After his bizarre and widely panned decision to go forward with it just hours after the Navy Yard shooting on Monday, President Obama gave yet another speech about how much the economy has ostensibly recovered since the financial crisis five years ago. His administration has been “pushing back against the trends that have been battering the middle class for decades,” he insisted, citing the supposedly healing housing market, the “saved” auto industry, limited job creation, and increased renewable energy generation as evidence that his policies are working, but was mindful that “as any middle-class family will tell you, or anybody who’s striving to get into the middle class, we are not yet where we need to be.”
Yes, it’s all very interesting and compelling, I’m sure, except that by far too many measures, the middle class has only been faring worse and worse during Obama’s presidency. Real median incomes were higher in 1989 than they were in 2012; the smallest percentage of Americans are working today since the record low of only 63.2 percent in 1978; and despite all of Obama’s talk about improvement and progress, the poverty rate was again stuck at an inexcusable 15 percent last year, via the AP:
The nation’s poverty rate remained stuck at 15 percent last year despite America’s slowly reviving economy, a discouraging lack of improvement for the record 46.5 million poor and an unwelcome benchmark for President Barack Obama’s recovery plans.
More than 1 in 7 Americans were living in poverty, not statistically different from the 46.2 million of 2011 and the sixth straight year the rate had failed to improve, the Census Bureau reported Tuesday. Median income for the nation’s households was $51,017, also unchanged from the previous year after two consecutive annual declines, while the share of people without health insurance did improve but only a bit, from 15.7 percent to 15.4 percent. …
The Census Bureau’s annual report offers a snapshot of the economic well-being of U.S. households for 2012, when the unemployment rate averaged 8.1 percent after reaching an average high of 9.6 percent in 2010. Typically, the poverty rate tends to move in a similar direction as the unemployment rate, so many analysts had been expecting a modest decline in poverty.
The latest census data show that the gap between rich and poor was largely unchanged over the past year, having widened since 2007 to historic highs.
No, the poverty rate wouldn’t tend to improve if the drop in unemployment only really signaled a mass exodus from the work force, would it?
As ever, President Obama and fellow progressive populists’ big defenses are that, A) Republicans obviously don’t care about poverty and are willfully obstructing the president’s glorious agenda out of pure spite, and B) that there have been economic gains, but that they’re mysteriously only going to the upper one or two percent of the oh-so-exploitative upper class. Republicans actually “want to accelerate” income-inequality trends, Obama insisted the other day — so it’s weird, then, that President Obama’s policies have been the very cause lately exacerbating income inequality and the stagnation and shrinkage of middle-class incomes:
The poor economic policies of the past few years is a reasonable explanation for today’s weak economy. Fiscal policy has at best provided temporary stimulus before fading away with no sustainable impact on growth. More costly and confusing regulations—including the many mandates in the Affordable Care Act and the Dodd-Frank Act—have reduced the willingness of firms to invest and hire. The Federal Reserve has employed a variety of unconventional and unpredictable monetary policies with not very successful results.
The administration and its supporters are not about to blame the slow recovery on its own policies, or those of the Fed. Instead, President Obama and his supporters have been talking about “an economy that grows from the middle out,” as he put it in Galesburg, Ill., in July. The fashionable middle-out view blames today’s troubles on policies that took root in Ronald Reagan’s administration. …
Moreover, data do not support the view that tax cuts in the past 30 years are responsible for the widening income distribution. According to the Congressional Budget Office, the distribution of market income before taxes widened in the 1980s and ’90s by about as much as the distribution of income after taxes. …