Yesterday I posed the question of whether the classic liberal political economic theory was working as it existed in the US since the 1960s. Did it produce the implied increases in happiness-utility-wealth for the common man and woman? In colloquial speech, was it a Square Deal for them ? Or not? Did the hegemonic class and their governmental bureaucratic allies live up to their express and / or implied promises?
Easily available data exist to test that question. The US Census Bureau keeps and has kept high quality statistical data about the US for decades; they've even extended those data series back to the beginning of the nation and before. This data is and was published in the Statistical Abstracts (published annually since 1878) and the companion volume Historical Statistics of the United States published in 1975 (I have a copy).
I learned about this data series at a course taken as a freshman at Harvard in 1972 from the late Sen. (then Prof.) Daniel Patrick Moynihan. He used his mind in serving the nation, and was a tough professor. You had to do the work and read the material. I did and it sunk in. [To brag a bit, the course was a mixed undergraduate-graduate level course - I did not take (many) gut courses; I wanted my money's worth.] Now, almost 40 years later, I can draw on that learning to write this blog post.
All that data is now available online. With a few clicks , I downloaded a spreadsheet: "Table 698. Median Income of Families by Type of Family in Current and Constant (2008) Dollars". To do a fair longitudinal evaluation, one must keep the sample type as fixed as possible to limit systematic drift. American demographics has changed over time. Let's study the canonical, "Ozzie and Harriet" family - the same as the "Leave It to Beaver" family: a married couple family with the husband working and the wife not in the labor force. Oh, of course she works hard taking care of the household, likely helping out in a family business, or doing many other tasks for no money compensation. Many baby boomers remember that type of family.
Were they treated to a Square Deal?
The numbers. In 1969, a median married couple family with wife not in the labor force made $46,101 in constant 2008 dollars. In 2008, that family made $48,502. The total increase over that huge 38 year span was a mere $2,401, a 5.21% gross increase over 39 years! Per annum, that is a minuscule 0.130% per year. That is NOT a Square Deal.
The numbers also show that for the two decades prior to 1969 (i., e., from 1949 to 1969), the median income for that family grew from $24,173 to $46,101, a gain of $21,928 which was 90.7% increase over the base year of 1949, or growth of 3.28% per annum. That WAS a Square Deal.
Something changed in the 1960s. The political-economic bargain between the common people and their leaders was changed ... unilaterally and possibly secretly and certainly unintended by the common man and woman. The common man and woman certainly did not bargain for that change.
Was there a secret coup? Or some insidious decaying process? Or something else going on?
Your writer will post more on this later.
Word of the Day
"Gravel" - verb usage [$10] a T. S. Eliot word
Gravel means (transitive verb) 1. to lay or strew with gravel; 2. perplex, puzzle, nonplus (from an obsolete sense of 'run (a ship) aground').
Sentence: Stagnant or declining living standards for decades gravel the common man and woman; the reality is and has been so far from the promises of the political leaders. What's going on?