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Wealth, Houses, and 30 Years of Decline - Synchronicity swirls and other foolishness

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January 4th, 2011

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02:11 am - Wealth, Houses, and 30 Years of Decline
catvalente has an excellent post about money and houses that well worth reading, here's on particularly good bit
There is this myth of upward mobility in American culture. Each child is supposed to bring their parents up. But I feel like our parents really got it all while the getting was good, and now the avenues for something so simple as buying a home that isn't in the middle of economically depressed nowhere and/or falling apart are so few and slim. You need windfalls to make that kind of thing happen.
I saw this change. I knew many engineers in college (and gamed with quite a number of them) and they were all certain they would get stable well-paying jobs, because that was what an engineering degree meant in the 1970s. However, by the time we all graduated in the early 1980s, things had begun to change – engineers who were graduating with good grades sent out hundreds of applications for jobs and for many when they left after graduation, they still didn't have jobs.

This situation has only gotten worse as the US middle class has shrunk over the past 30 years. I know several individuals who make more than twice what Becca, Alice, and I make combined, and most of them don’t own houses, because they can't afford to. From credit card debt from the dot bomb years of the early 2000s to medical debt, random layoffs, downsizing, or outsourcing, none of our incomes or jobs are stable, and the housing market has proven to be even less so. With only a handful of exceptions, almost everyone I know who is in their 40s or younger and who owns a house has done so through some form of major windfall – usually involving money from their family, and most people I know in their 30s & 40s do not own houses.

We've been living with a shrinking middle class for most of our lives, and very few of us notices in the 80s or the 90s (especially not in the 90s, when the situation briefly stabilized for many and improved for some), but since 2001, it's become far more clear – the Great Recession has made it all clearer, but much of it was only an extension of what was already both true and evident. The US is no longer the world leader in anything except in weapons & war (U.S. military spending almost equals rest of the world combined), and the declining fortunes of most of its populace is one of the more obvious signs of both this decline and the fact that we've had 30s years where the wealthy have gotten wealthier and everyone else has gotten poorer.
Current Mood: tiredtired

(4 comments | Leave a comment)


[User Picture]
Date:January 5th, 2011 01:12 am (UTC)
I just keep reading things lately that put me in a "kill the rich" mode. Urgh.

I think that one of the basic issues is that the mass culture of the US has detached itself from reality - or rather, has attached itself to the reality of the top 10% of wealth or so. But it's still the mass culture broadcast to everyone, and so it distorts the worldview of everyone. The power of elites to distort perception has grown and grown - which is why I am, on balance, quite happy that things like Wikileaks are around. I can accept some hierarchy, but when the people at the top of the hierarchy are sufficiently distanced from reality that they can run the whole edifice of Civilization As We Know It into the ground, then it's time to start hanging bankers from streetlamps and throwing Senators to be eaten by wild pigs.
[User Picture]
Date:January 5th, 2011 05:47 am (UTC)
Yes, you're not the only one saying that. Looking from the other side of the pond, you really seem to have trouble. It's hard to see what the problem really is, and I really hope there'll be some solution. I could shout at you from the sidelines but that probably would help even less than what you can do.

Also, I've been doing some reading here: in Finland the economic differences have been growing for the last 30-40 years, for various reasons. I'm not even sure what I can do here. The situation is obviously not as bad as you have, as we started from a more egalitarian distribution of wealth, but it's still not good.
[User Picture]
Date:January 5th, 2011 04:38 pm (UTC)
Oddly, very few of my friends DON'T own their own homes and not one of us is older than 45.

Those who live in the midwest or other places where you can still buy a house that is not outrageously expensive. In my college town of 100,000, the median home price is about $175,000. Many of my local friends bought theirs for under $150,000. I have a friend in Rochester, NY who bought her home for under $80,000!

My friends in more expensive locales like Boston or Hawaii do have higher incomes that make it possible.

That said, financial security and the job security that is generally its source is an illusion. My hubby and I are savers and live on about half our income. We have enough in the bank to take care of us for a few years without an income. We have no debts but we also have no illusions about our security. Others with far more resources have been bankrupted by job loss combined with major medical expenses. The inadequate safety net provided by our state and federal governments is cold comfort indeed.
[User Picture]
Date:January 6th, 2011 07:46 pm (UTC)
Things could easily be far worse - just look at almost any country outside the First World (USA, Canada, Western Europe, Australia, New Zealand, Japan.) Billions of people go to bed hungry every night, lack clean water, basic safety, human rights, etc. Americans are not starving en masse, being dragged off to labor camps in the middle of the night, or having to constantly fear being disappeared if they criticize the government.

I am grateful every day I was born here instead of Haiti, Afghanistan, China, Iraq, Iran, or North Korea.

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