The 5% Recovery: Why Most Are Still in Recession

Jack Frawley, center, who served two tours of duty with the Marine Corps in Iraq, attends a job fair for veterans, Wednesday, March 28, 2012 at the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum in New York. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke says that without faster economic growth, it could take
Mark Lennihan/AP
By Jeff Cox

How strong the economic recovery has been since the Great Recession ended in 2009 probably depends on viewpoint. For those in the top 5 percent of wealth, the recovery has been pretty good. As for the other 95 percent, well ... maybe not so much.

Post-financial crisis wealth disparity has been well-chronicled.

Federal Reserve governor Sarah B. Raskin drew widespread attention with a speech in April that showed how poorly the lower income levels have fared during the recovery, particularly because those demographics have their wealth concentrated in housing and are hit far more severely by falling prices.

The unemployed in lower income groups also take a hit because they have a more difficult time finding jobs that pay at a rate commensurate with the positions they lost.

Finally, history has shown that highly accommodative monetary policy widens income disparity by awarding speculators and penalizing savers. While the Standard & Poor's 500 (^GSPC) is up nearly 150 percent since the March 2009 lows, that's most helped those heavily invested in stocks.

The University of California Berkeley has produced some seminal research on this topic.

But a series of charts, put together by Charles Hugh Smith at, really helps put the sharply skewed recovery into perspective.

He uses a handful of metrics to show that, despite the climb in gross domestic product and other data points, the recovery has not made its way through the economy.

Those points are: Full-time employees as a percentage of the population; median household income (down 7.2 percent); real personal income less transfer receipts (government payments); and overall income disparity, which has yawned over the past decade.

The conclusion isn't pretty:

Huge leaps in the income and wealth of the top 5 percent mask the decline of income and wealth of the bottom 95 percent. Average all wealth and income and it appears that the economy is expanding to the benefit of all, when it fact only the top 5 percent have escaped the recession; the recession never ended for the bottom 95 percent.

And there's more:

An even better way to create an illusory expansion is to simply not measure trends that would reveal a deepening recession. For example, what percentage of student loans are purposefully taken out as a substitute for income, i.e., used to pay basic living expenses rather than education? Anecdotally, there is plentiful evidence that a great many people are signing up for one class at the local community college in order to get a student loan to live on.

Finally, Smith lays waste to the idea that more expansionist monetary policy from the Fed and further "stimulus" from the government through deficit spending will make things any better:

Things are falling apart -- that is obvious. But why are they falling apart? The reasons are complex and global. Our economy and society have structural problems that cannot be solved by adding debt to debt. We are becoming poorer, not just from financial over-reach, but from fundamental forces that aren't easy to identify or understand.

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I never lost my job, but now make 35% less than I did 6 years ago, and of course, inflation has taken a bite out of that too. I doubt I will ever get back to where I once was (inflation adjusted). I feel sorry for the younger people. The direction our country has headed that last 15-20 years, and accelerating downward, it is going to be very difficult for them as they get older. Sipping jobs overseas, all government levels taxing you to death, borrowing, printing $$, unfunded programs,etc, etc.....I real mess has been created.

August 27 2013 at 9:38 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Thank you Bammy... hope you never change,..... you MORON

August 27 2013 at 5:41 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

Yes and until the wealthy share the wealth with the others the economy is going to way 5% of the people spend enough to run the more wages and benefits and they wont be in that huge tax bracket and will sell more product and make more money...Henry Ford did it! Like Monoply...when one person has all the money Game Over!

August 27 2013 at 1:32 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to hdo50's comment

You sound like the sheep that invested in Kenyan hope!!!!!

August 27 2013 at 5:42 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

What Recovery?? Obama's creation of new jobs is a joke. Way over 50% are only Part Time jobs. Obama has increase the debt more than all the presidents in the past have. $17 trillion in debt. We are broke. Obama has killed companies with more taxes and more regulations ands we have the highest Corporate tax rate in the World. What company would want to be in America???? Do the math and you will see where Obama is killing America and Killing racial and Christian religion in America

August 27 2013 at 8:41 AM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply

Yep thats right all the things our lying con artist president has done has widen the gap between wealth and poor. All his socal programs are design to bring all people down, not up. We have higher gas, food, electric, taxes and more people on government foodstamps then work. 70% of the jobs he so called created are low paying part time. He has strangled the private sector with regulation taxes and Obama care which will destroy us, and not even provide coverage to those who it was design to cover.

August 27 2013 at 8:39 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
Tolerant Voice

Gee, I wonder what effect on the US Economy does the fact that 90% of consumer goods are produced offshore, mostly China. How did this happen? Maybe it is because Congress has imposed restrictions on goods manufactured in the US from which they exempt offshore products made for sale in the US. There are reports that 24 million Americans are out of work due to imports from low wage countries. Seems true to me. There is no way a US producer can compete with China that pays wages as low as 58 cents/hr. with no environmental, worker safety, overtime or child labor laws.

August 27 2013 at 8:13 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

Obama is no JFK...........JFK was more like a Republican than todays,,,WELFARE DEOMCRATES.
People,,,we have to have Rich,,middle and poor,,,,,,,classes....
Most rich,,as you call them,,,earned there money,,,,Some had that silver spoon,,,not many......
Middle,,,,stay middle...........Poor,,,,the Democrates keep them on Welfare Programs,,,for VOTES,,,,,,all there lives,,,,childrens lives and so on...
In this country,,,hard work will get you ahead......WELFARE PROGRAMS,,,,WILL KEEP YOU DOWN,,,,,,MAKE PEOPLE LAZY AND TAKE YOUR MORALS AND PRIDE AWAY...
Democrates,,,are killing unborn babies,,,,,,,killing families by WELFARE.!!!!!!
In the early days,,,,Blacks were Republicans,,,that changed when the Democrates started Welfare,,,,,,,DEMOCRATE PARTY IS A PARTY OF SLAVERY,!!!!!!!!!!
All there programs are destroying families.!!!!!!!!!!

August 27 2013 at 7:53 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply

THE CLINTONS,,were the first to welcome the China Importation of goods.....

I would love to buy American,,,,,,but,,were do you find American goods forsale.!!!!!


August 27 2013 at 7:43 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply

Buy American whenever possible. Blame Obama, the Repubs or whomever you'd like. But reaching for the Chinese pencils over the U.S. Brand because they are $.60 cheaper is the root of most of our issues. No those short in thought the economy is not in trouble due to pencils, substitute any of the following and more: Tires, Packing Tape, Crayons, Light Bulbs, Playing Cards, Bolts, Screws, Socks etc. We are ALLOWING the 5% to do this to us by accepting the outsourcing of our jobs. Buy American and force them to make it here. Leave the Chinese crap on the shelves and watch them take a loss.

Not the whole problem with the U.S. but I believe its most of it.

August 27 2013 at 7:38 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

Keep voting for the same corrupt political parties and fighting amongst yourselves so nothing changes.

August 27 2013 at 6:23 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to jburke6000's comment

Awesome post. Cheers to that.

August 27 2013 at 7:41 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply