Wealth. The mainstream media played this up recently, but only because it fell by nearly $2 trillion in the first quarter. Stand back and a different picture is revealed. Americans' net worth — what they owned less what they owed — was $55.97 trillion. That's down from the peak of $58.196 trillion in the third quarter of 2007, but still $15.3 trillion above where it was seven years ago (see chart above).
Put another way, a bit more than one-quarter of all the wealth created in America in the 232 years since our founding was created in the last seven years.
• Incomes. We keep hearing that American incomes are "stagnant." The official data show that average real pre-tax income per worker hit a record $48,957 in April, 11% above what it was when President Bush entered office. Real family incomes are growing slowly. But that's because families have been shrinking in size since the 1960s.
• Jobs. People constantly worry about jobs, but we've created 9.2 million jobs since 2001, the year of the last recession. Unemployment today is 5.5%, below the 6.1% average since 1980.
• Consumer pleasures. Americans own more and better things than ever, despite our pining for the good old days. The average American has a larger home, and more and better cars, color TVs, computers and home appliances than ever before. They have more leisure time and take more vacations, too.
• The poor. Those officially defined as poor in America aren't thriving. But they, too, are faring better than you might imagine. For instance, 80% of poor households today have air conditioning vs. 36% of the entire population as recently as 1970. Some 97% of our poor own a color TV, and half own two or more. Thirty-one percent own two or more cars. The typical poor American has more living space than the average individual living in Paris, London, Vienna, Athens and other cities throughout Europe.
Poor people typically often consume more than they earn. The average person with income before taxes of $17,462 — a level that qualifies as poor — consumed $24,422 in goods. The difference is welfare and subsidies.
• Energy. America is in fact energy-rich, not energy poor. In the U.S., we have at least 139 billion barrels of oil that we can profitably get using current technology at current prices. All we have to do is decide to get it. It can be found in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska, in shale-oil deposits in Colorado, Utah and Wyoming, and in our offshore reserves.
• Life Spans. The average person born today can expect to live more than 78 years. That's up from 75 just 20 years ago. Infant mortality has plunged to about 6 per 1,000 live births, a 25% drop since 1990, with the best gains among minorities, especially African Americans.