Here’s an email that I think is worth publishing in full:
I am a long time Balloon Juice reader since before the days of “THE DFH’S WERE RIGHT!” conversion. I occasionally post as “Cintibud” but since I don’t post often I’m afraid it might just get lost in the noise if I posted this. However this is something that I think is very important that younger folks like you just might not realize – just how things have changed for the middle class in the last 30 or so years. I think there are a ton of folks close to my age who have a similar story but it just isn’t being examined.
I was born in 1955. My Father was never that well paid. He was a college professor at a Catholic university in the days that lay employees were expected to work for close to the same wages as the religious order that ran the University – that is, squat. However, consider:
My Mother didn’t have to work outside the house. She stayed home and raised 5 kids.
We lived in a nice house in a nice suburb – Kettering Ohio – which could have been the setting for the Brady Bunch
All 5 kids went to Catholic (private) grade and High School
All 5 kids went to College (although my Father was a prof, we only got a 50% discount at that private University, which made the tuition equal to Ohio State or any other in-state school)
None of us had to take out a student loan to pay for college.
My parents NEVER refinanced their house.
We took a family vacation every Summer.
If you heard of a family doing all that today on one income, how much would you guess the solo wage earner was making? Quite a bit more than my Father’s income, adjusted to today!
What changed? Did the US lose the cold war? Does Russia, China, Japan, Europe tell us what we can or cannot do? Has our GDP been steadily shrinking in that time? Productivity declining?
I’ll leave the above questions “as an exercise for the reader” to quote Mr. Wizard from many years ago, but you get the point.
IMO, this “decline of the middle class” is never discussed enough in personal terms, just as some hypothetical that doesn’t connect to folks under 50. People need to ask their parents or grandparents how they lived “back in the day”.
Thanks, just wanted to get that rant off my chest.
What changed? How were our parents able to do it, but those our age and younger are just treading water?