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September 2018, Week 3

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 		 [ To most Americans, the best marker of a healthy economy will
always be a decent-paying, full-time job. An economy only deserves
celebrating when people with full-time jobs have rising paychecks. In
America today, they don’t.] [https://portside.org/] 

 DOES THE UNITED STATES HAVE A ‘STRONG’ ECONOMY?  
[https://portside.org/2018-09-19/does-united-states-have-strong-economy]


 

 Sam Pizzigati 
 September 12, 2018
Inequality.org
[https://inequality.org/great-divide/does-the-united-states-have-a-strong-economy/]


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 _ To most Americans, the best marker of a healthy economy will always
be a decent-paying, full-time job. An economy only deserves
celebrating when people with full-time jobs have rising paychecks. In
America today, they don’t. _ 

 , Shutterstock 

 

Long-time Republican Party political strategists are having fits. If
only we could get average Americans to focus in on the economy instead
of The Donald, they’re telling
[https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-09-12/trump-is-more-unpopular-than-any-president-with-a-strong-economy?srnd=premium] all
comers, the GOP would do just fine in the upcoming November midterm
elections.

Those Republican strategists should be careful what they wish for.
Getting average Americans to focus in on the economy ought to be the
last thing in the world they want voters to do.

That economy is doing average Americans no favors. And now we have
some powerful new evidence to that effect, from data-rich reports just
released by the Census Bureau
[https://www.census.gov/newsroom/press-releases/2018/income-poverty.html] and
one of America’s top independent analysts of household well-being,
the Pew Research Center
[http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2018/09/06/the-american-middle-class-is-stable-in-size-but-losing-ground-financially-to-upper-income-families/].

Both sets of researchers tell the same story: Average Americans have
no reason to be celebrating our contemporary economy.

“Most families,” as Economic Policy Institute senior economist
Elise Gould puts it
[https://www.epi.org/press/well-worn-patterns-of-inequality-reemerge-in-census-data-for-2017/],
“have just barely made up the ground lost over the past decade.”

News stories on the new Census report have so far been giving the
Bureau’s latest income numbers a generally positive spin. Media
outlets are headlining
[https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/u-s-household-income-increases-third-straight-year-61-372-n908541] an
increase in America’s real median income, from $60,309 in 2016 to
$61,372 last year. But that increase in median income obscures a more
complicated — and much less encouraging — reality.

To most Americans, the best marker of a healthy economy will always be
a decent-paying, full-time job. An economy, in effect, only deserves
celebrating when people with full-time jobs are taking home rising
paychecks. In America today, they aren’t.

Median annual earnings for both men and women working full-time
actually dropped
[https://www.epi.org/blog/by-the-numbers-income-and-poverty-2017/] 1.1
percent last year, in real dollars. Since 2007, male full-time workers
have seen their paychecks drop 2.5 percent in value.

Stepping back a bit more in time, we can see how shrinking full-time
wages are impacting economic life as most Americans experience it.
Since the year 2000, the household income of the typical non-elderly
American household has dropped 2.7 percent.

For average Americans, in other words, this hasn’t been a great
century.

Indeed, for average Americans, this hasn’t been a particularly great
past 50 years. Americans in the “statistical” middle class — the
20 percent of Americans in the exact middle of our income distribution
— have seen their real household incomes increase by less than an
average 1 percent per year since 1967, the latest Census numbers show.

Investigators at the Pew Research Center have a different take on how
to define middle class. They stick the middle class label on adults
whose household incomes range from two-thirds of the typical American
household income to double that amount, after adjusting for household
size.

In 2016, says the Pew Center’s newly published research
[http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2018/09/06/the-american-middle-class-is-stable-in-size-but-losing-ground-financially-to-upper-income-families/],
America’s middle class households — 52 percent of the nation’s
population — had a typical income of $78,442, about the same exact
income of the typical middle class household in 2000.

The U.S. middle class, writes
[https://www.azcentral.com/story/money/economy/2018/09/10/income-disparity-middle-class-falls-farther-behind-wealthy-earnings/37769573/] Pew
analyst Rakesh Kochhar, does finally appear “not to be shrinking”
in size, at least for now. But middle-class households are continuing
“to fall further behind upper-income households financially,
mirroring the long-running rise in income inequality in the U.S.
overall.”

In 2016, Kochhar adds, wealth gaps between upper-income families and
both lower- and middle-income families stood “at the highest levels
recorded.”

The bottom line: The economy that America’s rich run is doing quite
well for America’s rich.

And that statistic on rising median income that news stories on the
new Census report are headlining? Census Bureau researchers are asking
us to take the latest median income number with a grain of salt.

Yes, notes
[https://www.census.gov/library/stories/2018/09/highest-median-household-income-on-record.html?eml=gd&utm_campaign=20180912msacos1ccstors&utm_medium=email&utm_source=govdelivery] Jonathan
Rothbaum, the chief of the Census Bureau’s Income Statistics Branch,
the new Census _Income and Poverty in the United States:
2017_ report does show the 2017 U.S. median income to be the highest
on record. But that “record” status rests on a change that Census
researchers made in their income survey questions four years ago.

If we adjust for the changed questions, suggests Rothbaum, the 2017
median income actually amounts to less than the incomes typical
Americans pocketed in either 2007 or 1999.

[SAM PIZZIGATI CO-EDITS INEQUALITY.ORG. HIS LATEST BOOK, _THE CASE
FOR A MAXIMUM WAGE
[http://politybooks.com/bookdetail/?isbn=9781509524914&subject_id=88]_,
HAS JUST BEEN PUBLISHED. AMONG HIS OTHER BOOKS ON MALDISTRIBUTED
INCOME AND WEALTH: _THE RICH DON’T ALWAYS WIN: THE FORGOTTEN
TRIUMPH OVER PLUTOCRACY THAT CREATED THE AMERICAN MIDDLE CLASS,
1900-1970
[https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/13572826-the-rich-don-t-always-win]_.
FOLLOW HIM AT @TOO_MUCH_ONLINE
[https://twitter.com/Too_Much_Online].]

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