Wow, a downer headline on the front page of my post-Thanksgiving Wall Street Journal: Voters See American Dream Slipping Out of Reach, WSJ/NORC Poll Shows. Here's what really caught my eye:
Half of voters in the new poll said that life in America is worse than it was 50 years ago, compared with 30% who said it had gotten better.
Well, that's just stupid.
I happen to be finishing up reading a book, The Myth of American Inequality, by Phil Gramm, Robert Ekelund, and John Early. It has a whole chapter titled "Fifty Years of Economic Progress". It is (specifically) referring to the 1967-2017 period, but not enough has changed, even with Covid, to make the 1973-2023 comparison different.
[Added: finished reading the book, and my report is here.]
Do you really want to go back fifty years, to an era of lousy TVs, no Internet, no smartphones, no microwaves, lower life expectancy, higher infant mortality, … (I could go on). Compared to 1973, poverty (properly measured) is almost gone.
Most notably: an income that would have put an American household in the top quintile of all households in 1973 is now enjoyed by nearly all American households.
But I suppose people just like to gripe, and if you give them something specific to gripe about, they'll do that.
Another sour note from the article:
Oakley Graham, a stay-at-home father in Greenwood, Mo., outside Kansas City, said that by some measures he was living the American dream. And yet, he feels insecure.
“We have a nice house in the suburbs, and we have a two-car garage,” said Graham, who is 30 years old and whose wife is an electrical engineer. “But I’d be lying if I didn’t say that money was tight.” For him and most of his neighbors, “no matter how good it looks on the outside, I feel we are all a couple of paychecks away from being on the street.”
Graham, who leans Democratic in his politics and voted for President Biden, said life is “objectively worse” than 50 years ago, in part because labor unions are no longer as strong and capable of helping as many workers. He said his grandfather, a maintenance crew worker for railroads, retired on a union pension, something that most people don’t have now.
The stay-at-home dad says things are "objectively worse" without citing a single objective fact. I imagine his electical engineer wife is embarrassed by that.
Recently on the book blog: