3. Lastly, an essay:

"By historical and international standards, there are much worse things to be than a member of the stagnant or declining middle class in America—nearly everyone we’re talking about probably has televisions and refrigerators among other cheaply produced pieces of gadgetry. But people seem to choose to obliterate themselves not when their current situation is dire, but when there is no apparent path to a better one.

Yet still, despite the dirt cheap vacuums and flat-screen TVs, something seems wrong. People keep complaining about “income inequality” and writing books about how grindingly difficult it is for an alarmingly large number of Americans to get by. Conservatives seem to have noticed that their primary argument—why do you feel so poor when you have such a large TV?—has had trouble making inroads among people who actually experience life in the United States. They’ve noticed, too, that while TVs, for example, are quite cheap, things essential to live—and things essential to “get ahead” in the United States—are only becoming more expensive.

The prices of things like new cars, clothing, toys, and TVs staying steady or dramatically falling relative to the inflation rate, while food, housing, child care, and—especially—medical care skyrocket in price. If you want an explanation of why non-wealthy Americans feel so stretched thin even in a time of supposed abundance, there it is. They can afford to get their kids toys but not bachelor’s degrees.

The disrupted vision of the end of work, in other words, is simply underemployment, mitigated by the escapist pleasure of eating pizza in front a $150, forty-inch TV. But if that’s all the future economy has to offer millions of Americans, shouldn’t the pizza and TV suck a bit less? That’s what’s especially galling about self-driving pizzas replacing pensions: how quietly crummy the tidal wave of affordable gadgets is. We live in a secretly janky future."

selected excerpt from "Consolation Prizes," by Alex Pareene for The Baffler