But of course, that was:
- Before the “New Frontier;”
- Before the “Great Society;”
- Before the Vietnam War;
- Before Watergate;
- Before the Arab Oil Embargoes;
- Before the Seventies and “America’s Suicide Attempt.” (Cf. Paul Johnson)
It was also before Richard Nixon closed the gold window on Europe’s fingers: August 15, 1971, when the last linkages between the dollar and gold were severed. That allowed inflation to remove what little purchasing power still attached to the dollar. Ever since then, two incomes have been required for all but the genuinely wealthy. With the proliferation of luxury goods and conveniences that everyone simply “must have” and the decision to treat children as minor royalty immune to discipline, the two-income family was cemented firmly into place.
The one-income family was made possible by self-restraint and deferred gratification. One-income families didn’t eat in restaurants more than once or twice a year. Mom made the family’s meals; she seldom used packaged prepared foods to do so. They didn’t buy designer clothes or every imaginable gewgaw, neither for themselves nor for their children. Dad maintained the house and yard and Mom did the cleaning, not paid hirelings. They had one car and at most one television. Weekend entertainment was likely to be family-oriented, perhaps kids’ sports contests.
I should mention this as well: There was no presumption that all the kids simply had to have college degrees.
We are not capable of being one-income families. We are too self-indulgent. While we are more averse to actual work than any generation of our forebears, we are nevertheless determined to “have it all” and “have it now.” And we are far too prone to blame our deficiencies and defaults on “society.”
At the time this mini-grump was composed, “Society” could not be reached for comment, so I stepped up. But do have a nice day.
UPDATE: Whoops! Almost forgot. Does anyone else here remember Berkeley Breathed and “Bloom County?”
We should have listened. We didn’t. Verbum sat sapienti.