The PJ Tatler

The Middle Class Did Very Well in the last Decade

Contrary to the President’s assertions, the middle class did not flatline under President Bush. Writing in The American, Steve Conover shows that, ” All four versions of ‘middle class’ outperformed every definition of ‘rich’; in short, the gap between the rich and the middle class got smaller, not larger.”

[I]n the wake of the Bush tax cuts, wouldn’t it have been nice to see the middle class get its fair share of the overall economy’s growth? Wouldn’t it have been even nicer if middle class income had grown at a faster pace than that of the rich?

If the seven years before 2008 had yielded results like that, it might have driven that year’s political campaigns and subsequent debates away from the rear-view-mirror exercise of assigning blame for unfair distribution of past income growth and towards a forward-looking focus on our society’s choices for enhancing future economic growth. We could today be focusing on the single, overwhelmingly important problem facing our economy—jump-starting overall growth—armed with the confidence that the middle class, as before, would get at least its fair share of that growth.

But imagining those middle-class results is just wishful thinking, isn’t it?

No. In the seven years from 2001-2007 (inclusive), not only did the middle class get at least its fair share of overall income growth, the income gap between the rich and the middle class actually got smaller. In an apparent paradox, the same Census Bureau database that told us that median household income was essentially unchanged in 2007 versus 2000 also tells us that the middle class enjoyed a higher income growth rate than did either the overall economy or the rich—and therefore that their income gap versus the rich had actually decreased.

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