My vision of America has people who spend more than they make beaten with sticks until they cease to rack up debt, but unfortunately in the real America, we instead give those people a label with a positive connotation.
The people I’m talking about are a new group of consumers, who from age 18-25 work service industry jobs and like to spend like they are…well, not working service industry jobs. Last week, USA Today picked up this story about this increasingly large demographic.
If you’re not sure if you’re a gold-collar worker, ask yourself this question: Did I drop out of college but love to buy things that I really can’t afford? Because that’s the tell-tale sign. They are for the most part uneducated, but not uneducated as in they couldn’t afford higher education, but rather they gave it a shot and decided it was too hard.
They tend to be of ethic backgrounds other than white and live with their parents. Instead of seeing wealth as something that is the fruit of careful planning and hard work, they see it as an easily attainable status that can be bought at certain designer shops. Think of it as alchemy, as it’s not the substance behind the flash that’s important, but the appearance of gold instead.
This again is a by product of our celebrity culture. Appearance is important, not reality. What’s the difference between an up-and-coming rapper and an up-and-coming rock musician? The rapper is driving a Ferrari while the rocker is six days in on wearing the same shirt. Is the rapper actually richer? No, in all likelihood, due to the rocker’s ability actually make money touring; the rapper is less well off financially.
We don’t focus on that though. Instead we glorify fiction and demonize reality. The twisted irony in driving an Escalade while living in a duplex with your parents doesn’t seem to bother anyone. Nevertheless, that is the mantra of this faction; that if you can do it and adequately front it, it doesn’t matter if you can back it. The attitude leads to gems like this:
“I do wear Sean John like everybody else. A whole lot of my friends wear his clothes. It’s kind of expensive, but we don’t buy everything. It’s classy, I guess.” Ayo Akintade told USA Today. “Anything left over is mostly for my car. I’ve got rims, a muffler. I tuned up the lights and sound system.”
Classy indeed. He’s working 60 hour weeks to pay for spinners on his Ford Probe rather than focus on school or investments. The fact that someone would take out an additional full-time job solely to cover sweatshop-produced clothing is beyond comprehension. Selling a grossly overpriced product that the target audience has to work overtime to afford doesn’t seem to stop P Diddy from claiming to be a leader of the black community.
What we’ve decided as a culture, to borrow a Limbaugh line, is that symbols are more important than substance. Being wealthy isn’t what the kids are striving for, it’s appearing wealthy. Sure they work hard for it, but what happens when they can’t pull that off anymore? Illusions can only be maintained for so long, and then it all comes crashing down.
Now, as sad as all this is, it doesn’t quite hit home until you realize who the biggest gold-collar worker is: the United States Government.
Does a $7.8 trillion deficit deter spending? Surely one would think it should in this capitalistic society of ours, but it doesn’t. Because the government, like Ayo, thinks that in a battle between what you want and what you can afford, the former should always beat the latter.
He, however, is a bit more fiscally responsible than our government. Can you imagine if he spent $25 billion on his car? Well, that’s how much the government spent on its vehicle (itself) in 2004, a vehicle that was then used to spend more than $2 trillion more.
We don’t need to get into specific itemization of the federal budget, because the analogy still works general level. Should we respect how hard these people work to buy things out of their grasp or chastise an institute that spends from 10-15% of its revenue each year paying off interest on its debt? Noble deeds done in an effort to minimize damage from your own foolishness are not only misleading but wholly unnecessary.
We don’t have a revenue problem – we have a spending problem. Entitlements currently account for over 42% of the entire budget. An entitlement is simply a program whose funding we no longer have any control over…lest we wish to raise it in which case that is completely acceptable. Two of the largest entitlements are Social Security and interest on the national debt, two of the looming problems of this generation. Unfortunately though, under the wing of this government, said generation is apparently just as bad, if not worse, at budgeting itself. A public that consists of 17 million youths who refuse to hold themselves accountable for the reality of fiscal issues hardly has much ground to stand on when it comes to criticizing the government.
The federal government spends more than it has and then forces itself to tax, consolidate and nickel-and-dime its people to survive. That is the essence of gold-collar attitude basic obliviousness to reality with complete focus on an illusionary vision of what it deserves. Sure, it would be fantastic if we could give shelter to every homeless person, but the first priority needs to go to fixing the retirement system of nearly every working American. Just as securing the boarder is more important than the D.A.R.E program, paying for an education is more important than wearing ECKO clothing.
This gold-collar worker label is easy to dismiss as a trend or a joke, but it’s deadly serious. Fiscal irresponsibility in our government has spread like a disease to the youth of this nation. You thought the average of $8,000 of credit card debt was bad, just wait until this generation has children. The cliché couldn’t be any simpler – YOU CAN’T SPEND WHAT YOU DON’T HAVE – yet we literally have an entire fraction of society who refuse to hear it.
Real wealth is no longer important, just the appearance, so what’s next? Fake military strength? An army of knockoff tanks, planes and designer generals? You have to prioritize, spending and paying for only the necessary things in our government. That’s not our current system though, as we instead insist on paving our way to the grave with pork-barrel legislation. The insanity must stop if this nation wishes itself an economic future because the people, and the government, simply cannot afford what they cannot afford.
All budget stats from http://www.truthandpolitics.org/budget-numbers.php
More of this: Ryan Clark Holiday.com