- - Sunday, June 1, 2014

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

NEW YORK — The adults among us remember the joys we had as children spinning tops — watching an ungainly gadget on a tiny point whir upright against the odds, seemingly rigid, stable and secure.

We also remember that first jerk, when the top fell off kilter, signaling the beginning of the end of its run, its clattering and fall.


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After more than five years of stewardship under President Obama, the U.S. economy is well past first jerks now, as we near the start of another summer, simmering in discontent.

What holds each of us up are our after-tax incomes — these allow us to sustain ourselves and permit the fortunate among us to squirrel away savings.

Information just out from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Consumer Expenditure Survey leads to damning conclusions concerning what is happening to after-tax incomes across the full spectrum of the economy.

Among the highest quintile of households, after-tax incomes declined 8.1 percent (from $158,024 to $146,785 per household) comparing the figures for the year ending June 30, 2013 for the same period ending December 31, 2012.

The remaining 80 percent of American households suffered less, but they still suffered — average after-tax incomes dropped 3.4 percent from $39,636 to $38,687 per household in the same period.

What’s far worse is that the bottom 80 percent — 99.5 million households — find themselves earning less than they spent in the most recent 12-month period for which data are available, in deficit by an average of $611 per household.

By comparison, the bottom 80 percent eked out an average of $211 in savings per household in 2012. In neither period is there much grounds for hope that saving for retirement is actually possible.

Whatever presidents and pundits may say, the overwhelming majority of American households know that “progress” does not occur when incomes fall, costs rise, and savings shrink, even as central banks suppress interest rates and governments spend with abandon.

Is America past a tipping point, where fundamental changes wrought by the Obama administration since 2009 cannot be redressed?

The thrill is gone

Spinning false positives only works so long — here on Earth, gravity remains a potent, immutable force.

No one now recalls with fondness the 2012 campaign fable that America’s economy was supposedly roaring back because General Motors was fixed and “alive.”

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