The Economy Is Doing Well, But Ordinary People Not So Much

Here’s another chart for you if you want a better sense of just how well the economy has been working for everyone over the past couple of decades:

Generally speaking, household income peaked in 1999 and has gone up and down since then. But for some, it’s been more down than up. Even after 110 months of expansion, the lowest earners make nearly 10 percent less than they did during the last economic peak. The top fifth, by contrast, earns 11 percent more than they did during the dotcom peak.

It’s been a tough 20 years. The poor have done abysmally; the middle class has stagnated; and even the affluent have only improved their earnings moderately. Meanwhile, real GDP per capita has increased a very nice 23 percent since 1999. So if GDP is up 23 percent, but even the affluent are up only 11 percent, where has all the money gone? The Census Bureau doesn’t tell us, but I’m sure you’ve already guessed: to the really, really rich. It’s a good time in America to be part of the top 1 percent.

DOES IT FEEL LIKE POLITICS IS AT A BREAKING POINT?

Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

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