Data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey (ACS) data was released a couple of weeks ago, and I’m surprised how little coverage of its findings there has been in the media. Most of what I have read, moreover, compared 2015 with 2014, or with 2010, and finds that the economy is getting much better for many Americans.
That, however, is not a meaningful comparison if one is looking to the long term, or trying to explain why so many Americans feel so much worse off. One would expect that people would become better off in the recovery from a deep recession, or worse off in the aftermath of the peak of a bubble. Politicians, seeking to make points for their sides, often base their talking points on data from such non-comparable years, but that is disingenuous. As it happens, there are enough economic similarities between the first year of American Community Survey data, in 2005, and the latest year, 2015, to make a comparison between them meaningful. What follows is a discussion, with 26 charts, of the economic trends I found most interesting from that comparison – for the United States, New York City, and New York State, New Jersey and Connecticut. Let’s take a break from the fantasy and deception of politics and look at some reality.
and I downloaded it and updated my spreadsheet to see if there has been any progress in getting this country and its inhabitants out of the financial hole.
There has not. Excluding the debts financial companies owe to each other, total U.S. debts varied between 128 and 142 percent of GDP from 1952 to 1981, a time of much greater equality in the U.S. than today. But by 2008 total non-financial debts had increased to 237 percent of GDP. To the extent there has been a recovery from the Great Recession, it is because this figure increased to about 252 percent of GDP in 2015. And the U.S. economy, and the global economy, remain at the point where, in the cartoon, Wile E Coyote has run off the cliff, is hanging in the air, and realizes that gravity is about to take him down.
The 2013 data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey was been rolling out over the last few weeks, and I’m disappointed there hasn’t been more coverage. The Bureau typically releases reports with the data, but these focus on national trends and perhaps static state and large area rankings. Other data users include special interests, which like to quote the data selectively in their own interest. Some of the most powerful interests, based on the position of those who pander to them by proposing to eliminate the American Community survey, would apparently prefer to just do away with objective facts about the American economy and society altogether.
Public knowledge about our society and economy could then be limited to what is screamed by the loudest voices, which in a media age would be those who already have the most money to pay for advertizing and flacks of various kinds. While the internet age promised far more widespread access to objective information, it seems most people can’t be bothered to use it. With this in mind, I’ve downloaded comparative ACS economic data for 2009 to 2013 for New York City, New York State, and the United States.