“If the four structural trends highlighted below don’t reverse, the middle class is heading for extinction.”

That was the opening line to this article.

Hugh-Smith splits the second half of the 20th century, calling the period from 1947 to 1979 “The Great Prosperity” and the period from 1980 to Now as “The Great Regression.”

Wages rose 72% in the period from 1947 to 1979.  Not bad.  But from 1979 to now, wages rose only 7%.  Ouch.  For those of us still working, though it’s true that facts don’t speak for themselves, working folks have been complaining about the stagnation in wages for decades, citing the early 70s as that period when wages kind of came to a halt.

In that same 32-year period of 1947 to 1979, productivity rose 119%.  Is that what older Americans refer to as the golden age of American capitalism?  I don’t know.  Certainly they were the halcyon days of gross domestic product.

Smith cites 4 causes.

Cause #1: Declining productivity, which means the pie of real wealth is no longer expanding.


Decline Chart

According to his chart above, Smith cites the decline of LBJ’s welfare “Guns & Butter” program peak in the late ’60s.  What I liked about his chart and its trajectory is that the period is broken up into crises and booms:  “Energy Crisis” during the ’70s, the “Financialization Boom” of the 1980s, then the “Internet Boom” from 1995 to 2007, though I would have thought it was not as long as that, and the “Housing Boom” from 2003 to today.  And he has the word recovery in quotation marks.  That’s fitting.

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