It took the Washington Post until almost a year after he left office to do it, but on its front page Jan. 2 the paper, which normally emphasizes happy economic news, printed a report that described the Bush years as the worst decade for the U.S. economy in modern times.
“There has been zero net job creation since December 1999,” the report declared. “No previous decade going back to the 1940’s had job growth of less than 20 percent. Economic output rose at its slowest rate of any decade since the 1930’s as well.”
As if that were not bad enough, the Post continued: “Middle-income households made less in 2008, when adjusted for inflation, than they did in 1999 – and the number is sure to have declined further during a difficult 2009.It was the first decade of falling median incomes since figures were first compiled in the 1960’s.”
Topping it all off, the report concluded: “It was, according to a wide range of data, a lost decade for American workers.”
“Whoa!,” wrote Tula Connell, almost incredulously, on the AFL-CIO Now Blog, “This is from the Washington Post?”
“You have to hope that Lawrence Summers and the economic team at the White House are reading the Post,” said Stewart Acuff, Chief of Staff of the Utility Workers Union of America. “You cannot grow the economy from the top. You must have broadly shared prosperity,” he said.
The Post report noted that during the Bush years “capital was funneled to build mini-mansions in the Sun-Belt, many which now sit empty, rather than toward industrial machines or other business investment that might generate economic output and jobs for years to come.”
In her article Connell noted that it was not a “decade of disaster” for “the CEO’s of the corporations who fueled the nation’s growing economic inequality. Take AIG, which taxpayers bailed out at a cost of $182.3 billion. When one of its execs balked at a salary cut required by the Obama administration because AIG was surviving on taxpayer funds, the corporation,” said Connell, “paid her $3.8 million in severance.” Connell noted that “the cataclysmic widening of the income gap between the obscenely rich and the rest of us is the very definition of the decade of disaster.”
Acuff said that there is a prescription that will create a “broadly shared prosperity” in place of that wealth gap.
The first part of that prescription, he says, is passage of the Employee Free Choice Act “to allow workers to freely form unions and bargain for a fair and greater share of the wealth they create and the productivity they generate.”
Second, he says, reform of the health care system is needed. “Take the system from the grip of insurance companies, create a large public plan to make sure everyone is covered and to compete with the insurance companies – and do not tax the benefits of working families. Force every employer to provide health care for their workers.”
Acuff says the third part of his prescription is “immediate investment in sustainable energy – wind farms, solar farms and small scale solar energy generation. Make sure all elements of new energy generation are produced here with wages that can sustain middle class lifestyles.”
Lastly, he says, “Create a real industrial policy and investment incentives and re-think trade policy to re-create an American manufacturing base so we get back to creating wealth instead of borrowing it.”