With people scraping together pennies for Kool-Aid, all ads harping on the hard times we're having, and coupons making a comeback, things are getting a little stressful for you, the good ol' American consumer. Well, how would you like some Free Cash? Would you? Would you? Would you do anything? Anything at all? Well shake that ass and empty that wallet, consumers, cause corporate America is making it rain! Cash giveaways are the new advertising trend, according to advertising trendwatcher- in-chief Stuart Elliott. Sweepstakes and cash prizes are a paltry sum for big companies, but for The Poors that now make up 87% of our nation, they're the only thing standing between them and cannibalism. The most ironic contest is CNBC.com's Portfolio Challenge, with a $1 million prize for building a successful mock portfolio. If you can build a successful portfolio these days, you're worth a lot more than that.

“The prize money is certainly attractive,” said Tom Clendenin, vice president for marketing at CNBC, part of the NBC Universal division of the General Electric Company. “But people like the opportunity to learn more about the market and about the cnbc.com site.”

RIGHT. If this doesn't work out, there's always scratch-off lottery tickets! [NYT]