The keys to understanding the concealed crisis of decline are purchasing power relative to wages/earnings–how many goods and services can wages buy? For the average American household, wages have risen modestly while the purchasing power of those wages has plummeted.
Furthermore, the quality of goods and services has in many cases declined sharply, so that even if prices have dropped, what you get for your money has fallen even further, effectively reducing the purchasing power of your wages.
Case in point: appliances were once designed and built to last a generation or longer. Refrigerators, washers and dryers lasted for decades. Now the average appliance fails within a few years, and the electronic board–costing roughly a third of the entire appliance price–fails and must be replaced. With labor, the cost of the repair is so high, consumers often send the almost-new appliance to the landfill and buy a new (and soon to fail) appliance.
Net-net, low quality reduces purchasing power even if price has declined.
Then there’s the big-ticket items: rent, housing, college, healthcare. Anecdotally, I’ve been told a young engineer in Silicon Valley could earn $20,000 a year and rent a modest apartment for $200. Now the young engineer makes $100,000 but rent for the modest flat is $2,500 per month: wages rose five-fold but rent rose 12-fold.
This is a staggering loss of purchasing power.
As for college, tens of millions of students completed their university training with zero debt–student loan debt as we understand it today simply didn’t exist because it was unnecessary.
The scarcity value of that college diploma has fallen precipitously over the decades, rendering most degrees that aren’t part of artificial scarcity schemes essentially valueless.
Look at the graphs. Maybe print them out and show them to (sober) friends at the BBQ tomorrow. Maybe vote harder next fall.