Thursday, September 17, 2009

Our Nation's Lost Decade

If you feel like a hamster on a wheel getting nowhere fast, there's an explanation for it according to this NYT's op-ed columnist.
For average Americans, the last 10 years were a lost decade. At the end of President George W. Bush’s eight years in office, American households had less money and less economic security, and fewer of them were covered by health care than 10 years earlier, the Census Bureau reported in its annual survey.

The poverty rate in 2008 rose to 13.2 percent, the highest in 11 years, while median household income fell to $50,303. Ten years earlier, adjusted for inflation, it was $51,295.
In fact, income for the median American household fell for the first time in four decades. The Great Recession gets some of the blame, but the decline started well before the housing and financial sectors collapsed.

Harvard economist Lawrence Katz explains what happened: "We had a plutocratic boom. Then we have egalitarian recessions. Taken together, only the top ends up growing, on average." And the top did very well indeed: "During the same period, the average income of the richest tenth of a percent increased by about $2 million, or about 35%." They can thank President Bush for his $1.3 trillion tax cuts.

How did average Americans fare? People in their prime earning years (age 45 to 54) took "the biggest hit in the last years of the Bush Administration, their median income fell by $5,000. And the region that suffered most — the South."

Income went down for all races, but "Hispanics experienced some of the biggest losses. Income declined 5.6 percent for Hispanic households, 4.4 percent for Asians, 2.8 percent for African American families and 2.6 percent for non-Hispanic whites. Hispanics and Asians also showed the biggest increases in poverty rates."

Poverty really hit children according to the EPI:
A Sept. 10 report from the Census Bureau shows that the child poverty rate rose to 19.0% in 2008, from 18% in 2007. That translates to 14.1 million children living in poverty in the richest nation on earth.

In 2008, more than one in three - 35.3% - of all people living in poverty were children. EPI projects that with the continuing deterioration in the labor market, by 2009 a quarter of all children in this country will be living in poverty and by 2010 the child poverty rate will be 26.6%.

This would represent an increase of 10.4 percentage points from 2000 to 2010 – truly a lost decade.
Speaking of the labor market, the Bush administration failed miserably on job creation according to Market Watch:
...the private sector didn't just lose jobs over the last month or the last year -- it's lost jobs over the last decade.

Yes, the very segment of the economy that was supposed to thrive under the Bush administration ended up with a net loss of 223,000 jobs since August 1999, according to the latest figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Meanwhile, the nation's population has grown by 33.5 million people.

That's the worst job-creating performance by the private sector since, you guessed it, the Great Depression.

On top of that, the government created 2.1 million jobs. Wait, you say -- isn't that a positive? Well, no, because it's the worst performance by the government over a 10-year period since the last major recession of the early 1990s.
And something bad happened to young workers over the past decade too:
Since 1999, more of them now have lower-paying jobs, if they can get a job at all; health care is a rare luxury and retirement security is something for their parents, not them. In fact, many—younger than 35—still live at home with their parents because they can’t afford to be on their own.
Heckuva job, President Bush. Heckuva job, Republicans. You get credit for our "lost decade" and we get to live with the results. Some deal.

No comments: