The decade that just ended has been the worst for the U.S. economy in modern times by a wide range of data, with zero net job growth and the slowest rise in economic output since the 1930s. Many who stayed employed were hurt too, with middle-income families making less in 2008, when adjusted for inflation, than they did in 1999 — the first decade since the 1960s that median incomes have fallen. On balance, American families were worse off:
And the net worth of American households — the value of their houses, retirement funds and other assets minus debts — has also declined when adjusted for inflation, compared with sharp gains in every previous decade since data were initially collected in the 1950s.
“This was the first business cycle where a working-age household ended up worse at the end of it than the beginning, and this in spite of substantial growth in productivity, which should have been able to improve everyone’s well-being,” said Lawrence Mishel, president of the Economic Policy Institute, a liberal think tank.
As IHS Global Insight Chief Economist Nariman Behravesh told the Washington Post, “The problem is that we mismanaged the macroeconomy, and that got us in big trouble.” Meanwhile, Wall Street executives gave themselves an estimated $200 billion in bonuses in 2009, much of which they’ll avoid paying taxes on. The House has already passed financial regulatory reform without a single Republican vote, and some Senate GOPers have already attacked reform, despite efforts to bring them onboard.