The American Economy Is Rarely Good for Workers

If the economy is doing so well, why do so many Americans still think it’s doing badly? Ramesh Ponnuru suggests we look at polling data, which tells us that people have viewed the economy positively for only a few short periods over the past few decades:

It is perhaps not surprising that they are, even in a good economy, unsatisfied with an economic system that is delivering satisfactory results so rarely.

Quite so. And there’s an easy way to see this. Here is growth in wages among blue-collar workers:┬╣

The bare minimum wage growth that we could call “strong” is a growth rate of 1 percent. As you can see, we’ve hit that mark only three times in the past 30 years. We’ve hit 2 percent only once, and that was more than 20 years ago.

So, yes, the American economy produces satisfactory results for ordinary workers very rarely. The only thing missing from Ponnuru’s analysis is an acknowledgment that this is no accident.

┬╣That is, “production and nonsupervisory” workers.


Mother Jones was founded as a nonprofit in 1976 because we knew corporations and the wealthy wouldn't fund the type of hard-hitting journalism we set out to do.

Today, reader support makes up about two-thirds of our budget, allows us to dig deep on stories that matter, and lets us keep our reporting free for everyone. If you value what you get from Mother Jones, please join us with a tax-deductible donation today so we can keep on doing the type of journalism 2019 demands.

We Recommend


Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.


Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.


We have a new comment system! We are now using Coral, from Vox Media, for comments on all new articles. We'd love your feedback.