Archived Opinion

Current economic woes were all avoidable

Current economic woes were all avoidable

To the Editor:

It is not my purpose to simply compare costs from a time long past but rather to recognize the consequences and repercussions that have occurred over decades due to the societal and economic (often erratic and unpredictable) variations Americans have experienced since WWII.

I’ll choose a year as a frame of reference — 1958 (the year my daughter was born). The average income was $5,000 a year, a new car was $2,200, a new house was $13,000, a first-class postage stamp was 3 cents, and the tuition at Harvard University was approximately $1,000 a year.

As a young man (18) and fresh out of high school, I managed a small plastics factory (small meaning four employees plus the owner). I earned $60 per week ($54.20 after taxes). I made a little extra money mowing lawns, shoveling snow and parking cars on Saturdays at a nearby racetrack, jobs I’d had for years.

But here’s the thing ...  living was affordable in 1958. Rent for my two-bedroom apartment was $15 a week, eggs were 28 cents a dozen, a loaf of bread was 20 cents, milk was $1 a gallon, and the $38 I just bought 10 gallons of gas with last week would have purchased 237 gallons in 1958, enough to fill my gas tank about 15 times.

On my income I supported a wife, a baby, a car, an apartment, tithed to our church and had money left over. Can a reasonably resourceful, hard-working young high school graduate work and support a family today as I did relatively easily in 1958? I think not. The costs of living are simply too high.

The reasons for this are many and complex. The owner of the factory where I worked in 1958 earned five times my salary, for one thing. Present-day CEOs would expect 500 times my salary. In 1958 America’s national pastime was baseball. Today, it’s greed.

There was a time when our greatest economic successes occurred when the U.S. government helped to create an environment in which entrepreneurial business activity could thrive. Present-day government policies in the hands of egocentric, self-serving public officials have altered the original premise of “representative government” significantly and average Americans are left to shoulder (which means suffer) the consequences.

According to economist.com: “A child born in a household among the bottom 20% of U.S. income distribution has a 7.5% chance of reaching the top 20% in his or her lifetime. America’s levels of social mobility are now among the lowest in the developed world.”

There is a reverse (an antithesis) to our past beliefs in government. A substantial portion of the U.S. Congress is convinced it’s entitled to trading stocks in this free market economy, taking advantage of information afforded them in closed House and Senate hearings. Timothy Carney in washingtonexaminer.com states, “That’s indefensible. The people subsidizing, regulating, taxing, exempting and protecting corporations should not also be investing in them.” However, it continues, right? It never stops.

I believe it was over a year ago, figures published by economist Gabriel Zucman suggested that wealthy individuals and corrupt politicians had managed to stash $7.6 trillion in offshore tax havens. That’s about 8 percent of the world’s wealth (according to Vox.com).

Our present economy, the outrageously high (and seemingly out of control) cost of living, the shameless wage disparity, growing homelessness and broadening poverty, were all avoidable.

David L. Snell  

Franklin

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