What is a U.S. dollar worth?
Everyone probably immediately thinks, "not as much as it used to be worth!" And, of course that's correct.
But what was it worth back when the Republic was young and vibrant? According to Wikipedia a dollar was originally (between 1792 and 1873) redeemable from the United States Treasury for 371.25 grains of silver.
So, what exactly is a grain? Again according to Wikipedia a grain is a measure based on the mass of a "single seed of a typical cereal," such as wheat of barley. In modern times a grain is fixed as an amount equal to about 64.8 milligrams.
In fact when I was a child I had paper dollar bills that bore the legend "silver certificate," meaning I could cash them in at any bank for an ounce of silver. So as recently as the 60s an ounce of silver equated to a dollar. As of this writing I can buy an ounce of silver for $17.44.
Thus, in the past forty years, by my estimate the purchasing power of a dollar measured in the quantity of silver it will buy is about seventeen and one half times less than it was.
So, your initial reaction was accurate and a dollar really isn't worth what it used to be worth.