Stimulate US: Pharmacist stimulates the local economy with $2 bills

Sometimes all it takes is a $2 bill, well maybe 8,000 of them, to get the ball rolling in a small community.

The $2 bill was the economic stimulus tool of choice for Danny Cottrell, a pharmacist in Brewton Alabama, who surprised all of his employees with a cash bonus last week. Full-time employees were given $700 and part-time staff received a respectable $300 under the condition that they donate 15% to charity and spend the rest at downtown businesses.

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The use of $2 bills may seem like an odd choice for demonstrating the financial impact of a stimulus package, but they have long been used by groups and communities to do just that because you can somewhat track the progress of the unusual denomination. Fifteen years ago, the African-American community in South Florida used $2 bills to demonstrate their financial power in a one-day show of strength and the $2 bills were recently pitched as a measure to protest Proposition 8.

Still, the overall effect past the first purchase may be hard to track as the bills aren't normally handed back out after being deposited in the bank, unless of course you ask for them. Additionally my colleague Meg Massie, who is from Thomas Jefferson's hometown, where the bills are commonly used, points out that many people believe $2 bills are rare and will actually hang onto them rather than spend them. Making a mental audit of my "piggy bank" I recall three or four $2 bills hidden away for safekeeping, right next to a roll of Susan B. Anthony coins that my grandparents used to tuck inside birthday cards.

Despite these facts many local shopkeepers have already noted an increase of $2 bills ending up in their tills at the close of business, with one owner gathering them up to use for her shopping needs at Cottrell's pharmacy. Even if the $2 bills end up in a bank safe in Alabama, the overall impact on this community has shown the power of giving funds directly to individuals.

It would be interesting to see how this kind of dollar tracking would work if it were applied to the federal bailout money given to banks as part of TARP. Something tells me not too many of the bills would see circulation...outside of golf sponsorships, high end resorts and stadium sponsorships.

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