In the midst of a foreign policy conflagration we learn that the economy really does stink. The Wall Street Journal reports: “The income of the typical U.S. family has fallen to levels last seen in 1995, a long and pernicious slide that likely means it will be a generation before Americans regain the peak income levels reached at the close of the ’90s.” If the president is worried about the middle class, he has good reason to be; it has fared miserably under his presidency. The numbers were grim:
A report from the Census Bureau Wednesday said annual household income fell in 2011 for the fourth straight year to an inflation-adjusted $50,054.
Median annual household income — the figure at which half are above and half below — now stands 8.9% below its all-time peak of $54,932 in 1999, at the end of the 1990s economic expansion
Meanwhile, jobless claims increased 15,000 more to 382,000 last week. If any were needed this is more evidence that the economy is going backward, not — as the president would say — forward.
Liberals will call for more action by the Federal Reserve, but it is getting increasingly difficult to argue that we have a monetary problem. A growing number of voices are expressing doubt, as a survey of 47 economists demonstrated. The Journal reports:
While the economists believe the Fed will act, they raised doubts about Mr. Bernanke’s arguments. Of those who answered the survey of 51 forecasters, 28 said more QE this year would be a mistake, while 17 said it would be the right thing to do. Those surveyed are a mix of Wall Street, business-sector and academic economists. Not all economists answered every question.
The forecasters didn’t see big benefits from a new Fed bond-buying program. Private-sector economists, asked about the impact of a hypothetical bond-buying program of $500 billion, on average estimated it would reduce the unemployment rate by only 0.1 percentage point over a year. The jobless rate was 8.1% in August. They also projected such a program would increase annual economic output, or gross domestic product, by 0.2%.
The problem, it is becoming obvious, is the tax, budget and regulatory policies that have slowed the economy to a dead halt.
It is a convenient dodge to look to the Fed to solve the economic lull. But at some point ( Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke has effectively said this) it is up to Congress and the president to do their jobs. We have no remedy for the fiscal cliff, the threat of a huge tax hike looms, and we have not even a federal budget. Frankly, it is a miracle we’re not much worse off than we are.