Flag Waving and the Flat-lined Economy

By: Daniel Nardini

Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - Commentary A week ago I was visiting a friend of mine who runs a flag store. Like all businesses, he has better sales during some months compared to others. In his case, he may make great sales during an ethnic holiday or during national holidays like July 4th, Memorial Day, etc. He especially used to sell a lot of flags during election years and during political events where this or that candidate needed as many American flags as possible. It depends on how many people want flags, for what event, of what nation or ethnic group, and how many flags and flag decorations he can sell. He and his father have been in the business for over 50 years, and for most of that time the business saw good and bad times, but mostly very good times. My friend, Mark, said that people need flags for a whole variety of events and for a whole variety of reasons. Even though not many people think about flags and how flags are used, the flag business is still an important industry. Mark buys his flags from a variety of sources, but the biggest source of flags for him comes from the well-known flag making company Annin—the oldest and largest flag maker in the United States (in business since 1847).

Before last week, I had not seen him for three years. I had wondered what had happened to him during the time. He was happy to see me, but he has had all kinds of financial problems. For all-due purposes, Mark explained that he has not made any money for the past three years. He has simply made enough money to put food on the table, pay for the rent and mortgage, and pay the property taxes. He has made no profit, and sometimes he did not make any money at all during certain months. In other words, his business has been flat-lined. I have found this to be true of so many businesses, and not just his alone. Many, many small and medium-sized businesses are just barely surviving and have not had any major sales for one or two years. Despite what some economists have said about an upsurge in the economy, the vast majority of people I have talked to have not seen it.

I hear the politicians talking everyday about how they “accomplished” this or did that to revive the economy. U.S. President Barack Obama claims that he helped to revive the auto industry. I am sure this is quite true, but it is only one sector of the economy. Too many other sectors are ailing. Republican Party contender Mitt Romney claims that he helped make Massachusetts more prosperous as governor. That may also be true, but he will have to try and do this for an entire country—something the last two presidents, George W. Bush and Obama—have failed to do. After all of the political commercials and all of the flag-waving, not much has changed for so many people in the past three years including my friend Mark. I only know that Mark wishes people would buy more flags from him so they can wave them. Since too many people are trying to live, buying flags for political campaigns and acting more patriotic than thou is not in too many people’s plans. Meanwhile, Mark and his flag store struggles on.

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