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Monday, March 23, 2015

'Back to Dystopia Days' How the Cunninghams of the '50s Would Fare in 2015 (Part Two of Three)


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This post is the second of three entries on how our current dystopia would likely impact the typical middle-class Cunningham family of the '70s sitcom set in '50s "Happy Days." The first entry introduces the relevant themes, the current thoughts speculate about how the nuclear clan would fare in 2015, and the final entry will conduct that same exercise regarding secondary "Days" characters.

For several reasons, your (sometimes humble) scribe feels a need for a disclaimer in the form of announcing that he is politically moderate and is not a fan of Ronald Reagan, George Bush the sequel, or the Tea Party.

He, whose income has dropped dramatically the last several years while local "progressive democrats" have greatly increased his tax burden and who now pays $554.37 monthly for essentially worthless health insurance, simply has seen himself and numerous friends and colleagues fall victim to the current economic times that are largely attributable to Obama administration economic policies. We are the folks to whom pundits refer when discussing professionals who are unlikely to ever return to work in their field.

These musings are in the context of efforts to address the sound-bite friendly concept of "income inequality" compared to the '50s in which small businessmen built their companies through hard work and luck. On a related note, the employees of these Horatio Algiers improved their quality of life by earning raises and advancement up the proprietor or corporate ladder. (It seems that "Back to the Future II" would have gotten a huge laugh in 1989 at a mention of a 2015 high school student working as a burger flipper starting out at $15/hour.)

Starting our Cunningham analysis with family patriarch Howard "Mr. C." Cunningham, he owns a mid-sized eponymous hardware store in Milwaukee. Despite some business downturns, he manages to provide his wife and two kids (plus "disappearing son" Chuck) a good  life.

The 2015 Howard would not be able to compete with the large hardware chains and would be a department manager at one of them. Because his status as a manager exempts him from overtime, the corporation would require that he work 70 hours a week and skip most of his breaks.

The short amount of time allocated for the breaks that Howard receives, his precarious financial situation related to not receiving any career advancement or any raise above two-percent for five years, and an inexpensive fast-food restaurant being the only food establishment near his store requires that he eat that fast food for lunch and dinner every workday. That unhealthy diet, intense work-related stress, and having a bare-bones health insurance policy that does not cover diagnostic services results in Howard dying of a massive heart attack on his 60th birthday.

Prior to the death of Howard, 2015 housewife Marion "Mrs. C." Cunningham must work part-time as a home-based telemarketer selling Orlando time-shares to provide the family enough money on which to live. On the death of Howard, who foolishly previously obtained an adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM), Marion had to move from her single-family home to a one-bedroom apartment.

All-American boy turned professional journalist Richie cannot get a full-time news-writing job because of a combination of the massive consolidation of the media industry and the overseas outsourcing of much of the remaining work. He writes posts for an on-line news blog and supplements the $10/post that he receives from that work by working as a waiter at the Arnold's Drive In that his best friend Fonzie owns.

Rounding out the group, little sister Joanie is a teacher whose low salary in that profession requires that she live in a run-down studio apartment with her dead-beat failed musician husband Charles "Chachi" Arcola.

The bottom line regarding all this is that it is funny (or tragic) because it is true.

Anyone with questions or comments regarding these thoughts is welcome to email me; you can also connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.