Reading the financial news headlines these days can be a little scary.
“Expert predicts stock market will lose 35 percent of its value.”
“Here’s a list of major store closings this year.”
“Mideast tensions threaten U.S. oil supplies.”
“Signs of the next recession.”
It’s enough to make a person stop reading the financial news. But there is a fairly current report that is definitely worth reading, about how certain segments of the U.S. population are doing on the 10th anniversary of the end of the Great Recession, which eviscerated the housing and financial markets, leaving millions of Americas worrying about simply surviving.
It was a dark time, but it is nearly 10 years gone, the U.S. economy is humming along at a decent clip, and everyone is doing much better.
Well, maybe not everyone. A Bankrate survey of 3,000 Americans representing a cross-section of our society indicates nearly 25 percent of Americans who were adults at the start of the Great Recession believe they are worse off today than before the mini-crash in 2007.
How can that be? The jobless rate is the lowest it’s been in a half-century. Consumer spending is sky-high, and many of our elected leaders see only blue skies ahead.
The survey results show 23 percent of Americans say they are in worse shape today, and another 25 percent say things about the same for them financially. Taken together, that’s nearly 100 million Americans who don’t seem to be getting much out of this nation’s robust economy.
And it’s worse for American women, about one-third of whom say their overall financial situation is worse today than it was in the mid-2000s, compared to less than 20 percent of the men surveyed.
So, the surging stock markets are not treating everyone equally, nor is the spurt of job creation in the past couple of years. The wage gap between male and female workers is holding steady, and in some professions it is worsening.
And not to go all progressive liberal on you, but it is important to note — and predictable — that the biggest wage gains since the recession went to the top 1-percent of pay levels. According to the Economic Policy Institute, between 2009-13, the average income of the top 1 percent grew by 17.4 percent, while the bottom 99 percent saw wage growth of 0.7 percent.
That’s terrific news — if you’re in that top-earning bracket. We would ask all the 1-percenters reading this editorial to raise their hands, but we are extremely confident the result would be no hands in the air.
In theory, the wealth trickles down. In reality, it stays put. We know that, you know that.
Experts say everyone can fully recover from the Great Recession with “good financial decision-making.” If only it could be that simple to so many Americans who are living, literally, from paycheck to paycheck and borrowing what the paycheck doesn’t cover.
The borrowing is a serious problem. As of the end of May, U.S. household debt increased to $13.6 trillion, a big chunk of it auto, student and credit card debt. That debt load is already higher than what help trigger the Great Recession.
Are we scaring you? We hope so. We also hope it compels you to study the presidential and congressional candidates, and vote for those who are thinking about this nation’s long game, and how to build an economy that benefits more than a handful of Americans perched at the top of the wealth pyramid.