Cynic Alert: Phantom Wealth

Our corporations and government are touting how good a year 2013 was. Are higher real estate values due to home improvements like better insulation, more energy efficiency, or repairs to domestic infrastructure? Hardly. The added value only counts if you’re in a neighborhood that’s improving or holding steady, and you can only cash out by selling. Unless you decide you want to borrow money against your nest egg. That’s where our corporate masters probably want an enthusiastic return: showing off our increased value by going deeper into debt.

On my end of the culture, I see students going deeper into debt to get through college. On my domestic front, I’d like to sink several hundred dollars into a bathroom upgrade–the tub and surround are fading, and the plumbing probably needs an assessment. I’d feel better about my home value if I could keep up with a maintenance and upgrade schedule.

This all begs the question of where a society’s real values are. If we’re worth $80 trillion, what good is that? Are the really needy people cared for? We’ve seen lots of value vanish in 2007-09, and it wasn’t because sinkholes developed under thousands of homes. It was because of financial corruption–largely unpunished–and catastrophically poor policies assisting people top to bottom in making poor decisions.

Last cynical point: the Reuters piece was posted last Thursday and I noticed it got a Bing bling this morning. Apparently the one percent doesn’t think we’re paying enough attention.

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About catholicsensibility

Todd and his family live in Ames, Iowa. He serves a Catholic parish of both Iowa State students and town residents.
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