Strange Brouhaha

Monday, April 03, 2006

Necessity-poor, gadget-rich

"We cannot afford the big things we need [housing, healthcare, education, and childcare] and comfort ourselves with gadgets." So says Robert Kuttner, who's ready with the bad news: the "middle fifth" of the income spectrum increased its income by 41% ("not adjusted for inflation") during the years 1991-2002, but the cost of the four staples listed above rose by 46%. So we can afford kickin' cellphones with Bluetooth, but not college. Or as Kuttner puts it, "The emblem of the new economy might be a 35-year-old, listening to an iPod, living in a house much smaller than the one he grew up in."

I don't know about you all, but my house is indeed a *lot* smaller than the one I grew up in, and lacking a back yard to boot, and we are paying a *lot* more for it. Yet it really is kind of hard to notice that when you can buy literally wondrous gadgets that are beyond the dreams of the science fiction of your youth. (Check out a newer edition of William Gibson's "Neuromancer" and read his bemused confession that he failed to anticipate the development of the cellphone. Also, he thought the US would break up before the Soviet Union did.)

So we have amazing trappings that hide our underlying poverty. Yep, Third World here we come....


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