Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Leave it to Beaver?

One of the rallying cries of the Populists who have infested both parties is the slump in the earning power of the American wage earner. For whatever reason, the modern American family seems to require two working adults. While the dollar's decline has something to do with the fact that the Cleavers can't get by on Ward's salary alone anymore, there's one other factor that everyone seems to leave out. Take this pop quiz and see if you can guess what that factor is:

1) The balance on Ward Cleaver's three most frequently used credit cards is?

2) Does Wally have an Xbox3 hooked to a flatscreen TV in his room, or is he making do with an old Play Station hooked to a hand-me-down 19" Sony?

3) In addition to electricity, water, and the telephone, the Cleaver's largest monthly bill is: a. Cellular Service, b. Cable TV, c. Broadband Internet Access, or d. Late Fees At Blockbuster.

4) The Cleaver's timeshare is in: a.) Destin, or b.) Gatlinburg.

5) June's bread maker was made by: a.) Sunbeam, or b.) Krupps.

6) The amount of money Ward loses annually playing Powerball, Online Slots at home, and Texas Hold 'Em on vacation in Branson, Missouri is: $____ (Round to the nearest dollar.)

23 comments:

Marina Martin said...

Brilliant!

phlegmfatale said...

Gawd, I love you.

Joseph said...

So true. Seems to never have occurred to people that loading on more and more costs like cable TV eats up a lot of money.

Will said...

Tam, the major reason both have to work today, as in comparison to the Cleavers, is the total tax hit on the general public since the Johnson Admin days has skyrocketed.(may have started even earlier) I was reading an article about this last year, and the average worker in 1950 payed very little in tax directly. Almost nothing. Now, everyone pays a big chunk in fed and state income tax, plus all the other ones. Lots of taxes on tax money. Lots of hidden taxes. The estimate of the total income paid in tax on average was in the neighborhood of 65-70%. That is why marriages require two incomes, to feed the socialists entitlement monster.

comatus said...

On the other hand, June's father was a Hupmobile dealer.

OA said...

I'm pretty sure most people today don't have a damned clue what "opportunity cost" is or how it impacts the entire family.

bob@thenest said...

Don't forget that Ward and family purhased their new unaffordable home at subprime and we're about to bail them out as they use their funds for those other more-important-than-paying-the-mortgage things.

OA said...

Will, you seemed to have left out declining wages. When you have people that will work for less it impacts everyone with a job. Been going on in a big way since '60 or so.

Anonymous said...

Over the past 5 1/2 years, $1.1 trillion of equity has been extracted from American homes. This represents almost half (46 percent) of the increase in total consumer spending over the same period. In the first nine months of 2007, $219 billion was cashed out of U.S. homes according to Freddie Mac estimates, equivalent to 53 percent of the increase in personal consumption during that period. Household mortgage debt stood at $10.143 trillion at the end of the second quarter of 2007 compared with $4.295 trillion in 1999, an increase of 136 percent over six years. Mortgage debt relative to disposable personal income (the money used to service that debt) increased from 64.7 percent to 100.2 percent during this period, a 35.5 percent rise that was greater than the total increase that occurred over the 43 years leading up to 1999. The value of residential real estate also jumped during this period, but the disposable income number is the one that pays the mortgage. The presumption is that without the housing equity extraction, consumer spending growth would have been muted. Furthermore, consumers added to their variable cost debt burdens to finance their spending, placing themselves in a vulnerable position when rates on teaser loans increase...there was a time in America when Ward and June would have celebrated paying off their mortgage...instead of burning down their home to pay for Beaver's sex change operation.

Dr. StrangeGun said...

"..instead of burning down their home to pay for Beaver's sex change operation."

I'm so going to hell for this.

Cleavers cleave for Beaver's beave?

Anonymous said...

Plus how many household vehicles?

Virginian said...

I left home at 18, and now I'm perilously close to 48. In all that time I've never had cable TV (yes, my teens hate me). If you figure $50/month, that's $18,000. Plus years of extra life not wasted on the box.
I'm a small-time landlord; it astounds me how frantic new tenants are to get the cable hooked up.

comatus said...

Yeah, and I built my house with what I saved on hair styling. Pretty soon we'll be hearing from the catalogue-vs.-TP brigade.

Anonymous said...

Interesting perspective here:

http://blogs.law.harvard.edu/philg/2007/12/03/immigration-and-income-distribution-in-the-us/

http://tinyurl.com/2t2zgz

Weer'd Beard said...

Don't mention that Ward has been skimping on his 401K contributions so he can keep up with all his toys, and now he's pushing 50 with both hands and only has a pitance for when he thought he'd be retiring.

He deals with the anxiety by putting a few bottles of Wild Turkey on the remaining balence of the CC.

Yep, Good stuff!

TheRock said...

Well, let's not forget the changes in taxes, but up front and hidden; the increase in inflation since 1950 (hello war-on-poverty!), etc.

Yes, some people are living beyond their means. I know some myself. However, some people aren't living beyond and still have to have both parents working.

Being a libertarian; it's tough to say it, but there is a kernel of truth in that emotion from populists.

Tam said...

A word of disclosure:

From the time I was 10, only dad worked out of the house. Mom kept kids (what today would be called 'unlicensed daycare' but was then called 'babysitting') to help make ends meet, and my siblings and I learned to appreciate clothes and toys from garage sales and thrift stores, but we never went hungry, even while living in a house that was very nice and in a nice neighborhood. It was all about priorities, I guess.

Divemedic said...

I think this is a part of the reason for the two income family:

http://tinyurl.com/2n4n4t

Michael said...

From the time I was 10, only dad worked out of the house. Mom kept kids (what today would be called 'unlicensed daycare' but was then called 'babysitting') to help make ends meet, and my siblings and I learned to appreciate clothes and toys from garage sales and thrift stores, but we never went hungry, even while living in a house that was very nice and in a nice neighborhood. It was all about priorities, I guess.

That's how my parents did it, and that's how my wife and I are doing it now.

Paul Simer said...

"From the time I was 10, only dad worked out of the house. Mom kept kids (what today would be called 'unlicensed daycare' but was then called 'babysitting') to help make ends meet, and my siblings and I learned to appreciate clothes and toys from garage sales and thrift stores, but we never went hungry, even while living in a house that was very nice and in a nice neighborhood. It was all about priorities, I guess."

So insightful, it should have gone into the main post.

I must be living in a different universe from the mainstream, because I'm surrounded by families where the husband works for less than $30k gross, the wife stays at home with two or more children, they own their (not new) cars outright, and own their decent home in a decent neighborhood.

They must beat their kids whenever they complain about not having enough food, and shoplift all their clothes, because I rarely see a legitimate need going unmet in these families. In fact, most of them seem to have enough disposable income to allow family members those "high dollar luxuries" as flat-screen TVs, expensive guns and kitchen remodels.

It's my impression that if you can't seem make ends meet on one good income, you likely won't be able to do so on two, either.

Anonymous said...

Tam, you are the Grand Deacon of the Church of Common Sense.

I'm a K-12 teacher in southern California, supporting my wife and two children on my salary alone.

Sometimes we have to make choices and sacrifices, but we do all right. We don't own a Navigator, a Hummer, or an Escalade, but we make it all right.

I don't get to buy as many pretty guns as I'd like, but there'll be plenty of time later, God willing.

Mean Old Mr. Wilson said...

Because I had to watch this stuff when it was the only thing on, instead of in campy syndication, I had to look up the details. Wally had a TV in his room, Beaver had a go-kart, they bought a new house at least once, and looked at other houses from time to time. Ward installed a backboard to keep the boys from roaming off to pick-up games. In that time, those were extravagances, and he was an accountant. He complained about family finances continually.

I've also forgotten whether June's full-ride scholarship was to Wellesley or Swarthmore, and what her career plans had been "before I met your father" (Nun and whore have been suggested recently). The writers came from Amos & Andy and moved on to The Munsters, so I may take their depiction of investment strategy less than seriously. Indeed, not long ago I heard that entire way of life depicted as "a concentration camp."

The only 50's sit-com that depicted a blue-collar worker was 'Life of Riley,' and he was a skilled machinist. The other patriarchs had jobs befitting a patriarch, and I didn't know those people. 'Our Miss Brooks' was thrifty. Let's look at her.

markm said...

In the 50's, my grandfather was a successful small businessman, and grandma a stay at home mom. Their four kids were spread over twelve years, so she was a "mom" for quite a while. They thought they were doing quite well, but it's clear that by present standards they needed help to raise themselves up to the "welfare family" level.

It's not just the technology that didn't exist back then. TV's existed, but I don't recall a TV in their home until the 60's.

I don't know if Grandma had a dryer, but I certainly remember her hanging out clothes to dry.

Grandpa often had tax-deductible lunches with clients. Other than that, Grandma cooked almost everything they ate from scratch. Snacks were limited in quantity, and baked at home, not bought at the store. Sometimes she'd compromise and serve store-bought bread...

They wrote letters, the kind you put a stamp on and took to the mailbox. (In another generation, that will be as mysterious to young people as having to unharness and tend your horse after a drive is to me.) If you got a long-distance phone call, you feared somebody was dying, because they were too expensive for anything but emergencies. (I don't know the cost then, but in the 1970's a long-distance call during weekday hours cost about $1 per minute - and that's without correcting for subsequent inflation. Minimum wage was $1.60 per hour, so a one minute call took nearly an hour's take home pay.)

Grandpa had a nice Buick, because he had to impress clients, but Grandma didn't have a car until after the divorce.