The economic doldrums roll on while congressmen talk of harassing food stamp users and preventing President Obama from a success at home or abroad.
But the reason for the average family's continuing economic problems is as easy as first grade arithmetic: The country is awash in money, with more billionaires (520 by Forbes' latest count) than ever, some of them with net worths higher than the GDP of many small nations, but the average annual income in the U.S. has not increased noticeably for 40 years, as the huge increase in overall earnings has been absorbed by the stockholders and employers at the top of the pay scale. This reality is difficult to understand for most Americans, whatever their own pay scale, either because they don't want to believe it or because it goes against the conventional story they've learned about how the U.S. economy works.
The truth is that it doesn't work that way anymore, and year by year the economy is redistributing more and more from the demand-side consumer to the supply-siders and leaving the demand side with too little discretionary income to buy enough products to give the economy the lift it needs to grow.
Demand has rescued the nation from every recession in its history, usually with lots of help from the federal government, such as defense spending, the space program or the interstate highway system.
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But constant political carping against federal spending sends the implied message that the nation's economic problems come from too much government spending. This strikes a responsive chord in the American psyche, especially among the high-earning class that has always resented the idea that some of its money is being used to help the poor.
Slowly, but with steady advance during the past 30 years, this had dominated the debate in state and national elections and the winning candidates, usually Republicans, were elected who have become convinced that cutting government spending is the only medicine for a sick economy.
States and cities that depend on federal programs suffered much of the recent loss, with the resulting damage to their ability to serve the basic needs of their citizens.
The avalanche of money in the U.S. in recent years, as the stock market more than doubled, while industries such as the oil companies enjoyed record profits and the largest banks were lavished with so-called "bailouts" which meant they could socialize their risks and privatize their gains by letting the public be the insurer of last resort.
For various reasons, the big gainers are sitting on their profits while 90 percent of Americans struggle to buy enough products to keep money flowing to the so-called job producers. This is supply-side economics with a vengeance, and it is rooted in the myth of balanced budgets and disguised ways to punish the poor, and, not incidentally, to punish Barack Obama who for some reason (can't imagine what it is) has roused unprecedented opposition to the tried and true role the federal government has played in the economy since World War II.
Yet if we judge prosperity by how the stock markets are doing, there has never been a span of years in U.S. history that has seen so much prosperity as the past eight years.
If we judge peace by how many Americans are killed or wounded in military actions, the past eight years have seen the fewest casualties of any similar span in the past 20 years. The U.S. is promoting continued peaceful solutions rather than "bombing Iran back to the Stone Age," as I heard one overwrought radio warmonger recommend the other day.
The U.S. is the richest, most powerful nation in history. It developed the first nuclear weapons and has been improving and expanding them for more than 70 years - yet there seems to be a pervasive fear of Third-World Iran, which is years away from producing a single nuclear weapon, not to mention having a government still suspicious of the 19th Century, much less the 21st.
Millard Grimes, editor of the Columbus Enquirer from 1961-69 and founder of the Phenix Citizen. is author of "The Last Linotype: The Story of Georgia and Its Newspapers Since World War II." A profile of Grimes can be found in the Georgia Encyclopedia, www.georgiaencyclopedia.org.