There are no "good" companies out there; that's the thing you don't seem to understand. There aren't any companies which are going to give you a generous raise each year (at least enough to match what you'd make at another job elsewhere, i.e., keeping up with the "market rate"); that's just not the way companies work any more. Companies treat workers like dirt because they're shortsighted, and because a fair number of employees (like you, it seems) put up with it because they're afraid of losing their jobs, and are willing to work 60-hour weeks for years on end just so they can be seen as "loyal", even though company management doesn't give a shit and will sack you as soon as it helps them make this quarter's financials look better.
A killer stereo and huge TV don't cost anything, BTW. You can get a huge TV now for under $1000; to someone making 6 figures, that's really not a lot of money. Nice stereos cost quite a bit less than that these days. And it's not like you're going to buy a new one of these every year. If you want to point at things which Americans usually waste a lot of money on, it's 1) car (with giant car payments), 2) cable/satellite TV (worse if you get the stupid sports packages), 3) alcohol (not really expensive from a store, but at bars and restaurants it's insanely overpriced). Living in a "ritzy" area is not a waste of money, because the alternative is living in a ghetto and getting shot at or robbed on a regular basis. Thanks to the housing boom, a decent house still costs $250k-500k in many cities, even after the housing bust (prices went down, but not that much) (yes, decent houses are much cheaper in other places, but these are generally non-tech cities where Slashdotters are not going to have an abundance of jobs to choose from, and consequently salaries are far, far less, even less than half as much).
As for your cousin, what was his field and his specialty, and where did he live? He was doing something seriously wrong if it took him 10 years to find steady work again. Was he one of those people who became a "web developer" in the dot-com days, with no degree or credentials whatsoever? If so, well no wonder he couldn't find any work after the bubble popped. People with degrees and real credentials and experience haven't had that problem. Moreover, was he one of those people who absolutely refused to move from whatever little city they (and their extended family) have lived in their whole lives? That's a career-killer too. You can't be a professional and be unwilling to move to where the work is, and do well. If you're dead-set on living in a certain place, then you need to forgo education altogether, and just get a job out of high school doing something that's in high demand in your local area (like working as a grocery cashier for minimum wage), or perhaps get an education in something that there's plenty of jobs in your area for (like medical technicians; every little city has several hospitals and lots of medical clinics). Don't bother getting a college degree if you don't want to move to where the work is.
Anyway, sorry about the asides, but the point is, if you have a good education and experience in the software field, and you're willing to move to where the work is, there's plenty of jobs open for software developers, regardless of the economy. I got laid off in 2009 when the economy sucked (along with my entire team; company decided to toss out the whole department because it didn't think its profit margin was high enough, even though it had customers lined up with guaranteed high volumes for years), and I had another job in a month at a 20% increase in salary. Combined with the 4-month-equivalent severance package, it was a pretty sweet deal. And I'm no rock-star performer either. All that stuff you read about high unemployment and no jobs doesn't apply to software people.