In Mammon we trust (or when did we decide riches are awesome even when they’re not used well?)

I read the Wall Street Journal for a change recently, and now I’m even more pissed off I didn’t win the lottery.

See, wealth, at least for a few people, is dramatically increasing in America. According to the Federal Reserve, the net worth of Americans—their assets like home equity and stock investments measured against their outstanding debt like mortgages and student loans—has hit an all-time high: $80.7 trillion. In fact, it grew by $10 trillion last year alone. Forbes magazine touts this year’s annual list of billionaires as its “largest ever.”

Rising wealth, though, has nothing to do with the wages of people actually working for a living or regular folks buying things in retail stores. Even the Wall Street Journal says this growth “disproportionately benefited affluent Americans” and was driven by “a record-setting rally in the U.S. stock market.”

Along with stockholders, though, one single category of retailers has enjoyed the fruits of this billionaire boom. “Spending on luxury goods has generally held up in the aftermath of the recession,” the Journal continues, “but companies [targeting] average Americans aren’t doing as well.”

When the American aristocrats’ paper of record readily concedes that the economy is only improving for its own readers, the United States has a serious cultural problem brewing…

Read the rest over at Philadelphia Weekly.

The original publication of this piece appeared in the March 19, 2014 issue of Philadelphia Weekly.

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