If the economy is so good and getting better, why do people feel so bad about it? Are they being misled by demagogues? Don’t know what they’re talking about? Nostalgic for an imaginary past?
The U. S. Council on Competitiveness, armed with data from the Gallup organization, presents an alternative answer in a new report—the popular view is right:
THE UNITED STATES HAS NOW had seven years to recover from the worst of the Great Recession. During that time, job growth has been steady, if unspectacular, and the unemployment rate has fallen from 10% to just under 5%, where it stands as of this writing. Stock prices, meanwhile, continue to reach and surpass new highs. Leading politicians and commentators reassure the public that everything is getting better.
And yet, there is a pervasive sense that the economy is not working, as documented in Gallup survey data and many anecdotal media accounts. The people are right. The economy is not working well. But the problems did not start with the Great Recession. For decades, the nation’s income, measured as GDP, has barely grown overall; on a per capita basis, median household income peaked in 1999; the subjective general health status of Americans has declined, even adjusting for the aging population; disability rates are higher; learning has stagnated; fewer new businesses are being launched; more workers are involuntarily stuck in part-time jobs or out of the labor force entirely; and the income ranks of grown children are no less tied to the income ranks of their parents