11:52 I am starting to believe that you are an employee of the environmental protection agency. And cheap gas?? Where? Everything is relative, and I realize we pay less for fuel than most of the rest of the world, but we also buy 2/3 of it. But to say that well over $3 per gallon is cheap, when 10 years ago it was less than half that; it's hardly cheap!
Well, a certainly interesting conversation. I'll backtrack by mentioning that the reason the conversation about the middle class came up, was over some vague assertion that the middle class was failing due to the "green" movement or whatever. But I'll let that slide.
But in general, yes, wages have been flat since the 70's. But it's not like things were perfectly fine in the 50's and 60's either. There have always been series of recessions and economic decline. My parents grew up in the rural south. For them even having a car period was a luxury. Yes - a large chunk of the population enjoyed a prolonged period of stability and later grew to expect and almost feel entitled to having two large cars in every garage, as well as a large 4,000 sq foot house.
Here's an interesting stat: The year that the level of general contentedness was determined to be the highest by one study was in 1955. In 1955, the average American home was 700 square feet, there was one car, one TV set, and one telephone. Fast forward to the 2000's and houses were 3,000 sq feet and the average family owned 2 or more cars, 3 TV sets, 2 computers, and usually a phone for every room.
So to expect that we would just continue right on buying bigger, and bigger, and bigger things seems unrealistic. Something had to give, and perhaps we'll all be better off for it in the long run.
The 80s were my very best period income wise. Some called it the excessive 80s. I went out and bought expensive imports in that period. And I did well up to 2007 on housing as well. You could land a nice job even up into the 70s, often with just a 2 year college degree. And blue collar jobs were decent as well. I left jobs as a preference, or could have stayed.
I do not think it's so much a question of big car or small car on here. It's more new car or keeping old cars. You can buy a luxury car from the 80s and 90s, used, easily for 10 grand in most cases. Or a new import under 20 grand. It's where you start spending over 50 grand for new cars that makes most people start thinking hard today.
My car barely is warmed up by the time I pull into my workplace. So does it really matter if it's big or small? I can go one exit on the interstate or drive from my suburban home to the city outskirts. The ones that drive 45 minutes plus one way have a different take than I do. I would probably be smart doing a repaint on my cars vs. buying more. My car's body and paint will not last longer than the drive trains, even with a garage at home.
Well again. The fact that America buys bigger and bigger is sort of a good thing. In Europe, everything is much smaller and more expensive, and their democratic systems show. They're in a worse boat than us politically and economically.
The USA hasn't gone totally eco-friendly. Many of the well to do Americans lobby against government legislation to impose more regulations on the stuff they'd typically buy (SUVs, etc.). So as a result, we enjoy a lot of cool things that Europeans wish for. Also, unlike in Europe, an average Joe actually has a chance at a political career, and doesn't have to be descended from some Duke from the 17th Century.
The USA has gotten a lot worse with the enviro-crap and the stagnating wages; however, we still have people looking out for us who keep the worst at bay. The same cannot be said about the other countries unfortunately.
It's amazing how popular and desirable large luxury domestics are in Europe. Cars and OEM parts shipped overseas. I am restoring one now. Personally I would like more to remain here.
I grew up in the late 70's-80's with two parents who weren't exactly well-off. My Dad was out of work several times. As a result, I was raised with the an appreciation of what we had. I worked my way through college and then got a low paying job afterwards, because when I graduated, the dot-com bust hit and there was a recession.
I do pretty well now and earn an above-average salary. But even so, I'm still driving the bare-bones, small, 4 cylinder Tacoma I bought new off the lot over 17 years ago. It was cheap to start with, is cheap to maintain, and has never given me any major problems. My Wife's car is also a small econo-car, and it too is also pretty old and has a lot of miles on it. My Mercury is my one "luxury". It's not a trailer queen, and cost me $1,200. I drive it around town on weekends, but to consider it as a commuter car is impractical, not to mention not terribly safe.
We could have long ago traded up for a luxury car. We could be living the high life, but after having seen how fortunes can change quickly, I'd rather have a level of financial safety, and as a result, we have ample savings, and last year bought a house with a large down payment. I'm not saying everyone should do this. But if more Americans lived within their means, instead of having to have the best, the biggest, the most expensive, and whatnot, then the entire country would be better off.
In regards to "Econo-crap" ruining things, it's better to view these measures as insurance. The third world is the fastest growing segment of the population and world economy. China has the potential to have many times more cars on their roads than we do, and with that comes the insatiable demand for more oil. Oil is a globally traded commodity, meaning whether it's produced here or elsewhere, the price is globally set per barrel by demand. Demand is going to inevitably keep on rising. If we had decided to become complacent and insist on only driving gas-guzzling cars, then come the day gas finally spiked to unprecedented levels, the US would be in big trouble, seeing as how most of our infrastructure is built around access via cars.
As far as the EU not being up to par with the US via cars and so on, well for starters the EU has one of the most advanced and extensive high speed rail systems in the world. Think about this: Imagine you want to take your family on vacation. You can either drive there at 65-70MPH, or you could take a train that goes 300MPH and get there 4 times faster. Whoops - can't do that in the goodle' USA, but you could in many parts of the EU. Secondly, BMW, Mercedes, Audi, Jaguar, Volvo, and a host of other EU cars are highly regarded worldwide. So much so that these brands up until recently made the likes of brands like Cadillac grossly outdated. Luckily the US auto industry has caught up to a degree. But to say they only make small cars is wrong, given that a 7 Series BMW is certainly not a small car by any measure.