NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Obama Didn't Stop the Middle Class Free Fall

September 7, 2012

The middle class in America today is not better off than it was four years ago, not better off than it was at the end of the Great Recession in 2009, not even better off than when President Clinton left office in 2001, says Jim Tankersley, the economics correspondent for National Journal.

  • Inflation-adjusted median income fell by 2.3 percent in 2010 (the last year for which official statistics are available) and dipped below $50,000 per year for the first time since 1996, the Census Bureau reports.
  • Real median weekly wages last quarter were lower than at the same time in 2002 -- and down 1.5 percent from the second quarter of 2010.

In the past decade, the middle class has endured a real estate bust that wiped out two-fifths of median household wealth; seen millions of traditional middle class jobs vanish as the nation hemorrhaged "middle-skill" manufacturing and service work that does not require advanced training; and watched as the income gains from expanded foreign trade and increased labor productivity accrued largely to a small group of Americans at the top of the income distribution.

Nearly all those trends continued after the Great Recession, even though President Obama cut taxes and offered new deductions and credits for middle class families, among other legislative and rhetorical initiatives aimed at reversing the middle-class decline.

Since 2000, the Pew Research Center reported recently, "The middle class has shrunk in size, fallen backward in income and wealth, and shed some -- but by no means all -- of its characteristic faith in the future."

Source: Jim Tankersley, "Obama Didn't Stop the Middle-Class Free-Fall," National Journal, September 4, 2012.


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