Write Lightning is a blog from writer Deb Thompson.
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Wed, Aug 22 2007

The falling and resulting fallout of lower incomes

I have always appreciated the work at U.S. News & World Report, but I have to say that I respectfully disagree with James Pethokoukis' blog entry on U.S. incomes being higher. Mr. Pethokoukis may be seeing statistics and interpreting them using one or more mathematical calculation and adjusting them for this or that data. Or maybe he simply meets a lot more people who are doing better financially these days. Whatever he's using to get his opinion, he isn't talking to the people I've heard from lately.

Most people I've spoken to personally in the last couple of years are having at least some degree of difficulty making money stretch as far as it did not so long ago. Maybe I just live too close to the land of the big dotcom bust, but the people I'm speaking of include teachers, agricultural payroll workers and people in many fields that are not internet-centric. Many have had to rely on their unemployment benefits once or twice in the past five years. Many are having to pay more out-of-pocket for health insurance premiums or have had fewer procedures covered by insurance and so have had to pay more out-of-pocket for health care. Food costs are higher than they were a couple of years ago. Some families have consolidated housing costs by moving more than one generation into a dwelling and sharing expenses. That household may appear to be bringing in more money as a unit, but it doesn't mean that those two or three families are better off now financially. Parents are buying gym memberships for their families, using at-home entertainment gadgets and taking advantage of free park and recreational programs for kids instead of putting them in expensive individual classes and programs.

Most of the people I meet are cutting off extras, squeezing down options, pinching pennies and putting less into savings, using more entitlement programs, delaying large purchases and dipping into long-term savings to pay for basic needs. I hope each of you reading this can take a look around and say that your neighborhood is doing better with incomes. But I suspect that many of you won't be able to do that. I can only hope that Mr. Pethokoukis' positive numbers reach my particular corner of the world soon.

posted at: 07:22 | category: /Miscellaneous | link to this entry

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