I think the problems with the middle class come down to just a couple things. First is that technology has produced so many things for the middle class to spend money on. More things exist to buy today than in the 60's and 70's (big screen tv, cable tv bills, ipads, computers, ipods, etc. etc.). And this is most pronounced in medical care which is probably the biggest change for the middle class since the 60's and 70's. You don't need to get too political about it, the fact is that there are so many (usually beneficial) ways to spend money on healthcare, treatments, cat scans, drugs, etc today than there were 40 years ago it can practically explain the problems of the middle class by itself (to the extent that they exist). That's my take on the politics but I don't think the reason lies here because simple population growth guarantees that there are plenty of people who could buy a small boat.
The next reason is that technology has brought a constant creep in standards (as other people have mentioned) towards bigger and better, which is ok, but with it the ability to enjoy simpler things has left. My fathers parents used to cruise with a family of 7 on a 23 foot boat before settling on a 29 foot boat which they thoroughly enjoyed (and they could have afforded larger). Today a family of 7 that could afford a 29 foot boat would never get it because they'd consider it too small. They'd either forgo the boat altogether or stretch for something much larger because of the creep of standards.
And of course the other simpler reason is (as many others have pointed out) the huge number of quality boats that exist in this size range. Boats simply don't wear out like other goods and are rarely scrapped (and usually only are after decades of use). It's a tough business to be in when you are competing against your own products from 10, 20, 30 years ago.
Last edited by asdf38; 06-12-2011 at 02:42 PM.