In 1960, food, clothing, housing, healthcare, and transportation accounted for 86% of household spending: 24%, 10%, 30%, 7%, and 15% respectively. That left just 14% for everything else. (Source: 100 Years of U.S. Consumer Spending U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics 2006 https://www.bls.gov/opub/100-years-of-u-s-consumer-spending.pdf)
In 2017, food, clothing, housing, and healthcare accounted for 73% of household spending: 13%, 3%, 33%, 8% and 16%, respectively. (Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Consumer Expenditure Surveys https://www.bls.gov/opub/reports/consumer-expenditures/2017/home.htm)
Progress has been made.. Thanks mainly to cheaper food and clothing (and the increasing popularity of casual wear), Americans (on average) spend a lot more on “non-necessities” than a half-century ago We also get a lot more bang for our buck: higher quality meals, more eating out, bigger homes, and much fancier heath care.
Here’s an idea: instead of obsessing about income or wealth, why not focus on reducing the amount Americans spend on the bare necessities, i.e., food, clothing, housing, healthcare, and transportation. Life gains meaning to the extent we have a sense of possibility and purpose. And that requires disposable income, to spend according to our wishes and dreams.
Political agendas and government policies would look a lot different if they focused more on reducing the cost of necessary goods and services and less on increasing or decreasing the income or wealth of different groups. Politicians and bureaucrats would be more pragmatic and less ideological. They would be less about Us versus Them and more about increasing the quality of life for everyone.
Think about it: as a portion of household spending, we are spending half as much on food as we did 50 years ago. Why not go for the same cost savings on housing and healthcare?