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Thursday, August 23, 2012

Contemporary Middle Class’s insatiable greed

Consuming against best interests of self and society
Edited by Carolyn Bennett

Michael Laxer at Rabble Ca was writing about Canadians but what he says applies to North Americans including, in a big way, the middle class of contemporary United States of America. Here’s some of what Laxer wrote. 

Consume despite off-shored domestic economy 

“This era of the new consumerism,” he says, “has been built in large part by shipping the production of many basic consumer and technological items ‘off-shore’ … [and to places with lax] labor laws.  

At the lower end of the income spectrum, this has had a depressing effect on wage growth.  

It has also greatly diminished the importance to the economy of the manufacturing sector’s relatively high paying jobs.  

It has meant that the economy as a whole has become tremendously reliant, not only on the profit-motivated corporate impulse to push production costs down in order to maximize return and availability of product; but also on the societal impulse of people to acquire these products ─ even when the products are not actually affordable, in both personal and broader ways. 


Consume despite less income 

“In 1980 the ratio of household debt to personal disposable income was 66 percent; that ratio is now in excess of 150 percent, amounting to an increase in this ratio of 127.28 percent.  

“In the same period, incomes of all family units in rose from an average of $61,900 to $72,700 (2010 constant dollars), amounting to an increase of 17.45 percent.” 

Consume by incurring debt 

“Individuals are in debt ─ in debt to an extent never seen in (the country’s) history…. Much of this debt is invested in the ultimate middle-class dream of personal home ownership, a debt backed by the government as a dangerous, ‘tax-payer’-insured form of speculative stimulus. 

“And that is only one side of the equation, only one side to the story of how credit has been used to artificially sustain a middle-class consumerist illusion on a continent that for decades has increasingly turned away from the production of commodities.”

Consume using debt as collateral (debt on debt)

Spurred on by government-facilitated easy credit, [North American consumers] also use credit to create lifestyles that would otherwise be unavailable to them.
They are borrowing well beyond what used to be the prime component of personal debt, home ownership. In many cases, they are doing this by using their home equity as security.




Final fantasies: The illusions of personal debt and Canadian consumerism
(Michael Laxer), August 22, 2012, http://rabble.ca/blogs/bloggers/michael-laxer/2012/08/final-fantasies-illusions-personal-debt-and-canadian-consumeris


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