Sorry Mom and Dad, your generation failed

Images from dshort.com

Just let that image soak in for a minute. I'm part of the orange line there. What this image means is that people like me have seen no real increase in income in the past fifty years. In fact, the only people who have see a real increase were those who were already rich. The richest 20% of Americans are the only ones who've done better over that last three generations. 

Here's another view:

Twenty percent of the country takes home half the income. Picture this: You go to a party with 4 friends. You order a pizza, and when it arrives, one of your friends takes half the pie. Why? Because he can. Because the system has been gamed over the past 50 years to make that possible. And what's worse, he'll take that half, then use his disproportional influence to make the rest of you fight over the other half and ignore him. Blame teachers. Blame municipal employees. Blame the poor. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.

Here's a fun chart. Grab the sliders and see how incomes have changed over time. From 1917 to 2008, 51% of the income gains in the US went to the richest 10%. That's like most of us growing up thinking pizza only comes in halves.

Here's one that will blow your noggin:
Nearly 1/4th of all children under 6 in the US live in poverty today. And mind you, the poverty line in the US is currently defined for a family of four as an income of $22,050 per year. That shames me. I could barely get by as a single person on that. How can a family survive? Why is the poverty level so low? In Colorado the minimum wage is $2 less per hour than the calculated living wage. For a SINGLE PERSON. Forget adding kids to the mix.

I'm not specifically blaming my parents for this, or my part of it. I am laying blame, or at least a fair share of it, at the feet of progressives and liberals from the baby boom generation of the 1960s. I've seen enough movies and tv shows and documentaries over the years to have a thorough understanding of the nostalgia for the 60s, and for the actual progress that was made. Gains in civil rights, gender equality, and environmental laws should be lauded. Life today isn't perfect but would be far worse with segregated schools and unclean drinking water. But somehow the movement fell off the rails. You fell asleep at the wheel mom and dad. Somewhere along the way in the 70s you all decided you'd rather snort coke and dance to disco tunes at Studio 54. I do remember my parents campaigning for some Libertarian 3rd party guy in the early 80s, but that was just some vestigial activism heaving it's last breath.

Where did the passion go? Where did the desire to make the world better for everyone go? Was it the assassinations of Dr. King and Bobby Kennedy? I can imagine the loss of two iconic progressive leaders would take the wind out of your sails. Was it Watergate? Did you think that for every Watergate you catch, there must be ten you don't? Did you think there was just no way you could win, so better to spend your money and be a good middle class consumer? Did you just tire of the fight? That's too bad, because the other side has more money and always has had more. And money doesn't get tired. After a brief flurry of progress, we've settled into dumb numb consumerism and we can't be bothered to care.

I can't say I'm any better. I haven't really fought the good fight. Not in the streets like my mom did. I don't really expect my parent's generation to suddenly jump up and do something. These are just observations and things I think about, especially when I hear someone reminiscing about the good ole 60s, or meet some neo-hippy college drum circle fashion statement who is all show and no substance. What worries me most is that though my parents knew things had to change and they tried with varying degrees of success, I feel like it's too late. My generation can't even think about changing the world for the better. I have no hope.I've known for a long time that I'm part of a generation that struggles to do better than our parents. But now I feel like I can't because the system was rigged before I was even born.