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the downturnaround

The Dowturnaround’s Plan to Save Herald Square (and the World)

The Downturnaround was walking around Herald Square yesterday and noticed something eerie. The sidewalks were as madly clogged as ever, but all of the stores were nearly vacant — even Foot Locker. The salesgirl at Billabong looked like she was about to string herself up. The Downturnaround was not pleased to see such a desperate scene, not only because it pains us to see human suffering, but because it made us question ourselves and the optimism that is our defining trait. Understanding the government's multi-trillion-dollar effort to rescue the economy is above our pay grade, but whatever it is, we realized, it's going to take a long time before it filters down to pedestrians and they start to feel comfortable enough to buy their daughter a prom dress or themselves a pair of irresponsible shoes. This is no good. We're as happy as anyone else about the end of profligacy, but we also know that as long as American consumers stay locked up stuffing money into their (old) mattresses, the whole world economy is like one very leaky boat. Every last job in the world ultimately depends upon people buying things, most of all us Americans.

So, inspired by the German government's incentives for people to scrap their old beaters and buy new cars (which boosted auto sales 40 percent last month), we propose that the Obama administration also get creative in boosting consumer spending. We know it can't be done like the Bushies did, by mailing out a bunch of checks that were deposited directly into savings accounts. So the Downturnaround humbly proposes a Gift Card Stimulus — in which the government sends out virtual money to all Americans under a certain income threshold, with the stipulation that it disappears if they don't spend it within six weeks.

We would add one other stipulation: No buying guns. End-timers may not use our dough to build up their arsenals. Sorry, freaks.

Honestly, we thought of this scheme ourselves, but we just Googled it and it turns out someone else recently had a similar idea, which restored our optimism a little. Perhaps a popular movement is afoot!

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Photo: istockphoto