In the final installment of Anderson Cooper’s top ten most wanted culprits in the economic collapse, he shows Allen Greenspan, chairman of the Federal Reserve, and #5 on Cooper’s top ten list, accepting a “sliver” of responsibility for his misjudgment. Cooper then goes on to name #10. To get a look at the face of #10, you will need a mirror. Number 10 on the list of the culprits of the collapse is you, the American consumer.
During the last decade, the majority consumers have bought into an idea of the American dream as owning bigger and better homes and cars, and using credit cards to afford all those extras that make life a little sweeter. Well, that dream is giving way to a nightmare, and the sweet life is deteriorating into bitter grapes. In September 2008 alone, more than 80,000 homes went into foreclosure—up a staggering 71% from September of 2007.
In the last decade as easy credit was made available, Americans eagerly accepted the offer. The average American household is drowning in debt. In the last four years, savings have dropped to less than 1% –an all-time low. Common sense seemed to fall by the wayside as Americans busted their budgets to buy the biggest nicest home the bank would allow. Homebuyers signed on for adjustable rate mortgages with low introductory rates on expensive homes. They gave little thought to the consequences they would suffer when the rate would adjust a year later and the payments would more than double.
Credit card debt has grown to ridiculous proportions as many Americans have grown undisciplined in their spending. Sadly, the greed on Wall Street is rivaled by the insatiable consuming American pubic. Commercials and TV shows bombard us with materialism and the mindset of instant gratification. Too many of us have bought into it hook, line and sinker. We have believed the lie that greed is OK.
It is time for personal responsibility to take hold. We must learn that we can live just fine in a three bedroom house instead of four –that we can survive without granite countertops and hardwood floors, golf club memberships, and working out at a posh gym—that it’s OK to drive a car that is a few years old—and that our kids will not cease to breathe if they don’t get the newest game systems, cell phones, or IPODs. A few less Christmas presents under the tree does not mean that you have failed. It means you are a grown up with real responsibilities. We are just as guilty as anyone of living in denial. We have continued to spend and charge and have ignored the fact that the bill will eventually come due. Grow up, America! You have earned yourself a place among the top ten culprits of the economic collapse.