Americans today have fewer opportunities for economic advancement than their parents or grandparents did in 1970. That’s the conclusion of the Historical Report of Opportunity prepared by two groups called Opportunity Nation and Measure of America.
“Opportunity overall decreased from 2000 to 2010, largely because the economic component of the index is lower now than in any previous decade,” Jim Tankersly and Jeff Guo noted at The Washington Post’s Wonkblog.
The study paints a grim picture of a nation in steep economic decline and in worse shape than it was in the 1970s. The 1970s were a decade marked by a lousy economy, energy shortages and high rates of inflation. Most disturbing of all, the report’s authors believe that the economic decline has accelerated since the year 2000.
“The national decline post-2000 was almost three times as large in percentage terms as the decline of the 1970s,” the report noted.
The Disturbing State of Our Economy
The report cited a variety of details to justify this hypothesis.
- The national unemployment rate in 2010 was almost double what it was in 1970. In 1970 around 5 percent of Americans were unemployed; in 2010, around 9.6 percent or nearly 10 percent of Americans could not find jobs.
- The poverty rate increased by nearly 12 percent between 1970 and 2010.
- The Great Recession of 2008 wiped out almost all the income and economic gains from growth in the 1990s.
- Local economic activity in the United States fell by 22 percent between 1970 and 2010.
The economy has been growing but that growth has not been benefiting average Americans, the report said.
“Although this set of indicators overall saw progress during the 1980s and 1990s, the economic declines of the 1970s and 2000s ultimately eroded any long-lasting positive effect of this growth,” the study’s authors noted.
The Decline Continues In 2014
The economic decline continues and might be accelerating. The US Commerce Department’s Bureau of Economic Analysis reported that the American economy shrank by 2.9 percent in the first three months or first quarter of 2014.
That was the worst economic performance reported since 2009 at the height of the Great Recession, Fox News noted. Fox also noted that the difference between economists’ projections of economic growth and the real numbers was the biggest since the Bureau started keeping numbers back in 1976.
Some highlights of the numbers include:
- The amount of US exports fell by 8.9 percent in the first quarter. This reduced the GDP by 1.53 percent.
- Consumer spending only grew by 1 percent; economists thought it would increase by 3 percent. Consumer spending is widely considered to be an indicator of popular faith in the economy.
- Economists expect some growth in the number of jobs this summer but it won’t be spectacular. Employment might increase by around 3.6 percent but much of that increase will be in seasonable jobs.
- The numbers indicate that foreign trade is falling. Increased foreign trade, particularly demand for exports such as agricultural goods, is vital for economic growth.
It looks like America is in serious economic decline — and that decline isn’t going to end anytime soon.
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