IN OTHER WORDS: Dismal picture

The economic party is winding down and most working Americans never even got near the punch bowl. The Census Bureau reported on Monday that median household income rose 0.7% last year — it’s second annual increase in a row — to $48,201. The share of households living in poverty fell to 12.3% from 12.6% in 2005. This seems like welcome news, but a deeper look at the belated improvement in these numbers — more than five years after the end of the last recession — underscores how the gains from economic growth have failed to benefit most of the population.

Analysed by race, only Hispanics saw poverty decline on average while other groups experienced no gains. The fortunes of middle-class, working Americans also appear less upbeat. Indeed, earnings of men and women working full time fell more than 1%. This stilted distribution of rewards underscores how economic growth alone has been insufficient to provide better living standards for most American families. What are needed are policies to help spread benefits broadly — be it more progressive taxation, or policies to strengthen public education and increase access to affordable health care. Unfortunately, these policies are unlikely to come from the White House. This administration prefers tax cuts for the lucky ones in the top five percent.