Thursday, May 26, 2011

Stuff We Don't Need

This morning I spent a little bit (okay,a lot) of time catching up on blog reading.  One blog post in particular made me do a double take.  Serena at the Everyday Minimalist had a post titled "Americans buy a trillion more than they need each year."  A trillion dollars?  She had a link to a Wall Street Journal article that you can find here.  It seems this spending frenzy began in the 1970s and we haven't looked back.  In addition, the article points out that this estimate is probably low due to what is considered "essential."  

I'm still reeling over this number and all that it means.  Americans have gotten to where we have so much money that we have to find ways to waste it.  That's just wrong, especially when you think of how 1.2 billion people lack clean drinking water; 5,000,000 people starve to death each year; 656,000 individuals in the US are homeless; and 1,345 million people live on less than $1.25 a day.  (And I'm sure these are very conservative numbers.)  It seems to me that once our basic needs are met, we should be searching for a way to ensure that the basic needs of others are met, as well.  Having some luxuries is fine - but over $1 trillion?  

Last night I attended a planning meeting for our local CROP Hunger Walk that will take place October 2.  We had two representatives from Church World Service, the sponsoring organization.  One of the reps, Mary Catherine, told us a story about visiting Bolivia and how $200 raised through CROP Hunger Walk's made a tremendous difference in a small village.  This money was used to purchase seeds, tools, etc. to begin a community garden and food cooperative.  After the meeting, another member and I were talking about this and I commented that the average America wastes $200 on a trip to Wal-Mart.  Seeing the blog post and article just confirms my observation.

Americans need to learn to distinguish between our wants and our needs.  Since so many in the world lack basic needs - food, water, shelter, and medical care - spending $1  trillion seems morally wrong to me.

P.S.  After I wrote this blog post, I found this article entitled "Nearly Half of Americans Are 'Financially Fragile'" from the Wall Street Journal.  In a survey, Americans were asked  “If you were to face a $2,000 unexpected expense in the next month, how would you get the funds you need?” In the U.S., 24.9% of respondents reported being certainly able, 25.1% probably able, 22.2% probably unable and 27.9% certainly unable."  So, according to these articles, half of Americans are on financially shaky ground yet are still able to spend over $1 trillion on nonessentials.  Go figure.

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