As the Consumermas holiday approaches, and my Santa Rant sits on the back burner, and a pile of books awaits my attention, an interesting economic question jumped into my mind.
A dominant narrative on both sides of the American political spectrum is that the USA is an ownership society. In fact, if my understanding is correct, any capitalist economy is based on capital.
However, I wonder if the USA can actually claim the capitalist label for the following reason. The class distinction has typically be described as the property owners (the bourgeoisie) and the laborers (the proletariat). However, it appears to me that from the poorest of the poor, to the middle class, to the high-level executives, to the mega-corporations, to the US government itself, a massive category has shaped that had previously only been associated with the laboring class. That is “debitor” (that’s Latin for debtor).
Even while I note a gross hierarchy of the white suburban upper-middle class and the forsaken urban poor, I suspect that the McMansions overlooking Egypt Valley have put their “owners” in debt exceeding their monetary “worth”.
Also, the educational system, promising opportunity and wealth, has effectively made my wife and I into debt-slaves for the next thirty years.
Our solutions for economic problems seem to focus on making financing available for small business, low income families, GM, etc. The national debt looms on the horizon. I wonder if anyone “owns” anything. And if not, can this be called “capitalism”.
It seems that social status and affluence are no longer measured by wealth or property, but on liquidity. Who can move the most money the most effectively? At church, social status is indicated by the year and model of one’s SUV. Yet no one can tell if anybody owns anything. This Consumermas season, my credit union has offered “Skip a Payment” so you can be in more debt and give “gifts” you can’t afford to people you “love” to assert the liquidity of your “assets” and thus the superiority of your status.
I wonder what this does to the “free-market” (at least it’s free for the next twelve months with no money down and 0% interest until 2014 and only 39.87% after that).
Has anybody read or seen any commentary on the debt situation?