Public perception of the rich has taken a beating since the recession. Where once the middle classes aspired to emulate the wealthy -- in many cases overextending their credit to appear richer -- now there's a certain morbid curiosity in observing the foreclosures and stock market losses among the financially privileged.
During the economy's long run, the number of millionaires and multimillionaires surged upward faster than at any other time in history. But that was yesterday -- before the economy tanked. As frugality has become fashionable in the years following the recession, those still spending on luxury were accused of being out of touch and self-centered. Many of the wealthy pulled back, embarrassed by public sentiment that it was irresponsible to drop scads of money on extravagant parties and private clubs. Charitable organizations also reported a drop in donations since the recession.
But of course, fiscal restraint from those who could afford to spend ended up hurting the people who own and work in the clubs, retail outlets, car dealerships and building industry, not to mention those who benefit from charity. There's no doubt that those who saved nothing and used credit to spend beyond their means needed a lesson on penny-pinching, but perhaps we should encourage those who've got it to flaunt it. In defense of the wealthy, conspicuous consumption on luxury items such as yachts and Rolex watches may look unseemly when others are struggling to hold on to a job, but spending helps the overall economy.
Should the rich spend it if they've got it?
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