The above is a free WSJ article link.
Two conservative thinkers clash over whether the middle class is more prosperous than a generation ago
Hm a lot of that [clashing] occurs here. [grin]
In one corner, arguing for the receding American dream, is Oren Cass, executive director of American Compass, a right-of-center policy group. In 2020 he unveiled a measure that he called the Cost-of-Thriving Index. His thesis is that while it is true that wages, adjusted for inflation, are higher than in the past, the hallmarks of the middle-class American dream have soared to ridiculous heights: housing, a college education, transportation and healthcare. The index went viral on Twitter and in the media as an encapsulation of why, even before the pandemic, something felt off about the supposedly booming economy.
In the other corner is Scott Winship of the American Enterprise Institute, a center-right think tank. Winship this week released a paper coauthored with Jeremy Horpedahl of University of Central Arkansas “correcting and rejecting” the Cost-of-Thriving Index. Winship argues that using better measures of inflation, and accounting for lower federal taxes, shows it is in fact easier to thrive than in the past.
Most economists will tend to side with Winship, agreeing that the actual spending necessary to sustain that middle-class standard of living isn’t as high as it seems.
But I’ll conclude on a personal note. As a numbers guy, I’m inclined to see the debate Winship’s way. But I’m also the dad of a 3-year-old, with another child on the way, and Cass’s index resonates with me.
It would seem to me that one’s personal circumstances likely colors which side a person favors.
*Sometimes I lie awake late at night calculating the sticker price of college for two. I know that my conforming mortgage rate is a good deal and that the principal I pay down on that mortgage is a form of saving. But I also think about making that payment for another 26 years. I think about all the food I’ll have to buy for two little kids. They eat so much fruit. When you’re doing the numbers at 3 a.m., you don’t always feel like you’re thriving.
Fear of the unknown future perhaps? A fellow that has made calculated choices based on his level of information; hoping all will turn out fine.