Wealthy na­tion

Richmond Times-Dispatch - - EDITORIAL PAGE -

Amid storms, and protests, and pre­dic­tions of much worse, a bit of good news slipped through the other day when the U.S. Cen­sus Bureau re­ported that me­dian real house­hold in­come in the U.S. reached its high­est level ever last year: $59,016. In other words, the typ­i­cal Amer­i­can has never been bet­ter off fi­nan­cially. That’s up 3.2 per­cent from the year be­fore, even af­ter ad­just­ing for in­fla­tion. And the me­dian Amer­i­can fam­ily last year re­al­ized real in­come of $75,062. Half made more, half made less. A typ­i­cal hus­band and wife, both work­ing full time, could ex­pect to earn about $93,000 an­nu­ally.

The num­bers sug­gest that the coun­try con­tin­ues to inch for­ward, even though growth has been slow for years and chal­lenges con­tinue on many fronts. The num­ber of Amer­i­cans liv­ing be­low the poverty line de­clined by 2.5 mil­lion from 2015 to 2016. But 40.6 mil­lion re­main poor— about one of every eight Amer­i­cans. So plenty of work re­mains. Elected of­fi­cials in Wash­ing­ton— 100 per­cent of whom are paid, count­ing just their gov­ern­ment salaries, far more than the me­dian Amer­i­can house­hold— could be­gin by de­sign­ing a bet­ter tax sys­tem, one that re­spects la­bor and in­vest­ment and in do­ing so re­wards ini­tia­tive, imag­i­na­tion, and de­ter­mi­na­tion. Ron­ald Rea­gan worked with Democrats in 1986 to cre­ate a pretty darn good tax code. Un­for­tu­nately, both par­ties started mess­ing it up al­most im­me­di­ately and have con­tin­ued to do so for the past three decades. Now would be a good time to stop.

One re­port does not a ro­bust re­cov­ery cre­ate. But it is a timely re­minder that, for all our risks and wor­ries, Amer­ica re­mains the wealth­i­est large na­tion in the world — and we are mak­ing more money here than we ever have be­fore. Ma­te­rial wealth does not buy hap­pi­ness. But it can mea­sure a coun­try’s abil­ity to de­liver far­reach­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties for pur­pose­ful, sat­is­fy­ing lives. It’s im­por­tant to take a mo­ment and ap­pre­ci­ate our good fortune. Per­haps we needn’t be quite so an­gry.

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