Matt Yglesias has a really dumb post on Slate. Like many people on the right, he likes to pick on people for their spendthrift ways, noting that people today spend their money on cell phones, cable TV and other non-necessities, all the while complaining about the deterioration of their incomes. Economists are central players in this one, bashing people for their profligacy, lack of economic rationality and the like.
The problem with this post is that it required exercise of only half a brain cell to figure out what was wrong with it. I mean, c'mon, if you're getting paid a bunch of money to write, a simple blogger shouldn't be able to figure out what's wrong with it that easily. I should have to do research, and think. (I can't imagine that Yglesias wrote it just to make me feel good about my intellectual skills.)
His post notes that the percentage of income middle class families spend on a market basket of goods hasn't changed over the last few decades, and therefore, that middle class incomes are not stagnating. Uh, those of us who live at, or slightly above, the median income already know what's wrong with that one. And if we don't know what's wrong with it, we can find out here. Households are much more precarious, simply because necessities like housing and health care, which economists never talk about when they are rattling on about our profligacy, are very much more expensive than they used to be. I guess that's because they are, in anyone's estimation, necessities.
And the bashers never talk about the declining number of people who have employer-paid health insurance (which dumps people into the individual insurance market, a scary place), the demise of the employer-paid pension plan (which makes retirement a dicey proposition), and other benefits that don't show up in the income statistics. I should really have to work harder...