Affluenza is a painful, contagious, socially transmitted condition of overload, debt, anxiety and waste resulting from the dogged pursuit of more. It is a powerful virus that has infected the American society, threatening our wallets, our friendships, our families, our communities, and our environment. Since the United States has become the economic model for most of the world this virus is now flowing freely on every continent. The costs and consequences of this disease are massive even though they are often concealed. Left untreated however, it can cause permanent discontent. Affluenza is based on our culture and how it encourages its citizens to measure their worth by financial success and material possessions. The media such as the television, radio, and internet tend to demonstrate how enveloping the idea has become. We as Americans have taken over this obsessive chase for material gain that has been the core principle of the American dream.
One of the main symptoms of this disease is that since World War II Americans have displayed an obsession with shopping. “We now spend nearly two-thirds of our $11 trillion economy on consumer goods. We spend more on shoes, jewelry, and watches than on higher education.” Big malls sell much more per square foot than do the smaller competitors because consumers are always looking for bigger and better things. “I come here with one overriding interest, to spend money,” said a teenager. Ninety-three percent of teenage American girls rated shopping as their favorite activity. Another cause of this symptom of obsession is home shopping and cyber shopping. These days you do not have to get into a car in order to shop. You can simply go on the internet, order from catalogs, or watch the home shopping channels.
Another symptom of Affluenza is becoming bankrupt which is mainly caused through credit card spending. “The whole availability and ease of credit makes it hard for people to remember that they’re dealing with real money.” The average American possesses 6.5 credit cards, for a nationwide total of 1.2 billion. One in three high school seniors and 83 percent of college undergraduates have cards. Many of these credit card companies offer incentives to the consumers such as frequent-flier miles, introductory low interest rates, and lower minimum payments. The current bankruptcy rates exceed those experienced during the Great Depression. Each year more than 1.5 million Americans file for bankruptcy, more than graduate from college. The more that our incomes rises the less we end up saving. Americans were saving under four percent of their incomes, but today our national savings rate is right around zero and some month’s falls below this.
Chronic congestion is another symptom of this disease. Today there are more than 30,000 self storage facilities in the country offering over 1.3 billion sq feet of relief for a multitude of customers starting home businesses, combining households, getting organized after a move, or just unable to stop buying. “We’re all stuffed up, literally! In our homes, workplaces, and streets, chronic congestion has settled into our daily lives-chaotic clutter that demands constant maintenance, sorting, displaying, and replacing.” We as Americans have reached a milestone. We now live in a country that has more cars than registered drivers. Now at rush hour the highway speeds seem to be 20mph or less and waste $60 billion a year in lost time and wasted fuel. America’s 111 million households contain and consume more stuff than all other households throughout history, put together. Because of all this “stuff” that we consume and are congested with it has been found that Americans now suffer from possession overload which is the problem of dealing with too much stuff. “It is the kind of problem where you have so many things you find your life is being taken up by maintaining and caring for things instead of people.” This possession overload has had a significant...
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