The economic expansion that took place during much of the last decade officially ended in December 2007. One of the weakest on record, it saw feeble gross domestic product and jobs growth, and was the first business cycle on record during which the median family income failed to rise. The real value of the minimum wage declined for more than half the decade, and the gap between the rich and the poor—or rather the top 1% and the bottom 99%—continued to grow. This historically weak expansion, however, was nothing compared with what was to come. (In fact, the 2000s’ historically lackluster expansion failed to generate the potential cushion a robust expansion would have afforded many families, making the current economic downturn even tougher to weather). The Great Recession, which began in December 2007, officially lasted through June 2009.
Three years after the recession’s beginning we can piece together a comprehensive vision of where we have been, and begin to think about where we are going.