Friday, March 09, 2012

Money's Gotta Circulate!

For years and years, Scrooge McDuck—Donald Duck's uncle and well-established as "the richest duck in the world"—was strictly a comic book character. First introduced at the end of 1947, Scrooge didn't appear in animated form for twenty years (excepting a brief cameo in a crowd of characters as part of the opening of The Mickey Mouse Club in the '50s), until he was used in a 1967 educational short called Scrooge McDuck and Money. It took another 16 years after that for McDuck to to be used again, in 1983's Mickey's Christmas Carol. Finally, in 1987, McDuck showed up in Sport Goofy in Soccermania a few months before the beginning of DuckTales, after which McDuck was finally firmly established as a cartoon character, in addition to being a comic book icon.

It is perhaps no surprise that Uncle Scrooge's only meaningful cartoon appearance in the character's first few decades was an educational feature about money. In Scrooge McDuck and Money, Donald's nephew's Huey, Dewey, and Louie, ask "Unca Scrooge" what to do with money they've saved in their piggy bank. McDuck responds by giving the youngsters a history of what money is and how it works. If McDuck's lesson itself isn't clear enough, the music at the beginning and end credits makes the intended message of the feature explicit: "Money's gotta circulate."

For the past several years, it's pretty clear that money hasn't been circulating. In fact, those who have money have been holding on to it more tightly than ever, and we've been told again and again that we have to reign in our spending, because there simply isn't enough money to go around. Notwithstanding that there are indeed real issues of scarcity to be concerned about, and recognizing that there is a legitimate need for saving for a rainy day, it seems to me that we've collectively been making our economic struggles even worse by failing to recognize McDuck's advice.

Slacktivist argues that our government's problem has less to do with the need to cut spending and more to do with the fact that it isn't taking in revenue like it used to. Citing several facts and figures to illustrate this reality, Slacktivist argues that the notion that we should cut spending further is akin to a "dine-and-dash." Failing to pay for a meal after we've eaten it. That would be wrong, but even if we hadn't made commitments as a people to pay for infrastructure, ensure that the poor are taken care of, educate our children, enforce laws that we've passed, guarantee the nation's safety, etc., that still is only one reason why the focus exclusively on cutting spending is wrong-headed.

There has been much said about the need for government not to take money away from small business owners. The reason for this is obvious enough: such people create jobs, and such jobs need to be created in order for the nation to get back to work. All this is just another way of saying the Scrooge McDuck and Money mantra: "Money's gotta circulate!" It's also another way of saying that not only is spending not bad, it's actively necessary. If people with resources don't spend those resources, then money isn't doing what money is meant to do, and the economy suffers.

I'm not advocating for any specific government tax policy, or for a specific system of "spreading the wealth around." But I am saying that money needs to be spent, and not exclusively saved, if we are to continue climbing out of the economic hole we've been in for the past several years. There is plenty of money out there. But it can't stay in the same place. It has to move around. "Money's gotta circulate."

Now, this is where I can hear a few fans of Scrooge McDuck point out that one of the "richest duck's" most well-known features is his Money Bin. It basically amounts to a "three cubic acre" piggy bank, filled with an unfathomable amount of money that McDuck never spends. I love how Don Rosa reconciles this fact with McDuck's well-documented financial success. In Rosa's version of McDuck's life, McDuck has money in banks and businesses all over the world. Money that's actively in use, buying new businesses, selling off product... circulating. The money in the "Money Bin" is special. It's less "money," per se, so much as each coin is a memory. A memento of some significant achievement of McDuck's life. This is the money he loves so much that he "dives through it like a porpoise, burrows through it like a gopher, and tosses it up and lets it hit him on the head."

Depending on what kind of a situation you find yourself in, saving money can be a good and necessary thing. And I'm very much a fan of souvenirs and hobbies (even if Scrooge McDuck's are somewhat eccentric). Proportionately speaking, those who have limited resources already circulate enough of what they have, just getting what they need to in order to survive. But if you are looking for a small way to circulate some money, may I suggest sponsoring David LaMotte's new book? It's called White Flour, based on a poem he wrote about a humorous response to a racist rally. I've written about the poem before, but the book is a new venture.

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