Ever wonder how much Americans spend on non-essential goodies such as jewelry, yachts, booze, and even candy? A lot, as in $1.2 trillion, or about 11% of total consumer spending, reports the Wall Street Journal. The percentage is up from 9.3% a decade ago and 4% in 1959, according to a Commerce Department study. (Food, housing, and medicine would be examples of "essential" goods in the study.)
The results could seen as proof of the resiliency of capitalism, writes Mark Whitehouse, or "a sign that US economic growth relies too heavily on stimulating demand for stuff people don’t really need, to the detriment of public goods such as health and education." For those in the latter camp, "a consumption tax—like the value-added taxes common throughout Europe—could go a long way toward restoring balance."