September 25, 2014

MAYBE THIS IS WHY OBAMA’S POLLING BADLY EVEN IN BLUE STATES: William Galston: The Recovery That Left Out Almost Everybody.

More than five years after the official end of the recession, the Public Religion Research Institute finds, only 21% of Americans believe the recession has ended.

Two recent reports help explain the disconnect between the official jobs numbers and the economic experience of most Americans. Every fall, the U.S. Commerce Department issues a detailed analysis of trends in income, poverty and health insurance. Although economists have some technical quibbles with the Commerce data, the broad trends are unmistakable.

This year’s report found that median household income was $51,939 in 2013, 8% lower than in 2007, the last year before the recession. Households in the middle of the income distribution earned about $4,500 less last year than they had six years earlier. No wonder 56% of Americans told the Pew Research Center that their incomes were falling behind the cost of living.

The Federal Reserve’s triennial Survey of Consumer Finances confirms these findings. Between 2010 and 2013, the Fed reports, median family income fell by 5%, even though average family income rose by 4%. This is, note the authors, “consistent with increasing income concentration during this period.” Only families in the top 10%, with annual incomes averaging nearly $400,000, saw gains during these three years.

So President Goldman Sachs delivered big returns to the fatcats, at the expense of everyone else. Go figure.

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