No one can accuse the presidential campaign of ignoring the American economy or the plight of the middle class. Yet the scale and the complexity of the problem are typically lost amid the charged back-and-forth between President Obama and Mitt Romney.
For the first time since the Great Depression, middle-class families have been losing ground for more than a decade. They, and the poor, have struggled particularly badly since the financial crisis led to a global recession in 2008. The idea that living standards inevitably improve from one generation to the next is under threat. Many of the bedrock assumptions of American culture — about work, progress, fairness and optimism — are being shaken. Arguably no question is more central to the country’s global standing than whether the economy will perform better in the future than it has in the recent past.
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