Is Life Getting Better or Worse for Ordinary Americans?

Is life getting better or worse for ordinary Americans? originally appeared on Quora - the knowledge sharing network where compelling questions are answered by people with unique insights.

Answer by Becky Bond and Zack Exley, Former Senior Advisers to Bernie Sanders (2016); co-authors of Rules for Revolutionaries, on Quora.

Life is getting worse economically for the vast majority of Americans. For forty years, incomes have been stagnating when adjusted for inflation. This is despite labor productivity and GDP per capita increasing steadily. (Some good graphs showing the trends here [1].) But real incomes have actually been declining if you use the old measure of inflation [2] -- over the years the government has changed the way inflation is calculated by, for example [3]. This decline is a two edged sword: labor participation is falling [4], and workers real wages are falling. [5]

On top of that fundamental problem of the income floor dropping out from under us, there are other major factors that have been making life worse for millions of Americans. Tens of millions of people -- especially Black, Latino and low income white people -- have gone to prison over the past few decades for minor crimes that few other countries would ever consider worthy of incarceration -- crimes such as possession of marijuana which is fast becoming decriminalized now. Millions of Americans -- also mostly lower income Americans -- have served in Iraq and Afghanistan, the longest wars in American history. Many have served more and longer tours than America has ever called upon soldiers to do. We owe these veterans a great debt, and yet we are allowing them to come home to terrible job opportunities, skyrocketing housing and tuition costs, and a worsening health care situation when they are most in need.

Speaking of health care, it's been getting harder and harder to afford. Instead of making health care more affordable, Obama/Romneycare has increased costs while mandating working Americans to pay private insurance companies for the honor of holding plans with deductibles so high that people still can't afford to see a doctor when they are sick.


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