Do you ever feel like you have had a hard time getting ahead since George W. Bush assumed the presidency? According to investigative reporter David Cay Johnston, you may feel that way because many Americans are having a hard time getting ahead since the year 2000.
Johnston penned an op-ed for Al Jazeera America that summarizes what many people have suspected: middle class Americans are not getting ahead, but are falling behind, and have been since the Bush economic policies were put into place. Johnston observes:
Last month set a new record for sustained job creation: 52 straight months of added jobs, with a robust 288,000 more jobs in June and more than 9 million jobs created since February 2010. The unemployment rate is down to 6.1 percent, and the number of long-term unemployed has been slashed, from about 5 million people to about 3 million.
The stock market is soaring, reaching a record high on July 3. The Dow Jones industrial average passed 17,000 — amazing compared with its Great Recession low of 6,627 in March 2009, just weeks after President Barack Obama took office.
So what’s missing? Why did Obama acknowledge in a television interview last week that the “underlying trend for middle class families, that they don’t feel, no matter how hard they work, they’re able to get ahead in the same way that their parents were able to get ahead.”
The answer lies in a very large sum of missing money — about $6.6 trillion by my count — over the first 12 years of this century. That’s as much money as everyone in the United States made from New Year’s Day 2012 through late September of that year. It may also explain Obama’s low approval ratings.
Six point six trillion dollars. Where does Johnston get that number? He bases it on the average income reported on tax returns in 2000, compared to every year up to 2012, adjusted for inflation and population growth. Johnston lays the blame directly at the feet of the Bush tax cuts.
In an interview with Chris Hayes on MSNBC, Johnston outlines the ways in which tax cuts have harmed America and Americans.
We’ve reduced our investments in the future of America. We’ve radically cut spending on research, which is crucial to economic growth, especially in the technological world we live in. We’ve cut spending for education and infrastructure, which makes the economy more efficient. We’ve reduced food inspections, so that we have much higher foodborne illness rates than other modern countries. We have deaths of babies or babies who are never going to be fully developed because they are not given proper medical testing. These cuts are costing us money.
It is a natural economic assumption that over time, an individual’s income level rises. Pay raises, moving to a better job, getting promoted in your current company; all those things lead to increased income. But Johnston presents a sobering fact about the Bush years. In 10 of 12 years during which the Bush tax cuts were in effect, the average income went down. He calculates that on average, Americans missed out on about $48,000 in income over those 12 years. Also worth noting is this overlooked fact: that 46 percent of Americans who so disturb Republicans because they pay no federal income tax, mostly because they are too poor to owe any? Their benefit from the Bush tax cuts was ZERO.
Johnston explains his findings to Chris Hayes: