Obama Thanks Himself—for a Slow, Partial Recovery
A good 2015 doesn’t make up for years of stagnation.
Americans got a raise last year, for the first time since the Great Recession. The Census Bureau’s annual Income and Poverty Data, released on Tuesday, showed a robust 5.2 percent increase in median household income. Adding to the good news, fewer families subsisted in poverty while fewer people went without health insurance.
Given the widespread reaction to the report—seemingly everybody invoking the meme “Thanks Obama” in a straight-up way, in a chorus that was joined by the President himself at a Hillary Clinton rally yesterday—you would think this cements the triumph of administration policies to bring about economic success. And there’s no question that aggregate positive outcomes are far better than aggregate negative ones. Obamacare absolutely made a difference for the uninsured population, and a strong job market created the conditions for income gains.
But digging into the data reveals a more complicated picture, especially when put in the context of what we’ve been through in the Obama era. First of all, we should be chastened by the fact that this is the first gain in median household income since 2007. That means that, after eight years in the wilderness, the post-recession recovery for the middle class only started in 2015.