Last year Peter Gosselin of the LA Times wrote a 3-part series that tackled a subject that's probably the key economic story of the past 30 years: the steadily increasing risk and income volatility of the American middle class. In the years since 1970, quietly but inexorably, life has gotten increasingly precarious for an increasing number of people.You heard the man.
It's pretty widely understood that average incomes have stagnated during the past three decades, but as bad as that is in a country as rich as America, what's worse --- and less widely understood --- is how much riskier life has become: income volatility has skyrocketed, the minimum wage is down, the number of people with company pensions is down, average job tenure has dropped from 11 years to 7, and the number of people with health insurance has fallen seven percentage points.
This is not easy stuff to present and it's not easy to grasp, but it's an essential part of the economic story of America and it's an essential backdrop to our current debates over Social Security, Medicaid, and tax reform. Life is getting riskier every year, more and more people are living on the thin edge of disaster, and instead of working to ameliorate this the Republican party is working hard to make it riskier still.
Why do I mention this? Because Gosselin's series has now been collected in a single place and is available even if you aren't registered with the LA Times. All you have to do is click the link.
So do it: click the link. Believe me, this story is well worth the 20 or 30 minutes it takes to read, and if there's any justice you'll be seeing this series on a list of Pulitzer nominees in a couple of months. It's what print journalism was born to do.
Go read. And if you have a blog yourself, pass it along.
02 March 2005
At his request, I'm going to shamelessly rip off Kevin Drum's vigorous plug for a long article about economic life in the US now.