Adjusted For Inflation
4

How Much More Do Baseball Players Make Today?

In honor of Opening Day on Sunday, the first of two essays today on the history of the game.

It's almost impossible to think of baseball without thinking of money. There's no better example than headline-grabbing Alex Rodriguez, third baseman for the New York Yankees. In 2000, he signed an alarming ten-year deal with the Texas Rangers for $252 million (which the Yankees traded for in 2004). This is the deal he opted out of during (like, in the middle of) Game Four of the 2007 World Series, only to sign another ten-year deal with the Yankees, this time for $275 million. Now, with Opening Day days away, [...]

2

How Much More Do Things Cost Today: The Super Bowl Edition

In the week leading up to the Super Bowl, we can be certain of a number of things. Someone will suggest that the Monday after Super Bowl Sunday should be a national holiday. The food journalism industry will grind to a halt with party menu suggestions. A current pop song will be selected as the background music for the stirring video recap/build-up to open the broadcast (like say, Band of Horses' "The Funeral"). The impact on the local strip clubs will be examined. A competition will be held in which people make a commercial for a product and the winning commercial will be broadcast.

It's [...]

37

How Much More Do Bridesmaid Dresses Cost Today?

So what happens to bridesmaid dresses after the wedding is done, the cake is served and the shots of Gentleman Jack from the open bar metabolized? We asked a group of women the ultimate fate of the bridesmaid dresses they've worn; one respondent, teacher Becca Simone, who's had bridesmaid twice on her résumé, wrote of one dress, “I wore it twice recently: bridal shower and when I chaperoned a prom.” Another, filmmaker Sara Lamm, of Los Angeles, said, "I will say that bridesmaid dresses make good costumes for comedic variety shows. You can always use a bridesmaid dress in a play or horror movie, no?" Sure you can.

[...]
18

What It Cost Eight Women Writers To Make It In New York

Top row: Dorothy Parker, Zora Neale Hurston, Shirley Jackson, Gael Greene. Bottom row: Patti Smith, Susan Sontag, Tama Janowitz, Kate Christensen.

In 1967, Patti Smith wrote in Just Kids, she was considering a move to New York City. "I had enough money for a one-way ticket. I planned to hit all the bookstores in the city. This seemed ideal work to me." Twenty-seven years before her, in 1940, Shirley Jackson and her soon-to-be husband Stanley Hyman graduated from Syracuse and moved to New York. According to this biography, "For quite some time they had known exactly what they were going to do: move to New York [...]

10

How Much More Does Aspirin Cost Today?

One thing aspirin is not: polarizing. If you are going to have a tiff with a friend, aspirin will not be the topic. Aspirin is actually a great unifier—it’s one of the sundries that can be found in every home across the country. Aspirin is easy to find, and it is here to help. With all sorts of things, of course, but between you and me, mostly hangovers. And people who are paranoid of incipient heart disease, they also are big aspirin fans.

Perhaps you yourself are one of those people who overindulge in the bendy elbows and/or quiet fears of your own mortality. So let’s [...]

35

How Much More Do Televisions Cost Today?

Sometime between July and September of this year, you may have heard that America’s poor are not really all that poor. Something like this bit of wisdom from Heritage Foundation researcher Robert Rector from July 27, 2011:

How poor are America’s poor? The typical poor family has at least two color TVs, a VCR and a DVD player. A third have a widescreen, plasma or LCD TV. And the typical poor family with children has a video game system such as Xbox or PlayStation.

My goodness, that almost makes you wish you were America’s poor, doesn’t it? (Or maybe you already are—congratulations!)

The implied redefinition of [...]

11

How Much More Are Movie Stars Making Today?

We all know that our movie stars are not only a precious natural resource, but also a group of individuals that are very highly compensated, not just now, but even back then, when we were just figuring out what to call them (moving picture heroes? Lumièronauts?). We also all know that this compensation has increased as the years tick by and the Oscars are doled out. But do we know exactly by how much?

9

How Much More Does Taking The Subway Cost Today?

It runs 24 hours a day—a rarity, anywhere in the world—and it moves 1.6 billion riders a year across the five boroughs of New York City. And on Friday (update: the new fare will be going into effect Sunday, March 3), it will become more expensive. After a fare hike five years ago, the base fare of taking the subway (that is with no discounts) will rise a quarter to $2.50 a pop. And although some of the service cuts enacted in 2010 have since been restored, this hike is not attached to any improvements in service—alas. As with other mandated fare hikes, this one was met with [...]

3

How Much More Money Do Presidential Candidates Raise Today?

As we slog through Election Day, let's look at the money that's gone into this election season. Not so long ago, it was reported that the Obama campaign apparatus had raised one billion dollars in the bid for reelection. It's not a universally accepted figure, and the final tabulations aren't in yet, but by the calculations of the New York Times, both candidates had raised roughly $900 million each, as of Oct. 17th. A lot of money. Compare that to the amount that John F. Kennedy raised in his 1960 race against Nixon: $9.8 million, which, adjusted for inflation, equals $76.6 million.

Another interesting thing: Nixon, who had [...]

23

How Much More Do Martinis Cost Today?

One of the more noteworthy qualities of the martini, the quality that sets it apart from all the other drinks mixed at your local watering hole, is the disproportionate effect it's had in inspiring witticisms. Dorothy Parker, as usual, leads the way, with this bit of light poetry: "I like to have a martini/Two at the very most/Three, I'm under the table/Four, I'm under the host." James Thurber added, "One martini is all right, two is too many, and three is not enough." Winston Churchill has a good one (maybe apocryphally) attributed to him, too: "Martinis are like breasts: One is not enough and three is too many." Sure, whiskey [...]

12

How Much More Does Crossing The Holland Tunnel Cost Today?

You do not need the ghost of Andy Rooney to remind you that, if traveling by automobile is a big chocolate cake of frustration, then the tolls that may be collected from you are the frosting. These tolls are such an annoyance (if not an outright burden) that they're avoided as a topic by even the most amateur of our stand-up comics. And of the costs that are difficult to avoid in the day-to-day, these are definitely increasing, right? Increases mount, and what was once an afterthought, tossing some change into a basket, is now an expense to be reckoned with.

But even if we all agree that, yes, [...]

9

How Much More Do Books Cost Today?

The New York Times Best Sellers list has come a long way—so far, that it’s no longer just a list or two (Fiction and Nonfiction). Check in now and you will find that there are 21 separate lists, everything from Combined Print and E-Book to Manga. Manga! This is no longer the NYT Best Sellers list we grew up with, checking the paper each Sunday for (after we read the funnies in some other paper). It’s all grown up, and reading manga.

In recognition of the steadfastness of the New York Times Best Seller lists, let’s see what books were topping it, going backwards in time, and use the [...]

19

How Much More Does A Steak Dinner Cost Today?

"Marlene Dietrich once said that if she heard an American man rave about a meal, she knew he must have eaten a steak," says A Treasury of Great Recipes. Published in 1965, the book was written by Vincent and Mary Price (yes, that Vincent Price, or that one, maybe you remember). Price drops the quote in a section on great New York restaurants. And it’s not just the American men who thought this (though more on that below): restaurant critic Ruth Reichl in a 1994 steakhouse round-up wrote, “But there is one thing I have no doubt about: steak is a New York tradition, and when I [...]

2

How Much More Does Getting Heartburn Cost Today?

There's a commercial that caught my eye during a recent spate of television watching with relatives, a spot for Prilosec, featuring a stand-up comedian, a veteran of the Blue Collar Comedy Tour. Actually it caught my eye several times because it was airing and then reairing again all through the holidays. It was disquieting. But obviously this was a good time to run a spot for a heartburn drug, during that period from Thanksgiving to the Super Bowl that is technically the Gluttony Season, as what better time to come down with a spot of heartburn? It’s ingrained in the advertising industry as the unintended consequence of the parties and [...]

9

How Much More Do Taxi Fares Cost Today?

It’s a done deal: taxicabs in New York City will become more expensive, as last Thursday the Taxi and Limousine Commission voted to increase fares by what they calculate as 17%. The changes take effect in September, when we will see if anyone actually notices.

This may be a matter of parochial interest, as, contrary to the beliefs of most New Yorkers, not everyone lives in New York City. And no matter what impression a visit to Times Square will leave you with, some non-New Yorkers don’t even visit NYC. But taxis are about the most New York-y thing of all, immortalized in television and film, [...]

19

How Much More Do Comic Books Cost Today?

This is a big week for the comic book industry. On Friday (at midnight!), the first of the summer blockbusters, The Avengers, opens in the U.S. The Avengers is, of course, one of three superhero actioners to be released this summer, with The Dark Knight Rises and the reboot The Amazing Spider-Man on deck. Then on Saturday, it's Free Comic Book Day, with free offerings from publishers, big and small, hopefully drawing in hordes of potential customers to stores. As comic book writer Fred Van Lente told me, “It’s a good annual promotion to get fresh faces in the stores. I was flown in to at an event at [...]

6

How Much More Does Chinese Food Cost Today?

We're entering the Year of the Dragon. Last night was the beginning of the new lunar year, which makes today what we call Chinese New Year (and what they call in China, New Year). It may seem pat to take this occasion to discuss our relationship with Chinese food, and the relative expense of it over time, but it's not meant to be. At feasts all over the world today, dumplings will be eaten for prosperity and noodles for long life. And while Americans use a different metric for determining what year it is, Chinese food is as mainstream in this country as French fries and buffalo wings (both [...]

11

How Much More Do Barbies Cost Today?

It's gift-buying time, for whichever ecclesiastical reason you personally buy your gifts. So here’s a nifty trick question for the daughters/nieces in your life after they’ve opened their presents: how old would Barbie be in real life? The easy answer is that she would be 52, as she was introduced in 1959. But not so! She was introduced as a teenager, of course (let’s say sixteen), so the actual year of her birth would be 1943. And do you know who else was born in 1943, do ya? This guy.

Oh, that should be a good one.

But if you are shopping for young kids of a certain age, [...]

4

How Much More Does Candy Cost Today?

“Candy may be dandy…” Actually, that is not true. Candy is at all times dandy, and all of us can testify to that: we were children once, and young. When I was ten I’d bike down to the Open Pantry, and if there was allowance left over after comic books, I’d grab a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup for a quarter (and, if in a shrewd frame of mind, not eat it directly but throw it in the freezer back home). It was a tiny luxury, only two bits.

Now, 30 years later, with childhood more perilous than ever (what with the confusion over the aims of Occupy Wall Street, and [...]