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The economy: Most of us still have it pretty darn good

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POSTED July 28, 2012 12:27 a.m.

Experts say the recession ended nearly three years ago.

Apparently they are tracking the economy in Never Never Land.

That said, we don’t realize just how good we have it.

Think about it. In just over four years, one in every eight homes in Manteca has gone into foreclosure. It translates into a tad more than 3,100 households thrown into turmoil.

Unemployment right now is sitting at 13 percent in Manteca.

Yet we are not suffering anywhere near Europe or Third World countries for that matter. And compared to the Great Depression, it’s a cake walk.

There are food issues. There are employment issues. There are housing issues. But they are nowhere near the level they were at in the 1930s.

You can credit part of that to the much maligned safety net.

So why does it seem so bleak at times especially if you happen to have a job and a roof over your head?

Call it the curse of great expectations. Attribute it to the culture of instant gratification. Blame it on how we have become accustomed to living not just beyond our means but in some cases way beyond our means.

The weak economy has hit almost everybody. Try to find someone who hasn’t had hours or wages - and in a number of cases both - scaled back. Someone the other day was listening to a retiree complain about how they were on a fixed income as they only had their pension that was half of what they made when they were working and Social Security. The listener replied that he wished he was on a fixed income since his income has dropped for the past three years.

Yet both parties - the retiree and the worker - aren’t in danger of losing their houses nor or they going hungry.

So why are they still standing?

Most of us have scaled back to living within our means. It can be done. True, we may not eat out as much, buy expensive toys as often, and may watch what we spend when we go to the store. Few of us though are living like monks.

We have iPhones and iPads. We shop at the store and on-line for things that don’t exactly qualify as necessities.

We have cable or dish TV. Our idea of basic transportation includes air conditioning, a dashboard crammed with personal electronics devices, leather seats, and enough horsepower to push the metal to 120 mph if we so wanted.

We used to complain about paying the phone company $15 for local service before Uncle Sam broke up the monopoly. Now we often pay $100 or more to be mobile and rarely does anyone whine about it.

Yes, there are stats that show that average net income after inflation has deteriorated back to levels of a decade ago. But guess what, so have housing prices. That laptop costs a heck of a lot less today than it did 10 years ago. And actually so does that car when you consider what you’re getting today as opposed to 10 years ago.

Food prices are supposed going to go up next year due to the drought. But in tracking done by the United States Department of Agriculture, the price a typical household spends on food has dropped from 24.2 percent of overall annual income in 1930 to 9.5 percent in 2007.

The problem is we find other things to spend our money on besides just necessities. We may think cable TV is a necessity, but it isn’t. Basic food, clothing, shelter and such are necessities. It’s not the economy’s fault that you may have opted for a McMansion in 2005 and are struggling to maintain it when a house half the size would have been fine.

A smaller house may not have been what you wanted but it certainly would have fulfilled a basic need.

Actually, that’s our perception problem in a nutshell. Today we define a whole list of things as needs that once would have fallen squarely in the want category.

And if we can’t afford those wants we take the position that all is rotten.

Try to convince someone living in a shanty in India where running water and sanitary sewer systems are luxuries that we have it so bad.

Yes, it could be better. But in reality most of us still have it pretty darn good.

 

This column is the opinion of managing editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Bulletin or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA.  He can be contacted at dwyatt@mantecabulletin.com or 209-249-3519.

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