Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Maybe, but take a closer look.....

http://money.cnn.com/galleries/2012/news/economy/1201/gallery.middle-class-struggles/index.html

CNN.com often puts self submitted bios on their website exemplifying any number of issues. The one above is meant to show examples of people who are worse off than their parents. I have heard this gripe come up a lot lately, and while I think there are some points to be made affirming this belief, it is mostly wrong.

I do believe that older generations have set up the government to transfer wealth from the young to the old, mainly through Medicare and Social Security. I have read that this was done under the belief that future generations would be better off than the current generation, and so these transfers from young to old were like transfers from rich to poor. I think that some young people, especially the ones in the above CNN article, would disagree.

But that being said, in many ways we are all much better off than our parents. People between the ages of 18 and 30 grew up with the internet, cell phones, flat screen tv's, cars that get 40 miles to the gallon, ipads and ipods. All of these things and countless others have increased our standard of living. This should be obvious simply by looking at the amount of people that have these products. If they weren't good, if they did not benefit us, why do we all purchase them? And that is the point. Some of the people in the CNN article complain that there parents had houses at their age and were living the "American Dream". But houses in the 1950's often involved 2 kids to a bedroom. Now teenagers complain if they do not have their own bathroom. Houses were smaller, and people did not clamor for gourmet kitchens and stainless steel appliances in their first house like many do today. This may be anecdotal, but I do not know of one friend who has purchased a house without immediately remodeling the kitchen, bathroom, or both. Did our parents do that? I know mine did not.

Different generations make tradeoffs, and recent generations seem to value education, consumer goods, especially electronics, and mobility over a house with a white picket fence, 2 kids, and a 9 - 5 job with the same company for 40 years. And that is ok. Apartment living and self employment are no less the American dream than the factory job and the white picket fence of the 1950's. Things may be different now than they were in the 1950's and 1960's, but I find it hard to believe that any 28 year old who has found time to sit outside a starbucks sipping a cafe latte with their friends while surfing the web on their ipad would argue that their parents had it better. If so, maybe their parents thought that the farmers on Little House on the Prairie had it better than them too.

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