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Doll-ars and Sense: Can a famous soccer player, a plastic brick, an average Joe and a GI Joe save the economy?

Politics makes strange bedfellows and none stranger than the former U.S. military man and the make-believe Hasbro doll that he chats about. What I’m referencing is the unusual campaign that happened recently in South Carolina, where a total unknown named Alvin Greene defeated local heavyweights to gain the Democratic Party nod as their candidate for the U.S. Senate in November. It’s the stuff that outrageous comedies are made of. Greene, an unemployed 32-year-old, is in the limelight in a scenario that combines “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” with an Eddie Murphy or Chris Tucker vibe. It is a head-scratching win, to say the least.

Mr. Greene comes with a whole railroad car’s worth of baggage (discharged from the Army under mysterious circumstances, criminal charges about Internet porn and college coeds); plus, he has the reckless habit of speaking his mind. Such uncensored and unfiltered comments can only lead to ridicule and regrets on Capitol Hill.

One of Greene’s most recent comments involved how to put South Carolinians back to work. Without missing a beat, the candidate proposed the manufacturing of dolls but not just any dolls. He proposed having dolls of himself made by Mattel, Hasbro or Fisher-Price. He mentioned that as a former soldier, he’s a real-life hero, a la “GI Joe.” One of his action figures would be good for the economy, as well as good for American children who need real role models. Then, in a later interview, he followed that same tangent and predicted that the “Alvin Greene Action Figure” could be bigger than “Tickle Me Elmo.” (It was after THAT proclamation, I knew Mr. Greene surely has no touch with reality.)

What’s so interesting about this whole Greene scenario is how quickly the press and radio talk shows were to jump on the beat-up-Greene bandwagon. They lambasted him for suggesting that a doll could restore the economy. For that belief alone, he was called “simple-minded” and “backward.” Coincidentally, however, near the same time that Greene was being chuckled about, soccer star David Beckham was making headlines for causing the Lego company’s stocks, its unit sales and its profile to spike in a three-day period. Beckham casually mentioned in a newspaper interview that if he weren’t a sports sensation, he would love to be a Lego master builder. He then explained how he had just purchased the Taj Mahal deluxe Lego set online and was dedicating himself to building that over the summer. The pricey toy retails for $399, and sales of it increased by 638% on the heels of the soccer player’s endorsement.

That’s a definite boon for the economy!

Candidate Greene can be torn apart and dismissed for a host of reasons, but thinking that a toy can salvage the economy isn’t one of them. Honestly, the strength of the economy can often be measured by how well doll sales are going. A healthy, happy economy means a healthy, happy consumer class, and that means disposable income being parceled out for luxury items, like dolls, bears, snow globes and other collectible knickknacks.

Entire cities and provinces in China have kept their populations fed and clothed because of the influx of doll factories that need skilled and unskilled laborers. Likewise, Harlem, New York, has reaped the benefits for many years of having Madame Alexander set up her factory and showrooms in that often overlooked part of Manhattan.

Though Alvin Greene is off-base in thinking that he could be the next “Cabbage Patch Kid,” he is right to be “thinking outside the box,” as he proudly claimed. The economy needs to turn around, and why not hope that an unexpected doll debut will help to lead the way?

Politics and toys have gone hand in hand for more than a century (the teddy bear owes its birthing and naming to Teddy Roosevelt, and Madame Alexander’s first big success was the Red Cross doll made to honor WWI service), and this dismal year could certainly benefit from some welcome manufacturing news.

Maybe those “Sex and the City” dolls that stirred such a big reaction in an earlier blog will actually get manufactured right here in America, perhaps in South Carolina. Or maybe some other cult figure or imaginative trendsetter will have a doll produced here in the United States, and a beacon of prosperity will start to shine a little bit more.

Capitalizing on Alvin Greene’s notoriety, a minor-league ball team sponsored an “Alvin Greene Night,” where they gave away little male Statue of Liberty dolls with photos of Greene’s face taped over the original sculpting. The stunt hit the papers, attracted a large turnout and pumped much-needed green into the RiverDogs coffers, helping the Charleston economy.

It’s certainly not what Greene envisioned when he made his now-infamous comment, but his “doll lunacy” did generate some very real, hard currency exchanging hands. Is Alvin Greene a visionary? I hardly think so. Was his doll statement something to be heckled and attacked immediately? Not at all. Back in 1928, the Republican status quo ran Herbert Hoover with the promise of “a chicken in every pot, and a car in every backyard.” Heck, why not promise a doll in every display case and a teddy bear on every sofa? It’s no crazier than championing that “our nation needs to spend our way out of debt.” And last I looked, that’s the financial course careening out of Washington.

Photo Captions

South Carolina Democrat candidate for the U.S. Senate, Alvin Greene (top) has gained a following based on his unlikely primary victory, as well as his unique views on foreign and domestic policy. Greene proposes the manufacturing of dolls in his likeness—like the old GI Joes—to help resuscitate his state’s ailing economy. Cynics instantly laughed and derided Greene. They were bemused by his “Tickle Me Elmo” platform.

Perhaps because he plays a sport that bans the use of hands, David Beckham likes to keep his hands busy when he’s not on the field. His chosen pastime? Building Legos. When the soccer hunk recently admitted to buying the Taj Mahal deluxe set (second photo), sales skyrocketed overnight.

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I never apologize for buying dolls. It's a way to spend money and bring enjoyment to me and employment to others. It's a win-win situation for everyone involved.
Bette , July 30, 2010
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Dolls and all other playthings are a major part of the economy. There's been big money made in the doll world, and still more to be made. People always find the money to buy a doll for a loved one.
Maureen , July 28, 2010
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Something has to be done to help the economy. If there was an opening in a doll factory where I live, I would apply, and so would a lotof other people I know. The work seems interesting and rewarding. I'd like to make dolls, and that would help put me and others back to work.
Kim , July 27, 2010

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