The past, they say, is another country. Elizabeth Warren visited 1978. Life is better there.
If you don't have time to sit through the whole hour (and shaving off the five minute intro doesn't help), here's a summary:
- The typical family then (couples with two kids) was saving for retirement. The typical family now has no net savings, and is deeply in hock.
- Most families had only one income, but they only needed one. Two-income families these days need both incomes just to make the mortgage payment; if either is unemployed for long, they lose the house, so they're doubly at risk.
- The portion of income devoted to fixed and inelastic expenses like transportation and shelter was roughly 50%; it's now more like 75%. There are more cheap trinkets to buy with what's left, so long as you have it --- but losing 35% of income, once a major inconvenience, has become a calamity.
- Public education and a high school degree used to be enough for a kid to attain a middle class lifestyle. Now preschool and college are effectively required --- and expensive.
- Health insurance is less common, less available, and just covers less.
- And so on. And so on. And so on.
Many people are old enough to remember that life --- if not from having lived it themselves, then from having lived in the homes of their parents. I guess they're too busy scraping by to complain much about what they have now. And so, panglossian economists get to tell us that since this was all the result of choices made by free people in a free market, it necessarily follows that the cheap trinkets we've gained are a more than adequate compensation for the ease we have lost.
via Mark Thoma