American Consequences - December 2017


“ gluten free!

impossible is getting moderns to stay out of trendy restaurants. Nonetheless, food has gotten relatively cheaper. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in the 1950s an average household spent twice as much of its budget on food as it does now (32% versus 15%). Food, however, is about the only thing that’s gotten cheaper in ordinary middle-class life. Partly, this is because we expect more from that life. We expect vacations. An all-inclusive trip to Beaches Ocho Rios Resort in Jamaica for a family of five plus airfare from Portland to Kingston and a generous tip to the cabana boy because of what the kids did in the pool is $9,581.75. Not that we didn’t take vacations in 1952. We went to my uncle’s cottage on the lake. That cost (steaks + case of beer + fill up car + carton of nightcrawlers for bait) $23.25. Then there is the true killer of the middle class – being schooled to death. As I mentioned, Portland’s Healy Heights neighborhood has the best public schools in the city. Of course it does. We wouldn’t move our families into anyplace that didn’t have the best public schools. But it’s not as if we’re actually going to send our children there . Heaven forbid! Public schools are full of bullies. Public schools don’t teach Mandarin.

Equally impossible is getting moderns to stay out of trendy restaurants.

not if you’re taking them on the requisite snowboarding trip to Mt. Hood. (The 1952 Toledo equivalent: ice fishing for carp on Lake Erie.) The sedan will have to be an SUV. I guess the BMW is the Buick of today. An X5 goes for $56,600. And it’s Portland so Mom gets a Prius, $23,475. (Note that that’s what it used to cost to buy a Buick – a big, swoop- fendered, port-holed, chrome-bedazzled, beautiful Buick. And now you get... a Prius.) It’s fairly easy to calculate the cost of comparable housing and transportation. Comparing the cost of food and clothing is more difficult, so I’ve left them out. Styles shift. Men’s suits cost about the same, adjusted for inflation. But who wears a suit anymore? And I Googled “men’s luxury t-shirts” and found a Salvatore Ferragamo crewneck selling for $220 at Saks Fifth Ave. Adjust for inflation all you want, but nobody in 1952 was going to pay like that for underwear. Tastes in food have changed as well, and getting over-scheduled moderns to all sit down at the same time for a home-cooked dinner is almost impossible. Equally

10 | December 2017

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