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Old 08-12-13, 05:44 PM   #1
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Many cycling prices are ripoffs, but I think I've found the champ

I've been off the bike for about a year because of an illness, and as I get back into it I'm tuning everything up. Today I replaced tires on two road bikes and, coincidentally, on my wife's Mazda.
Now, I'm an old guy, and I realize I can't get Contis for the bike for five bucks or Pirellis for the car for $35 anymore. What surprised me is that pretty good Schwalbes for the Atlantis--about 12 or 13 ounces of rubber, fabric and technology--cost $45 apiece and will last me maybe 1500 miles. Pretty good Bridgestones for the Mazda--30 POUNDS of rubber, fabric and even more impressive technology, rated to 130mph and sure to last 30,000 miles--cost only $25 more.
I'm not saying bike tires should go 30,000 miles. But I'm mystified why they cost as much as they do.
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Old 08-12-13, 05:51 PM   #2
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This topic comes up regularly on the forums. Basically, it's "boutique pricing" in that the smaller the quantity of an item that's produced, the higher it will cost because you don't get the same economies of scale from the manufacturing process. Tire manufacturers, and makers of other bike parts/components, know they've got a "captive market" of sorts that will pay that premium.
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Old 08-12-13, 06:06 PM   #3
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Tire manufacturers, and makers of other bike parts/components, know they've got a "captive market" of sorts that will pay that premium.
I agreed with your statement up to this point. It isn't some expectation that a captive market exists, because it clearly doesn't. There are a wide variety of bicycle tire manufacturers, possibly more than actually make car tires, so the market is clearly not captive. Indeed the lowest priced tires are significantly less than the lowest price car tires. And they last reasonable lengths of time. The size of the market is certainly a major player, but another significant difference in the cost of manufacturing is that bicycle tires, especially premium ones involve a great deal more human labor in their manufacture than car tires. An interesting view on the process was on an episode of "How it is Made"
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Old 08-12-13, 06:17 PM   #4
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I agreed with your statement up to this point. It isn't some expectation that a captive market exists, because it clearly doesn't. There are a wide variety of bicycle tire manufacturers, possibly more than actually make car tires, so the market is clearly not captive. Indeed the lowest priced tires are significantly less than the lowest price car tires. And they last reasonable lengths of time. The size of the market is certainly a major player, but another significant difference in the cost of manufacturing is that bicycle tires, especially premium ones involve a great deal more human labor in their manufacture than car tires. An interesting view on the process was on an episode of "How it is Made"
The pricing of goods is an example of supply and demand, one of the chief laws of economics. Any product or service provider will maximize their margins and charge what the market will bear. In the case of a niche item like bike tires, there simply aren't enough manufacturers that are competing on price to make the prices lower. Why are they doing that? Because they've got a captive market that will pay $60 for a tire that will last 2-3K.

Your point about how they're made currently, while valid, leaves out the point that if people weren't willing to pay the going rate for a bike tire, makers would have been forced years ago to come up with a less expensive manufacturing process. No company does that until they're forced to by the market, which is why U.S. cars were junk until we had competition that forced improvements.
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Old 08-12-13, 06:37 PM   #5
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The pricing of goods is an example of supply and demand, one of the chief laws of economics. Any product or service provider will maximize their margins and charge what the market will bear. In the case of a niche item like bike tires, there simply aren't enough manufacturers that are competing on price to make the prices lower. Why are they doing that? Because they've got a captive market that will pay $60 for a tire that will last 2-3K.

Your point about how they're made currently, while valid, leaves out the point that if people weren't willing to pay the going rate for a bike tire, makers would have been forced years ago to come up with a less expensive manufacturing process. No company does that until they're forced to by the market, which is why U.S. cars were junk until we had competition that forced improvements.
There are more than a dozen manufacturers of bicycle tires. Which is a fair number (about a quarter, give or take, as many as car tire manufacturers), considering how much less the demand is for bicycle tires. So they do not have a captive market. Bicycle tires are more labor intensive because the demand doesn't warrant the development of fully automated facilities (which would be prohibitively expensive given the number of sizes and relatively low demand for each of those sizes). Increased expense in manufacture is a major component of the cost.

Many companies have automated without being forced to by the market. The reasons are simple. When the demand exists to warrant the additional manufacturing capacity that automation provides to offset its cost it gets done. AND/OR, when the cost of automation is low enough to allow easy recouping of the conversion costs solely by eliminating expensive manual labor. Bicycle tires don't really fall into either category.

BTW, who is riding 'expensive' tires that they are only getting 3K on? Racing style tires maybe, but IME, I get 6K+ for $40 tires (gatorskins, marathons) and 3-4K for panaracers ($20)
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Old 08-12-13, 06:44 PM   #6
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Yes they seem over-priced.
I've had a theory about bike tires. They all cost the same per mile, about 1 cent.
My $20 tires went 2,000 miles and the excellent new Schwalbe MPs cost $63 and one has now gone 6,300 miles.
Only 1 flat in those 4 tires.

If you compare milage to cars, I think bike tires go about half as far per mm of tread.
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Old 08-12-13, 06:54 PM   #7
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I've been off the bike for about a year because of an illness, and as I get back into it I'm tuning everything up. Today I replaced tires on two road bikes and, coincidentally, on my wife's Mazda.
Now, I'm an old guy, and I realize I can't get Contis for the bike for five bucks or Pirellis for the car for $35 anymore. What surprised me is that pretty good Schwalbes for the Atlantis--about 12 or 13 ounces of rubber, fabric and technology--cost $45 apiece and will last me maybe 1500 miles. Pretty good Bridgestones for the Mazda--30 POUNDS of rubber, fabric and even more impressive technology, rated to 130mph and sure to last 30,000 miles--cost only $25 more.
I'm not saying bike tires should go 30,000 miles. But I'm mystified why they cost as much as they do.
You can get a Vittoria Zaffiro II for less than $20. And the last time I
bought Michelin tires for my wife's Honda Civic; they were $70 each.

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Old 08-12-13, 06:56 PM   #8
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There was a really fascinating segment on the show "How It's Made" that showed in depth how to make a bicycle tire. I believe Continental was the manufacturer they focused on - and as an earlier poster mentioned, there's quite a bit of "hands on" work that goes into each tire. I also believe there's a similar piece from the Schwalbe plant on youtube.

Lots of discussion above about supply and demand. Not sure if anyone's mentioned that we're comparing apples to oranges in that the OP wants top of the line tires for his bike, and basic tires on his wife's car (I found that part funny.) Maybe look into what a racing tire costs in any motorsport. I'm sure the price of an F1 tire would make you thankful you can purchase your Schwalbe's for 50 bucks.
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Old 08-12-13, 07:28 PM   #9
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I expect to get 20,000km out of my front Schwalbe based on km/wear to date. The last set of performance tires I bought for the Mazda MX6 were $200 each and only rated for 20,000kms. Sorry - no other comments.
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Old 08-12-13, 08:11 PM   #10
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There are more than a dozen manufacturers of bicycle tires. Which is a fair number (about a quarter, give or take, as many as car tire manufacturers), considering how much less the demand is for bicycle tires. So they do not have a captive market. Bicycle tires are more labor intensive because the demand doesn't warrant the development of fully automated facilities (which would be prohibitively expensive given the number of sizes and relatively low demand for each of those sizes). Increased expense in manufacture is a major component of the cost.

Many companies have automated without being forced to by the market. The reasons are simple. When the demand exists to warrant the additional manufacturing capacity that automation provides to offset its cost it gets done. AND/OR, when the cost of automation is low enough to allow easy recouping of the conversion costs solely by eliminating expensive manual labor. Bicycle tires don't really fall into either category.

BTW, who is riding 'expensive' tires that they are only getting 3K on? Racing style tires maybe, but IME, I get 6K+ for $40 tires (gatorskins, marathons) and 3-4K for panaracers ($20)
The cheapest Gatorskin I can find online is $50, by the way. I buy them and run them myself, but buy them locally, so I know I'm paying more, but I like to throw business to my shop because they do so many things at no charge, including swapping out a Garmin battery today for free, derailleur adjustments, etc.

Your right about the catalysts for automation. My point is that in large part it's a misnomer that American business is innovative. Aside from the personal tech industry, which was really brought to maturity and success by Asian manufacturing processes, American businesses squeeze every ounce out of a product and, when the market is almost dead, freak out and figure out something else. We wouldn't have hybrid cars if it weren't for Japanese, we shunned diesel engines in cars for decades because the diesel was a German invention, fan the flames of fear over nuclear rather than research potential alternatives to current waste disposal methods and on and on. I spent a long time as a finance reporter and can tell you I"m not making any of this up.

This phenomenon has decreased in the last couple of decades because product development costs have declined, but is still true. Also, remember that many of the bike tire manufacturers also make regular tires, so throwing extra money to improve manufacturing processes would not even be a drop in the bucket. But why do it when you can get $45 a tire?

Lastly, tires are something that it's hard to see either a quantifiable impact or even a placebo-like effect in an improvement. While "hard case" tires took off because of obvious advantages, we see debates raging here all the time about tubeless versus clincher. Tubeless has yet to take off en masse in the bike market because, for most, its advantages aren't worth the hassle.
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Old 08-12-13, 09:50 PM   #11
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The cheapest Gatorskin I can find online is $50, by the way.
Gatorskins for $37 (they have GP4000s for the same price as well + google for a coupon code and you should be able to find a 15% off one that works).
http://www.probikekit.com/bicycle-ty.../10780033.html

I'm all for helping out the local shop, but I think of them as more for instant gratification. Tires I usually buy in bulk from online retailers. Planetcyclery.com has GP4000s 2/$40 as well if you don't want to wait for intl shipping. I can honestly say, I'll happily drop $40 for GP4000s and $12 for latex tubes. I can tell the difference, they ride better to the point that I feel the expense is justified. They're my contact with the road, I want the best I can afford.

I do not have experience with tubeless yet, but my new bike has been ordered and has tubeless wheels. I shall see what the fuss is about. Mostly, I hear you can run them at lower psi and not have to worry about pinch flats. I've also read that they're hard to flat, as the sealant fills in any punctures and the sidewall is much stronger. We shall see!

Also, to all of you that pay just slightly more for car tires, I'm jealous. My truck tires were around $225 each and that was on the cheap side. I said no to the $300 ones.
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Old 08-12-13, 10:26 PM   #12
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If you want cheap tires that will ride and last like car tires, there are plenty of CST's and Kendas with your name on it. No one's making you buy $50+ tires.
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Old 08-12-13, 11:15 PM   #13
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When I started cycling about 17 years ago the price of a Continental GP (their best then) was about $35. Now I can get them on line for $36 so I'm pretty happy about that. So happy I buy 4 at a time just so I am never pressured into paying high prices at the shop ($75)

Got these a few months back and just used the first one the other day, still got 3 in the box


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Old 08-12-13, 11:17 PM   #14
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You can get road bike tires for $9.09 at Niagara Cycle, that's the equivalent of what you're putting on the car. If you want to pay five times as much, that's your business. (I do!)
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Old 08-13-13, 06:43 AM   #15
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The cheapest Gatorskin I can find online is $50, by the way. I buy them and run them myself, but buy them locally, so I know I'm paying more, but I like to throw business to my shop because they do so many things at no charge, including swapping out a Garmin battery today for free, derailleur adjustments, etc.
I get them off Amazon. The last time I purchased them was $42 per tire, free shipping and no tax... And that set of tires has just over 6000 miles on them and are just now starting to show signs of wear so that I might get another 1000 miles out of them. My local bike shop (Richardson Bike Mart) charges nearly twice that price, and has lousy service to boot. Don't see the need to reward that.

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Your right about the catalysts for automation. My point is that in large part it's a misnomer that American business is innovative. Aside from the personal tech industry, which was really brought to maturity and success by Asian manufacturing processes, American businesses squeeze every ounce out of a product and, when the market is almost dead, freak out and figure out something else. We wouldn't have hybrid cars if it weren't for Japanese, we shunned diesel engines in cars for decades because the diesel was a German invention, fan the flames of fear over nuclear rather than research potential alternatives to current waste disposal methods and on and on. I spent a long time as a finance reporter and can tell you I"m not making any of this up.
Extracting profit is why people are in business. Yes, some business focus on short term profits at the expense of long term; however, my personal experience with my colleagues says that isn't as common as you seem to think. It is also incorrect to blame business for the lack of innovation in nuclear power. They have conducted much work on the subject, and the state of the art today is far beyond what it was when the last US plant went online. What holds back nuclear power in this country is environmentalists and the costly government regulations they have pushed through the political process.

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This phenomenon has decreased in the last couple of decades because product development costs have declined, but is still true. Also, remember that many of the bike tire manufacturers also make regular tires, so throwing extra money to improve manufacturing processes would not even be a drop in the bucket. But why do it when you can get $45 a tire?
Other than processing the raw materials (which is automated), the physical process is very different for bike tires and car tire construction. Assembly line processes for cars don't work for bike tires and vice versa. Yes bike tires have a higher profit margin; however, that profit margin is not any different from any other small production quantity item made. The more of something that is made and sold, the less of a profit margin that can be accepted if one wants to stay in business. If you want to believe it is some business cabal that allows them to charge such high prices, feel free. I disagree.

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Lastly, tires are something that it's hard to see either a quantifiable impact or even a placebo-like effect in an improvement. While "hard case" tires took off because of obvious advantages, we see debates raging here all the time about tubeless versus clincher. Tubeless has yet to take off en masse in the bike market because, for most, its advantages aren't worth the hassle.
Yes, much of what is sold in the bike industry as 'premium' serves no real purpose for most of those who purchase it. But if they can afford it, and are willing to pay the market rate for it, who cares?

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Old 08-13-13, 07:41 AM   #16
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Extracting profit is why people are in business. Yes, some business focus on short term profits at the expense of long term; however, my personal experience with my colleagues says that isn't as common as you seem to think. It is also incorrect to blame business for the lack of innovation in nuclear power. They have conducted much work on the subject, and the state of the art today is far beyond what it was when the last US plant went online. What holds back nuclear power in this country is environmentalists and the costly government regulations they have pushed through the political process.
Conservatives like to blame everything on environmentalists and think that America is always great and can do no wrong. Fact is, only the French have really been innovators in nuclear power in the last 20 years. Very few U.S. businesses are even involved in the industry. Add to that, no U.S. business has done any research on better nuclear waste disposal efforts and Yucca Mountain's not even open yet, so there's no place to put the waste. But environmentalists didn't stop that.

And I'm well aware of why American businesses are in business. As I said, I covered public companies for more than a decade for a living. If you actually read 10-Qs, 10-Ks and the like, you'll find out a lot about American businesses and what they value. With all due respect, a conversation with your colleagues doesn't constitute a consensus on innovation in American business. You can't argue with the fact that most of the things we now think of as innovations in the U.S. were actually developed either by foreign companies or through the demand of foreign consumers. Americans think "clean coal" is an innovation.

We like to have it both ways in America. We lament the lack of American manufacturing, when we're not willing to pay the premium to go along with it, and we can't see the forest for the trees when it comes to what we do right and what we do wrong. We also take short cuts all the time that are detrimental to our economy. The last crisis was largely human made and in 20 years or less, we'll do something equally crazy again. The history of that is just too strong to ignore.
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Old 08-13-13, 08:06 AM   #17
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Conservatives like to blame everything on environmentalists and think that America is always great and can do no wrong. Fact is, only the French have really been innovators in nuclear power in the last 20 years. Very few U.S. businesses are even involved in the industry. Add to that, no U.S. business has done any research on better nuclear waste disposal efforts and Yucca Mountain's not even open yet, so there's no place to put the waste. But environmentalists didn't stop that.
Okay, I'll play this game just once. And 'Liberals' like to blame businesses for all the evils in the world... Several U.S. companies have designed new nuclear power plants that produce significantly less waste, are considerably safer designs, etc... Of course the costs (mostly due to regulations) associated with constructing one in the U.S. means that it will never get built. And yes, environmentalists are the cause of the paperwork associated with a great deal of the energy production and manufacture in this country.

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And I'm well aware of why American businesses are in business. As I said, I covered public companies for more than a decade for a living. If you actually read 10-Qs, 10-Ks and the like, you'll find out a lot about American businesses and what they value. With all due respect, a conversation with your colleagues doesn't constitute a consensus on innovation in American business. You can't argue with the fact that most of the things we now think of as innovations in the U.S. were actually developed either by foreign companies or through the demand of foreign consumers. Americans think "clean coal" is an innovation.
And my colleagues (and myself) are business owners and sit on boards for businesses across the country, so I suspect I know more about what they are thinking, when they make the decisions they do, then you can garner from the associated paperwork the government regulations require we submit... If you want to begin to understand, spend some time producing the volumes of paperwork the government regulations require of every business in this country... And certainly a more honest discussion than they are likely to give a 'news reporter.'

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We like to have it both ways in America. We lament the lack of American manufacturing, when we're not willing to pay the premium to go along with it, and we can't see the forest for the trees when it comes to what we do right and what we do wrong. We also take short cuts all the time that are detrimental to our economy. The last crisis was largely human made and in 20 years or less, we'll do something equally crazy again. The history of that is just too strong to ignore.

Yes, the American public likes to decry the 1%, all while enjoying the benefits produced by those 1% for them. On this we seem to agree.
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Old 08-13-13, 08:21 AM   #18
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Lets take the government out of the conversation (I'll stay political neutral and just say the government has enough of its own problems) and blame big oil for our lack of energy advances.

I guess that puts me on the liberal side, but it's a fact that the big oil lobby is a force to be reckoned with.
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Old 08-13-13, 08:51 AM   #19
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Lets take the government out of the conversation (I'll stay political neutral and just say the government has enough of its own problems) and blame big oil for our lack of energy advances.

I guess that puts me on the liberal side, but it's a fact that the big oil lobby is a force to be reckoned with.
And that's why we don't innovate. We hated diesel cars in the U.S. because they were European, we hate nuclear because it's European and we promote the interests of entrenched industries rather than allowing market forces to demand they retool for the 21st Century. We would make a lot of progress in this country if we could get people to understand economics and get to a point where people understood what they produced (either directly or via their income) and what they consumed (both things they purchase on their own and get via the government).

These reasons are among the ones that we can't have a sane transportation discussion in this country either. Not only do we subsidize roads out the yin yang, but our air traffic system is antiquated, we can't even get true high speed rail in dense corridors that would support it and on and on.
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Old 08-13-13, 08:54 AM   #20
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Originally Posted by PlanoFuji View Post
Okay, I'll play this game just once. And 'Liberals' like to blame businesses for all the evils in the world... Several U.S. companies have designed new nuclear power plants that produce significantly less waste, are considerably safer designs, etc... Of course the costs (mostly due to regulations) associated with constructing one in the U.S. means that it will never get built. And yes, environmentalists are the cause of the paperwork associated with a great deal of the energy production and manufacture in this country.



And my colleagues (and myself) are business owners and sit on boards for businesses across the country, so I suspect I know more about what they are thinking, when they make the decisions they do, then you can garner from the associated paperwork the government regulations require we submit... If you want to begin to understand, spend some time producing the volumes of paperwork the government regulations require of every business in this country... And certainly a more honest discussion than they are likely to give a 'news reporter.'

Yes, the American public likes to decry the 1%, all while enjoying the benefits produced by those 1% for them. On this we seem to agree.
If you examine the history of successful economies throughout the world, you'll see absolutely no economy has succeeded long term without a viable middle class and that's the direction we're going rapidly in this country. The middle class consumes the majority of the things that the wealthy produce because there's a limited market for luxury items.

On that, I'll end the politically oriented discussion and just say history will be the ultimate judge. We've tried supply side three or four times in the last 30 years and it's not worked yet because nobody ever turns down a government check, especially rural states that take money from states like New York, California and, to a lesser degree, Texas.
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Old 08-13-13, 09:08 AM   #21
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If you examine the history of successful economies throughout the world, you'll see absolutely no economy has succeeded long term without a viable middle class and that's the direction we're going rapidly in this country. The middle class consumes the majority of the things that the wealthy produce because there's a limited market for luxury items.
Apparently you are no more versed in history than you are in business. The very concept of a large (key word there) middle class is a modern invention that resulted from the wealth produced in industrialist societies. Prior to that advent, societies were typically pyramidal shaped, with a the bulk of the population being poor, a merchant class that was somewhat larger than the upper class of the society.

That said, there is no indication that the middle class is loosing viability in this country. What they are loosing is the ability to spend beyond their means. It is no longer as viable to live on credit, which is how much of what you seem to be describing as a middle class lifestyle was supported. However, the ones who would suffer most from such a reversion to traditional economic structure would be what you call the middle class... They are the ones who most benefit from the uptick in wealth.

Another point that is relevent is that the very concept of middle class is what is causing part of the issue you are citing. Over the years a number of researchers have performed surveys where two questions have been included. 1) Identify whether you are a) middle class, b) poor, or c) rich and 2) Identify you income bracket. The results have been amazingly consistent. Up to 90% of respondents have identified themselves as being in the 'middle class', while there income levels did not meet the mathematical definition (typically second and third quartiles)... So yes, those who have actually always been poor, may in fact be now realizing that...

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Originally Posted by cafzali View Post
On that, I'll end the politically oriented discussion and just say history will be the ultimate judge. We've tried supply side three or four times in the last 30 years and it's not worked yet because nobody ever turns down a government check, especially rural states that take money from states like New York, California and, to a lesser degree, Texas.
While not strictly true (there are a few exceptions), it does sadly seem to be all to common. And I would suspect that at least recently Texas has been providing more net to the coffers than California...
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Old 08-13-13, 09:15 AM   #22
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Old 08-13-13, 09:17 AM   #23
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Yes, the American public likes to decry the 1%, all while enjoying the benefits produced by those 1% for them. On this we seem to agree.
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Old 08-13-13, 09:30 AM   #24
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That said, there is no indication that the middle class is loosing viability in this country.
Actually there is. There is a ton of indication. There are charts and graphs and facts laid out by just about every economists not funded by the Koch brothers, but I'm guessing none of that will convince you if it hasn't already.
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Old 08-13-13, 10:34 AM   #25
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Originally Posted by PlanoFuji View Post
Apparently you are no more versed in history than you are in business. The very concept of a large (key word there) middle class is a modern invention that resulted from the wealth produced in industrialist societies. Prior to that advent, societies were typically pyramidal shaped, with a the bulk of the population being poor, a merchant class that was somewhat larger than the upper class of the society.

That said, there is no indication that the middle class is loosing viability in this country. What they are loosing is the ability to spend beyond their means. It is no longer as viable to live on credit, which is how much of what you seem to be describing as a middle class lifestyle was supported. However, the ones who would suffer most from such a reversion to traditional economic structure would be what you call the middle class... They are the ones who most benefit from the uptick in wealth.
We live in a modern world, so citing statistics from the dawn of the industrial age is no longer relevant. Secondly, and I don't mean to sound like a jerk here, but it's losing, not loosing. I've seen so many people get this wrong and I just don't see how people confuse the two.

The U.S. is virtually the only country on earth that decided to create an economy where 2/3s of aggregate GDP is consumer spending. That decision decades ago, along with policy decisions -- some good, some bad -- set in motion the situation we have now. I sincerely doubt we will be able to perpetuate the type of economy we have now unless serious changes are made. This focus has led to low savings rates at a time when we need high ones and high ones at a time when the economy needs consumer spending. We can't seem to get it right -- at least in the last 20 years. [/QUOTE]

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Originally Posted by PlanoFuji View Post
Another point that is relevent is that the very concept of middle class is what is causing part of the issue you are citing. Over the years a number of researchers have performed surveys where two questions have been included. 1) Identify whether you are a) middle class, b) poor, or c) rich and 2) Identify you income bracket. The results have been amazingly consistent. Up to 90% of respondents have identified themselves as being in the 'middle class', while there income levels did not meet the mathematical definition (typically second and third quartiles)... So yes, those who have actually always been poor, may in fact be now realizing that...
There's a lot of truth to what you say, actually, but I'd add politicians convincing people who have lower skills than are needed to sustain today's job that they're government victims to this list. People who live in high-tax states are tired of whiners from lower income ones acting as if something's holding them back. These were the same people who slept through high school when I was there 30 years ago and never went to college. Now, they're surprised they can't compete? [/QUOTE]

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Originally Posted by PlanoFuji View Post
While not strictly true (there are a few exceptions), it does sadly seem to be all to common. And I would suspect that at least recently Texas has been providing more net to the coffers than California...
California's fiscal problems at the state level don't mean the average income of Californians are declining. States like NY and California do a lot more for their residents on the local and state level than many other states. My roads in NY that traverse the state are paid for by tolls, not federal highway money. That said, there are systemic problems with the cost of living in both states that will have to be addressed if they want to maintain a viable middle class. And middle class here can mean an annual household income of $200K.
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