – on its way to the morgue.

And, President Obama, you once asked, in your Race to the Top campaign, for innovative and creative plans to improve teacher quality and student achievement. I responded with this article: In Response to President Barack Obama’s Request for Educational Innovation: School Restructuring Could Improve Student Learning in Our Race to the Top. I invite you to read it if you haven’t already.

If you would like to read more from this author, I invite you to click Read More Blogs and Articles by This Author on the upper left hand side of this blog. (I am posting this same blog in both my All Craft Connection blog and my Theresa Wiza’s WordPress blog in the hopes that somebody somewhere {if not President Obama himself} will at least consider this idea.)

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