You know when your cousin–or whoever–archly intimates that Those People don’t really need food assistance or tuition assistance or healthcare subsidies or whatever, because “You always see Them with nice clothes or a new iPhone or a big flatscreen TV!” or whatever?
Remember this chart. And then show him this chart.
Similarly, when he points out that folks used to be able to work a summer in a factory and pay for a full year of college, back before affirmative action and illegal immigrants took all the decent jobs from hard-workers and gave them to the under-qualified and under-productive–please, once more, remember this chart. And then show him this chart.
Poor people have nice TVs because wages have gone up a little and the price of TVs has dropped like a brick. Cousin Bigoty can’t afford to get his kids an education because wages have gone up a little and tuition has shot the moon.
That said, economically speaking this chart is by no means a slam dunk for any particular political worldview. Check this article, with its nearly 180-degree interpretations of this chart: The same data can be read as either an indictment of failed socialism being inevitably co-opted and driving up the cost of necessities, or as an indictment of late capitalism giving the masses their “bread and circus” while denying them the necessities of serviceable healthcare, housing, and education.
For my part, it looks to me like what happens when you have massive (and growing) income disparity: Everything divides into either run-away Veblen goods or near-disposable commodities (from the perspective of those at the nose-bleed heights of the top of the hockey stick). This chart illustrates why, for many Americans, America no longer feels great, and similarly why all the trade protectionism and corporate tax giveaways and draconian immigration restrictions in the world will never make America great again.