I was cold and miserable sitting at the bus stop, waiting for a ride to see my doctor. The bus was 40 minutes late when it finally arrived, and I knew that the physician’s staff wouldn’t be very sympathetic to my transportation problems. As I squeezed onto a crowded city bus and stood pressed between other irritated passengers, I was remembering how much happier I was when I could drive myself wherever I wanted to go, whenever I needed to.
John Stossel reported on ABC’s 20/20 that it is a myth that money makes us happier. He pointed to various surveys, studies and good old common sense to show that the rich aren’t really much happier than the rest of us. It sounds comforting to people that are constantly comparing themselves to the lifestyles shown on MTV Cribs and E!’s It’$ Good to be… that happiness is still available to them, even if they don’t own a Bentley or bathe in Cristal champagne.
I’ve had a fair amount of money, and I’ve been broke. Being broke sucks ass, and no philosophical argument about the relative value of material things makes up for not being able to pay the electric bill or buy necessary medications for your sick kids. Wealth is no guarantee of happiness, but poverty will definitely ruin your day.
The problem I have with the upper class viewpoint of John Stossel and much of the other media is that the majority of people don’t live that lifestyle. Stossel’s report says that “more money makes people significantly happier only if their family income’s below $30,000, but by $50,000, money makes no difference.”
Almost 60% of American households have an income of less than $50,000, according to the US Census Bureau. The 2002 figures (the most recent available) show that over 63 million American households have a combined income of under $50K. 40 million households earn below $30,000. That’s the group in which it is admitted that additional money makes people “significantly happier.”
So Stossel apparently looks on 6 out of 10 people as being irrelevant. What he should be saying is that money doesn’t make people who already have enough of it any happier than those that have a lot more. For most Americans, more money would significantly improve their lives and make them happier and healthier. Imagine how happy money would make the billions of people in the world that will never come close to the standard of living enjoyed by the average American.
Millionaire journalists make lousy reporters on issues that affect most people. Maybe if I lived in a Manhattan townhouse and earned a seven figure salary, I might see things their way. I’m certainly open to such an experiment. I bet that would make a great 20/20 segment. Anyone know an ABC producer that I can pitch the idea to? I promise not to be any happier.
Also published at wKenShow.