Taking care of business: Saving the local economy, $50 at a time

Ever since Goldman Sachs's (GS) recent offer of $500 million to help small businesses, financial reporters have been torn. Some think that CEO Lloyd Blankfein might be -- in his words -- "doing God's work," while others argue that the move reeks of cynical public relations.

Either way, one thing is beyond dispute: With retail and food-service revenues at four-year lows and a small-business loan failure rate that has passed 12%, it's clear that America's independent retailers need some serious help. One solution might be the grassroots 3/50 Project, which asks consumers to choose three favorite local businesses and commit to spending $50 per month in them.