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Why is it appear so hard these days?

7/13/2004 8:27 PM
Carl S.
Why is it appear so hard these days?
This is a bit of a follow-on to the thread about the gent seeking info about the network manager job.  
My thoughts and questions are America-based, but perhaps they apply to other economies as well.  
I frequently wonder why it is so difficult to "make a living" today, when compared with say, the childhood many of us grew up used to. The old and now abandoned expectation was that the children would be more prosperous than their parents. At the same time, my grandfather raised a family of six, owned a home, had a car, and had a wife that did not work...all on a maintenance man's pay.  
Is it globalization?  
Is it time for the American standard of living to readjust? (And why?)  
Do we want too much?  
I am interested to hear thoughts on this, since I ponder frequently on it.
7/13/2004 9:00 PM

In 1974, I had a US History teacher who we all considered to be an idiot, a redneck, and an all around fuddy duddy. He would constantly make off-topic comments about how he felt that "The American Worker" had about priced himself out of the world market and things were going to be changing drastically. Guess I should have been listening more. :D  
Put another way, it's sort of a zero sum game and after WWII concluded, the US had more of the pie than could be sustained. I also truly believe that the culture of the power elite in the West - US, UK, Germany, Sweden, etc., became terribly arrogant and closed minded about the possiblities of competition and banked on the Cold War.
"Do we want too much?"
My wife does, definitely.
7/13/2004 11:50 PM

Before this drifts off into the OT section, I think it is impossible to simplistically sum up the AMerican condition. There is no one word explanatiion for anything.  
The difficulty in making a living is all relative. I fix amplifiers for a living and I live in poverty. Oh I get fed every day and the house is heated, my shoes are intact, but the new roof I need has to wait. Plumbing is self maintained. And so on. I am not griping, there are many folks way worse off than I am. I have almost 50 years of electronics experience, troubleshooting experience, my communication skills are considerable having been a corporate trainer, a published author, and so on, but there are no real career positions in my town unless I want to get into computers.  
On the other hand across the street lives someone who builds cars at one of the several GM plants in town. Having minimal education and coming to work with no particular skills, he makes $60k and a third of that more in bennies. The plant workers regularly make more than starting engineers, more even than some of the folks designning the cars and production systems. I don't resent them, but they do seem to represent something askew in the American economy.  
But the fact that I may face a struggle, and many others of us, does not mean it is tough for every one. Look at home building in your town. Are you seeing subdivisioins of basic houses for young families to buy their first home? That is what you saw when I was a kid. No, you see these $500k homes the size of airport terminals. I swear these things are over 3000 sq feet. These are sold to lawyers, business owners, other professionals, and to those who inherit their wealth. For them, things are swimmingly fine. I don't resent them either, even if I won the Lotto, that would not be my lifestyle.  
My lame point is that for some segments, life is getting better. The economic divide is getting wider. Those well off are weller off now, and those of us on the other end are farther down.  
Globalization is a fact of life, not something we chose as some sort of strategy. You want grapes in the winter, there they are fresh from Chile, or those winter fresh tomatoes from Brazil. Hasn't been a TV set made un the USA for years. I can buy a VCR for under $30. SHould I have to pay $150, just so they can make them in Alabama or Delaware? WOuld I? WOuld You?  
I think we get the feeling that whatever we like should never change. WHen we apply yesterday's expectations to todays world, we don't get the results we would like.  
We gripe about the cost of gas but drive immense SUVs. We gripe about taxes but chose to live in a huge home in an upscale neighborhood, drive two cars, keep cable, satellite, internet, separate phones for the teenagers, and cel phones all around the family. We want to fill our evenings and weekends with activities and memberships. All these things add up. Rather than economize or give something up, we complain that things are tougher than they ought to be.  
My dad did OK for himself, but I wonder how it might have turned out if he had tacked on two or three extra phone bills a month, a couple TV signal sources a month, and extra car payment a month, and so on to the basic bills. And when he came up short would he have blamed the world?  
When you talk about adjusting the standard of living, I have to wonder, whose standard are you talking about? If I try to live up to the standard of living of those lawyers in the big homes, you bet I will fall short. The problem is trying to live beyond your means, there is no one real standard.
7/14/2004 2:38 AM
well said Enzo.. I see a lot of the income disparity in my own life, in the lives of loved ones and friends as well. My wife with a grad school degree starting at a lower salary than the janitor sticks out. And folks wonder how education got the way it is..  
The one thing that hits me the most though is housing costs. My dad had good jobs, not amazing, but very solid. Our first house cost probably 1.5 years gross salary. Houses have gone up 10 fold in that time around this area; salaries have not. I truly feel for anyone who has not bought a house yet and gotten some of that 'equity' growth. Coming up with that 10 or 20% down when an average home is 300 or 400k is a lot of savings. Remember when $250k would buy a mansion with waterfront? Friends of mine older and wiser insist that the housing market needs to crash, and I don't disagree but it seems housing is such an inefficient market and a prime candidate for ratchet inflation I wonder how far can homes really go? The economy as a whole would have to suck a lot of wind (massive unemployment) to get folks to take a bath on their homes. Or would some other catalyst work? Economics is not my bag.. Anyhow, home prices I think bother me the most. On the plus side, when I sold my house last year, we had a very broad spectrum of folks looking to buy. White, black, musicians, retirees, etc. It felt like the system might still be working a little bit.  
File under: Things that make me go Hmmm.
7/14/2004 3:02 PM
Earl Norton

Real estate prices will drop when interest rates increase. People don't care as much about the cost of a home, just the size of the monthly payment. JMHO.
7/28/2004 3:28 AM
Real estate prices will drop when interest rates increase.  
Wrong. Immigration is driving the price of housing more than interest rates in my opinion. Don't hold your breath waiting for lower home prices as long as millions of foriegners are moving to the US who need housing. Even when interest rates were rising several years ago housing prices were up because of demand from immigrants.  
Many immigrants coming here are well educated and get good jobs and are very capable of competing for housing with Americans. Gone are the days when immigrants only took lowly jobs that Americans did not want.  
And certainly Americans who own their own homes have benefited from housing inflation brought on by an unprecedented wave of immigration. The downside though is that many Americans with average jobs such as being a nurse or policeman can no longer afford housing.  
It simply is naive or uncaring to say that immigration has not negatively impacted many Americans.
7/28/2004 6:21 PM

using your logic, the price of everything else should be skyrocketing as well. Immigrantes move here only to buy homes? What no food? Tv's stereos so forth? if the increased demand on housing was solely due to demand from immigation, all other items in this economy would be affected as well. there are other forces that affect demand other than immigration. One of the strongest forces is the cost of money. The monetary policy that encourages low interest rates also encourages purchases of high ticket items like housing. This comes at a time when a good number of baby boomers have substantial equity in existing homes as well as high earning power and the kids on thier own. These folks see this as the opprotunity to acquire that dream house they always wanted anticipating paying it off before retirement. That is why the new homes are very expensive to boot. Not much is driving low cost housing that one would expect immigrants to be interested in.

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