The Economy Is Doing Well, But Ordinary People Not So Much

Here’s another chart for you if you want a better sense of just how well the economy has been working for everyone over the past couple of decades:

Generally speaking, household income peaked in 1999 and has gone up and down since then. But for some, it’s been more down than up. Even after 110 months of expansion, the lowest earners make nearly 10 percent less than they did during the last economic peak. The top fifth, by contrast, earns 11 percent more than they did during the dotcom peak.

It’s been a tough 20 years. The poor have done abysmally; the middle class has stagnated; and even the affluent have only improved their earnings moderately. Meanwhile, real GDP per capita has increased a very nice 23 percent since 1999. So if GDP is up 23 percent, but even the affluent are up only 11 percent, where has all the money gone? The Census Bureau doesn’t tell us, but I’m sure you’ve already guessed: to the really, really rich. It’s a good time in America to be part of the top 1 percent.

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“This could be the first time a corporation would be held criminally liable for forced labor in their own supply chains,” according to a retired special agent we talked to.

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WHO DOESN’T LOVE A POSITIVE STORY—OR TWO?

“Great journalism really does make a difference in this world: it can even save kids.”

That’s what a civil rights lawyer wrote to Julia Lurie, the day after her major investigation into a psychiatric hospital chain that uses foster children as “cash cows” published, letting her know he was using her findings that same day in a hearing to keep a child out of one of the facilities we investigated.

That’s awesome. As is the fact that Julia, who spent a full year reporting this challenging story, promptly heard from a Senate committee that will use her work in their own investigation of Universal Health Services. There’s no doubt her revelations will continue to have a big impact in the months and years to come.

Like another story about Mother Jones’ real-world impact.

This one, a multiyear investigation, published in 2021, exposed conditions in sugar work camps in the Dominican Republic owned by Central Romana—the conglomerate behind brands like C&H and Domino, whose product ends up in our Hershey bars and other sweets. A year ago, the Biden administration banned sugar imports from Central Romana. And just recently, we learned of a previously undisclosed investigation from the Department of Homeland Security, looking into working conditions at Central Romana. How big of a deal is this?

“This could be the first time a corporation would be held criminally liable for forced labor in their own supply chains,” according to a retired special agent we talked to.

Wow.

And it is only because Mother Jones is funded primarily by donations from readers that we can mount ambitious, yearlong—or more—investigations like these two stories that are making waves.

About that: It’s unfathomably hard in the news business right now, and we came up about $28,000 short during our recent fall fundraising campaign. We simply have to make that up soon to avoid falling further behind than can be made up for, or needing to somehow trim $1 million from our budget, like happened last year.

If you can, please support the reporting you get from Mother Jones—that exists to make a difference, not a profit—with a donation of any amount today. We need more donations than normal to come in from this specific blurb to help close our funding gap before it gets any bigger.

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