The math just doesn’t add up.
In case you didn’t hear, about half of us in America are afraid that we can’t afford Christmas this year. That seems about right. A bunch of us are out of work. A lot more of us have given up on trying to find work. We just don’t have a penny to spare.
But wait a minute…
Despite all the predictions to the contrary, Black Friday and Cyber Monday were a massive success. We dropped more money than ever – $1 billion more at malls than last year. That’s a 7% increase, which is also the largest increase ever. We made it rain money all over cashiers and Paypal accounts.
So how does that happen? How are half of us in the hole, and yet we’re Christmas shopping harder than ever? I’ve been thinking about that this week. The way I see it, there are three possibilities. One of them involves yachts.
The Yacht Club
Possibility number one: half of Americans really are dirt poor and can’t scrape together enough money to buy an orange and a new pair of socks for the kiddies. So where did all those Black Friday sales come from?
Yachts. Yep, it was the super-rich billionaires going out to the yacht stores for some doorbuster deals on yachts, yacht accessories, yacht scarves, and yacht memorabilia. While the rest of us poor peasants suffer under the cruel thumbs of our petty feudal lords as they live it up, using $100 bills to light their cigars (which are also made of $100 bills.)
We Get What We Want
Possibility two: We really can’t afford Christmas…but we also really don’t care.
It’s kind of the American spirit. We don’t count the cost. Hundreds of people died to build the Hoover Dam. Did that stop us? It cost billions of dollars to conquer the moon. Did Americans say ‘boo?’ No. Whatever it is, in America, money is no object. We take it anyway and think about consequences later.
I worked long enough in a grocery store and saw enough families use food stamps for their kids’ peanut butter and then pay cash for the beer and cigarettes, that I do not doubt that the spirit of America is still alive and well. Maybe we shouldn’t be buying so much for Christmas, but when have the words crippling debt and inevitable repossession of everything we own ever stopped us before?
A Bunch of Christmas Phonies
Finally, possibility number three: A lot of us are pretending.
This is possibility I think is probably most likely. Because, let’s face it, as far as recessions go, we’re in kind of a sweet spot. Most of us have been relatively unaffected by the recession. We’re still eating well. We’re still living in our own homes. But things are just bad enough that we feel really justified in complaining…a lot.
We are addicted to self pity. We got a taste of it first when we tried to convince Mom that our tum-tums were too sick to go to school (and then spent the day like Ferris Bueller). And there’s nothing more pitiful than the thought of half of American kiddos being deprived of their tiddly winks and cup ‘n ball games on Christmas.
But I don’t think that’s going to happen. We just have really really high standards for what “affording Christmas” means. When Americans say they “can’t afford Christmas,” it doesn’t mean Tiny Tim is going to go without his scrawny Christmas goose. It means we can’t afford everything our little hearts desire. We can only buy one giant, high def television this year, two iPhones (of course they’re 3G, so they might as well be dog turds), and a meager handful of Playstations. Because even Christians who say that “Jesus is the greatest Christmas gift” would be pretty pissed off if Santa didn’t put any loot under the tree.
That’s what I think, and I’m usually right, but what do you say? Are we really as bad off as we say we are, or have we betrayed the size of our bank accounts with our Christmas binge?