Monday, June 09, 2008

The problem with economic squeeze stories

There was another "economic squeeze" story in USAToday today. I think every reporter must be required to write at least one of these per year. I've been reading newspapers regularly for at least 40 years, and I don't ever remember NOT reading that the "American dream is out of reach," or that "the current generation will not be able to do as well as their parents." Even the USAToday story was unable to make its own statistics match up with its doom and gloom story. 65% of those interviewed expected much better, somewhat better or the same in 2008 compared to 62% expecting better in five years. Huh? But you can't get in print or testify before Congress by claiming everything is fine.

My parents were 40 in 1953; we were 40 in 1979; my kids in 2008. What's different in these three generations is the degree of "stuff," age of marriage and age of retirement. By stuff, I mean things my parents considered unnecessary or luxuries--air conditioning, a second car, a second or third bathroom, vacations, a larger home, hobbies like music or golf, and pass times like eating out. Even TV was considered unnecessary by my parents, well after most families had at least one. And cable came really late. I have six TVs. Even as a bride in 1960 I could see the difference between my in-laws and parents caused by their lifestyle, which for my in-laws included cigarettes and alcohol, an expense my parents didn't have. That was money that could go for something else. On the other hand, we spend about $2000 a year just eating out with friends, something my parents never did, and my in-laws only rarely. And most Americans eat out more than we do.

I married younger and accumulated more stuff than my parents; my children have more stuff and married later than me. Comparing generations is looking at apples and oranges, particularly retirement age. By choice, Dad worked well into his 80s. By choice, I retired at 60. Think if I'd had 25 more years to save, spend or invest. By choice, my parents went to college, unusual for their generation; we went to college, common for my generation; my children didn't, very unusual for their generation.

The biggest problem, as I see it, is use of the term "average family" and "working family" in statistics. How many unmarried women with children were in the workplace 35 years ago? How many today? And yet, a single mom without a college degree with 3 children is a family of four, as is a married man and woman, both college educated, with 2 children. Today we have a marriage gap. Government programs, college professors of women's studies and social work, church staff, political lobbyists and foundation think tanks depend on that gap for their livelihood.

Then let's track those children of the two parent families of the 1980s, not only do they have two college educated parents with an economic advantage, but they have the advantage of a father in the home, and as the women-to-work movement increased, many children even had dad as a primary care-giver, if not a 50% care-giver. (All promoted by the feminists, by the way.) Then as those children become adults, they are more likely to have support for education, assistance for home buying, a network with other families of similar values, and it doesn't take a rocket scientist or a PhD in Social Work to see what happens to home life and income in subsequent generations. Wake up Congress and Poverty Pimps. You are part of the problem as seen in this recent testimony! Notice the fuzzy use of the word "family" not once but seven times.
    "As America has grown richer, inequality has increased. In 1979, the average income of the richest 5 percent of families was 11 times that of families in the bottom 20 percent. Today, the richest 5 percent of families enjoys an average income nearly 22 times that of families in the lowest quintile. Together, the top 5 percent of families receives more income than all of the families in the bottom 40 percent combined – 21 percent of total family income compared with 14 percent." Eileen Appelbaum, testimony before the Committee on Education and Labor

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I completely agree with this story. I just got back from a trip to Greece and Turkey and discovered a lot of support for Obama. I believe it has more to do with anti Bush sentiments than true love for Obama. They view Bush as a war monger so anyone associated with Bush will get a bad rap. McCain would serve himself best by distancing himself from Bush.