Middle-Income Families: It's Still the Economy
“It’s the economy, stupid,” is the phrase attributed to political strategist James Carville as a key point in the successful campaign of 1992 that propelled Bill Clinton to the White House. It’s probably a phrase candidates who wish to succeed the current president might want to take out of storage.
If new census numbers are any indication, it’s still the economy, and there’s little stupid about it.
A recent report by the U.S. Census Bureau concludes that Americans are seeing no significant growth in their income or relief from the threat of poverty. This comes as no surprise. While the unemployment situation has improved from that of two or three years ago, many find themselves no better off now than they were back then. Underemployment and a dearth of really good-paying jobs continue to be a nagging concern.
It’s a persistent stagnation, and candidates who want to succeed Barack Obama should be all over it.
The bureau’s American Community Survey study said that in 2014, the nation’s median household income -- half of all households made more, the other half less -- was $53,657. In the last three years, the number has barely budged, and that’s after two years of income declines.
At the same time, the Census report said, last year’s poverty rate was 15.5 percent, down by only 0.3 percentage points from 2013. The federal government uses a different calculation for poverty, the Alternative Current Population Survey, but its 2014 rate is not much different at 14.8 percent -- nearly 47 million Americans -- and essentially unchanged from the three previous years, not to mention 2.3 percentage points higher than in 2007.
Overall, the Census survey confirms that middle-income, working-class and poor households are not gaining benefits from the economic recovery -- if that’s what it can be called. Politicians of both parties should take a hard look at the numbers and attempt to comprehend the frustrations they represent for Americans.
It’s not pretty. And it’ll take more than a folksy catchphrase to address it.
Reprinted by the New Bern Sun Journal
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