Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Consumption isnít the answer

Since marrying an American, moving from England to America and becoming an American citizen, I've been in a big learning curve. Having been brought up to believe that you didn't just buy anything you wanted even if you couldn't afford it—(you saved up for it. What a quaint, old-fashioned idea!)—an early question to my husband was, "Why do people in this country have to go into debt in order to get a good credit rating?" I'd never even owned a credit card at the time, and his explanation was far too complicated for me.

But now that the American citizen I was so proud to become has morphed into the American consumer (which I find totally degrading and insulting) and now that the entire nation is up to its neck in debt to China, I see that my question about debt and credit wasn't entirely naïve.

My next question was, "What are all the people who used to work on assembly lines and in factories that actually make things going to do when all their jobs are sent abroad?" My husband mentioned "retraining" and "service jobs," but not everyone can be a computer programmer. And in any case, most of those jobs seem to have gone to India —as you soon find out if you call your local Internet provider.

So my current question is, "When are we going to stop buying all this rubbish we don't need, and bigger houses, and gas-guzzling SUVs, and start demanding things bearing the label 'Made in America'?" And when are we, as a nation, going to start saving up for things we need far more than "preemptive" wars and obscene CEO salaries? Things like the free healthcare the rest of the developed world has had for the last 50 years? Or good free education (up to and including university) for our children?

Or are we gong to continue, as President Bush urged us on 9/11, to just go on shopping till we quite literally drop?

Can someone please tell me? My dear, long-suffering husband would be so grateful if you could!

Diana Fassino


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