As President Obama said in his inaugural address last week, America “cannot succeed when a shrinking few do very well and a growing many barely make it.”
Yet that continues to be the direction we’re heading in.
A newly-released analysis by the Economic Policy Institute shows that the super-rich have done well in the economic recovery while almost everyone else has done badly. The top 1 percent of earners’ real wages grew 8.2 percent from 2009 to 2011, yet the real annual wages of Americans in the bottom 90 percent have continued to decline in the recovery, eroding by 1.2 percent between 2009 and 2011.
In other words, we’re back to the widening inequality we had before the debt bubble burst in 2008 and the economy crashed.
But the President is exactly right. Not even the very wealthy can continue to succeed without a broader-based prosperity. That’s because 70 percent of economic activity in America is consumer spending. If the bottom 90 percent of Americans are becoming poorer, they’re less able to spend. Without their spending, the economy can’t get out of first gear.