Many around the world are surprised at how little attention the economy is receiving in President Bush's re-election campaign. But I am not surprised: if I were President Bush, the last thing I would want to talk about is the economy.
Yet many people look at America's economy, even over these past three and half years, with some envy. After all, annual economic growth - at an average rate of 2.5% - may have been markedly slower than during the Clinton years, but it still looks strong compared to Europe's anemic 1% growth.
But these statistics mask a glaring fact: the average American family is worse off than it was three and half years ago. Median real income has fallen by over $1,500 in real terms, with American families being squeezed as wages lag behind inflation and key household expenses soar. In short, all that growth benefited only those at the top of the income distribution, the same group that had done so well over the previous thirty years and that benefited most from Bush's tax cut.
For example, some 45 million Americans today have no health insurance, up by 5.2 million from 2000. Families lucky enough to have health insurance face annual premiums that have nearly doubled, to $7,500. American families also face increasing job insecurity. This is the first time since the early 1930's that there has been a net loss of jobs over the span of an entire presidential administration.