Reader J. wanted to let me know that I owe everyone a great big apology. When I wrote my two columns about how much better life is today than it was 40 or 50 years ago and how much better life will likely be in the future, it did not sit well with J. He’s 84, lives in a trailer on Social Security, and needs a magnifying glass to read because of macular degeneration.

Didn’t I know that life was hard? It’s an insult to people of his generation for me to say how great life is. Apologize. Now. Fair enough. I certainly did not mean to say that everyone’s life is filled with limitless food buffets and great health. Nor did I mean to suggest that everyone was financially secure.

If any reader thought I was saying that, I apologize. I was trying to say that even someone in the United States living in a trailer on Social Security and Medicare has a better living standard than 80 percent of the rest of the world; that we are blessed and should count our blessings. What I was trying to say was that in general, life is better today than it was 40 and 50 years ago and is likely to be even better in another 40 or 50 years. That optimistic belief in progress does not mean old age is easy. My father lived to be 88 and my father-in-law lived to be 90, with healthy minds and mostly healthy bodies. The life expectancy for a man when they were born was 59.9 years. The life expectancy for a child born in 2022 is 78 years. That’s amazing progress we should be thankful for.

Before 1964, there was no Medicare insurance for people in retirement. Once you lost your healthcare at work, you were on your own or had to pay for expensive private insurance. In 1940, the average man got just $23.26 cents in monthly Social Security payments. ($470.56 in today’s dollars). In 1970, the average man got just $136.80 in Social Security ($998.39 in today’s dollars). In 2022, the average monthly benefit for a male is $1,657. That’s a wonderful improvement to be thankful for.

J, I don’t live on Social Security and Medicare in a trailer, and I certainly can’t pretend that everyone is on an easy street. I would suggest, politely, that even for our senior citizens, we have a longer life expectancy, better healthcare, and better social security than we had 50 years ago. For that I am grateful, and I hope you are too.

Another reader wrote this: “While you are on your way to the country club, in your limo, please briefly roll down your window and wave and smile to the people in the bus stop or street cleaners. They will be happy you cheered them up.

When adjusted for inflation, the working class hasn’t had a raise in over 40 years, since trickle-down economics began; hence, the only thing that trickled-down was #@!$.” M Thanks, M. You’re right.

Historically, inflation-adjusted wages generally grew as fast as productivity grew. But then, around 1973, productivity continued to climb while wages did not. Since 1979, productivity is up 69.6 percent but average compensation is up only 11.6 percent adjusted for inflation. Working class people have been more productive, but they have not gotten paid for that increased productivity. Why? There are lots of causes to potentially blame. The inflation of the 1970s and 1980s caused massive income loss for working folks. The Japanese — and then Chinese — imports depressed prices and real wages. Health care costs went up, which meant more compensation was in the form of healthcare instead of take-home pay. Corporate profit margins expanded dramatically, meaning corporations kept more of the money while giving workers less. The top 0.1 percent, the richest of us all, had their incomes grow 340.7 percent versus the bottom 90 percent only growing 23.9 percent since 1979. M, certainly, America is not perfect. Certainly, not every person is doing great. We definitely have problems that still need to be fixed. But I stand by my earlier comments. I would much rather be living at this time in history, here in this great country America, than anywhere else in the world. What do you think? Share your thoughts. David Dunn-Rankin may be reached at: David@d.r-media

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