Start with the economy. We can debate who — if anyone — is responsible, but we can’t argue with the fact that unemployment is down and wages are up. Unemployment is at the lowest level since 1969. There were 2.3 million more full time, year-round workers this year than last. And those workers are earning more. Median earnings for full-time workers rose by more than 3 percent last year. Since 2009, average hourly earnings for all employees is up 5.6 percent, while real average weekly earnings rose by 6.9 percent.
Inequality remains a big political issue, but poverty rates continue to decline. In 2018, the official Census Bureau poverty measure fell to just 11.8 percent, down a full half percentage point from the year before, and the lowest rate since 2001. Using other, arguably more accurate poverty measures shows even better results. Consumption-based poverty measures put the real poverty level at as low as 2.8 percent.
Of course, too many people still struggle, but we are doing our best to help them. Last year, Americans donated $427 billion to charity, and more than 63 million people gave their time and talent to help others — over 8 billion volunteer hours.