Following an article in the WSJ by Donald Boudreaux and Mark Perry clearly titled ‘The Myth of a Stagnant Middle Class’, we have had a bit of a flurry of replies - both pro, with even nominal left wingers like Matt Yglesias more or less agreeing and, of course, against.
Boudreaux and Perry’s thesis is that, since the middle class has now more ‘stuff’ than 30 years ago, there has been no middle class stagnation. The three items most often trotted out by liberals such as myself to counter this thesis are a) education and b) health care whose price have been rising relentlessly (our never ending crisis seem to have calmed both down a bit, though) and c) housing costs.
On Heath care, Boudreaux and Perry get it spectacularly wrong: They say “[n]o single measure of well-being is more informative or important than life expectancy. Happily, an American born today can expect to live approximately 79 years—a full five years longer than in 1980 and more than a decade longer than in 1950. These longer life spans aren't just enjoyed by "privileged" Americans”.
Actually, they are.
As noted by Harold Meyerson in his funnily titled article ‘How you and Bill Gates are just the same’ , not only are Americans living shorter lives than Europeans, Australians orJapanese but the average longer life spans hide a drastic and uniquely American fact: Poor and uneducated people are seeing their life expectancy going DOWN while richer Americans do see theirs going up - http://content.healthaffairs.org/content/31/8/1803.abstract .