What will Americans do with rebates?

Economic stimulus checks are prepared for printing at the Philadelphia Financial Center on May 8, 2008 in Philadelphia, Pa.

TEXT OF STORY

KAI RYSSDAL: The check is in the mail, and this time it's almost true. The first actual tax rebate checks are going to start going out tomorrow. Direct depositors, you might remember, started getting their money a week ago. In all, its $150 billion worth of economic stimulus just waiting to happen. Retailers are already salivating over a cut of your cash. Sears, Kroger's grocery stores, Home Depot, everybody's running ads to get you and your check into their stores, but buying stuff is not the only way to spend. We went looking for some of the more unusual things people are doing with their rebates. In Fresno, California, Cynthia Cooper heads up the local Coalition for Arts, Science and History

CYNTHIA COOPER: We're just asking that they consider treating themselves. That maybe they become a member of an organization or they sponsor something or they buy membership for their family and friends or they buy tickets to a performance or a fund-raising or cultural event. That they, if they're going to go do something that's a treat for them, that they think in this area.

For the Reverend Mike Kinman, the focus isn't local. It's global. He runs Episcopalians for Global Reconciliation in St. Louis, Missouri

MIKE KINMAN: We're urging people to take the economic stimulus check they're getting from the government, and pledge to give all or part of it to organizations working to alleviate global poverty. For people who say: "Oh well, we need to consume because that's what's going to get the economy back on its feet," what we say to that is the economy long-term is not sustainable. It's not sustainable economically. It's not sustainable environmentally and it's not sustainable morally.

City planner Danny Klingler lives in Austin, Texas, but he loves his native Ohio. Loves it so much in fact that he did his master's thesis on a historic German neighborhood in Cincinnati called Over the Rhine. He's decided to plunk down his whole $600 rebate on saving a building there, and he's opened a Web site where others can
do the same thing.

DANNY KLINGLER: I don't need the $600 for anything. I live, you know, I'm not wealthy by any means, but I have money for food and shelter and medicine and healthcare, so I don't need this, and why not put it towards something that's going to benefit an entire city?

Robin McDermott's from the city, or maybe it's a town, of Waitsfield, Vermont. She's a big fan of the local food movement, and she's a Vermonter through and through. She's running a rebate campaign called "Keep it in Vermont." Two-hundred people have signed up so far.

ROBIN MCDERMOTT: They're pledging to spend it at farmers' markets. They're putting in their own gardens to grow their own food, or one of the things that I'm doing with my money is I'm going to be giving a small portion of it to a little micro-grant fund here in our community that will fund small start-up businesses.

RYSSDAL: Now have you thought about an advertising campaign to get the folks from New Hampshire and Maine to come over and spend their money?

MCDERMOTT: You know, we'd like the people in New Hampshire and Maine to spend the money in New Hampshire and Maine.

Whether it's worthy causes or retailers, convincing people to part with their rebate checks is going to be an uphill fight. A Reuters survey last week showed 70 percent of us are going to pay down debt or put that check right in the bank.

About the author

Kai Ryssdal is the host and senior editor of Marketplace, public radio’s program on business and the economy.

Comments

I agree to American Public Media's Terms and Conditions.
With Generous Support From...