So how does this all average out, once you account for income? We don't have to guess. Punch anything into the cost of living calculator -- the one that uses the exact same formula that the government uses to decide things like tax rates -- and you'll see that the prices of most things have stayed pretty constant over the years. High-end manufactured goods have gotten cheaper. Much cheaper, as manufacturing costs drop.
Thanks, Shenzhen, China!
In 1954, the cost of a high-end Westinghouse color TV, with a massive 15-inch screen, was $1,295. No, not adjusted for inflation. That was the actual price at the time -- half of the yearly income for some families. Everybody writes this off as if it's a constant of the universe ("of course new technology gets exponentially better and cheaper with time!") instead counting it among the benefits of the modern system. Why? This economic system has resulted in handheld devices that can access all of the porn ever created, at a price affordable to the working man, and all we can do is complain about the cost of unlimited data plans?
"Yeah, it's as powerful as a PS3, but it barely fits in my pocket! THESE ARE THE NEW DARK AGES."
And the golden age of the $500 car... how many of you come from families with two cars? Statistically it's most of you, and far more than what it would have been in 1960, when there were half as many cars on a per-capita basis in the U.S. (it averaged about one car per household -- so if you had two, someone else had none).
And taxes? Again, the numbers don't lie -- in the U.S. taxes are the lowest they've been since 1950, and now that the Bush-era tax cuts have been temporarily extended, they will continue to be until 2012 at the soonest. The government even threw you an extra two percent reduction in payroll tax as a cherry on top. The U.S. has the second-lowest taxes among developed countries.
We're also the second whiniest, though.