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> What sources do you need to back up the "claim" that home ownership and health care are qualitatively more important in many ways than consumer goods? You can get all the "stuff" you want, but if you can't get a home or pay for health emergencies it will be hard not to live in some level of fear, always scrambling for slightly more security and feeling precarious.

You can live comfortable and securely without owning a home. I do, and have been for the last half decade. Plenty of people in European countries with high standards of living rent for their whole lives. It's common among more densely populated countries, and as the US population is becoming more urban this is shift towards less home ownership is one that is likely going to happen in the US.

By comparison, you can't survive without food, water, heating (in many parts of the US), and other basic necessities. Plus, there are plenty of consumer goods that people would prioritize over home ownership:

If I told someone they could own a home but you had go without:

* A car

* Internet access

* Electricity

* Running Water

* A computer

* A cell phone

For many, even just not owning a car would make it impossible to live effectively. I'm willing to bet that most people would not take that offer even if they were deprived of just two things on that list. So it follows that these things have higher priority than home ownership in our hierarchy of needs.

> The area of my town that I live in for example, is full of homeless people, many of whom have computers or cell phones (many more don't). It is disturbingly frequent that I see one of them start to have escalating health issue, and eventually just "disappears". Disconcerting. I have no way to know if it was always this way, or if it getting worse...but certainly disconcerting.

The data does indicate that it is, on average, less bad than it was before. Even if it is not the case in your individual town, one counterexample is not sufficient to disprove a country-wide trend.

> Some of the people who seem to be pushing back on your "scientific rigor" may be just wanting to not forget about the actual hardships people are going through.

I don't deny that people are going through hardship. Whether or not someone thinks their life is difficult is their own opinion, and I respect others' opinions. But to claim that life is on average harder than it was before is no longer a statement of opinion, but a statement of fact. And it is not a statement backed up by the evidence that we have.

This is not just needless nit-picking. If the erroneous belief that the country is on a downward course takes hold, then people often become more willing to make drastic, irresponsible shifts in direction. I consider the Trump Presidency one such product of this erroneous belief in American decline. Think about this slogan, "Make America Great Again". In order for such a statement to be appealing, it effectively requires that the listener assume that America is worse in the present than it was in the past.

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