The bureau of Labor Statistics has only been keeping track of household income since 1960, but if they had been doing it since the 1929 stock market crash, I think yesterday would have looked a lot like 1938.
Family incomes reached a seventeen year low according to numbers released by the US Census Bureau on Wednesday. Real income fell for the fourth straight year and now stands almost 9% below the levels that were achieved in 1999.
The income level for 2011 was an inflation adjusted level of slightly more than $50,000. Medium income, a figure that shows where half of the households earn, also fell to a little less than $55,000. The figures don’t count any increase in core assets such as real estate holding, stock market, and fixed assets, they only reflect money from paychecks.
Some of the other numbers in the report are not as negative. The poverty rate, defined as households with an income below $23,000, also fell slightly and is still 20% higher than at the bottom of the market in 2008. The number of people that cannot afford health insurance also fell, but this is most likely because the people that are seeking care are now aging and covered by Medicare.
For the Average Joe these are the toughest times since the Great Depression. The wealthiest 1% keeps gaining income, and the rest of the population that cannot participate in many of the advantages of low interest rates continue to struggle to make ends meet.
The numbers had some political ammunition. As usual the Obama administration cited them as being proof that the policies that have been implemented for the past four years are starting to work. The Republicans cited the numbers as another example of a failed system in dire need of change.
No matter who you believe the nation is still in the grips of its worst economic crisis in more than seventy five years, and there doesn’t seem to be an end in sight.
Keep those stops tight.
Todd “Bubba” Horwitz