The numbers are in. All totaled, US consumers spent more than $50.9 Billion on Thanksgiving and Black Friday. You read that right: I said Billion… with a B.
It’s easy to become numb to numbers like this; after all, Black Friday madness comes along every year.
So do the videos of people going absolutely bonkers trying to get that TV $500 off.
Like this one! (Warning, mildly NSFW):
In all the craziness, it’s important to keep in mind just how much $50 billion dollars really is. For perspective, the US only spends about $1.47 billion on Food Aid. This comes at a time when the World Food Program (WFP) had to suspend its efforts to provide food for Syrian refugees because of lack of funding.
For more perspective, the WFP estimates that it would only cost$3 billion more annually to feed every one of the 56 million kids who go hungry every day.
Now, some would say that just laying out raw numbers is a simplistic argument. They would point out (rightly) that the holiday season is the engine of the global economy. If people don’t spend during this time of year, it leads to global economic hardship.
Others would also have words for the way in which we shame people for going a little crazy every year on Black Friday. They would point out (also rightly!) that many of these people have been hurt particularly hard by the global financial crisis and they are working hard to buy gifts for their loved ones.
There’s no right or wrong answer in all of this. What’s important is that we don’t shy away from the complexity but rather use events like this as a point of discussion about how we can change the systems that keep people poor.
Because one thing is clear: spending this much on simple wants when so many are still struggling to meet their basic needs seems more than a little unfair.