I'll respond to myself to clarify. A lot of people are arguing the merits the specific examples I choose. I think maybe the timelines, 50's vs now are too long for people to relate to. My point boils down to this, if the real cost of goods has dropped to 1/5th of what it was at a given point, being able to afford 4 of them now might mean a better quality of life but still means you are worse off economically vs those who could afford one before that reduction in costs because you'd need to be able to afford 5 and not 4 to be equally well off economically. For the purpose of determining how we are doing economically it doesn't matter if the things have more bells and whistles, it doesn't matter that people who couldn't afford one before can afford one now, etc. All those things just mean technology has progressed and improved the quality of life for those worse off economically, it doesn't mean they have more raw purchasing power.
Let me take it closer. In the late 80's and early 90's my parents were pizza hut store managers, my father the actual manager and my mother head assistant manager. We had a large 50-60" tv (massive thing) that cost $6k+, we had exotic birds and lizards that cost at least $10k, we had a tanning bed that cost $5k+, we had a telescope that cost about $3k, and a computer that cost $5k+, not to mention thousands of dollars for water beds, funiture, jewelry, the latest games and consoles as they came out, over 2000 movies, etc and two new cars. We could and did get any dental, vision, medical work we needed without substantial issue. My parents were shipped around a lot so we never owned the home but owning is cheaper than renting and they had no issues with credit so they could have afforded to own if it had made sense for them.
Do you think pizza hut managers at the store level could afford that today? No, no they couldn't. I've knew a store manager about 7 years ago who went at least a year with a plastic bag taped over the window of his beater because he couldn't afford to have it fixed. You couldn't afford these goods on that kind of salary today even if the numbers all matched because those goods die and have to replaced every few years, it isn't the cost of the goods, it's the burn rate required to maintain it. You'd need an income of double what my parents made to maintain an equivalent lifestyle today.
Consider the computer for a moment. A modern desktop computer is far more powerful of course and far cheaper. A modern replacement might be as little as $400. So you could buy 12 of them for what our computer cost. Do you think a chain restaurant manager can afford to have and maintain 12 reasonably current computers today? The only way they are even going to come close is if they maintain a high end gaming system and that is all they spend their money on like a mmo addict and even then they aren't going to be able to keep that up forever. We basically just used the thing to keep a list of our movies and track some finances. Someone touched it maybe once a month to update those things.