Reflecting on the lost decade

REFLECTING ON THE LOST DECADE…. Neil Irwin has a terrific report on the economic conditions of the ’00s, and the ways in which they departed from every decade of the last seven.

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It’s a painful overview, as the chart helps demonstrate. “There has been zero net job creation since December 1999,” the WaPo piece explained. “No previous decade going back to the 1940s had job growth of less than 20 percent. Economic output rose at its slowest rate of any decade since the 1930s as well.

“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. The Aughts were the first decade of falling median incomes since figures were first compiled in the 1960s.

“And the net worth of American households — the value of their houses, retirement funds and other assets minus debts — has also declined when adjusted for inflation, compared with sharp gains in every previous decade since data were initially collected in the 1950s.”

This was a disastrous decade that has lead “economists and policymakers to fundamentally rethink the underpinnings of the nation’s growth.”

From a political perspective, it’s worth emphasizing not only that Bush administration and GOP policymakers inherited a sweet deal at the start of the decade, but also that Republicans on both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue were able to implement just about every economic policy they found worthwhile in the ensuing years. Those policies failed spectacularly — but the discredited agenda nevertheless remains the foundation of the Republican economic philosophy in the new decade.

Highlighting the chart, Andrew Sullivan suggested it’s evidence as to “why conservatism needs to rethink its economic policies.” But the startling fact remains that conservatives intend to do no such thing. Ask every Republican lawmaker on the Hill and they’ll agree that the economic policies they embraced in the last decade are no different than those they intend to embrace in the new decade — the only difference being their stated desire to see the government invest less in the coming years.