War on the Middle Class is all Friendly Fire.

“Those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it”- George Santayana, 19th Century writer, philosopher

Have you ever driven through an old neighborhood where the houses were mostly constructed in the 1920’s?

Old Neighborhood

Seattle's Queen Anne Hill

What did you see? What you saw from that era of American consumption is very large homes; Bungalow styles, Colonial revival, Ranch style and others. In Seattle the Leschi neighborhood and the area east of Franklin High School give adequate representation of the kind of opulence home owners enjoyed in the time of Prohibition,

Calvin Coolidge, President of the United State...

President Calvin Coolidge

Calvin Coolidge, and a rising stock market.

History being our teacher we look back on that time and know what followed; a record stock market crash, increased taxes from the Federal Government and a depression that shook the foundation of our country. So what do you see in the neighborhoods where the houses were constructed in the 1930s? The answer is nothing. There are no neighborhoods built in the 1930s. Like today construction ground to a complete halt because of the depression leaving nothing to look back on.

World War II took us out of the depression, but because of the diverting of resources home construction didn’t recover in this country for five more years. When it resumed in the late 40s and continued through the 50s and 60s what was being built? The Lake Hills community in Bellevue, WA is a fair representation of late 50s early 60s construction. I grew up there.

Small homes from 1950s

With very few exceptions it’s a community made up almost entirely of ramblers with a size seldom exceeding 1200-1500 square feet. They were easy to construct and inexpensive. And the Eisenhower and Kennedy 50s and 60s gave America a universal image of happiness and wealth. In my case I thought my house was a palace growing up. After my parents divorced our single parent home, led by my Dad, became a 1100 square foot rented duplex. The whole neighborhood was duplexes, so once again I didn’t feel deprived.

Slowly through the 70s the houses got bigger, introducing the God-awful split-level

I always hated Split-levels

. But even these were generally no more than 2000 square feet.

By the time the 90s come around everything has exploded.

A 1990s McMansion

Newly constructed homes have to have a minimum of three bedrooms, laundry room, office, play room and foyer. The home I grew up in would be swallowed by my current homes downstairs alone. And with the added size came an awful lot of opulence too. Granite countertops now are staples in even the most humble abode. In the past 20 years we’ve furnished these McMansions with leather furniture and tile floors. And if our home didn’t have the amenities we desired we would refinance our mortgage or get a second mortgage, taking equity out of our personally largest investment. Taking equity out of your home was something our parents and grandparents wouldn’t dream of doing except in the most dire financial emergency. Now we do it to finance a trip to Cancun.

The 2008 financial collapse was largely caused by an increasing number of Americans failing to pay their mortgage; mortgages for big, opulent homes too many flat-out couldn’t afford. But creative financial instruments were put before us and Presto! We could suddenly afford these ridiculous houses. The dreaded ARM loan became a buzz word and the source of all our consternation. Nobody put a gun to anyone’s head asking them to sign these unwise financial documents. But like lemmings lining up for our own fatal plunge Americans from every corner of our nation made the dive.

The expenses our parents faced on a monthly basis included a rent or mortgage payment on a fixed-rate 30 year mortgage. They included heating bills, water, sewer, life insurance, car insurance, phone, food and gas. It included little else. Today all those expenses have exploded. Gas prices have doubled just since Barrack Obama became President. Also now our monthly expenses include all of what’s just been mentioned PLUS cable tv, internet, DVRs, cell phones

English: Mobile phone evolution Русский: Эволю...

, workout-clubs or gyms, video game networking, 50 inch TVs and more. And these are just regular monthly expenses. These are expenses earlier generations couldn’t fathom; nearly all of them unnecessary extravagances. Can you say with a straight face that you honestly NEED 200 different television channels? Is it really necessary that each individual in the household be available for a telephone (cell phone) call 24-7? We have five different telephones in my four person home. We could have six but I fought my wife against getting our 13-year-old daughter her own phone.

When dollars are tight and the bills aren’t being met too many enviously scream at those who have more and shout “No fair!”. But when you look around at what even the poorest in our society enjoy compared to our forefathers, and compared to the rest of the world, for that matter, shouldn’t the finger of blame be pointed at the man or woman in the mirror when cash flow is not there for you? Doesn’t history show us that when you build up and up and up and live beyond your means a correction is inevitable? And doesn’t history tell us that living humbly coincided with happy times and progress for our society?

I don’t wish anyone to live uncomfortably. I want us all to have a rich and fabulous existence. I want us all to thrive. I’m just saying thriving could be a lot easier if we look back from whence we came.

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  1. I agree with a lot of what you’re saying, but don’t understand the shot at Obama. These material problems took years for us to get to where we are. But, we were enticed by a system that counts on us to blindly consume. They also developed and fed our delusion that there would be no down side, save for some minor corrections. They made money from the rise, and they made money from the fall. They always make money.

    People don’t envy those who have a little more, or those who are/were smart enough not to get deep into debt. People don’t like the uber-rich that make up the “they”. The ones who get hundreds of times more than the average workers, and the ones who aren’t paying their fair share of taxes.

    No one physically twisted our arms to overextend ourselves, but they sure did a heckuva job in seducing us to do so.
    — YUR

    • “THEY” always make money…as you put it. Well…not exactly true. I don’t remember Americans clamoring to help out the poor Texas oil man in the 80s when they were all losing their collective shirts. But my real point is, who care? I don’t give a darn if Gates, Buffett, or any other billionaire makes more money. We all benefit when rich folks make more money.
      And you sure hit a hot button with me by the traditional Obama sham comment “pay their fair share”. What a joke. I continue to be stunned so many people have blindly fallen into use of the phrase. Answer if you will what is the fair share being paid by the bottom 47% of income earners? Shouldn’t THEY pay their fair-share?
      Envy is clearly the only reason for another man/woman to jealously care what another man makes in terms of income. That and coveting, and you know what the Bible says about coveting.
      Lastly, don’t put too much credibility into the argument that “they” sure did a heckuva job seducing us. The huge majority of American home owners didn’t fall for such seductions even when offered such temptations, yours-truly included. In buying a home in 2003 and refinancing two others I had the 1% ARMS and other non-sense waived in front of my nose repeatedly. And repeatedly my wife and I chose higher interest rates, and higher monthly payments. Sadly too many didn’t and they have no one but themselves to blame for the problems that resulted.
      Thanks for commenting.

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