Today is a yearly occasion that can be fairly polarizing. Some people will go out and join in the frenzy, while people like me will stay at home, waiting for it to be over. So instead of posting some snarky picture, i’ll explain why this day troubles me.
The average yearly income for the average American has remained more or less level for the past since 1972. Think about that: over 40 years of inflation, and the buying power of the average American has not appreciably changed.
Think about what else has changed in those 40 years. Houses cost many orders of magnitude more than they did. Even a college education at a public school is enough to put normal families in debt. And don’t get me started about where gas prices have gone in my lifetime.
What prices have stayed more or less consistent? Well, consumer electronics, for one thing. Consumer products as a whole. People sneer at the line for an iPhone at Best Buy, but when you’re 50k in college debt at the age of 22, have essentially abandoned all hope of home ownership due to an overwhelmingly hostile market, and have been chronically underemployed, maybe saving a hundred bucks on a PlayStation or iPhone or what have you is perhaps one of the little luxuries in life that you can actually afford. Because you’ve been priced out of everything else.
What’s most representative of the American psyche is how many people vilify the bargain hunters instead of questioning the economic system that makes this a reality.
We are a country that beats the drum of consumerism and advertising relentlessly, yet scorns the people who buy into it.
We are a country that has moved a large portion of industry off our shores, then chastises people for being unemployed.
So instead of thinking about what drives individuals to acquire, instead think for a minute about why our economic system so dependent on the people that it routinely fails.