There’s been an ominous aura in this country for some time, which makes hurricane Sandy even more eerie. I’ve called this the dropout nation. Sadly, rarely does a week go by without there being more evidence of people throwing in the towel. From the plunge in marriage to an insane willingness to rent in places where it’s prohibitively more expensive than owning, Americans have more or less said live for the moment because it will not be better tomorrow. Perhaps no data stream illustrates the dropout nation more than income, spending, and savings reports.
I was dreamin’ when I wrote this
Forgive me if it goes astray
But when I woke up this mornin’
Could of sworn it was judgment day
The sky was all purple
There were people runnin’ everywhere
Tryin’ to run from the destruction
You know I didn’t even care
Prince sang “1999” about people mostly living in the moment, saying “party over, oops, out of time” as an anthem for all the anxiety that surrounded the new millennium. The notion was that the year 2000 would usher in “judgment day” or a wave of disasters, so people should just party hard in the meantime.
I’ve said for a long time we have become a dropout nation, and part of that is just the idea of spending money, eschewing investing, and living in the moment.
This morning personal spending and income for September was released, with the former beating the street while the latter was only “in-line.” The reality is incomes have lagged not only inflation, but in actual terms too. People are making more than $4,000 less than they were a few years ago. The data seems to suggest they have decided to forget about tomorrow. Prince worried about wars and bombs, but these days it’s about fiscal cliffs and exploding debt. Yet this trend goes beyond the latest hi-jinks in Washington.