NATIONAL VIEW: Two cheers for a lackluster economy

NATIONAL VIEW: Two cheers for a lackluster economy

A full decade has passed since the end of the last recession, in June 2009, and the economy continues to grow. As of Monday, the current expansion surpassed the previous record for uninterrupted growth, set between 1991 and 2001. But this time around, no one is accusing Americans of irrational exuberance: These good times don’t feel particularly good. Economic growth over the past decade has been slow and fragile, and most of the benefits have been claimed by a small minority of the population. The sense of disappointment is more than a feeling. Through the first quarter of 2019, the nation’s gross domestic product had increased by 25 percent during the current expansion. Between 1991 and 2001, economic output expanded by 42 percent. Between 1982 and 1990, output increased 38 percent. And between 1961 and 1969, output grew by 52 percent. The distribution of the gains is even less satisfying. Truck drivers still earned, on average, slightly less in 2018 than in 2009, after adjusting for inflation. Executive compensation, by contrast, went up, up and away. Chief executives of companies in the S&P 500 stock index — a list that includes most of the nation’s largest corporations — made an average of $14.5 million in 2018, increasing by $5.2 million in the past decade, according to data compiled by the A.F.L.-C.I.O. The wealthy have also reaped most of the gains from rising stock prices. The least affluent 70 percent of American households had less wealth at the end of […]

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