The Beer: Tomorrow, I move much of my beer brewing "stuff" to a place where I can brew. Yay me.
The Bicycle: Little has changed. How do I motivate to ride in the spring?
The VRWC: Since the 1970s, the United States has seen an increase in the volume of cheap goods made overseas and the and in the number of discounters selling those goods. Few of the large retailers like Sears, Montgomery Ward, and Woolworths remain. And while the very high end like Nordstrom, Neiman Marcus and Macy's still exist, the low end, consisting of Target, WalMart and Dollar (insert "General" or "Tree" or "Store" etc. here). What does this say about the long-term state of the US economy?
Arguably, the economy in the United States has been in a decline since the post WWII heyday. Good paying industrial jobs have abandoned the US for overseas. The causes of this can be debated as we look at wage pressures, regulatory pressures, inflationary pressures and changes in the workforce. But the fact is, there are fewer jobs that support the kind of middle-class life I grew up in. McDonalds is now considered a valid career choice. Half of the population receives some sort of government assistance (exclusive of social security, military pensions and the like). Historical data for trending is difficult to find - BLS.gov has easily retrieved data only back to 2008.
So, how does all this get fixed? First is to limit the size and power of the federal government. Second is to eliminate the ability of the government to subsidize private activity. Third is to limit the time the able-bodied may spend on welfare. The reintroduction of so many into the workforce will be painful and must be managed by private business. This will increase the pool of money for American-made goods. Short-term pain for long-term gain.