The American Economy Is Rarely Good for Workers

If the economy is doing so well, why do so many Americans still think it’s doing badly? Ramesh Ponnuru suggests we look at polling data, which tells us that people have viewed the economy positively for only a few short periods over the past few decades:

It is perhaps not surprising that they are, even in a good economy, unsatisfied with an economic system that is delivering satisfactory results so rarely.

Quite so. And there’s an easy way to see this. Here is growth in wages among blue-collar workers:¹

The bare minimum wage growth that we could call “strong” is a growth rate of 1 percent. As you can see, we’ve hit that mark only three times in the past 30 years. We’ve hit 2 percent only once, and that was more than 20 years ago.

So, yes, the American economy produces satisfactory results for ordinary workers very rarely. The only thing missing from Ponnuru’s analysis is an acknowledgment that this is no accident.

¹That is, “production and nonsupervisory” workers.

ONE MORE QUICK THING:

Or at least we hope. It’s fall fundraising time, and we’re trying to raise $250,000 to help fund Mother Jones’ journalism during a shorter than normal three-week push.

If you’re reading this, a fundraising pitch at the bottom of an article, you must find our team’s reporting valuable and we hope you’ll consider supporting it with a donation of any amount right now if you can.

It’s really that simple. But if you’d like to read a bit more, our membership lead, Brian Hiatt, has a post for you highlighting some of our newsroom's impressive, impactful work of late—including two big investigations in just one day and covering voting rights the way it needs to be done—that we hope you'll agree is worth supporting.

payment methods

ONE MORE QUICK THING:

Or at least we hope. It’s fall fundraising time, and we’re trying to raise $250,000 to help fund Mother Jones’ journalism during a shorter than normal three-week push.

If you’re reading this, a fundraising pitch at the bottom of an article, you must find our team’s reporting valuable and we hope you’ll consider supporting it with a donation of any amount right now if you can.

It’s really that simple. But if you’d like to read a bit more, our membership lead, Brian Hiatt, has a post for you highlighting some of our newsroom's impressive, impactful work of late—including two big investigations in just one day and covering voting rights the way it needs to be done—that we hope you’ll agree is worth supporting.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate