The rich are getting much richer, the poor are getting poorer and the middle class is getting squeezed.
News reports last week told us that for the first time in many, many years there were as many job openings as there were unemployed people who wanted work. And a few minor hiccups notwithstanding, the stock market continues to tick up, enriching those who have the money to invest.
Meanwhile, new home sales surged across the country in March, finishing off a strong first quarter of the year with what appears to be an increasing buyer demand. According to a report a few weeks ago in The Wall Street Journal, sales of new single-family homes increased 4 percent in March compared with the previous month and 8.8 percent compared with March 2017.
Indeed, most key economic indicators were up in March, according to the Department of Commerce. The economy appears to be rolling along. So why doesn’t it feel like it to the average American? If you read past the headlines and dig a little deeper, the answer isn’t hard to figure out. The rich are getting much richer, the poor are getting poorer and the middle class is getting squeezed.
One of the reasons new home sales are increasing “is that millennials are reaching the point in their lives when they’re beginning to get married, start a family and are looking to buy a home,” Mark Vitner, senior economist at Wells Fargo, told The Wall Street Journal.
But most of those same millennials attempting to follow their parents’ path to “the American Dream” are doing so saddled with crippling debt from student loans. In a study last year of its top 300 public and private national universities, U.S. News & World Report found that, over the past 20 years, average tuition and fees have jumped 157 percent at private universities, 194 percent at public universities and, here’s the real whopper, 237 percent for in-state students at public universities.
Meanwhile, anyone who has been forced into unemployment knows the chances of maintaining their lifestyle after being laid off are next to nil. The average worker has seen wages stay stagnant or fall over the past decade. People might be better able to find a job, but they’re likely looking at some hard lifestyle choices in the process. At the same time, the costs of basic necessities, such as transportation and food, have increased significantly.
It is depressing. New data released by Blue Cross Blue Shield show diagnoses of major depression have risen sharply. The report, released Thursday, finds more than 9 million commercially insured people in the U.S. suffer from major, or clinical, depression, an increase of 33 percent since 2013.
We’re in a strange point in history. The disruption brought on by rapid technological advancements, social media and unadulterated greed on Wall Street is unprecedented.
Gone are the days of working your way through college. Gone are the days of low debt. Pensions have given way to the 401k.
Is it any wonder, then, when President Trump rails against the so-called establishment so many people cheer?
A version of this editorial first appeared in the Tuscaloosa (Ala.) News, a News Herald sister paper with GateHouse Media.