A 2008 USA TODAY story of middle class gamblers deciding to reign in their habit because of high gas prices highlights the reality that surpluses of choices afflict working Americans even more than shortages of cash. The article cited Marie Braun, 45, of Olathe, Kansas, who “has already made the decision to cut back, from five casino visits a year to two or three visits. Gas is too expensive for a 60 mile round trip to Missouri, says Braun, who works for a telecommunications company.” Ironically, she and the others quoted by the reporters had made the decision that spending twenty or thirty extra dollars in gas (maximum) made it irresponsible for them to continue to travel to casinos where they almost surely lost several hundred dollars each trip (minimum).
The vibrant economy gives working Americans more choices than ever before. The decline of middle class values – saving, deferred gratification, reliability, self-control, family loyalty, respectability – makes it somewhat less likely that they will make the right choices to promote their health, happiness and long-term prosperity.