First the good news: women have made steady increases — though it's worth noting that about half of that gain is because women work more hours than they did 30 years ago. On an hourly basis, the increase since then amounts to about 1% per year.First off, the idea that average incomes have declined as the economy has expanded has to be called for what it is: the most grandiose and pernicious robbery ever. That's money we should all have, and don't because society suddenly decided to reward the Gordon Geckos and Ken Lays of the world.
And men? Not such good news. The average 40-year-old guy made $44,000 in 1973, and that was as good as it ever got. Today that number is about $40,000. It's gone down even though the American economy has nearly doubled on a per-person basis during that time.
So where did all the money go? What happened in 1973 that suddenly stopped wage growth for half the population in its tracks? And what should we do about it?
What happened in 1973, of course, was the OPEC oil embargo and the beginnings of the Nixon-Ford-Carter-Reagan-Bush era of crappy economic performance: Each President had marginally different responses to the crap economic performance, but the economic picture was uniformly crappy.
Again in 1979 oil supplies were disrupted, spurring another round of inflation and the election of Ronald Reagan. I actually understand the election of Reagan on a visceral level - Carter was seen as so weak that a potted plant probably would have beaten him. What confuses me is Reagan's landslide re-election.
Let me re-state, and moderate, my earlier statements regarding my parents' generation: If you were born before 1946 and 1964 and never voted GOP or Conservative in your life, hold your head up high. (Indeed, this should have gone without saying. Nevertheless, it should be said.) But broadly speaking, it remains true that no generation in history was bequeathed as many options as the Boomers, and yet accomplished so little.
(And please spare me the talk of the Civil Rights movement, or "ending" Vietnam. Unless you marched with King, or were in a mortar team for the Viet Cong, your involvement was trivial. Sit down.)
If I were feeling snarky, I'd point out that the global economy began to sputter and die the moment baby boomers became old enough to hold the steering wheels. But that would be churlish, and unfair. The baby boomers are not responsible for the economic chaos of the 1970s, but they must be counted responsible for the actions society chose to deal with that chaos: Republicanism and harsh assaults against the generations yet to come.