For over a century, America has been the wealthiest nation on earth and yet I keep hearing folks talk about how broke we are. I expect this from my Republican friends but even Democrats are starting to parrot this absurd notion. It's become quite popular to point to our bloated national debt and cry poverty. There are even those who say we should deny aid to starving children around the globe because we're just too darn broke.
Well I hate to be a party pooper but our $14 trillion debt doesn't mean we're broke, it simply means we have severely misplaced our priorities. We're so broke that over the last three weeks we've spent over $100 million going to see "The Smurfs" movie, and that's not counting all those over priced concessions. A recent report from 24/7 Wall St. concluded that Americans spend about 15 percent of their household incomes on things to satisfy their vices or to keep themselves amused. The “average” American household which has an income of $63,000 spends more than $8,000 on goods and services it does not actually need. We spend $45 billion a year on our pets while half the world's population lives on less than a dollar a day.
But average Americans are far from the biggest spendthrifts. Sales of luxury goods are zooming. Acccording to the New York Times, "Nordstrom has a waiting list for a Chanel sequined tweed coat with a $9,010 price. Neiman Marcus has sold out in almost every size of Christian Louboutin 'Bianca' platform pumps, at $775 a pair. Mercedes-Benz said it sold more cars last month in the United States than it had in any July in five years."
This isn't to say we have no poverty in America. Shamefully we do. Unemployment remains disgracefully high despite record corporate profits and the gap between rich and poor in our nation has never been greater. But these are self imposed conditions. Unbalanced economic, trade, and tax policies have concentrated our wealth in the hands of a few powerful special interests. As of 2007, the top 1 percent of American households owned 35 percent of all privately held wealth and the top 20 percent of the people owned a remarkable 85 percent. That concentration of wealth is no doubt even greater today.
And yet those of us feasting off the leftovers still lead incredibly wasteful lifestyles while continuing to pile up massive debts. It's time we acknowledged the fact that the first step towards solvency isn't cutting programs that help the poor, take care of our seniors, or bolster the middle class. Our first priority should be raising taxes, especially on those who can afford it the most. We aren't being taxed more and more, we've been taxed less and less, and that's why our debt has ballooned to unsustainable proportions. America broke? Who's fooling who?