The simple (or not so simple) question of chasing the American Dream: now vs then.

AlongCameJones

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My last thread focused too much on automobile prices and minimum wages but this one looks at the BIG PICTURE.

How tough is it, relatively speaking, for working class Americans to achieve the middle-class level of living today vs 25 years ago and vs 50 years ago? (Do we now have it easier, tougher or about the same level of difficulty to achieve a certain degree of overall lifestyle through working for a living as compared with our parent's generation and our grandparent's generation?)

We have to define some terms:

middle-class level of living .... what material things might this include?

My idea of middle-class American living includes but is not limited to the following:

-living in an area with desirable climate, beautiful scenery, well-maintained infrastructure, little noise/pollution, little or no crime, little congestion, no graffiti
-living in a 3+br single-family unit home with at least a 2-car garage, a private fenced yard, a green-well-maintained front lawn, complete landscaping and such property being in excellent condition overall
-having at least one car, van, SUV or truck in excellent overall condition
-having one or two purebred dogs, such animals being well-cared for, in the household (it might be more expensive to properly care for a dog now vs the past)
-having all the tools necessary for home yard care as lawn mower, garden tools and wheelbarrow
-having a home that is well-furnished with furniture and appliances in excellent condition
-having at least one recreational toy as a motorboat, a motorcycle, an ATV, a jetski or a camper

relative toughness to acquire wealth through employment ...

- what education level is required for employment yielding a certain level of income, now vs then (it seems more and more employers have been requiring college degrees in modern times)
- how many hours and days a month worked to achieve certain level of income now vs then (are people now working longer hours with less R&R time?)
- how physically hard is the labor now vs then (modern machinery may reduce muscle work on the job)
- how stressful or dangerous is the work now vs then (advanced OSHA standards may make work less dangerous)
- do more jobs nowadays entail being away from home a lot depending on the nature of the job (some IT professionals may have to travel a lot)
- how hard is it to find work now vs then
- how much is the job a strain on the brain now vs then
- how difficult is it to acquire skills or train for the job now vs then (increasing use of modern technology as computers, software and other electronic equipment may have steepened the learning curve required to do certain traditional occupations as automobile mechanic, welder, law enforcement, architect or electrician)
- how mean, condescending or pushy are the bosses toward employees at work, now vs then
- does the job entail a higher risk of being a victim of a violent crime now then it did then (is there more workplace-related violence now than in the past?)


Other things (costs) that affect ability to live middle-class lifestyle which may have changed through time:

-taxation: income, sales, property, etc.
-fees charged both by government and private entities: fees to register car, fees to park downtown, fees to test vehicle emissions, fees charged by banks to do banking, road/bridge toll fees, etc.
-shipping costs entailed by consumers by having to order merchandise by mail/Internet orders as opposed to picking stuff up at local stores (local stores have been having a more general limited selection of things in stock or available for pickup with the advent of online marketplaces like amazon.com and eBay)
 
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Cowbaby

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Well first off, a middle class is relatively a modern day construct and throughout the majority of recorded history just never existed in most societies. Almost all consisted of a landed aristocracy or royalty and the rest were serf and peasants. Any bourgeoisie class were small in number or even almost non existent throughout civilization

And secondly, Half the things you list as desires were never enjoyed by most middle class Americans since I have been living. Most middle class families in the past here did not get to live on some beach in San Diego, but worked in plants in crappy weather places like Chicago or Buffalo, Most did not have 2 pure breed dogs and since when is owning blue ribbon breed dogs have jack all to do with your well being? Lots of middle class families did not have recreational vehicles, never owned a boat, toys, excellent condition new cars but in reality kept a family car going for years. pristine appliances? Ha I can still see my Dad smacking the side of a Frigidaire to make it quit bird chirping. We had one 25" TV with 2 free channels with an antenna you had to turn by hand and a Zenith cabinet stereo sysmtem that was saved long for to buy them. Nor was having advanced degrees necessary for a percieved middle class lifestyle and still isn't , that's the smoke colleges try to blow up your rear end. But, most strived to try to send at least a few of their children to pursue higher education if they could.

And third. Nobody owes you anything.

"It’s called the American dream. Because you have to be asleep to believe it."-- George Carlin, a man before his time.

 
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AlongCameJones

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Well first off, a middle class is relatively a modern day construct and throughout the majority of recorded history just never existed in most societies. Almost all consisted of a landed aristocracy or royalty and the rest were serf and peasants. Any bourgeoisie class were small in number or even almost non existent throughout civilization

And secondly, Half the things you list as desires were never enjoyed by most middle class Americans since I have been living. Most middle class families in the past here did not get to live on some beach in San Diego, but worked in plants in crappy weather places like Chicago or Buffalo, Most did not have 2 pure breed dogs and since when is owning blue ribbon breed dogs have jack all to do with your well being? Lots of middle class families did not have recreational vehicles, never owned a boat, toys, excellent condition new cars but in reality kept a family car going for years. pristine appliances? Ha I can still see my Dad smacking the side of a Frigidaire to make it quit bird chirping. We had one 25" TV with 2 free channels with an antenna you had to turn by hand and a Zenith cabinet stereo sysmtem that was saved long for to buy them. Nor was having advanced degrees necessary for a percieved middle class lifestyle and still isn't , that's the smoke colleges try to blow up your rear end. But, most strived to try to send at least a few of their children to pursue higher education if they could.

And third. Nobody owes you anything.

"It’s called the American dream. Because you have to be asleep to believe it."-- George Carlin, a man before his time.


Different Americans in different parts of the country have different notions of "the American Dream". My notion of what that entails has to do with how I was raised and when I was raised and where I was raised and where and when I was educated. I was raised and educated in suburban coastal northern California always within 30 miles of San Fransisco. I was born in 1964. My older brother was born in 1962. My military-service-veteran father worked at a local naval shipyard, DOD civil service employment, electrician. He was an electrican mate in the navy. My mother was an old-fashioned Catholic-school-educated stay-at-home housewife and tended the rose garden. We lived in a 1965-built stucco 3-br home with 2-car garage. We had four purebred dogs from backyard breeders advertised in newspaper classifieds. A Doberman, a Golden retriever and two Mexican rat dogs for mother. We had two cats. We had a new 1975 Toyota Corolla family wagon. We had a 1973 Datsun truck. We had a small aluminum motorboat. We had a nicely-furnished house including a piano and a modern side x side general electric refrigerator with double doors and ice maker by 1980. My mother had a Frigidaire washing machine and dryer bought new in 1978. My grandmother's 1960-made Frigidaire refrigerator lasted 20 years and never needed to be smacked. Only need a new door seal once in its lifetime. We always had a nice hi-fi home stereo and color TV by 1976. No remote for the TV set. A rooftop Archer-Rotor aerial from Radio Shack was for TV reception. A 9-volt transistor radio was still a cool thing for kids to carry at my high school in the late 1970's. The only wireless telephones I had heard about in 1972 were on the Jetsons cartoon. We had no home air conditioning because coastal California up north never needed it. Our 1973 Datsun truck, bought used in 1976, did have a/c strangely but our new 1975 Corolla station wagon did not. It might have been an extra $400 to have optional factory a/c in that Corolla back then. San Francisco area was cool and nice enough to not really need a/c anyway. I have to admit, both our vehicles were financed through a local thrift company. That 1973 Datsun dealer-purchased truck retailed used for $3,000 in 1976. When my brother and I were real small, we had crappy vehicles that broke down a lot. A '59 Mercury Monterey and a 1950's GMC stepside as well as a '50's Volvo. We got a new 1970 Volkswagen air-cooled for $2,000 grand OTD. Cramped but reliable. My parents always liked small dependable thrifty automobiles.

This is my model or standard for American living. I figure that my standard is close to the living standard of most Americans. It is what I know personally. I believe any able-bodied American with a will and half a brain can achieve that standard if good conscientious employers with good business scruples are available and hiring. I believe in honest business practices and honest work. I don't believe the American Dream can be achieved by being lazy. Maybe by being lucky or by being born with a silver spoon in one's mouth, but never by being unmotivated. The American Dream is also helped to be achieved by American-born citizens when you don't have American soil littered with a bunch of foreigners to compete with.

As far as being owed something, if somebody borrows property from me, then I am owed that property back in at least as good a condition as when it was lent out. If somebody damages me and it's their fault, then I am owed just compensation.


The purebred dogs do my soul good but if mongrel dogs do your soul good then that's good too.
 
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mr ed

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As far as being owed something, if somebody borrows property from me, then I am owed that property back in at least as good a condition as when it was lent out. If somebody damages me and it's their fault, then I am owed just compensation.
Nobody owes you anything means Just cause your alive nobody owes you a lifestyle, a job, an education or anything else.
Unlike the thought process of loony liberals you have to pick yourself up and get out there and earn these things
 

ICanFixIt

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Expectations have changed substantially over the years.

In 1963 the typical boat used by a middle class family for water skiing was 15 feet long and powered by a 35 or 40 hp outboard.
Today it seems to require a much larger boat, sporting a 200 hp motor.
Today, if you have less than $50,000 tied up in you bass boat rig, you aren't really serious about fishing. What happened to fishing from the bank?
In 1970 new couples were trying to qualify for an FHA-235 house of 1000 to 1100 square feet.
Today, 2500 square feet seems to be considered a starter house.
Beans? Spaghetti? Hamburger Helper? Mac and cheese? You gotta' be kidding! We want/deserve to go out to eat in a nice restaurant; or at least pizza delivery.
Need to go to the supermarket? Hell no! WalMart delivers it to your door It costs only a "little" more.
How many people have a lawn service, as opposed to getting off of their overweight rear to do it themselves? And that isn't exactly cheap.
Everyone in the family, over 5 years old, has to have an i-phone (with unlimited data, of course).
How much are people , today, spending supporting kids in every sport and activity possible? Just the transportation costs are crazy expensive. In earlier years, the kids just rode their bicycles to a friend's house to play. "Play"? What the heck is that?
Who did you know, who had a gun safe in their home in the 1970's? Whatta ya got in there? Yes, I know about the 2nd Amendment and all of that, but do you really need 14 guns and 20,000 rounds of ammunition? My dad had a 20 year old single shot 22 and most of a box of ammo.
One TV in the house that got 3(FREE, Yes, absolutely NO CHARGE)) channels was the norm in 1970. $150 a month is probably considered LOW for a cable bill today. Don't forget to add on NETFLIX, HULU and others.

My whole point is: people expect "having it all," "right now", and a middle class budget simply can't provide that lifestyle. If you expect that, expect to be disappointed.
 

tRidiot

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I can tell you personally the rising cost of secondary education is out of hand and crippling. I think this is DIRECTLY attributable to U.S. student loans, which have driven the cost of an advanced educational degree into the stratosphere. No way in hell I'd ever pick this life again, nor would I recommend to anyone else to do so. Sad, but true.
 

AlongCameJones

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My whole point is: people expect "having it all," "right now", and a middle class budget simply can't provide that lifestyle. If you expect that, expect to be disappointed.

having it all right now = instant gratification

Our small aluminum boat was used for family fun on the lake. We still had Japanese econoboxes, not Lincolns, Mercedes, Jaguars, BWMs and Cadillacs. My father considered a Lincoln Continental a rich man's car. He was raised in the countryside of Georgia in a poor family with six children. He told me in boyhood he hunted rabbits with a 22 and had a mule. Dad met mom at a San Fransisco Greyhound bus station in the 1950's where she worked as a telephone operator. Dad was in the navy at the time and his ship came into port there. Mom was raised in San Fransisco and told me about those mean old-fashioned nuns at Catholic school. Children were put in penalty boxes for talking in class and they had dunce caps. An old teaching sister once tore up my mother's photographs she had on her desk in class. The nuns hated sloppy writing. Mom told me they would crumple the papers right up in balls in throw it in pupil's' faces. Children got spanked for writing with their left hand, the devil's craft.

Dad told me about the tough teachers down south. They had paddles with holes drilled in them to make them sting like bees he told me.

My mother was therefore raised old-fashioned. She beat the hell out of us with wooden spoons and switches. Whenever we heard that kitchen drawer slam open from the other room, we knew we were in trouble. She screamed at my brother and I for having sloppy handwriting and threatened to knock the heads right off our bodies if we didn't improve it fast. My father and grandparents frowned upon sloppy cursive too. Have your children heard of penmanship?

People in the heartland of America probably have set their sights lower on material things to have than those raised in CA and other coastal states, but I see a bunch of people in hunting and fishing videos with Southern accents (a national stereotype of being poor) that seem to have expensive vehicles and boats to play outdoors. The South was rich before the American Civil War.

Do your children even know what a telephone operator is?

She wants it all now. She want 10,000 tons of ice cream. She NEEDS 10,000 bottom cracks with mom's wooden spoon.

 
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SlugSlinger

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The middle class is a political and marketing gimmic for the uneducated or naive. Politically it’s used to create envy and hatred toward those who have something you don’t. Marketing it’s used as a carrot to sell more crap. The more money I make, the less value I place in buying crap.
 

Cowbaby

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Sounds like you need to get back to the bay area and stay there to me. I have lived in both places and quite frankly the bay area SUCKS. As for you stereotyping people with accents as being poor that is just your stupidity. People are leaving that craphole in droves and coming out here for a reason. We are not moving to your socialist hellholes bud. I have family still out there that cannot get ahead because of the outrageous rents, socialist govts and taxes. People in the midwest and south have a point blank a better standard of living and quality of life and always have. Your misconceptions and attitude are why people hate the flood of people just like you here. ANd then they start voting in there failed policies and we end up with totally wrecked towns that turn into the exact kind of places that you left. Austin Tx used to be a sleepy little college town and an awesome place. NOW? I avoid it at all costs, I left California in 1989 As soon as I was discharged, it was a craohole then, I didn't leave a single thing there.

"A Southern Man don't need him around anyhow'-- Lynyrd Skynyrd
 
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AlongCameJones

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Sounds like you need to get back to the bay area and stay there to me. I have lived in both places and quite frankly the bay area SUCKS. As for you stereotyping people with accents as being poor that is just your stupidity. People are leaving that craphole in droves and coming out here for a reason. We are not moving to your socialist hellholes bud. I have family still out there that cannot get ahead because of the outrageous rents, socialist govts and taxes. People in the midwest have a point blank a better standard of living and quality of life and always have. Your misconceptions and attitude are why people hate the flood of people just like you here.
That accent stereotype is something I heard from other people. It's not something I made up. I got that notion from watching The Beverly Hillbillies. California was not commie-lib or expensive before the 1990's. There were Republican Governors there like Ronald Reagan and George Dukmejian. Teachers in school there still spanked when I went to school there. Before coming here, I lived in conservative Red Idaho but the cost of living shot way up there and drove me more easterly on the map. The influx of Libs from the west coast took over Boise and shot everything up to the moon in price. In 1999, there were new 3-br. homes in the Boise, ID area as low as $92,000, they still needed a fence and landscaping to complete them. You are lucky now to get a starter home there for under $300K. Austin, Texas still looks promising for affordable living. Idaho and Montana have those beautiful deer/moose/elk mountains and fly-fishing rivers but they are in danger of getting outrageous in cost to live there. In Austin, you are not TOO FAR from a coastal beach, though. Not an OCEAN beach, but a beach with sand and waves nonetheless.
 
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