BOX: Isn’t GDP Wonderful?
There are few human misfortunes that do not have a silver lining where the economic mind is concerned. The result is a strange take on the world that permeates the mainstream media yet goes almost entirely unnoted.
• Teenage girls prone to pathological body-consciousness, egged on by images of physical ‘perfection’ that barrage them in teen magazines, have helped create a teen cosmetic industry worth almost $25bn annually.
• Americans owe over $7 trillion in household debt, used to make purchases that boost the GDP. And in a curious twist, the debt interest payments add $100 billion more.
• For the purchases they don’t really need or use, there is the burgeoning self-storage industry and garage extensions on suburban homes to hold the stuff. The accoutrements alone – shelves etc – are expected to become a $650mn business, according to the Wall Street Journal.
• Growth development problems, otherwise known as erectile dysfunction or impotence, is on the increase, which is excellent news for manufacturers of Viagra – in itself a $1.5bn industry in the USA.
• Over 500,000 Americans contribute to the US GDP with purchases made on stolen credit cards. Add to this identity theft insurance which costs over $100 a year per person.
• Economists love web pornography since it adds some $2bn to America’s GDP.
• Gambling is another affliction that contributes impressively to the US GDP – by some $63.3bn a year.
• GDP also thrives on noise pollution – sound-proofing insulation for an apartment ceiling costs about $400. And the 5.2m American children who have damaged hearing from listening to their headphones too loud are an investment in the GDP as later in life many will require treatments and hearing aids.
• More than half of Americans are overweight. Yippeee! Direct medical costs from diabetes alone add some $44bn to the GDP. And over 50,000 Americans had their stomachs stapled last year at a cost of around $20,000 each.
• Manufacturers of soft drinks are targeting children with hyper-caffeinated sodas, with names like Jolt and Code Red. And to calm them down? Easy. Americans spend $758m on the drug Ritalin. GDP heaven – self-perpetuating supply and demand.
• Approximately one-fifth of America’s food goes to waste, and that’s not counting the vast amount that ends up as flab. This adds about $31bn to the GDP, a figure which could feed those who die of starvation each year twice over.
• American motorists sitting in traffic jams spend over $5bn a year on petrol. In Los Angeles alone the figure is close to $1bn. Note, coincidentally, that Los Angeles also leads the nation in the number of hospital admissions for respiratory problems – more medical costs, higher GDP.
• Depressed – excellent. Over seven million Americans take anti-depressants. Prozac alone has generated over $2.5bn a year. Even better, when the Grim Reaper finally arrives, the typical American funeral costs over $5,000, not counting the price of the cemetery and monument.