The U.S. Economy Is Booming, But Only for a Few

“Our economy is literally the envy of the world,” President Biden declared in his recent State of the Union address. There’s some truth to this exceptionalism talk. However, the U.S. economy seems to be doing better than other advanced economies thanks also to data badly distorted by U.S. economic inequality. Here, we’re also exceptional, just in the bad way of being less equal than all other advanced democracies. Big-picture numbers show the U.S. economy beating much of the rest of the world. Gross domestic product grew 2.5% in 2023, compared to 1.9% in Japan, 0.5% in the U.K., and negative 0.3%—a mild recession—in Germany. Unemployment numbers are similar. What these apparently favorable comparisons miss, however, is how spending and investing by the few Americans who own so much of American wealth and receive so much of its income drive an economy that leaves almost everyone else farther and farther behind. Unequal economies are also unduly vulnerable to recessions and financial crises. The seeming strength of the U.S. economy is a brittle platform for growth or, as the White House hopes, political support….