The good news about the economy's improved job creation dominated the weekend's headlines. Many commentators concluded that the economy is finally shaking off the effects of the financial collapse of 2008 and the long period of stagnation that followed. But the one-year increase in wages has been only 2.2 percent, barely more than 1 percent when adjusted for inflation, and it's been a long time since most workers have seen substantial raises. In this recovery, the economy has been creating more low-wage jobs than high-wage ones. The shift from standard payroll jobs to temp and contract work continues. The uptick in the measured unemployment rate suggests that discouraged workers are only just coming back into the labor force and we are a long way from full employment. Even at the present rate of improved job creation, it will be 2017 before we get back to the pre-recession level of unemployment.
The major reversal from deep decline to economic growth occurred despite Republican opposition to President Obama's proposals, repeated GOP threats to default on our debt obligations, and an incredibly harmful 16-day government shutdown. And not only have Republicans stood in the way of Democratic policies, but they're now attempting to take credit for the recovery itself.
The two great challenges of our time -- inequality and climate change -- are threatening to undermine the efforts of millions of people to escape poverty and hunger. By concentrating wealth and power in the hands of a few, inequality robs the poorest people of the support they need to improve their lives.