09.30.2011 1

What do Hallmark and Hoovervilles have in common?

Hallmark Unemployment CardBy Rebekah Rast — During the Great Depression it was not uncommon to see tent cities going up around the nation.

People could no longer afford their homes and didn’t have jobs so they banded together and lived in tents, often moving around in an attempt to find work.

These tent cities took their name from President Herbert Hoover, who was blamed for the problems that led up to the depression. Thus, Hoovervilles became a hallmark of the Great Depression.

Now, amidst this current recession, there is a new kind of hallmark.

That would be Hallmark the card store and its line of care and concern cards. Hallmark took a cue from the 9.1 percent unemployment rate, which has been steady at or above 9 percent since April 2009, and developed a product catering to those who have lost a job.

Insensitive you might think? One example of a card shows a line outside of an unemployment office and reads, “It’s hard to know what to say at a sensitive time like this.” When you flip open the cover the inside states, “How about, ‘I’m buying!’ ”

Regardless of your feeling about sending and/or receiving such a card, the CBS affiliate in Dallas, Texas, quotes Frank Fernandez, who owns Monica’s Hallmark in Dallas, saying, “The cards are flying off the shelves.”

Hallmark’s idea to tap into this market should be recognized. It was this kind of creativity and innovation that got people through the Great Depression. Hooverville residents would find a niche market, a special trade and think outside the box as a way to make a living.

Today’s recession is no different. The more people and businesses think outside the box and make their own way, the more successful they will be.

However, America is not as friendly to ideas of innovation and creativity as it once was. Washington Post columnist George Will talked about the plight of Cindy Vong in his column, In Arizona, nibbling away at free enterprise.

Vong opened her own nail salon in Arizona, only her salon offered something a little different, a $30 fish therapy, where small fish from China nibble dead skin from your feet. That is until the Arizona government stepped in.

“Arizona’s Board of Cosmetology decided the fish were performing pedicures, and because all pedicure instruments must be sterilized and fish cannot be, the therapy must be discontinued. Vong lost her more-than-$50,000 investment in fish tanks and other equipment, and some customers. Three of her employees lost their jobs,” Will writes in his column.

It seems state and even the federal governments of today crush more innovation than they encourage.

For example, the federal government’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) seems to come out with new regulations daily, putting companies out of businesses, and as of late, wreaking havoc with miners, loggers, fisherman and others who make a living extracting what America has to offer.

Sadly, despite the government welfare services available today that were not available during the Great Depression, it looks as if unemployment is going to be a long-lasting problem.

If only the creativity and innovation of Hooverville’s would be allowed to resurface today. Imagine the prosperity that could once again flourish in America, from fish pedicures to energy independence.

It looks like Hallmark hit the nail on the head with its new card line.

Rebekah Rast is a contributing editor to Americans for Limited Government (ALG) and NetRightDaily.com. You can follow her on twitter at @RebekahRast.

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