The American Economy Is Rarely Good for Workers

If the economy is doing so well, why do so many Americans still think it’s doing badly? Ramesh Ponnuru suggests we look at polling data, which tells us that people have viewed the economy positively for only a few short periods over the past few decades:

It is perhaps not surprising that they are, even in a good economy, unsatisfied with an economic system that is delivering satisfactory results so rarely.

Quite so. And there’s an easy way to see this. Here is growth in wages among blue-collar workers:¹

The bare minimum wage growth that we could call “strong” is a growth rate of 1 percent. As you can see, we’ve hit that mark only three times in the past 30 years. We’ve hit 2 percent only once, and that was more than 20 years ago.

So, yes, the American economy produces satisfactory results for ordinary workers very rarely. The only thing missing from Ponnuru’s analysis is an acknowledgment that this is no accident.

¹That is, “production and nonsupervisory” workers.

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DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

without free and fair elections, a vigorous free press, and engaged citizens to reclaim power from those who abuse it.

In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily crazy—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America will move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

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