A story on the front page of today's NY Times
includes a description of someone who might be a candidate to represent the typical American consumer today.
When you read the quote from the article below, ask yourself whether this is the sort of person who made America great or the sort of person who symbolizes America's decline. The Times
apparently thinks that he helps to make the nation great, since it says that his being forced to cut back on his consumerism is "an ominous portent for the national economy." But I suspect that the Americans of 50 or 100 years ago would have considered his consumerism to be a symptom of a drastic decline in the national character.
RENO, Nev., Nov. 5 - As his wedding day approached last spring, Marshall Whittey found that his money could not keep pace with the grandiosity of his plans. But rather than scale back, he chose instead, like millions of homeowners across the country, to borrow against the soaring value of his home.
He and his bride, Holly Whittey, exchanged vows on the grounds of a sumptuous private estate in the Napa Valley. They spent their honeymoon at a resort in Tahiti.
But now, in an ominous portent for the national economy, Mr. Whittey has grown tight with his money. His home is worth far less than it was a year ago, and his equity has evaporated. And like many other involuntary adopters of a newly economical lifestyle, he can borrow no more.
"It used to be that if I wanted it, I'd just go and buy it and finance it," Mr. Whittey, 33, said. "I'm feeling the crunch, and my spending is down significantly."
A sales manager at a flooring and tile company, he [Whittey, who lives in Reno] exudes the unflappable air of someone raised amid the easy money of the casino world.
Until recently, he and his wife regularly embarked on shopping sprees of $1,000 and up. He bought a 21-foot boat and two flat-screen televisions for their home. He sold his old truck and bought a new one, he said, "just 'cause I didn't like the color."
Mr. Whittey could live in such fashion because his company was making good money and his house was appreciating. But today, the value of his own home, which reached $500,000, has fallen and a separate investment property he bought seems likely to fetch far less than the $580,000 he owes the bank. His commissions have diminished, so his income is down.
His neighbor recently fell behind on house payments, prompting the bank to foreclose. Anxiety reigns.
Take a look at the picture of this guy in the Times
article at http://www.nytimes.com/2007/11/08/business/08borrow.html?_r=1&oref=slogin
At 33, he seems to be on the borderline between overweight and obese, and he is photographed sitting on his couch in front of his oversized flat tv screen.