Wednesday, August 30, 2006


Bush Boom: Rich Get Richer, Everyone Else Gets Screwed

Both USA Today and the New York Times shocked me today (as the NYT shocked me earlier this week) by putting up front-page above-the-fold stories on how the new Census data shows what my co-blogger Charles has aptly called the hollowing out of the American middle class. (The NYT even has a helpful graphic showing that even with the slight rise in incomes -- a rise that went mostly to the very rich or to people forced to take second or third jobs just to stay afloat -- as a whole we're still behind where we were in 1999, when Clinton was in office. What's more, the excuse that some right-wing Bush backers have been touting -- that incomes have dropped because employers are being forced to spend more on health-care bennies, which they argue have got more generous lately -- has been debunked, as USA Today also this morning spotlights an article on the rise in the numbers of uninsured Americans, a rise directly attributed to the fall in the number of employers offering health-care and other benefits. And in case the front-page positioning of the NYT's version of this news wasn't enough to show its importance, check out today's lead NYT editorial:

If you’re still harboring the notion that the economy is “good,” prepare to be disabused. Even the best number from yesterday’s Census Bureau report for 2005 is bad news for most Americans. It shows that median income rose 1.1 percent last year, to $46,326, the first increase since it peaked in 1999. But the entire increase is attributable to the 23 million households headed by someone over age 65. So the gain is likely from investment income and Social Security, not wages and salaries. For the other 91 million households, the median dropped, by half a percent, or $275. Incomes for the under-65 crowd were hurt by a decline in wages and salaries among full-time working men for the second year in a row, and among full-time working women for the third straight year. In all, median income for the under-65 group was $2,000 lower in 2005 than in 2001, when the last recession bottomed out. [...] The Census findings are yet another indication that growth alone is not the answer to the economic and social ills of poverty, income inequality and lack of insurance. Economic growth was strong in 2005, and productivity growth was impressive. What have been missing are government policies that help to ensure that the benefits of growth are broadly shared — like strong support for public education, a progressive income tax, affordable health care, a higher minimum wage and other labor protections. President Bush is unlikely to push for those changes, wed as he is to tax cuts that mainly benefit the wealthy. But the economic agenda for the next president couldn’t be clearer.

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