The New Economy’s Have and Have Nots

CAMBRIDGE: Improving technology, radical restructuring, and increasing competition are the hallmarks of the New Economy. But the higher productivity growth and pressures to cut costs that result test a society's cohesion. Are we marching forward technologically only to march backward socially?

The New Economy’s social pressures are highest in America because (at least in comparison with Europe) its social safety net is riddled with holes. The old jibe about American prosperity was that it was composed of jobs flipping hamburgers and armies of homeless people; the new joke seems to be one of Silicon Valley billionaires and displaced workers from the Atlantic to the Pacific.

What is the real record? Recent US economic data reveals four facts:

- America’s poverty rate is at its lowest point in 20 years. Although more than 30 million people still live in poverty, this is millions less than only a few years ago;