Voting With Your Wallet: Why it Matters Where You Spend Your Money

Twitter is a go-to social media platform for memes, news, expressing your feelings, and keeping updated on friends and celebrities. However, sometimes the seemingly stupid tweets can be really thought-provoking. A lot of interesting topics were covered on Twitter this summer: the new Popeye’s chicken sandwich, videos of kombucha girl, hot girl summer, and even the raid of area 51. The one that struck me the most was centered around Chick-fil-a and other restaurants. People were calling for boycotts because Chick-fil-a is anti-LGBTQ+, leading others to reveal that the restaurant donates to politicians like Donald Trump. More people started to come forward, naming more restaurants with problematic spending, such as Wendy’s and Waffle House. At first, an intense guilt plagued me as I ate my spicy chicken sandwich from Chick-fil-a, but did I stop going there? Nope. The more I read, the more I wondered if any of it really even matters. I thought that no matter what, places like Chick-fil-a and Waffle House will have business, so if  I boycott, I’m only hurting my own insatiable appetite. 

As time went on I realized my mindset was indicative of a larger problem. The “I’m only one person, I don’t matter” attitude is the biggest hindrance to real change, whether it be in the campaign finance reform movement, or in other relevant topics like protesting restrictions on women’s reproductive rights. All it takes is one person to spur someone else into action, until an entire chain reaction occurs. When I came to this conclusion, I thought “okay, no more Chick-fil-a for me.” Because that viewpoint is never going to be enough, I researched some more on Twitter, and found out that there’s an app that can do all the research for you. 

Founded in Madison, WI, GoodsUniteUs is a tool for change available as both an app and a website.It has been established and run by a team of women (!!!!) who want to inform the public on the amount they’re funding politicians and corrupt corporations through their spending habits. The average consumer funds politicians and PACs three times as much via their spending habits than through direct donations to various political parties. One of their taglines is “consumers vote everyday with their wallets.” On the app and the website, you can search for any brand, and it will pull up the politicians they have funded, whether or not their donations come from the company itself or senior employees, and what percent republican and democrat their donations are. Each brand then gets a score on the campaign finance reform scale, scored on a scale of -100 to +100. The higher the score, the more likely that companies’ donations may lead to meaningful campaign finance reform.  A negative score shows that buying from this brand furthers along keeping corporate money in politics. For example, if you look up Chick-fil-a, you see that their score is -41, and 19% of their donations go to democrats, and 81% goes towards republicans. Their donations come 100% from senior employees, and their most funded politician is Joe Arpaio. I downloaded the app in July 2019, and have been using it since then. It is not only informative; it’s empowering to look up a restaurant or a business, see their stats, and be like “nope, not today.” I try and use the app to check myself and my spending as much as possible, but I still falter.

 

When I got back to Kenyon after an entire summer empty of spicy chicken sandwiches, I was ready to steady the course and continue avoiding problematic companies. However, when my friends suggested we go to Wendy’s, I didn’t even hesitate to go. Instantly, I fell back in that mindset: “Well it doesn’t really matter if I go to Wendy’s a few more times.” Again, this is exactly the problem with most movements in the U.S., and most people’s personal efforts to change. Quite frankly, I’m sick of it. I’m sick of excuses in my personal and political goals, and I’m trying to stop making them so often. We’re human, we’re designed to err, but at the same time we can exercise willpower and perseverance a little bit more. So yes, where our money goes matters. Yes, most of us can avoid these companies that are pushing forward the idea that money can drive our political system, and continue putting the wrong people and institutions in positions of power. bell hooks once said that every action is a political one, and in this case, she’s right. All I can do is keep bettering myself, and encourage others to take small steps into making change, because a bunch of seemingly small efforts, together, makes a pretty big change. Download GoodsUniteUs, find better alternatives to your former problematic faves, and stop making so many excuses for things that are in your, and everyone’s, wheelhouse to change. 

 

Image Credits: Feature, 1, 2, 3