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The Myth of American Affluence

23 comments

The technological wizardry that has given us smart phones, desktop computers, electric cars and flat-screen TVs has masked a pernicious decline in America’s standard of living since the 1950s. One area where this is painfully obvious is the deterioration of customer service. Recall the scene in Back to the Future when a car pulls into a filling station and three attendants jump up to pamper it. One checks under the hood, another makes sure the tires are properly inflated and a third pumps 28-cent gas.  Director Spielberg intended this as a wry comment on how much companies valued their customers back then, and how hard they worked to keep us happy. These days, most companies care so little about us that they have cut off access to phone support, even for the most serious problems.

The Death of Support

A friend recently spent more than fifty hours trying to clear up a billing problem with Amazon. She could not access her account, and each time they reset it she would find herself locked out again the next morning. Although Amazon offers limited phone support, in this case it was useless because the problem was deemed “technical” and unrelated to a merchandise screw-up. It took literally hundreds of phone calls to get nowhere, and every call was impeded by the familiar gauntlet of voice menus. Even with a case number, it took 20 minutes to reach a supervisor. At least a dozen of these guys interceded along the way, creating a daisy chain of broken promises and meaningless apologies.

Where abusing customers is concerned, Facebook is in a class by itself, so inscrutable, opaque and coldly uncaring that one might think they’d outsourced call support to North Korea. I was spending as much as $5,000 a month with them on advertising; then, with no explanation, they banned me from promoting on their site. The move seems to be related to their shift to two-step authentication. But jumping through a dozen hoops has yet to elicit an explanation, much less a remedy. The death spiral of brick-and-mortar retailers threatens to put Facebook and other uncaring companies whose chief business is ruthlessly mining eyeballs in charge of a widening swath of our lives.

The Good Life, Circa 1955

Concerning the filling-station scene in Back to the Future, we might infer that the three energetic gas jockeys enjoyed certain amenities of the good life that have become increasingly unaffordable for America’s middle class. Here’s a short list, and you can add your own:

  • Stay-at-home moms
  • Poor neighborhoods that were clean and welcoming
  • Four years of college
  • Charming homes in neighborhoods with good schools
  • Doctors who made house calls
  • Human cashiers at checkout counters
  • Socks and shirts in personal sizes
  • Well-appointed railroad dining cars
  • Spacious seats and decent food on airplanes
  • Free checked baggage
  • Milk delivered fresh to one’s doorstep
  • Solid-wood furniture

Concerning the ongoing dereliction of customer support, it has made everyone’s life more difficult. Robotic assistance is not merely a poor substitute, it is an affront to customers. Had those of us who grew up in the 1950s been able to visualize the amazing electronic gadgets that are everywhere today, we might have inferred that affluence had reached a pinnacle – that, as William F. Buckley once put it, we would be feasting on nightingale tongues.  Instead, we have only the superficial veneer of affluence, much of it in the form of electronic gadgetry, smart appliances and even smarter cars, all purchased with overly generous credit.

…while America Crumbles

In the meantime, America’s roads and bridges are crumbling, squalid tent and RV encampments have inundated our largest cities, brick-and-mortar retail outlets have become deserted shells — all while public and private debts have mounted beyond reckoning. The retirement system, including Social Security, will fail long before Baby Boomers live to collect their full share. And while Gen-xers and Millennials may be enjoying a golden age of consumer electronics, they appear destined to become wards of a bankrupt state. We can only hope their children revert to some of the tried-and-true practices of the past — to schools that teach, and to a pay-as-you-go lifestyle that does not encumber them with debt. There are no shortcuts and no free lunch, but it is impossible for young people to understand this when both illusions seem to be succeeding so well.

Please do not ask trading questions!

  • Irwin March 31, 2021, 7:20 pm

    So much negativity in the comments – I couldn’t get through them all.
    I recommend listening to this interview with VDH – they end with some positivity at 1:07:00

    If the link doesn’t work, search youtube “Victor Davis Hanson III | The Biden Administration” Mar 22, 2021
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zg6pgXXMJCk&t=10s

  • JungianINTP March 31, 2021, 12:32 pm

    Examine root causes of West’s ongoing decline :

    Forwarded Message :

    Sean Hannity, Doxxing is not a
    constitutionally protected form
    of “protest”—because of the
    DOMESTIC Tranquility clause
    (( know any conservative lawyers
    willing to bring/argue that case ? )) :
    

    Note:

    The brief WELFARE clause in the Preamble of the U.S. Constitution
    had been used by Marxian libertines/“progressives”/and ACLU teams
    in the Democrat Party to create this civilization-wrecking W E L F A R E
    system—while the “domestic tranquility” clause has been IGNORED—
    because it refutes/denies the constitutionality of all of the anti-WHITE
    and anti-CHRISTIAN social-engineering of the 1960s and thereafter.

    Kennedy’s Great Lie began
    the immigration crisis, in 1965
    (( see it below these FBI
    statistics )) :

    FBI Statistics on Crime :

    Read/Study below FBI-related article, about the hidden statistics on black-on-white crime in America (( MSM refuse to report the awful impact that black people have had on white civil society in the U.S. —for DECADES ! )) :

    “Paul Sheehan, an Australian reporter, dug out the following Information for an article in the Sydney Morning Herald, May 2, 1995.

    “Sheehan based his statistics on crime data compiled by the FBI and partially reported each year in The FBI Uniform Crime Report . These reports can be researched at the FBI’s website, http://www.fbi.gov.

    “Since the FBI doesn’t distinguish between Hispanics and whites, Sheehan’s statistics don’t adequately reflect the black-on-white crime situation.

    “Only about 10-15% of Hispanics are white, with the rest being Indian or a mixture of white, American Indian, and blacks.

    “Hispanic crime rates are almost as high as black crime rates. This means that the data Sheehan compiled on inter-racial crime is probably grossly understated since a considerable portion of the ‘white against black’ crime actually is Hispanic-against-black crime. (Information about this aspect of inter-racial crime will be presented in a related article.)

    “Here is the information Sheehan uncovered in his analysis of the FBI’s crime reports:

    -“Blacks murder more than 1,600 whites each year.

    -“Blacks murder whites at 18 times the rate whites murder blacks.

    -“Blacks murdered, raped, robbed, or assaulted about one million whites In 1992.

    -“In the last 30 years, blacks committed 170 million violent and non-violent crimes against whites.

    -“Blacks under 18 are more than 12 times more likely to be arrested for murder than whites under 18.

    -“About 90% of the victims of interracial crimes are white.

    -“Blacks commit 7.5 times more violent interracial crimes than whites, although whites outnumber blacks by 7 to 1.

    -“On a per capita basis, blacks commit 50 times more violent crime than whites.

    -“Black neighborhoods are 35 times more violent than white neighborhoods.

    -“Of the 27 million nonviolent robberies in 1992, 31% (8.4 million) were committed by blacks against whites. Less than 2% were committed by whites against blacks.

    -“Of the 6.6 million violent crimes, 20% (1.3 million) were interracial.

    -“Of the 1.3 million interracial violent crimes, 90% (1.17 million) are black against white.

    -“In the past 20 years, violent crime increased four times faster than the population.

    -“In the last 30 years (1964-94), more than 45,000 people were killed in interracial murders compared to 38,000 killed in Korea and 58,000 in Vietnam.

    -“Sheehan commented that the contents of his article could not possibly be published or discussed in the U.S. mainstream media.

    -“In the last 50 years, the white part of the American population has declined from 90% to 72%.

    The U.S. now has about 33 million blacks and 25 million Hispanics (legal and illegal). By the year 2050, American whites will be a minority, just 49%. By 2100, whites will be 25% of the population.

    -“What will life for whites be like in the future?”
    -end of report

    =======================

    Senator Edward M. Kennedy (D-MA)
    Commenting on the passage of his
    (( his Commie Handlers’ )) Immigration
    Act of 1965–His (broken) P R O M I S E :

    “Out of deference to the critics, I want to comment on … what the bill
    will not do. First, our cities will not be flooded with a million immigrants
    annually. Under the proposed bill, the present level of immigration
    remains substantially the same … Secondly, the ethnic mix of this country
    will not be upset … Contrary to the charges in some quarters, S.500 will
    not inundate America with immigrants from any one country or area, or
    the most populated and economically deprived nations of Africa and Asia.
    In the final analysis, the ethnic pattern of immigration under the proposed
    measure is not expected to change as sharply as the critics seem to think.
    Thirdly, the bill will not permit the entry of subversive persons, criminals,
    illiterates, or those with contagious disease or serious mental illness. As I
    noted a moment ago, no immigrant visa will be issued to a person who is
    likely to become a public charge … the charges I have mentioned are
    highly emotional, irrational, and with little foundation in fact. They are out
    of line with the obligations of responsible citizenship. They breed hate of
    our heritage.” (Senate Part 1, Book 1, pp. 1-3)

    -Rick

    =========================

    Read Aristotle’s warnings:

    On race-mixing:

    “Another cause of revolution is difference of races which do not at once acquire a common spirit; for a state is not the growth of a day, any more than it grows out of a multitude brought together by accident. Hence the reception of strangers in colonies, either at the time of their foundation or afterwards, has generally produced revolution.”

    On bad democracy:

    “[T]he last form of democracy . . . [in which] all share alike . . . [and] the leaders have been in the habit of including as many as they can, and making citizens not only of those who are legitimate, but even of the illegitimate . . . This is the way in which demagogues proceed. Whereas the right thing would be to make no more additions when the numbers of the commonality exceeds that of the notables and of the middle class,—beyond this not to go . . . [these] measures taken by tyrants appear all of them to be democratic. Such a government will have many supporters, for most persons would rather live in a disorderly than in a sober manner.”

    On how to install bad democracy:

    ”Fresh tribes and brotherhoods should be established; the private rites of families should be restricted and converted into public ones; in short, every contrivance should be adopted which will mingle the citizens with one another and get rid of old connections.”

    -Rick

  • harold elder March 30, 2021, 10:17 pm

    Agree with you. I lived in such a wonderful world. Kids played with neighbor kids till after dark…
    I rode the bus to go to the boys club at the age of 8 five miles from home with no adults around except
    the bus driver. Parents and familys are what we are missing. Of course religion made most of this
    possible. What i mean by religion is that most families had people of faith in God… What a shame.
    We cannot go back without repentance and a contrite attitude. We were so blessed by God but today
    Satan has been allowed to take control… Thanks for your article.

  • Derek R Kroeger March 30, 2021, 8:44 pm

    Great article and excellent topic that we should talk about more. I am a high school economics teacher, and we go over the many reasons why our country is dying socially, politically, and especially economically. While this article covers the social and economical aspects very well, we all know the biggest underlying cause of our demise is government. All their infinite wisdom will eventually lead us to bankruptcy.

    %%%

    Thanks for your kind words, Derek. I’d say the Guvmint already has led us to bankruptcy, although it is masked for the moment by asset inflation. Merely holding AAPL shares has made quite a few pension funds, including some of the biggest, seem not merely solvent, but sage.
    RA

  • Jack De Veaux March 30, 2021, 2:52 pm

    Excellent article, Rick. Very well written and to the point – the American standard of living has steadily declined in our lifetimes.

  • Larry D March 30, 2021, 10:53 am

    My epiphany came while house hunting in the mid 90s, and wasn’t able to pre-qualify for the identical size and style of house that my father bought in 1964… He had no college degree, while I had one.

  • Expat March 30, 2021, 4:01 am

    “We can only hope their children revert to some of the tried-and-true practices of the past…”
    I couldn’t agree with you more, Rick. They will have to adopt completely new values to turn things around. Only an economic depression is capable of producing the catharsis needed to bring the little blighters around.

    Heilpern Heilpern

  • cc chow March 30, 2021, 12:31 am

    Thanks for the great article.

    Bad things happen when you have a system rewarding the ones not producing and punishing those who produce. Socialism and communism countries fail because of this system. Sadly some western nations are using this system now including US, Canada and some European countries. Wealth distribution from the rich to the poor by force is one good way to destroy people’s incentive to work.

  • Gary Shaw March 29, 2021, 4:10 pm

    Students of history can watch the “Fall Of The Roman Empire” in real time…just watch the USA….which in my opinion is self destructing. Once the Exorbitant Privilege of World Reserve Currency is taken away, what took 100 years for the Romans will take 100 days for the US.

  • Thomas Milner March 29, 2021, 2:28 pm

    Thanks for the editorial Rick. I wanted to provide an anecdotal perspective that supports your case. When I read the article you mentioned “Milk delivered fresh to one’s doorstep” – my father was a milk delivery person in Denver CO in the late 50s, 60s, and early 70’s. My mother was stay-at-home and raised four children. I recall in the mid-70’s things changed – over a period of a few years life became much more difficult for my family. I did not understand anything about economics or what was going on until years later. I have been fortunate – was able to complete an UG degree in Physics and a doctoral degree in Optics and have enjoyed a successful career. I write because there is no way under G_d’s green earth that a milk delivery person today could support a family or four with a stay-at-home mom and put two of the four children through college. What you write reflects the opportunity in America that has been diminishing – really makes one very sad (and sometimes angry) to see where our country is at and the apparently bleak future in front of us. At the heart of all these troubles lies a moral decline and in particular our monetary system – somehow too many people thing they can get something for nothing…in the end we all lose.

  • Craig March 29, 2021, 1:46 pm

    My heart bleeds for the youth of today. Stopped a MCD the other day for a meal 5.25. The girl at the counter couldnt even count out .75 cents gave me dimes and nickels and only 4.50 change for a 10. My only hope is she was smart enough to shave .25 off everyones meal. Thanks

  • Mark A Vossler MD March 29, 2021, 12:49 pm

    House calls, w/o malpractice concerns.
    No Cartel controlling Medicine and driving it into a financial black hole.
    A prescription written on a prescription pad, that I know my pt. can afford.
    There has never been more potential for good than today, yet medicine, it seems has lost its heart. A cost the Cartel has extracted slowly since the inception of Medicare.

  • Steve March 29, 2021, 11:15 am

    Cars you could tune-up yourself.
    Saturday mail delivery.
    Affordable medical bills.

  • ursel doran March 29, 2021, 10:46 am

    What is the primary focus of all the electronic gizmos for the masses? Entertainment and go0ssip with friends.
    Sure the trading folks, a tiny majority use them for useful function and business people use them for business, but by and large the digital feed for the masses is entertainment.
    A new video game comes out and sells hundreds of millions on the first day.

  • Stephen March 29, 2021, 9:35 am

    I grew up with that backing of the 50s – above the service was a sense of community
    if a young child was somehow at a park or walking home from school it was deemed safe
    there were jobs for high school drop outs – I paid $90 a month for a two bedroom home
    in a clean good neighborhood at 19 years old( early marriage) – my life was/is better for
    the fifties and I try to support my kids now my grandkids with those tenants – it’s demonstrably
    more difficult for them to “get by” We of the 50s were so lucky

  • Freddie March 29, 2021, 9:18 am

    Hi Rick, As always a great article. This one hit the nail with a conversation I had with my daughter this weekend .
    I’m well beyond trading stocks, hell half the time I can’t find my socks. Keep writing — the truth might wake the dead one day.

    Regards,

    Freddie

  • Fred Warsco March 29, 2021, 9:02 am

    There is NO rule of law and helicopter money only extends laziness !!!!

  • Joe March 29, 2021, 8:06 am

    N0 going back. Life is a verb. Sartre says evil cannot be redeemed. Get ready for the tower of Babel to hit the ground .

  • kate bower March 29, 2021, 7:52 am

    Thank you, Rick, for penning what we all feel. Unbridled tech disconnects us from others as well as our own souls. We need ever so much more human “touch” to compensate. Authentic words of truth validate our humanity and connectedness.

  • Greg Luze March 29, 2021, 7:18 am

    We are at deadbeat overload. There are more stupid and lazy than the thrifty and industrious can effectively carry. That is why the smallest crisis is absolute terms can send the economy and society itself into a tizzy.

    Worse, the deadbeats not only ride on the wagon while decreasing numbers pull, they now insist on steering, cracking the whip and charting the course through the most damning terrain.

    It is long since past time to slip out of the harness and find a good view to watch the wreck. Long after Rome fell as a republic and then as an empire there were parts of the old empire that thrived. In some cases for hundreds of years. It will be the same with us. You can’t save the republic, or the soon-to-get-thrashed in a war they shouldn’t have started American empire, but you can save yourself and the ones you care about.

    That’s what I’m doing.

  • Ben March 28, 2021, 10:18 pm

    Not to argue with the many and painfully valid points you’ve made, Rick, but this can all be simplified to one root cause: Western civilization’s ongoing dislike or even hatred of God. Only a civilization that has turned its back on God would create and accept these heartless, brainless, and family and community destroying practices… best summed up as the likes of Amazon, Facebook, and most if not all of Big Tech itself. They are not monuments of American success, but rather towers of Babel, created solely for the purpose of ego and contempt of all that had come before them. Now, to address one specific case…

    “The death spiral of brick-and-mortar retailers threatens to put Facebook and other uncaring companies whose chief business is ruthlessly mining eyeballs in charge of a widening swath of our lives.”

    But why use them in the first place? Why does everyone think they are the only way? You don’t have to use them, people! Take Amazon, for instance…

    You want zero account problems and much improved CS? Go directly to the manufacturer or another online retailer of your choice. You can usually order from them as a guest, so there’s no need to even set up an account. And you usually get free shipping or free shipping after a certain amount. CS through these non-Amazon means, in my experience, SO much better… though more oft than not I find I don’t need to rely on CS past any initial questions I have.

    I’ve been doing things that way since the home PC boom of the 90s, and have yet to have any major problem. I’ve not spent even a single hour on an account or transaction problem, let alone 50+ hours. Furthermore…

    I’m no expert on these matters, but something just tells me that when you have a bunch of sensitive data in one place, hackers are much more likely to attack the security of those places, for the big score. But what if that information is either not there, or just spread out among so many retailers and manufacturers, that there just isn’t much chance at a big score? I’m guessing cyber theft decreases, by virtue of simple logic. But if not, then you’ll still be in no greater danger by abandoning Big Tech, but will still enjoy the aforementioned benefits.

    So, just stop using Amazon and the rest. It’s not hard, I swear!

    • Richard March 31, 2021, 5:11 pm

      Real Wages Peaked in 1973

      https://bit.ly/2PnZRdt

    • Richard Charles March 31, 2021, 6:47 pm

      Deagel 2025 Vision:
      US Purchasing Power Parity falls – 70 % to $16,374 per capita
      US Population falls – 70 % to 99 million
      Real GDP falls – 91 % to $1.63 trillion
      US Defense Budget falls – 96 % to $32 billion
      Culprit Banking Collapse and reverse migration to Asia and Latin America
      Much of Government Economic Data Fake says Dagong
      This scenario does not assume Nuclear War or Pandemic

      https://bit.ly/3dm4Lzz


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