Monday, December 04, 2017

Consumerism--then and now

Government statistics drive me crazy. USDA and Federal Reserve (yes, I know the Fed isn't government) don't always line up. The information I look for is sometimes percent, sometimes rate of increase, or numbers, or Hispanics are whites in one table, but not in another, or it's divided by age group, etc. But as near as I can figure, the year my father entered the Marines in 1943, 41.2% of the family budget was for food. (It was 35.4% in 1939, which was still the Depression.) Imagine--and everyone who could had "victory gardens," sugar and coffee were rationed (we had little coupon books for each family member), every scrap of fat was saved, and no one was eating in restaurants. "Eating out" in my family was visiting grandma, or walking to Zickuhr's for a 5 cent ice cream cone. But in 2016 only 12.9% of a household budget for children and parents was for food, only slightly more of that was at home, than eating out. And I've seen figures much lower than that--can't find it now. USDA publishes food plans that run from Thrifty to Liberal. When I used to track costs (haven't for years) the Bruce Household was always below Thrifty, and eating out was going to Friendly's for breakfast on Sunday, $5.00 for the whole family.

2017 food plans,

Between our sermons on affluenza at church and the myths, fairy tales and wishful thinking about federal taxes, I've been pondering the 1970s. I called us upper middle class because we had way too much "stuff" when others didn't have enough. One income, one SAHM, 2 small children; 3 bedroom, 1.5 bath home, slab on grade; 2 TVs one 1960 and one 1967; 1 phone attached to wall with a 50 ft cord so I could keep an eye on Phil; 1 1968 car bought used; no AC, no microwave, no computer, no VHS player (yes, some of our wealthy friends had those); no savings, no retirement, 1 week vacation, cash for doctors, and too much month left at the end of the money. Our gross income in 1972 was $17,211, well above the average of $11,419. I didn't work, but 37% of American women did. I'm not complaining by any means; we lived in a beautiful neighborhood and had great friends through our church and community activities. But our lifestyle in 1972 is considered poverty today. 

1972-73 Bureau of Labor statistics.

I told my husband this when he came down for breakfast, and he listened quietly as his eyes become glassy, and then said what he always does, "I'm sure glad I married you instead of that other woman." That's sort of a standing joke when he gets a boatload of statistics with breakfast. But it's better than the Madalyn Murray O'Hare gruesome story he got on Saturday.

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