There’s nothing Villagers enjoy more than telling people in flyover country that they need to sacrifice. I’m not sure why people who live in Georgetown and eat at Charlie Palmer Steakhouse should be telling people in Macomb County that they need to take fewer trips to the Applebee’s salad bar, but I’m sure if I read Big Russ or the The Greatest Generation, it would all become clear to me.
Look for the “sacrifice” meme to become even stronger now that we’re in a recession (after all, everyone knows that if consumers would just stop buying stuff, the economy would be fine). Digby catches Andrea Mitchell telling people that they need to give up health care and Social Security:
And certainly, if he is serious about what he told the Washington Post last week, that he wants to take on entitlement reform, there will be greater sacrifice required from a nation already suffering from economic crisis — to ask people to take a look at their health care and their other entitlements and realize that for the long term health and vitality of the country we’re going to have to give up something that we already enjoy.
David Brooks has a more pompous, capital-letter-laden take on all of this: we need to get over the Great Disruption that began in the 1960s, strike a new Grand Bargain, and start living the kind of Purpose Driven Lives everyone led before the hippies fucked everything up. Needless, to say the Grand Bargain will “require joint sacrifice — like reducing deficits, fixing Medicare and Social Security and reforming health care.”
Let’s go back to 1960 and see what might have been different then. Here’s a little chart I’ve culled from various sources. A lot of the data begins a little later than 1960 and ends earlier than 2008 but it should be a pretty good approximation:
Increase in median salary, 1970-1999: 10%
Increase in salary of top tenth of one percent, 1970-1999: 395%
(link, all figures in constant 1998 dollars)
Top marginal tax rate, 1960: 91%
Top marginal tax rate today: 35%
“The new data also shows that the top 300,000 Americans collectively enjoyed almost as much income as the bottom 150 million Americans. Per person, the top group received 440 times as much as the average person in the bottom half earned, nearly doubling the gap from 1980.”
(link — David Cay Johnston)
Graph of annual income (link):
(Note: the scale is slightly off on this graph — the vertical axis should start at 0, not at 100K (h/t Kirk).)
Damn those hippies and damn the middle class for refusing to sacrifice enough.