Two worker households are a Faustian Bargain, the second income pays only for government.
The American Dream – Strangled by Government
By: George Noga – May 31, 2020
I graduated from high school in 1961 and went on to college. Most of my high school friends remained in Orlando, began work, married, had children and bought homes. The wives stayed home; a second income wasn’t necessary to buy a house and to raise a family. I kept in touch with many of my classmates. Following is the true story of two such people, Steve and Sandy – their real names.
High school sweethearts, Steve and Sandy married soon after graduation. Steve started work in the paint shop of the Martin Company (today Lockheed Martin) at $2.00 per hour, soon increasing to $2.25. With a little overtime, their income was $5,000 per year. A year after their marriage, they bought a new home and were blessed with a daughter. Sandy did not work and stayed home to care for the baby.
I visited Steve and Sandy often. They bought and furnished a median-price home, accumulating enough for a down payment and furniture in one year with both working. Once the baby was born, Sandy quit work as they could live solely on Steve’s income. Their home cost the equivalent of 2 years of Steve’s income and their monthly house payment including principal, interest, taxes and insurance (“PITI”) was under $100, or 22% of his income. Sandy never returned to work; it simply wasn’t necessary.
Fast forward to 2020 and see how a modern day Steve and Sandy would fare. We begin with the generous assumption that a high school graduate earns $15 per hour, or $30,000 per year. The median home price in Orlando is $260,000; assuming a 10% down payment and low interest rate, the monthly PITI payment is $1,167, or $14,000 per year. The house costs 9 years of income and requires 47% of monthly income to pay PITI. Many years are needed to save for a down payment and furniture.
What could account for such a sea change in the course of a few generations? Why did these changes happen? Why is it necessary today for a family to have two wage earners merely to live as well as their grandparents lived on one income? The answer in one word: government. The causes are many but all have a nexus to government.
Housing costs skyrocketed due to government diktats including, zoning, growth management, building codes, greenbelts, bureaucracy, anti-leapfrogging, concurrency, infill and regulatory delay. All taxes were increased, especially the payroll tax and many new ones added. The Florida sales tax Steve and Sandy paid was 3%; today it is 7% – an increase of 133%. Steve and Sandy’s real estate tax was $100; today it would be $2,600, a 2,500% increase. Government drove up the cost of many other things such as health care, tuition and child care. The more government got involved, the more costs increased over time, less intervention meant lower prices.
At first, as the second family wage earner entered the workforce, there was a sense of faux prosperity; they could afford an extra TV and some other accoutrements. But higher taxes and government-imposed costs devoured the second income. By the time they realized they were hoodwinked, it was too late for a volte-face. Two income families are a Faustian Bargain, the second income pays only for more government. Families doubled the number of workers but have nothing to show for it.
A modern day Steve and Sandy can’t afford to buy a house or to start a family and they often live lives of quiet desperation. The American dream didn’t just die; it was murdered. The cause of death was strangulation by government!