Saturday, August 28, 2004

Hansen gets it Done!

Coop didn't delete what I thought he wrote. Brant Hansen posted it.

Hansen posted some quotes from Gregg Easterbrook’s (no conservative, he) latest book The Progress Paradox : How Life Gets Better While People Feel Worse. Brant notes that Easterbrook is not a conservative. That is helpful, not to peg him, but to know what lenses were used in gathering the facts, and I think those lenses make these facts even more surprising.

The typical American has twice the buying power of his mother or father in 1960. (This is adjusted – in real terms.)

A hamburger cost a half-hour work for the typical American in the 50’s, now it costs the typical American three minutes of work.

1979 to 1999 – the percentage of native-born Americans in poverty DECLINED, not increased.

Whether we have 14 percent or 16 percent of Americans without health coverage, how many were without health coverage a couple of generations ago? Around 100 percent.

Factoring out new immigrants, the gap between “rich” and “poor” in our country is decreasing, not increasing. (Brookings Institution numbers.) This is largely attributed to significant advances in the African-American community.

While the median household income is increasing, the number of members per household is decreasing, from 4 (25 years ago) to 2.6 now. That means more money for fewer people.

Grandparents: 15 percent had central heat, 95 percent of our places now do. Zero percent had air conditioning; 78 percent of our dwellings do. Central air conditioning is included in almost every new construction, even in the far north of the country.

The primary concern in the health care community for the nation’s “poor” – poor only by our standards, right now – isn’t lack of food. It’s obesity. This is a first in world history.

(This concern is related to another: that our nation’s poor are, too often, taking advantage of the fact that they have the economic means to pay someone else prepare their food for them. Another world first.)

Average Americans not only live better than 99 percent of the humans who have ever existed, they live better than most of the royalty of history “if only owing to antibiotics” says Robert Frank, econ prof at Cornell. (He also notes that gas station minimarts now sell chardonnays and cabernets far superior to the quality of wines once drunk by the kings of France.)

Another world first: there’s no appreciable difference in life expectancy from rich to poor in the U.S. and other western nations. There was a 17-year difference, for example, in England a century ago.

This all reminds me of attitude. The world is stepping up to knock us off our block. If we begin to think that we are on the downward slide, it will be hard to keep our attitude up. If we begin to think we deserve so much more, it will be hard to compete. But if we realize what we actually have, we will be ready to step up and swing.

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