Ragnarok, Recession, and Real ID


Now in these days prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch. And one of them named Agabus stood up and foretold by the Spirit that there would be a great famine over all the world (this took place in the days of Claudius). So the disciples determined, everyone according to his ability, to send relief to the brothers living in Judea. And they did so, sending it to the elders by the hand of Barnabas and Saul.
—Acts 11:27-30

Anyone who’s read this blog long enough knows that I have continually warned that this country and the Christians within it are in for some lean, mean days ahead. “We are not ready” has been my clarion call, a warning I continue to see ignored by Christian leaders in this country. They seem absolutely oblivious to the last recession this country weathered, having learned no lessons on how to prepare our churches for going through tough times. I firmly believe those days are creeping up on us, yet we blithely go on, ready to be caught napping in what should be our shining hour of preparation.

And while I’m not so stuck on myself that I think my puny voice can sway Christian leaders, don’t any of them care? Even one smidgen?

I’m not ready to say the end is upon us, but it sure smells like Ragnarok around here. That term, lifted from Norse mythology, refers to the time when the gods fall. And if there’s ever been a time for us to stand back and ask if we puny gods are falling, 2008 seems an apt time.

The Bible tells us we set ourselves up to be like God and have paid for it. We Americans have set ourselves up to be the arbiters of all things, the pinnacle of 21st century Man, but our hubris may be catching up to us.

We’ve moved the strength of our economy overseas where others now manufacture and create what we buy. Increasingly, even our food is foreign. Crippling debt, the prolonged demise of our most cherished industries, and our unquenchable lust for cheap goods are killing America, yet we can’t seem to snap out of our mania. When greedy corporate wolves are allowed to run amok through our economy, taking it all for themselves and leaving the middle class with an empty chicken coop, should we surprised that we’re bordering on economic collapse?

I find it bewildering that the tone of The Wall Street Journal has only recently turned pessimistic on our economy. The “R Word”—recession—is now cropping up in editorials, though some forward-thinking economists were saying in the fall of 2006 that the our economic strength was illusory. Real world wages continue to drop, and people are dealing with crushing increases in the cost of energy and food, which, last I looked, were staples of life.

I’ve been furious all week after reading a hopelessly clueless George Will editorial in which he decries politicians who pander to the “death of the middle class” adherents, especially within the middle class. I could care less about the political portion of that diatribe, but the astonishing elitism of Mr. Will, wealthy columnist and talking head that he is, just slays me.

Will trots out a figure saying that the number of households in this country with incomes over $100,000 has doubled. He also says that the number of households under $30,000 has stayed the same. Wow, sounds like this middle class death knell IS a fabrication. That’s until we realize he compares today’s figures against 1979.


We all know about lies, damned lies, and statistics, but c’mon! You don’t need a degree in math to see how frightening that is given cost of living increases over thirty years. A $30,000 household income from 1979 would probably translate into at least a $50-60,000 income today, so if anything, the number of households stuck at $30,000 from nearly thirty years ago is a massive indication that something is horribly wrong in the middle class.

Same goes for the $100,000 income. All $100,000 incomes are not created equal. If you live in the Bay Area of San Francisco, I can tell you from personal experience that $100,000 is just squeaking by. That may sound insane from the standpoint of those unfamiliar with the cost of living in other regions of the country, but trust me on this. I still freak when I note that a property like ours in some parts of the country would go for way over a million dollars. My wife and I lived in the Bay Area and the crushing cost of living stunned us. I’d like to take away all but a $100 grand of George Will’s income and plunk him down in Palo Alto, CA and see how much he enjoys being “rich.”

What an ivory-towered dingbat.

So The Wall Street Journal finally starts to cave and wonder where this mysterious talk of recession comes from despite the fact that wages for most people have been stagnant for years, some people are desperately clinging to their jobs, and the costs of housing, energy, and food have skyrocketed.

What pains me is the American Church’s joint inability to read these distressing signs. It’s as if they simply don’t want to see. Yet check out the passage that opens this post. The early Church prepared for problems. In fact, they listened to their prophets and sprang into action. But where are our prophets? And in lieu of prophets, why can’t we seem to heed our own common sense? Yet I can’t think of one major Church leader in this country talking about economic issues and how the Church must face them.

I had a pastor in Detroit last year send me an e-mail asking what was going to happen should half the people in his congregation become unemployed. This is no joke, folks. Who is speaking to that kind of scenario? What national pastor/writer/speaker is addressing what we need to do should it come down to that in our churches? With Chrysler and Ford teetering on collapse, that pastor’s flock may have more than just half its people in dire economic straits.

And don’t even get me going on this hellish piece of neo-con anti-Americanism called Real ID. I don’t hear anyone in the American Church talking about this little 666-let. Link to FoxNews story on Real IDI get a reprieve of sorts since I’m old enough to linger till the second wave of ownership of this mandatory national ID card. And by mandatory, I mean you won’t be able to fly on an Airplane after 2014 or enter a federal building without having one of these anti-Constitutional pieces of garbage. Some claim Real ID will be required for certain monetary transactions, too. Scary? Oh, I’m sure it will get scarier when they find a way to sell the current opposition by tying it to personal medical records. “Sir, what should happen if you get into a car accident and the EMTs don’t have access to your Real ID? Well, sir?”

Trust me; it takes a lot to push me into the cabal of conspiracy theorists.

I don’t care what your eschatology is, though; Real ID is a real nightmare, especially for Christians. Yet who out there is fighting this in the name of Christ? No one that I can tell. In fact, it’s the hardest-core liberals who are screaming loudest. I never thought I’d be bedfellows with the ACLU and some of the wackier environmental groups out there, but at least they’re actively trying to shoot down Real ID.

So I sit here typing wondering why the Church of Jesus Christ in America gives not one hoot about any of these issues. Have we become so numb? I’m not saying that we can stop a recession or prevent the erosion of our civil liberties on our way to a one-world government, but to not even stand up and be counted? And what about putting systems into place to help us Christians prepare to live through these trying times? Sure, some think we’re going to be raptured out of the mess, but the sword that is Pascal’s Wager cuts two ways.

What is wrong with us?

We are SO not ready.

43 thoughts on “Ragnarok, Recession, and Real ID

  1. Chris E

    I don’t believe in conspiracies, neither am I a dispensationalist. I do believe however that various people in power are nervous about the possiblity of a sudden economic shift some time in the future. So they independently push for the sorts of legislation and systems that will enable them to protect themselves by controlling everyone else.

    This is the sort of concentration of power and disregard for the widows and orphans of this world that God’s prophets have always spoken out again.

    • Chris,

      I’ve never viewed the government as that well run that they can orchestrate massive conspiracies like the conspiracy theorists say they can. If anything, it’s the abdication of responsibility that creates these vacuums into which any old thing can rush in. That’s what I’m concerned about more than anything else. Many solutions exist to address the issues supposedly addressed by Real ID. We’re just too lazy to implement them.

  2. David Riggins

    (As I read this through, I realized it could sound critical of you, so I’ll put a prelude and say that I am not aiming this at anyone in particular, least of all you, Dan. It’s just a reaction to Christian political action in general, but motivated by your concern about the Real ID card.)

    I believe Christian action should be limited to the acts of love and caring that are exemplified by the life of Christ. Attempting to decry something as immoral, unconstitutional or even a threat according to my beliefs as a Christian is, I think, reactionary at best, and results in the wrong kind of attention. I would rather I be cursed at or called a fool for doing good, than reviled for attempting to force people to live as I think they should, or attempting to shape legislation to protect my Christian life. Judgement and correction should be limited to those within the body, and not those without. Trying to “fix” something because it threatens the status quo of Christian life as we know it is counterproductive and, from a biblical standpoint, uncalled for.

    On the economic front, however, I see a broad field of action. Not to have as an agenda changing how things are done, but to serve, and provide by example an alternative. One of the first things Christians can do is to stop judging and simply start giving. Whether it’s the homeless man on the sidewalk or the guy at the intersection asking for money, we need to stop wondering if they are true, and just give. We may be told we’re fools for lining the pockets of n’er-do-wells, but that is between them and God. We don’t know, God does. Consider this, is it better to give to a drunk in the name of Christ, or to give to the Barista in the desire of our flesh? Which do you think will have eternal consequence?

    Too many Christians choose the easy way out of standing on a soap box, while the hard work of personal interaction and service is left abandoned. Better to be silent and serving, than loud and not acting.

    I read an interesting article in Wired the other day. What struck me is that there are huge numbers of people out there acting in concert and with unlimited resources, knowledge, and ability, (in other words, like the Church is supposed to act) acting against the Church. All because the Church is seen as the fount of all the bad things in the world. The world too often sees the Church as murdering innocents, killing dissent, stifling creativity, all as an effort to “protect” God and His word. How backwards is that?

    • David,

      The Bible never condones looking the other way when it comes to basic responsibilities. When we “render unto Caesar,” we can still do it as believers indwelt by the Holy Spirit.

      Better to be silent and serving, than loud and not acting.

      Amen to that!

  3. ” I’d like to take away all but a $100 grand of George Will’s income and plunk him down in Palo Alto, CA and see how much he enjoys being “rich.

    What an ivory-towered dingbat.”

    Is this kind of ungracious rhetoric really called for Dan?

    • Bill,

      I firmly believe that Will purposefully obscured the truth here in hopes to sway those who can’t do the math. He can’t be THAT misinformed. If he is, then no one should read him without asking, “Just how sharp is this guy and why am I wasting my time reading what he writes?”

  4. It’s things like the declining value of the dollar, the Real ID, and so on that compel me to support Ron Paul as the next American President; you might also appreciate some of what downsizeDC.org is supporting.

    Whatever the case may be, you are absolutely right: We are not ready.

    • Rick,

      Not a single one of them represents me. The great shame of politics today is that Steve Largent and J.C. Watts, both out of Oklahoma, were the great hopes for conservatives and now both are ex-reps sitting on the sidelines.

  5. Diane Roberts

    There are prophets like David Wilkerson and Andrew Strom that have been saying the same thing you have been saying. But, sadly, most Christians either don’t know about them or don’t listen to them. Instead we have Kim Clement on TBN practically every month telling us how God loves America espeically and nothing will be wrong. And Francis Frangipane telling us that God will never give upp on America (oh really?) I wonder if some Roman Christian was saying this same thing in the 6th century. In fact, the Third Wave Apostolic and Prophetic Councils (Peter Wagner’s creations) have announced for 2008 that this will be an unprecedented year for prosperity, especially among Christians. Let’s see, didn’t these councils and these same prophets say the same thing for the last year? And the year before that? And the year before that? Hmmmmmm…….

    • Francis

      And Francis Frangipane telling us that God will never give up on America (oh really?)

      Greetings Diane,

      Francis Frangipane here.

      Forgive me for interrupting this message board. For the record, I never said God wasn’t going to judge, discipline nor correct America. I have said repeatedly if we, as the church, humble ourselves and pray, God will restore and heal us.

      It doesn’t take much to tip the heart of God toward acting in mercy rather than wrath. The Lord says He looks for a man to stand in the gap that He might not destroy the nation. One man. As long as God has a righteous, believing, interceding man, He has a nation (Ez 22). He told Jeremiah, “Roam to and fro through the streets of Jerusalem, and look now and take note. And seek in her open squares, if you can find a man, if there is one who does justice, who seeks truth, then I will pardon her” (Jer 5). Or Consider Abraham who prayed that God would spare Sodom for the sake of ten righteous men, and God said He would. Remember also Moses and his prayer for sinful, rebellious Israel. The Lord heard his prayer and said, “I have pardoned them according to your word (Num 14:20).

      One righteous man can turn the heart of God. That strikes me as so amazing, that mercy triumphs over judgment.

      I can’t speak for anyone else, but I pray, fast and work for the vision of a restored America. Though I often fail, still I pursue God like I actually was the very man He was seeking. Of course, I know God has a multitude of like-minded people in this nation. In fact, I personally know hundreds, and am aware of many thousands in America who walk the narrow path and have returned to Him with weeping and tears.

      As long as we don’t give up, God won’t give up. America will go through judgments, of course, but I believe she will emerge more pure.

      I would encourage you to not give up yet on America. I realize that giving up is “easier” than standing in the gap; you don’t have to pray, fast, witness or persevere. In fact, you can even accomodate an angry, bitter spirit and feel justified, maybe even feel prophetic or “holy.” But you will not become Christlike by giving up, and becoming like Christ is really what this is all about.


      • Francis,

        Thanks for stopping by, I appreciate your response.

        A question: At what point do we move beyond prayer to rolling up our sleeves to tackle these issues in a more “earthy” way? Beecher Stowe and Wilberforce certainly prayed against slavery, but they also got involved in other ways. To stand in the gap means to physically stand in the gap.

        • Francis

          Greetings Dan

          You asked:

          “At what point do we move beyond prayer to rolling up our sleeves to tackle these issues in a more “earthy way? Beecher Stowe and Wilberforce certainly prayed against slavery, but they also got involved in other ways. To stand in the gap means to physically stand in the gap.”

          I think everything starts with prayer, and prayer starts with the idea that things are not too late — they may seem late, but there are still God-supplied possibilities and a redemptive course to take to the future. Luke 10:2 says, basically, that prayer releases laborers. “Laborers” are not just classical missionaries, they are simply God-empowered people with gifts, ideas, wisdom and grace who, under divine orchestration, can transform a society in their area of expertise. Prayer draws the reviving heart of God toward the bondage of human darkness, activating repentance in society, touching and including corporate and political power bases, which in turn brings organic righteousness to areas once trapped in lightless corruption.

          A national revival, however, does not begin with prayer, it begins with humbling ourselves, believing God is good and capable to helping, and then praying. The solution is not about the church becoming political, but the political being touched by God and becoming spiritual.

          So, standing in the gap is, indeed, as you said more than prayer. But the answers and transformation won’t start apart from God.

          Looking at our desperate times, I think we have God right where He wants us.


      • Francis: “you will not become Christlike by giving up”

        Thanks for speaking up. This is true. I believe that I am hearing that the times are a-changin’, and that things are going to be different than they are now. Our savior hasn’t guaranteed that He will save our consumerist lifestyle, and it may not be one of the things that will survive entirely intact in the years ahead, but I think you are indeed right to say “to not give up yet on America”. He hasn’t given up, and indeed some wonderful things are in store for us, although they won’t necessarily consist of an abundance of material possessions.

    • Issac

      Im glad your not G-d. We would all be in a hell of a mess. Except for you and your perfect family, friends included. Im sure you all live the most holy, pure life possible.

      Simple thoughts…..

  6. Laura Williams

    Just this morning I saw one of CNNs reporters commenting on the mortgage meltdown in Detriot, standing in front of a house which has fallen in value from ~700k to about 400k. Are we learning anything? I don’t know. The congregation of my church seems divided in two, those who don’t recognize that anything is wrong and spend, spend, spend; and those who are hurting, but don’t speak up because of the shame, but quietly slip out of the church. Our family tries to help where we can. Our church has a benevolence fund, but I don’t hear anything from the pulpit, nor any teaching to speak of, on how to deal with this situation.

    • Laura,

      Your church situation is at once baffling and yet common. It’s firmly the result of two forces within the church: social Darwinism and the American myth of the self-made man.

  7. francisco

    Bottom line of this issue is what Dan Edelen has been saying again and again: learn to live with less

    Now, it is time to stop whining why the oil is so expensive. Live with less. Why do we need a large house to fit in a lot of stuff, stuff, stuff? Live with less. It is time to stop whining why recession seems to settle in. Live with less.

    “For none of us lives to himself and none of us dies to himself, for if we live we live to the Lord, and if we die we die to the Lord. So whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s” (Rom 14:?)

    Btw, happy sheep have their treasure in heavenly land where neither moth nor rust destroy.

    • Francisco,

      How can I disagree with someone who agrees with me? 😉

      Still, I will disagree with some of what you said.

      At some point, all the belt-tightening in the world will not rectify the problem. If you need $30,000 a year to eek by, $5,000 ain’t gonna cut it. A person’s still got to eat.

      I live pretty cheaply. Just this last weekend I went out and spent $175 on clothing, replacing a number of slacks that after years had finally gotten threadbare. I’m blessed to have $175. A few months down this road in 2008 and that may not be the case. At that point, all the costcutting in the world won’t make much difference unless I’m willing to kiss just about everything goodbye.

      And let’s be honest here. No one in this country wants to go backward. No one.

  8. connie

    Well, “sufficient to the day is the evil thereof.”

    Yes, our country may very well be headed for hard times, and most Americans, Christian or not, probably don’t have the inner fortitude at the moment to face it.

    But my hope and expectation is and will continue to be in the Lord. Whether I have or don’t have, He is still God. And who is to say that an economic shaking-or a shaking of any kind-wouldn’t turn out to be a blessing in disguise? Just might be the birth pangs of a real revival.

    • Connie,

      I have no doubt that trials will produce revival. But it may not be the kind of revival we’ve seen before. How it plays out may be not be in numbers of new believers but in the refining of existing ones.

      Still, I have no frame of reference for want or persecution within America. In other places, networks exist to help people cope. We don’t even have those networks. That will only make it infinitely harder. That’s why I keep saying this over and over. We need those networks in place, but no church leaders (the ones with the bully pulpits) will speak up.

      • connie

        Well, I can’t speak for others, but sometimes this stuff happens on the grassroots level. Not everything comes through the pulpit. For one thing, if it did it would turn into a Program.

        Sometimes stuff just needs to happen “organically.”

        All I’m saying is that we need to pray, and we need to obey, but we do NOT need to worry. Worry, as the Lord is really faithful to keep reminding me, is sin.

        • Connie,

          Here’s the problem with grassroots: No one has the time. And no one has the time because we’re so caught up in our jobs, the commutes to our jobs, the extracurriculars required to keep our jobs, and on and on. I’ve been saying this for years.

          Who are the people who get involved in grassroots movements?

          On the liberal side, it’s college-age and twentysomethings who came from money and don’t need to work while they’re doing their grassroots thing. In older liberals, it’s those who have found a way to game the system for years and now don’t have to work, focusing all their time and money on their causes.

          On the conservative side, the people who are most involved in grassroots causes are almost universally older singles or the elderly/retired. And neither of those groups quite has the energy and focus that the liberal supporters do. It’s why conservative causes continue piece by piece to lose ground to liberal ones.

          My wife and I have had this discussion about grassroots organizations for years and it always comes down to the same truth. If you have a family to support and are not independently wealthy, all your time is going to be spent doing your job, not helping with grassroots causes. That’s “Edelen’s Maxim of Minimized Grassroots,” and you can take it to the bank.

          And what’s worst of all about that maxim? Christians are even less capable of being involved in grassroots organizations, especially if those organizations are not directly tied to their own personal church ministries. Between my work and my church involvement, what time do I have left to be involved in grassroots organizations? I’m trying to fight WalMart coming to town, trying to fight Real ID, trying to get a worldview class started at my church, trying to still play drums on the worship team, trying to maintain an informative and challenging blog—well, I can honestly say that right now I’m not doing any of those well (and some even at all). And the most grassroots of those suffer the most.

  9. Dire Dan: “What an ivory-towered dingbat”

    Well, it goes to show what I have been saying for some time. I came to the realization that some of these “conservatives” are not really our friends—especially the neoconish ones who are hankering for World Hegemony and creating a “North American Free Trade Zone”.

    But to hear a truely genuine “ivory-towered dingbat”, just listen to Larry Kudlow sometime. It’s almost comical how he talks, since according to him we were all rolling around in money and lighting our cigars with one-hundred dollar bills.

    • Oengus,

      I’m realizing this, too.

      I’m an old school kind of conservative from back in the days of Barry Goldwater when conservatives still believed in small government and the Constitution. I don’t recognize conservatives nowadays. Seems like few of them are actually for conserving anything except their private bank accounts and the rights of their big business buddies.


      This is not to say that the political arena is a lost cause. Only that we need some real “Mr. Smiths” and we need them like yesterday.

  10. I have a question about the concern over Real ID. This is the first I’ve heard of it and when I was checking out the sites about it it appears to be a modified version of the driver’s license. I thought maybe the concern was over the embedding of computer chips into us but it seems to be the computer chips are being embedded into the cards themselves. I’m not sure how that translates into a concern over the whole eschatology and 666 concern. Am I missing something? Thanks!

  11. Les Bollinger

    I think your comment on Will’s use of statistics is uniformed. Will cites a study by the economist Stephen Rose. You assume that Will is comparing 2007 dollars with 1979 dollars. It is highly unlikely that a professional economist such as Rose would do that in his analysis. Any economist would do his analysis with “real”, i.e., inflation-adjusted dollars. Will does not make this clear, but the commentary format is limited.
    With a little ‘googling” I found Rose’s work as well as the “Panel Study on Income Dynamics” that was the data source for Rose’s paper.
    Before suggesting that Will is either disingenuous or incompetant, you need to perform a little “due diligence.”
    By the way, I’ve lived in the Bay Area myself, and know that it is outrageously expensive. So, you are correct to point out that regional differences need to be taken into account.

    • Les,

      Will specifically states the following:

      Economist Stephen Rose, defining the middle class as households with annual incomes between $30,000 and $100,000, says a smaller percentage of Americans are in that category than in 1979— because the percentage of Americans earning more than $100,000 has doubled from 12 to 24, while the percentage earning less than $30,000 is unchanged.

      No way exists to interpret that statement other than at face value. And since it’s critical to the entire piece, it’s critical that Will frames it properly. He either fails to do this because he doesn’t get it OR the facts don’t fit his theory. Either way, it’s simply wrong of him.

      I also point out that even if we say that everyone has moved up the ladder, what if the ladder’s moved even faster than we can climb? Truth is, that’s exactly the case here as real world wages have stagnated or slid back for the true middle class.

      I can’t cite the exact study source, but I saw it repeatedly mentioned that the top 1 percent of wage earners in this country have seen their incomes go up 15-20 percent in the time period between 2002 and 2006. In that same time period, wages for the other 99 percent increased at a rate far slower than inflation. So yes, the middle class is slipping.

      Here’s an even more personal observation.

      I run with a very conservative Christian crowd, most of whom ascribe to the idea of the male as the single wage-earner. In 2001, most every family we knew like that was still ardently clinging to the ideal. By 2007, only one was. All those others had lost the battle to stay ahead without having both parents work. And none of this was greed. In most cases it was mere survival.

      The breakfast cereal I bought for $1.79 a box on sale in 2005 now costs nearly twice that—and still on sale! Everything I buy at the grocery store is 20-120 percent more expensive. I bought broccoli for $1.29 in 2005 and now it’s $1.99. A green pepper cost $0.59 then, but $1.69 now. My gas is twice as expensive—or more. My electrical is up more than 30 percent since 2006. When I moved into my house in 2001, I paid $26 for phone service; I now pay $39. That’s a 50 percent increase in six years. And don’t get me going on medical. Even with health insurance we can’t afford to go to the doctor or dentist anymore, so I know people without it altogether can’t.

      And so I ask, where’s my 20-120 percent cost of living increase to keep pace? We’re all moving up the ladder when adjusted for inflation, right? Meanwhile, the CEO of United Healthcare received compensation of over a billion dollars in 2006. Now ask where all the money was for those patients who had their medical procedures rejected.

      And as for Mr. Will’s anti-populist argument in other parts of his screed, I live in farm country, so I know a thing or two about the farm business. One farmer I know who owns considerable acreage told me he burns through 2,500 gallons of diesel fuel a day during the growing season. Yep, one day. Two thousand five hundred gallons a day. I’ll let Will figure out the astronomical cost of just that one portion of that farmer’s expenses as he contemplates all these farmers getting rich off subsidies.

      • Les Bollinger


        Thanks for taking the time to interact with my comment.

        I think you are wrong to say “No way exists to interpret that statement other than at face value.” It is standard to do studies such as these using dollars adjusted for inflation. You are right to say that Will should make it clear that the figures are in adjusted dollars. That may not be clear to all readers

        I believe you are wrong to conclude that Will doesn’t “get it” or ignoring facts “that don’t fit his theory.”

        Now, perhaps you are right to say that “real world wages have stagnated or slid back for the true middle class.” But Will’s point is that the study conducted by Rose indicates that that is not the case. That’s the kind of question such studies seek to answer. Perhaps a different study would come to a different conclusion.

        Yet, you were quick to the worst motives to Will. For the reasons I’ve mentioned here and in the previous comment, I don’t think that was warrented.

        Again, thank you, for your blog (which I enjoy and benefit from), and for your interaction with my comments.


        • Les,

          Nothing in Will’s comment says “adjusted dollars.” That’s why I say there’s no way to interpret what he says except on face value.

          What makes the whole enterprise crazy is that adjusted dollars only make my point even stronger.

  12. Les Bollinger


    I agreed already that Will did not say “adjusted dollars.” My point is that it is standard to use “adjusted dollars” when making these kinds of arguments. Therefore there is a way to interpret what he says. Although, I’d have to admit many people might not know that.

    I don’t follow how that if he is using adjusted dollars, your point is stronger. If you haven’t tired of me completely, please elaborate.


  13. George

    Les is right, Dan. Using constant-value dollars adjusted for inflation is standard in econ analysis, Rose stated it in his piece. Will should have, but he may have erroneously assumed readers would expect it.

    Here’s more of what Rose wrote, which is available via google:

    Myth: The middle class is shrinking.

    True, fewer people today live in households with incomes between $30,000 and $100,000 (a reasonable definition of “middle class”) than in 1979. But the number of people in households that bring in more than $100,000 also rose from 12 percent to 24 percent. There was no increase in the percentage of people in households making less than $30,000. So the entire “decline” of the middle class came from people moving up the income ladder. For married couples, median incomes have grown in inflation-adjusted dollars by 25 percent since 1979.

    • George, et al.,

      I have looked at the Rose numbers and will say this: there is no accurate context for looking at them within societal trends. This makes them highly suspect. I expect better from an economist.

      Here are a few for instances as to why his numbers may not show the real picture:

      1. The last full PSID numbers are from 2005; that’s before radical jumps in energy and all prices that reflect the increased price of energy and subsequent transportation costs. Again, the middle class has to absorb this. It’s disingenuous and false to tell people hurting today that they aren’t being hurt by those changes since 2005 when the economists base their numbers on conditions that existed BEFORE the current crunch! I know for a fact that my household spends a far greater percentage of our total income on energy than we did just three years ago. And our income has not risen to match that increase–not even remotely. Let’s say a family has an income of $5,000 a month (close to the median income) and they spent $150 a month on gas in 2005 (not an exorbitant number considering that commute times have increased and people live farther from work). According to most figures, the income of those making less than $100,000 has increased less than 2% in that time. That means their income is now $5,100 a month, rounding up. But their gas prices have more than doubled. They now spend $320 a month for the same gas. They’ve lost ground to the tune of $70. Not only that, but gas now comprises a larger percentage of their total income. And that loss is only computed against their gas, not against the increase of anything else that must now carry! For instance, I paid 59 cents for a green pepper in 2005. I now pay $1.29. Now start computing that kind of increase against that 2 % raise and it doesn’t take a genius to see that the middle class is losing ground quickly.

      2. The number of dual income households has increased significantly since 1979. This, in part, explains some of the income increases. But this is not necessarily a good thing because Rose’s own numbers don’t show the bounce that should be associated with a single wage earning family going to dual. Why? Because the associated costs of both parents working outside the home are far higher than having just one working outside the home. (This includes costs such as having to buy higher cost work clothes and spending more on gas because of commuting–or another car. For instance, suppose the cost of working is $2,000 a year. In a single wage earning family, a wage earner making $100,000 would spend $2,000. But a dual wage earning family that brings in the same $100,000 spends $4,000.) Nor does it take into account societal costs now that more families are dual income. What is the cost of a daughter left home alone who gets impregnated by her boyfriend? Hundreds of these factors exist. I cannot see that Rose accounted for any of them, yet they are real costs.

      3. Economists routinely look at macro numbers and forget micro. Or else they look at all numbers on an even playing field. But they are not all equal. Some of the most expensive costs out there have seen percentage increases far beyond the rate of inflation. Housing, energy, healthcare, and education costs have all outstripped inflation. The problem with economists is that they view these in light of total numbers, not as the true percentages of what they cost people as part of their total income. For instance, an inflation rate is tallied from all goods, but not all goods comprise the same percentage of a household’s total expenditure. We pay a mortgage every month, as do many people. But if you look at historical figures, the percentage of a person’s income that comprises their housing has been increasing. If the rate of the inflation of housing costs outstrips inflation in general, which it has, then the total amount a family spends as a total percentage of their income increases dramatically compared with lesser costs. An economist would say that an increase of 10% in housing is off-set by a measly 1% in, say, clothing cost when all inflation and increases are tallied. But all things are not equal. Housing costs often comprise a third to a half of a family’s income, so a 10% increase would be devastating to their bottom line unless their total income increased even more dramatically. But this is not the case. Nor is it offset by the cost of clothing. A family might spend $100 a month on clothing, so a 1% increase there is trivial. But the same family might spend $1000 a month on their mortgage. There, a 10% increase would not be trivial. Yet these are the kinds of factors these economists do not present accurately. Now add in college costs, healthcare, and other very expensive items/services that have outstripped inflation by a wide margin and suddenly the numbers don’t look so good! The middle class is indeed losing ground.

      4. Let’s also talk about changes in education and how the economist’s numbers don’t add up. Again, they look at all education as equal, but it’s not. The quality of education today is far more widely variable than it was in 1979. Parents who cannot afford the far greater percentage of their income needed to ensure their children a better education than what is provided through the public school system will find it harder to get their kids into elite colleges. Since graduating from an elite college IS an indicator of greater income in the future, the disparity between the haves and have nots grows if parents cannot afford the costs to get their kids into the kind of pre-college schooling that leads to acceptance at elite colleges. Worse, the cost of getting into those elite colleges has skyrocketed far, far beyond inflation, further affecting the middle class’s ability to keep pace. Not only this, but the cost of paying for college is so exorbitant, that even with financial aid, many parents can’t get their kids into the club and must settle for far lesser colleges or no college at all. The economists do not factor this in. Given what I know of financial aid, and inflation, I would say that a family with three kids in a good, private college in 1979 was paying a smaller percentage of their income than the same family with more than twice the income in 2007, even when adjusted for inflation. The economists simply do not account for this.

      5. It makes no difference at all how many people are over $100,000 now compared with 1979, even when adjusted for inflation. All that matters is whether real world wages have been decreasing. And by every study done, they have been. The government figures are telling. Though they often show real world wages on a very slight risein recent years, that rise occurs because of the massive differential between those in the top echelon’s of income and the rest of us–that rest of us being the middle class. The Wall Street Journal published figures last year that showed that those in the top 3% of incomes saw their wages rise almost 20%. The rest of us saw ours rise by less than 2%. Needless to say, that’s a perpetual loss against inflation. It’s also the truth behind the maxim that he rich get richer and the poor get poorer. As Disraeli said, “Lies, damned lies, and statistics.” All those fancy numbers mean nothing if they are not put in their proper contexts.

      Look, I’m no economist, but even I can figure these things out. Not only that, but I can see how the economists’ statistics are not being accounted for properly. The fact is, the middle class is losing ground rapidly–why do you think so many people are upset? From what I am finding online, Rose’s numbers lack these contexts and societal trend adjustments. For that reason, they are not helpful and cannot tell us about the current state of the middle class in America. I stick by what I said and I ask why a columnist like George Will can’t do the same due diligence I do to come up with these very simply refutations of the economists’ facts.

      • Here’s one more factoid from the Economic Policy Institute just to drive this all home:

        Most workers have relatively little to show in terms of real wage and income gains over this recovery [2003-2006]. The real wage of the typical male worker, for example, is up only 1% since 2000 and not at all since 2003. Even a broader measure like real average compensation has risen less than 1% per year and has barely budged since 2003. As of 2006, the median income of working-age families (those headed by someone less than 65) was down -4.2% in real terms over the cycle, a loss of -$2,375 (2006 dollars).

        A loss of $2,375 dollars for people smack dab in the median income range that comprises the middle class. Let’s read that again: a loss of $2,375.

        And the middle class isn’t losing ground?


  14. Cheryl

    I am not a conspiracy theorist but I do see a apathy and sleepiness in this country how Islam is infiltrating through political correctness. I can anticipate “cultural sensitivity” zones being implimented here like in areas of London.
    How all this over the long haul effects christians ability to freely worship I am not sure.

    It is a fight in the spiritual relm. I think a large reason for the ID is to help get a larger database on file of potential terrorist suspects. I am in favor also of retinal scans,DNA submissions of all felony arrests and the patriot act. I wish I could believe that the heart of all men is good but I do not. I also wish I could be a libertarian but I am not. A nation that fears the Lord can be entrusted with kind of power but not this one.
    Sorry if a downer post… I live in a mega city maybe that colors my thinking also…

    • Cheryl,

      you start giving up the right to your own body and you’ve given it all away. There will be no getting it back. That loss of freedom will be permanent. Our Founding Fathers understood this, but we we seem to be in love with our own personal safety, so we give away our freedoms.

      That’s remarkably shortsighted and foolish.

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