Before the economy plunged toward coronavirus catastrophe this year, you would have hoped that, at the very least, it was working well enough to provide most of us a cushion to ride out the storm of 36 million Americans now unemployed.
That has not been the case. Not by a long shot. Most acutely in the suburbs of Philadelphia, some of the most remarkable disappointments of our nation’s economy have played out in ways that do not match political rhetoric that attempts to portray the stock market as proof that Americans have prospered like never before.
An Inquirer analysis of census data shows that in communities across the Southeastern Pennsylvania political battleground suburbs, and in South Jersey — in zip codes long known as stepping-stones or destinations for the middle- and working-class — a majority of residents were struggling to make income gains during the decade of so-called recovery after the Great Recession ended in 2009.
Eight out of 10 suburban residents lived in towns where median incomes either failed to keep up with the rate of inflation, or were flat, or may have grown only modestly above the inflation rate, based on census estimates through the year 2018. At the same time, the S&P 500 stock index rose 178 percent.