American Consequences - December 2017


(Let us pause for a moment to contemplate the chilling fact that the U.S. dollar has lost 93% of its value in one lifetime. And pause also to wonder what other things, fundamental to an ordinary middle-class life, have lost 93% of their value. Trust in our political institutions? Patriotism? Modesty? Virtue? Faith? Hope? Charity?) Anyway, Dad made about $10,000 a year. That’s $93,000 these days. We were pretty well-off by most standards. (The median U.S. household income in 2017 is $59,039.) And we were quite well-off by the standards of the day. (The median U.S. household income in 1952 was $3,900.) We had a new house with four bedrooms and a two-car garage with two cars to put into it. The house cost $21,000, which is to say $195,300. It was in a city-suburban neighborhood, in the kind of so-called “close- in” suburbs that are currently getting the heck gentrified out of them now that the 1960s-1990s crime binge has abated. Our neighborhood was so safe that we didn’t know where our door keys were – in the kitchen junk drawer, maybe. We had three kids, a dog, and a stay-at- home mom. Stay-at-home moms were the norm. Then they became a male-chauvinist oppression of women’s rights. And now, I understand, they’re back but are considered a lifestyle luxury. The public schools were excellent. The grade school was a block away. Everybody walked. Nobody was dropped off by a nanny. We

If the Tooth Fairy left a dime under your pillow in 1952, you don’t even have a penny now.

no refunds!

didn’t know what a nanny was. Maybe a nanny was Billy Goat Gruff’s little sister? In first grade, Miss Westfall had us reciting the alphabet forward and backward. In fourth grade Miss Sonnenberg made us memorize the multiplication tables through 13 times 13. Miss Geiger, the principal, told us, “All I require is that when I say ‘jump’ you ask ‘how high?’ on the way up.” The high school was three blocks away. It taught Calculus but also Home Economics, Latin, and Shop. It had a state championship football team. The high school sent its share of students to places like the University of Michigan, and every year a few went to the Ivy League. Although, if you told your neighbors in Toledo, “My son is going to Princeton,” they would say, “Why? It’s so far from home.” Toledo was in the “Rust Belt.” But in those days, the Rust Belt was more like the “Cummerbund of Steel” – the center of American industrial production. Toledo was the corporate headquarters for Willys-Overland Motors (Jeep, today),

8 | December 2017

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