Signs of American Excess


America’s rich are partying like it’s 1999 or … 2006. In January, a Hermès Birkin bag sold for $99,750. This past summer, a similarly styled cultural symbol of status—also known as a purse—sold for $221,844. Manhattan condo prices hit a new record, with the median prices surging 21 percent, surpassing pre-Lehman highs. You can even buy a $100 edible 24-karat gold doughnut dunked in Cristal-infused icing in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Or you can pay $1,000 per dozen.

In 2014 (the latest data available), ceo compensation rose sharply. Total compensation at Standard & Poor’s 500 companies jumped by 10.6 percent. The median income for a ceo of an S&P 500 company was $11,291,000 in 2014, while the Russell 3000 counterpart earned $3,885,000. Health-care ceos led the way, jumping 73.6 percent between 2010 and 2014.

Add to that the Picasso painting that sold for a record-breaking $179 million in May, the Blue Moon diamond that sold for a record $48.5 million in November, and the fact that 2015 saw more rare U.S. coins reach $1 million at auction than ever—and this perhaps explains why 2015 can be described as a year of American excess.

What will 2016 be described as?

The year of excessive loss? We will soon find out.