November 10, 2007

A Stunning Report on ‘Discretionary Income’ Old Media Uses Its Discretion to Ignore

Filed under: Economy,MSM Biz/Other Bias,MSM Biz/Other Ignorance — Tom @ 8:34 am

Someone needs to tell me why this news about discretionary income isn’t as significant as I believe it is.

But first, three warnings:

  1. I’m not about to spend the $250 needed to read the full report from the Conference Board that backs the story (their “about” page is here).
  2. I don’t feel totally comfortable with how the statistic is measured — “Households with discretionary income, as defined by the study, are those whose spendable income exceeds that held by households with similar demographic features.”
  3. I don’t feel totally comfortable that the statistic has been measured consistently.

Now with the disclaimers out of the way, here’s the stunning news:

More Americans have “money to burn,” technically known as “discretionary income,” than at any time in the past quarter-century, and perhaps in the country’s history.

A lot more.

A whole lot more.

So many more that I went as far back as I could for comparable stats.

Here is what I found:

  • San Francisco Chronicle; December 18, 1985 (from ProQuest library database) — (Headline) “One-Third of U.S. Households/Americans With ‘Extra’ Cash.” The article doesn’t say what year the study by the U.S. Census Bureau and the Conference Board looked at. Let’s assume it was 1983.
  • Wall Street Journal; June 1, 1989 (from ProQuest library database) — “Only about 30% of American households have extra money to spend after paying taxes and buying the necessities, according to a report released by the U.S. Census Bureau and the Conference Board.” This report referred to a 1987 Census Bureau/Conference Board report.
  • A reference to an early 2005 Conference Board Report that appears to relate to 2003 and/or 2004, saying, “About 57 million U.S. households now have discretionary income, up from nearly 54 million in 1997-1998, according to a new study released today by The Conference Board. But the percentage of the American population with discretionary income has edged down to 51 percent, compared with 52 percent six years ago.”
  • Finally, from the Conference Board earlier this week“Between 2002 and 2006, the percentage of U.S. households with discretionary income increased from 52.1 percent (57 million households) to 63.5 percent (73 million households).”

Summarizing, here is the progression of Americans with discretionary income:
– 1983 – 33%
– 1987 – 30%
– 1997/1998 – 52%
– 2002 – 52.1%
– 2003/2004 – 51%
– 2006 – 63.5%

In everyday language, this means that about 12% of the population went from just getting by to having money to spare in a span of two or three years.

Again, someone needs to tell me why this news isn’t as significant, or as remarkable, as it appears.

You might think that in the non-stop Old Media hype about how the alleged crises in housing, mortgage lending, currency strength, and who knows what else, that good news like this might be welcome, if only as a change of pace.

As has been the case almost non-stop for almost 7 years, you would be wrong.

It’s no longer anything resembling a surprise that there’s nothing about this at the New York Times (search is on “conference board”). But here’s the result of a Google News search done this morning on ["conference board" discretionary income], typed exactly as indicated:


To be sure, the same search of the web in Google yields a few more results, including this one in the International Herald Tribune. But the half-dozen or so stories on this topic pale in comparison to the over 1,100 found in a Google News Search last night on “recession housing” (not in quotes):


So if you’re wondering how so many people are coming up with the money for all manner of iPods, monthly video game subscriptions, and scalped Hannah Montana tickets, there’s probably a very simple answer: They have it.

Old Media would prefer that you not know that.

Cross-posted at


UPDATE: From The Warrior Class Blog

People feel they can afford spending $5 for a cup of coffee at Starbucks and $400 bucks for an iPhone despite their negative feelings about the economy. The “problem” is now that people feel is that they cannot afford a Lexus.

Positivity: A wounded soldier — a mother’s story

Filed under: Positivity,US & Allied Military — Tom @ 6:47 am

This is a lengthy read, which is why it’s on a weekend, and worth every word.

From Providence, RI:

His name has been on my mind since last month, when I first heard it. I was at Rosh Hashanah services at Temple Beth-El in Providence when the assistant rabbi, Sarah Mack, said something that got my attention. She offered a prayer of healing for those in the congregation who were ill, mentioning one in particular.

“We keep in our hearts and in our prayers this morning, Bernie Teich,” she said. “Bernie’s leg was amputated in recent days after being injured during valiant service to our country in Iraq.”

Last week, I called to find out more. I learned that Bernie is still in treatment in Texas. His mother, Sharon Teich, lives in Providence. She gave me directions to her home on the East Side, near Blackstone Boulevard, telling me to look for the big American flag out front.

It’s not the kind of block you picture when you think about the military, which tends toward a working-class base. It was a reminder that the war touches all neighborhoods.

Sharon Teich is 53, and her son 30. She said he began school at Providence Hebrew Day, and learned basketball at the Jewish Community Center. He didn’t love being a student, and eventually moved to School One.

In 1996, at age 19, he joined the Marines.

Bernie wasn’t good at writing home, and, early on, his mom got so worried she asked that they tell him to get in touch. At the time, he was at Parris Island. He wasn’t pleased. Sharon acknowledges it’s embarrassing for a Marine to be pulled out of boot camp and told to call his mother.

Bernie found a calling in the military and after four years reenlisted, this time in the Army. He rose to staff sergeant and was based at Fort Hood, in Killeen, Texas. He married a woman who also enlisted, Jamie, a medic. During their five years at Fort Hood, they had a son and two daughters.

But they recently moved to San Antonio’s Fort Sam Houston. That’s where Bernie is being treated in the Brooke Army Medical Center, a new hospital with an advanced program for amputees.

I asked Sharon why they wouldn’t have held onto their home at Fort Hood, where they have roots.

“He’s going to be in therapy a long, long time,” she said. …..

Go here for the rest of the story.