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We Wuz Kangs: America's Wonder Years
The American Middle Class, Then and Now. A Tale of Plunder, Propaganda & Deceit
I lean toward the economics of Friedrich Hayek, whose prescient The Road to Serfdom ought to be required reading for high schoolers. Keynes, on the other hand, probably had more bad ideas than good, but he was always eloquent in expounding them…
There is no subtler, no surer means of overturning the existing basis of society than to debauch the currency. The process engages all the hidden forces of economic law on the side of destruction, and does it in a manner which not one man in a million is able to diagnose.
- John Maynard Keynes
Growing up as a child of the eighties, most of what I heard in school and from my boomer parents about the 1950s was negative; it was an oppressive white male dominated time, women weren’t allowed to work outside the home, minorities were brutally oppressed, and the place was run by “squares.” The late 1960s era, however, was often portrayed as the best of times in pretty much every way possible. This dynamic played out on TV with shows like Family Ties, where Alex P. Keaton was the anachronistic 50s era square born of flower children parents who spent a lot of time dissing capitalism and otherwise “keeping it real.”
The American elite/industrial/media/propaganda complex does not delight in subtlety. If they are saying it’s a “pandemic of the unvaccinated,” the goal is to keep you from looking at the data, where you might realize the opposite to be true. If they say the 1950s was a dark period of repression, racism, and boredom, you can be sure the data tells a different story - and it does.
Consider the year 1960; After over a decade of post war economic growth and a baby boom, and before the boomers ‘tuned in, turned on, and dropped out,’ quite possibly the pinnacle of American society.
We see the median family income in 1960 was $5,620. Today “middle class” is defined as “households that earn between two-thirds and double the median U.S. household income.” That’s pretty consistent with the definitions from 1960, where we see the middle class families (the plurality at the time) earning $5,000 to $10,000.
The US Department of Labor Statistics (also known as the BLS, or the Bureau of Lies and Scams) is responsible for calculating inflation over time. Their website provides a clever calculator where we see what $5,620 in 1960 is worth today.
When compared with the 2020 median household income of $67,521, it would appear that America’s middle class has experienced rising real income during these last 40 years. Looks legit, we’re all getting richer.
Problem is, we are not getting richer and everyone knows it. The government’s inflation stats are even less reliable than their COVID stats, and they are equally designed to deceive. Government expenses like social security and interest payments on debt are tied to official inflation figures, so the government has myriad reasons for understating the actual rate of inflation. Fortunately, we can use available data like commodity prices to calculate for ourselves.
"We have gold because we cannot trust governments"
- President Herbert Hoover
The purchasing power of gold has remained more or less constant over time; an ounce of gold would buy 2 quality men’s suits in 1900, and an ounce of gold will buy 2 quality men’s suits in 2021. In 1960, the U.S. dollar was directly convertible to gold at the rate of $35.27 per ounce. That middle class family earning $5,620 in 1960 was earning the equivalent of over 159 ounces of gold.
Gold has not exactly been on a bull run lately; I have ounces purchased 10 years ago that are still underwater. In 2021, the average price of gold was $1,798 per ounce. A family earning 159 ounces of gold last year would equate to a $285,882 income. A family in the upper middle class of 1960, earning $10,000 annually (or 283.5 ounces) would be raking in $509,733 per year in 2021 dollars.
If the BLS calculator told the truth, it would show that the median household income dropped from $285k to $70k over the last 40 years. And it gets even worse than that…
In the halcyon days of 1960, only Dad worked outside the home in most families. Only 24% of families at that time had dual incomes. Contrast that with today, where nearly 60% of families have two working parents.
Everybody loves a good BOGO offer, but this takes the cake: Twice the workers for 25% the price. All you need is a little propaganda to make it sound like liberation!
You want workplace equality? You’re gonna get it; nice & hard.
“The beginning of wisdom is to call things by their proper name.”
I’m only just barely scratching the surface here, and I’ll be writing more on this topic if my readers enjoy it. Probably, most Americans don’t really care about these facts; they aren’t interested in even knowing what has been lost. They will never do the work to rectify it.
For the remnant, those who still enjoy thinking, those who long for a return to glory, for those with the eyes to see, just know this: There are many more of us than them, and the only way we will be defeated is by being divided. Politics is bullshit designed to create fake divisions, to get us arguing about the tax rate or abortion or race - none of which is gonna replace the wealth we had when we wuz kangs.