I was born and grew up in what you might call the “Middle Class America” era that followed the Great Compression. This shaped my impressions about what the US is as well as what it can and should be.
Most essentially, the two biggest things that have emerged since my childhood and adolescence and that have changed the country are:
Major income stratification (as seen in the chart): My formative years were spent in a country that was far more egalitarian and where the gap between winners and losers was real and large but not the massive black hole it is today. The out of control status whoring that epitomizes much of modern US culture is repulsive to me at a very basic level.
Decreased social mobility: Not exactly what I mean but close enough. This means roughly: To what extent does your parents’ situaion impinge on your life choices? How much does being born in a poor family in a small town in the middle of nowhwere mean you have no realistic chances of having a less poor life? How much does access (or not) to “good” schools predetermine your life?
Related to this is the question: How many and what kind of jobs are available to those who finish an average high school? Or community college? How many such jobs does it take to buy a house? or support a family?
People get hung up on the meaningless “make more than your parents” question (another symptom of status whoring). The real question is what percentage of the citizenry has a shot at a decent life without access to “good” schools or connections?