Fri Nov 30th, 2007 at 10:25:42 PM EST
The numbers are astonishing. Apparel is easily the second-biggest consumer sector after food. We're spending $282 billion on new clothes annually, up from $162 billion in 1992, based on U.S. Census figures.
Importantly, the steady upward march of clothing expenditures doesn't fully reflect the increase in the actual quantities being made and bought, because the same-size spending spree can bring in more garb with every year that goes by.
The government says apparel prices in the United States dropped by about 25 percent from 1992 to 2002, and we responded like the good consumers we are, increasing our buying by 75 percent. The population increased only 13 percent in that decade, so the average annual shopping haul, which stood at about 50 new articles of clothing per person per year in 1992, had grown to 75 or more items per person by 2002. It has only gone up since then.
And to clear out closet space for the new purchases, the average American discards 68 pounds of clothing and other textiles each year, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.
The lower prices can be attributed to lower domestic wages, greater mechanization and the Wal-Mart-led corporate drive for cheaper everything. But most crucial has been the deluge of cheap imports. No. 1 among the world's top 10 apparel importers, the United States brings in more than the other nine nations combined.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture says per-person consumption of textile fiber in the United States is double that of Spain, four times that of China, and almost seven times India's. Currently, Americans buy 40 T-shirts per household annually, 94 percent of them imported. In 2003, four new pairs of shoes were imported for each American.
Foie gras consumerism: the public must absorb more and more and more each year of the glut of Product churned out by the ever more "efficient" industrial system as it chews its way through the biosphere converting living systems to dead trash.
For those who link consumerism to happiness these numbers are troubling. Are we twice as happy as the Spanish?
I'd invent a poll, but my brain is tired.
Meanwhile, what of the misery and damage on which this glut of cheap clothing is founded?