Politics

Penn Professor: Still No ‘Human Recovery’ from Recession

A technical economic recovery hasn't improved the lives of millions of Americans

Middle America turned away from Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and her party because the economic recovery has not truly touched them, according to a professor at the University of Pennsylvania.

“We have clearly had a market recovery since 2008,” said Amy Castro Baker, a social science professor at School of Social Policy & Practice, speaking to the [email protected] podcast and radio show. “However, we have not had a human recovery.”

“What we’re seeing are a real erosion of assets and wealth. People just don’t have things to protect them in the economy anymore.”

The Great Recession ended in July 2009 after more than a year of housing prices crashing. Unemployment then peaked in October 2009 at 10 percent. But after more than seven years of recovery, things still feel weak to many Americans.

Castro Baker said 55 percent of Americans are spending more than half of their income on housing and utilities. That’s much more than the 30 percent that is advised, she said.

“Housing is sucking up all those extra resources that in the past would have gone towards savings, towards asset accumulation, towards building wealth that will protect people as they’re aging,” Castro Baker said. “As someone who specifically studies under-served populations, what I’m really worried about are the low-income people who have always been on the bottom. We’re talking a lot about the middle class. We’re talking a lot about the working class. That’s important. That’s crucial. It’s clearly played a role in the election. However, we also have to ask the question, ‘What about the folks who have always been at the bottom?'”

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President Obama and the Democrats tried to crow about the economy as Election Day approached. Unemployment dropped below 5 percent in October, settling in at 4.9 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Obama, Clinton, and some in the media tried to also claim that wages were beginning to rise. But median wages, adjusted for inflation, have been stagnant for roughly 30 years. A modest bump in wages was still rising from a weak base.

In the end, the American public did not buy the White House spin. Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump won areas of the nation that had not voted for a Republican presidential candidate since the 1980s.

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Among the counties that led Trump to unpredictable victories were dozens of Pennsylvania localities that had previously voted for Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney in 2012 — but not in the numbers that led Trump to take the state for the first time since 1988.

According to political analyst Kyle Kondik of the University of Virginia, the shift in Pennsylvania alone was massive.

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Romney won 52 counties west of Philadelphia by 175,000 in 2012.

Trump won those counties by 492,000 on Nov. 8. That number erased the huge margin that Democrats won in Philadelphia.

Castro Baker told [email protected] that many neighborhoods and the rural areas outside of wealthy “blue” (Democratic) cities have not recovered.

“Even when we look at the housing bounce-back, we’re seeing housing sales rising, we’re seeing movement in that market. However, it’s not in those places and spaces,” said Castro Baker.

And in a cruel twist, housing — while there is much of it — is costing the working class a lot.

“There is no state in the United States where someone can afford median rent on the minimum wage,” Castro Baker said. “What we’re seeing are a real erosion of assets and wealth. People just don’t have things to protect them in the economy anymore.”

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And the poor — usually a strong voting bloc for Democrats — have been suffering while Obama says he has been lifting them. Castro Baker said the economic performance of the Democratic White House may have depressed the turnout of poor people and African-Americans at the polls.

“Older African-American women have lost 97 percent of their wealth from the beginning of the housing crisis until 2012,” Castro Baker said. “And we’re not talking about that. So, what motivation do they have to get to the polls when we’re not talking about the extreme issues of poverty that people are living with and dealing with?”

There were ominous signs in January, as Democrats hoped to win a third term in the White House, that the economy was not as rosy as spun. According to a Jan. 12 report in The Wall Street Journal, 93 percent of U.S. counties had not fully recovered from the 2007-2009 recession, based on four economic indicators, by the end of 2015.

The indicators were total employment, unemployment rate, size of the economy, and home values. The study was done by the National Association of Counties.

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Political reporter, LifeZette. Indiana University journalism grad. Boston U. business grad. Former Indiana, Alabama statehouse reporter, Daytona Beach editorial writer.

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