Mr. and Mrs. Median's $46,326 in annual income is 32% more than their mid-'60s counterparts, even when adjusted for inflation, and 13% more than those at the median in the economic boom year of 1985. And thanks to ballooning real estate values, average household net worth has increased even faster. The typical American household has a net worth of $465,970, up 83% from 1965, 60% from 1985 and 35% from 1995.
. . . without realizing it. For instance:
A Parade Magazine survey (a good source for all things median) performed by Mark Clements Research in April showed that 48% of Americans believe they're worse off than their parents were.
. . . and how it’s envy that drives discontent. For instance:
And because people generally judge their fortunes not in absolute terms, but by comparing themselves to others, the super-success of the top 1% can make Mr. and Mrs. Median feel relatively poorer.
Come to think of it, when was the last sermon you heard decrying envy as a deadly sin? Or decrying sin, period, for that matter. (Don’t get me started.)
Geo. Will calls it seeing “lead lining[s] on silver clouds.” It’s a politically induced or at least aggravated malady. For instance:
Nancy Pelosi vows that if Democrats capture Congress they will "jump-start our economy.'' A "jump-start '' is administered to a stalled vehicle. But since the Bush tax cuts went into effect in 2003, the economy's growth rate (3.5 percent) has been better than the average for the 1980s (3.1) and 1990s (3.3). Today's unemployment rate (4.6 percent) is lower than the average for the 1990s (5.8) -- lower, in fact, than the average for the last 40 years (6.0).
“Some stall,” says Will. He calls it “economic hypochondria,”
a derangement associated with affluence, is a byproduct of the welfare state: An entitlement mentality gives Americans a low pain threshold -- witness their recurring hysterias about nominal rather than real gasoline prices -- and a sense of being entitled to economic dynamism without the frictions and "creative destruction'' that must accompany dynamism. Economic hypochondria is also bred by news media that consider the phrase "good news'' an oxymoron, even as the U.S. economy, which has performed better than any other major industrial economy since 2001, drives the Dow to record highs.
The news media? There he goes again, blaming the messenger for bringing (or accentuating with major stories and big headlines and heart-rending shots of people doing badly) lies.