“… the productivity of U.S. workers has increased fourfold since the 1950s. Put another way, as of 2000, employees work one hour to produce what it took four hours to create a half-century ago. Meanwhile, the buying power of wages has remained stagnant…”
I don’t believe it. Not that I don’t believe the figures. I am sure that someone figured out that it would take the same number of hours to buy a 1950 car as a 2011 car. But the average age of a car on the road today is over ten years, and in the 1950’s five-year-old car was an old car, while the wealthy changed their cars annually. Tires? They advertised tires that lasted 3,000 miles. Housing? Only movie theaters had air conditioning, and coal furnaces weren’t unusual.
Medical costs have gone way up, but so has life expectancy. Neither mammograms nor colonoscopies existed in 1950. The polio vaccine was first tested in 1952 and the measles vaccine came in the next decade.
If we wanted a 1950’s lifestyle we could do it much cheaper than they did it then, but it wouldn’t be a safe or comfortable society. Not only did 1950’s cars not have airbags, they didn’t usually have seat belts. But don’t worry, we wouldn’t drive them as fast, because Interstate Highways didn’t exist. Air travel was for the rich, and jets were for the military, not for civilian travel.
Instead of cell phones, in the 1950’s people used operators and often had party lines. Calls outside of a small area were very expensive. Of course, there were no personal computers.
Perhaps the rich get richer, but the lower middle class lives much better today than most people in 1950.