September 28, 2017. Kelley Kidd. We have been told endlessly that the recession of 2008-2009 lasted about one full year. Then we began slowly but surely crawling out of the longest and deepest recession since the Great Depression. So I have been led to believe. That narrative is true for somebody, but it is not true for most of us. A recent reliable newspaper article shows me that most people in this country have been living in a stagnant or deteriorating economic situation for many years!
Earlier this month my little hometown paper had a front page story that quietly noted the median American family has had lower income in every year since 1999, but that the 2016 income for that family was just a hair better than the last year of the last millennium. And that last little bit of news carries the ominous footnote that it is a statistical conclusion based on not quite the same criteria used in the previous measurements from previous years. In other words the real median family income may still be less than it was at the end of the 20th Century.
We have also been told that there was an economic “pause” right after the terrible events of 9/11/2001. The Bush II years have otherwise been said to have been slow growth years. That was the same kind of falsehood that we have heard about the so-called recession following the stock market dive in 2008. Largely because all of the rest of us committed 7 billion dollars in response, that recession was over within a year after it started, but only in terms of the aggregate national income. For most of us the recession had started long before, and it is not over yet. In fact that recession for most is still painfully present. In fact there has not been a single year between 1999 and 2016 in which the income of the median family (in income) has been as good as it was in 1999! That amazing fact was revealed recently in my hometown paper. That little article from the Statesboro Herald shows that both the pause of 2001 and the recession of 2008 were part of a larger and much longer recession—if by recession you mean the loss of income for the American people as a whole. You will see in future parts of this series that there is massive data to support this assertion. There are also tremendous consequences as the result of this long recession. I will do my best to document both
This country has been doing well since 2000 only if doing well is properly measured by the financial well-being of this country’s super rich. Since 1970 the top one percent has done extremely well. Many in the bottom 90 percent have actually lost income and wealth and solvency. Thomas Frank has been saying accurately that the bottom 90 cent of American families have not gained one red cent in family income since 1970.
The election of Donald Trump is a direct outcome of the economic and social decline of most American families in the last few decades. So is the Democratic Party’s loss of both political power and credibility. On the other hand it is not also true that Bernie Sanders has been propelled from the obscurity of a “super liberal” Vermont political anomaly to the pinnacle of current political popularity in America. A recent poll showed this self-proclaimed socialist as the singular office holder with a favorable rating of 75 percent. As we will see in future posts the forces at play that account for these phenomena are neither secret nor unintelligible. While many of us—including myself—were watching other things, the heart of American prosperity has gone or rather has been taken.