Diminished prospects – what some describe as the “new normal” – now confront a vast proportion of the population, with wages falling not only for noncollege graduates but also for those with four-year degrees. Overall, median incomes for Americans fell 7 percent in the decade following 2000 and are not expected to recover, according to some economic models, until 2021.
This decline has infected the national mood. Today, more middle- and working-class Americans predict that their children will not do better than they have done.Overall, almost one-third of the public, according to Pew, consider themselves “lower” class, as opposed the middle class, up from barely one-quarter who thought so in 2008.
It’s not surprising, then, that the vast majority of Americans believe the president’s economic policy has been a dismal failure, at least for the middle and working classes. Federal Reserve monetary policy, in particular, appeared to favor the interests of the wealthy over those of the middle, yeoman class. “Quantitative easing,” notes one former high-level official, essentially constituted a “too big to fail” windfall for the largest Wall Street firms, and did little for anyone else. Faith in the economy, despite the soaring stock market and increased price of assets, has remained weak. Americans by a 2-1 margin rate the economy negatively.
These realities helped spark both the Tea Party and the Occupy movements and underpin the support for such disparate figures as Sarah Palin and Elizabeth Warren. At the same time, outrage at our current economy has undermined public esteem for almost every institution of power – from government and large corporations to banks and Wall Street – to the lowest point ever recorded.New Geography