The New Yorker's economics writer tries his best, but no cigar
The extent of and
continuing increase in inequality in the United States greatly concerns
me. … It is no secret that the past few decades of widening inequality
can be summed up as significant income and wealth gains for those at the
very top and stagnant living standards for the majority. I think it is
appropriate to ask whether this trend is compatible with values rooted
in our nation’s history, among them the high value Americans have
traditionally placed on equality of opportunity.
No, that wasn’t Elizabeth Warren, or the editor of the Nation,
or Paul Krugman (or even me) banging on about how the rich are getting
richer and most everybody else is struggling to keep up. It was Janet
Yellen, the chairwoman of the Federal Reserve, addressing a conference
in Boston on Friday morning. It’s not unheard of for a Fed chief to
discuss rising inequality: Ben Bernanke addressed it in a 2007 speech.
But Yellen’s speech is surely the first time a Fed chief has pointed out
that rising inequality threatens America’s sense of itself.
Someone's sense of itself
is definitely distorted. Maybe those who write professionally about economics ought to stop contributing to that distortion of reality. Say, with things like this;
Since the top five per cent of households own almost two-thirds of the
wealth, it stands to reason that most American households don’t own very
much at all.
Except for all those cars, television sets that access hundreds of channels, microwave ovens, mobile phones that double as cameras, designer clothing and eyeglasses, gourmet cookbooks, and bigger houses in which to live and entertain friends
As the census figures at the link show, in good ol' 1973 the median newly constructed home--the one smack dab in the middle of the pack, built for the middle income earner--was a mere 1,575 square feet (the mean average home was a slightly larger 1,660 sq. ft). But by 2010 that same home demographic had increased to 2,169 sq. ft. (mean average; 2,392 sq ft), or by almost 40%. Not to mention the extra bathrooms, appliances, built-in vacuums, spas and other amenities that houses for the middle class routinely have today.
So much for Janet Yellen's stagnant living standards for the majority
. Ditto for John Cassidy's;
These numbers confirm an old but rarely stated truth. Many, if not most, individual American households possess next to nothing.