|
|
|
The Times
  • Editorial: Running in place in America, land of 'opportunity'

  • It is as if the last two decades, economically speaking, never happened for most Americans.

    • email print
  • It is as if the last two decades, economically speaking, never happened for most Americans.
    The Federal Reserve reports that the median American family has been treading water since the early 1990s, with a net worth of just $77,300 in 2010. If those middle-income Americans basically have made no progress since the first George Bush was president, their net worth is down sharply from 2007, when that hypothetical family in the drop dead center of the curve had $126,400 in assets. The collapse of housing prices in the Great Recession is responsible for most of that decline.
    Beyond that, median income also has fallen, when adjusted for inflation, according to the Survey of Consumer Finances, which is issued every three years and is considered among the most thorough and reliable measures of Americans' fiscal health. Meanwhile, most citizens are saving less, with what little liquidity they have been able to achieve being put away in anticipation of future emergency - such as job loss - rather than for retirement or for education or some other long-term investment. Fewer Americans are using credit cards, though loans for education are up significantly, surpassing those for transportation for the first time.
    America has become not the land of opportunity but the land of running in place. If once upon a time it was considered a given that your children would be better off than you were, now you are not even better off than you were. It is further confirmation of the erosion of the American Dream. This nation has been a beacon to the world not just because of the civil liberties it has long promised but because of the economic foundation and freedom that arguably make everything else possible.
    This page has been hammering away at this issue for some time now because remarkably, most politicians are not.
    President Barack Obama may have committed quite the faux pas recently when he said "the private sector is doing fine," but unlike presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney he at least acknowledges middle class wage stagnation and income inequality. For all of the president's perceived faults on economic matters, the decline of the middle class is not one that can be dropped on his doorstep, as it has been in the making for decades.
    You never know what is going to swing an election. National security issues can trump everything. This year we've heard a lot about the "war on religion" and the "war on women." Government spending and debt are important subjects, critical to the nation's future.
    But those issues are abstract ones for a lot of Americans, things they may know but do not feel. Stories like this, however, telling of Americans who are working harder and longer than ever and for less pay and hope on the horizon ... well, that's an easy thing to get your arms around, and it directly touches so many people. It's a wonder that's not dominating the conversation in this campaign.
    Page 2 of 2 - Which one of the last two guys standing is going to best confront and address that issue?
    Journal Star of Peoria, Ill.
      • calendar