An article by yours truly just out in the American Prospect.
While the safety net performed well during the worst phase of the downturn, other trends have been troubling. Families lost trillions of dollars in home equity, the largest source of wealth for working- and middle-class households. Long-term structural inequality persists, so the modest economic growth that has returned since 2010 is eluding most families. Budget battles are threatening both the basic anti-poverty outlays and the investments in children and families that could help push back on inequality and its impact on opportunity.
Progressives did well, at least during President Barack Obama’s first two years, at expanding the safety net during a serious economic emergency, using taxes and income transfers. But they have not done well in addressing the long-term trend of an erosion of “primary” income, namely wages and salaries. This leads to a paradox: A lot of people get help in a deep recession, but their incomes and life prospects stagnate during relatively good times. Looking forward, both the safety net and measures that might improve the primary income distribution will be under increasing attack from pressures to cut the budget deficit. In fact, there are plenty of strategies that could help reconnect families and children to restored economic growth, but policy is pushing in the opposite direction.
Update: Somehow the two charts referred to in the piece aren’t…um…in the piece. Here they are:
Source: US Census Bureau; Alternative is NAS measure, option MSI-GA-CPI