When looking back at the start of this century, historians in the world to come might want to add B.C. after certain dates. Before covid.
The pandemic has disrupted everything. Last fall, could you have imagined anything that would have stopped the Ohio State-Michigan game? A war, even?
The current president likes to use hyperbole often enough. But when he says the economy was doing better than anybody could have imagined before covid-19 shut it down, he's not exaggerating. As Bret Stephens said in his column Wednesday on this page, it behooves even the president's critics to be honest about matters.
This week, a wire report in the Business Section looked back to the beginning of the year, before covid, and noted that income was "surging" in the United States. The poverty rate was falling. And the unemployment rate was at record lows:
"Median inflation-adjusted household income increased 6.8 percent last year to $68,703--among the fastest gains on record--as more Americans got jobs and wages rose, according to annual data released Tuesday by the U.S. Census Bureau. The poverty rate fell by 1.3 percentage point to 10.5 percent, the lowest in data back to 1959 and the fifth straight decline."
The poverty rate was the lowest since 1959.
The jobless rate was at 3.5 percent--another half-century low. And whenever the unemployment rate drops below 5 percent, economists say that practically represents full employment. Because that small a percentage is considered Frictional Unemployment as people change jobs, have kids, or move across the country.
In the 2000s B.C., Americans at all levels of income saw an increase in their incomes. Since 2009, the story mentioned, the richest households saw their incomes jump 28 percent. But the bottom and middle groups saw double-digit increases as well. What is the saying about a rising tide lifting all boats?
The Census Bureau said that last year, the rate of gains among minority households outpaced that of whites in this country.
There were challenges in the booming economy, even in 2019. The poverty rate in single-female households was still high, though dropping. Women were still more likely to live in poverty than men. There were other concerns.
But the point may be that when the world isn't dealing with a new virus, when a vaccine for it doesn't exist, when the economy comes to a screeching halt as businesses shut down, the conservative way of guiding a national economy works.
Someone once said if you build a better mousetrap, the government will build a better mousetrap tax. But it doesn't always have to be that way. When the government convinces itself to get out of the way, economic growth usually follows.
Until the once-in-a-lifetime health disaster hit this country and mankind, these last few years saw the best economic gains in, well, another lifetime. This indicates that the lower-tax, less-regulation initiatives of the Trump administration were paying huge dividends for the American economy--and the American people.
It behooves even the president's critics to acknowledge that.