Wednesday, February 01, 2006


From The "Don't Pee On My Leg And Tell Me It's Raining" File

If you're thinking that your parents had it easier financially than you when they were your age, you're probably right:

Over the past 20 years, the average household income has increased a mere 1.22% annually, from $47,518 in 1984 to $60,528 in 2004 (in 2004 dollars), according to the U.S. Census Bureau. At the same time, many Americans are shouldering new costs — like retirement planning and health care. "Productivity has been on the rise, but that gain in productivity isn't going to workers," says Draut. "Incomes are stagnating, costs are continuing to outpace inflation, whether it's housing costs, energy costs or higher-education costs." As a result, Americans have been turning to credit cards to pay the bills — and then to their home equity to pay off the credit cards. Going forward, Draut says, consumers' only option is to reduce spending. "There's no more equity left to tap, credit-card debt keeps going up, and wages aren't growing," she says.
Of course, this is in a financial mag, not a major paper, much less a network where tens of millions of Americans could see it.

$47,518 in 1984 to $60,528 in 2004 (in 2004 dollars)

Where I live $47.5 thousand would be considered a fairly high, middle income, today.

The other day listening to the radio Robert Reich was talking about the average income being a fairly meaningless figure, considering the obscenely high incomes that get figured in. It was the median income that revealed something useful.

I think even the median is skewed towards the high end. There are a lot of people who are in the situation discribed in "Nickled and Dimed", usually called the working poor but who are better termed the working destitute. Almost nothing is said about their situation or about the very large number of people who are on the edge of that pit. These are invisible people.
My parents were even smart enough to die before they got news that would kill them - my dad died before the 2000 election and my mother died just in time to avoid this fucking stupid new drug "benefit". They started off poor and it just kept getting better until they were comfortably middle-class. Whereas my sibs and I started off comfortably middle-class, and I have the feeling we'll be lucky if we can keep thinking of ourselves that way by the end.
Avedon, I am deeply sorry for your loss. No matter what our relationship with them, the death of a parent changes something fundamental about our relationship with the world.

Yes, what is called Standard Economic Welfare (or many variants)-- the sum total of what made the good life-- is said to have peaked in ca. 1972. And it is this cloud that hangs over the United States, bringing out the selfishness and destructiveness.

We need a leader who can persuade people that we can have less in the way of material possessions and yet be happier and more successful. A difficult sell.

EPT made the post I wanted to except the Census website has mucked up the median family income data. Yes, average is meaningless.

Median, by its nature isn't skewed. Half are above and half below. But it misses a small village of elephants in the room: shifting of medical costs from employers to employees, employer demands for uncompensated labor, the true value of "women's work" (childcare, etc.), on and on.
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