America is doing better than we're being led to believe

The middle class is finally getting a raise
The middle class is finally getting a raise


    The middle class is finally getting a raise


The middle class is finally getting a raise 01:14

Story highlights

  • Issac Bailey: Americans are living through one of the safest, most prosperous times in our country's history
  • Yet anger and fear are still the watchwords being used by much of the media, he says

Issac Bailey has been a journalist in South Carolina for two decades and was most recently the primary columnist for The Sun News in Myrtle Beach. He was a 2014 Harvard University Nieman fellow. Follow him on Twitter: @ijbailey. The views expressed are his own.

(CNN)The economic picture unveiled by the US Census Bureau on Tuesday, coupled with a gaggle of data points we already had, should put to rest the idea that the anger on display in much of America is about economic angst and a feeling that the US has stepped away from the social mores that made the country great.

Issac Bailey
Indeed, after suffering through the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, we are living through one of the safest, most prosperous times in our country's history, a time during which we are getting ever-so-closer to the kind of true equity promised by the US Constitution.
    Just think about this:

    A rising economic tide

    According to the latest figures, median household income increased at its fastest clip ever in 2015, jumping by some 5.2% -- about back to where it was before the recession began and only a couple of percentage points lower than its 1999 peak. (And the 1999 number was inflated by an economic bubble that burst.)
    As Justin Wolfers, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institute, tweeted: "The income gains were broadly distributed, including every demographic, age region and gender, and were stronger for the poor than the rich."
    But that's not all: 3.5 million Americans rose out of poverty, while the poverty rate declined more than it had since 1968, including big declines for Hispanics, black people, children and young adults. Meanwhile, the number of Americans with year-round, full-time jobs is at its highest level ever, the unemployment rate sits at 4.9% (in 2012, Mitt Romney pledged to get it down to 6%), we are in the midst of the longest monthly job creation streak ever, and the stock market has set new records in recent weeks.

    It's not just the economy, stupid

    The numbers showing the economy has continued to improve may get more headlines, but we shouldn't overlook some of the real social gains, too. Not least among these is a teen pregnancy rate that is at a historic low, a black graduation rate at an all-time high, gay people can marry and serve openly in the US military, and the achievement gap between the rich and poor, and between white people and those of color, has been closing.
    Plus, despite some of the rhetoric you might be hearing on the campaign trail, illegal immigration via our southern border has slowed to a trickle, (in part, perhaps, because we have the most security personnel there ever).

    America more secure

    Speaking of securing America, the numbers show that the violent crime rate is at its lowest in decades.
    There has, of course, been no 9/11-type terror attack since... 9/11. And thousands of terrorists over the past seven years have been killed, including Osama bin Laden and top members of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. In addition, the Syrian government turned over its stockpile of chemical weapons -- one of the largest in the world -- without the US having to invade that country.

    Building for the future

    But it's not just about today -- we have also seen steps taken to ensure that America can continue to build on its progress. For example, the largest economic stimulus in the history of the country has seeded the ground for a burgeoning energy economy, while new vehicle regulations and investment have helped the United States begin grappling with climate change.
    Plus, a new, more powerful consumer protection agency, born out of the most comprehensive Wall Street reform in decades, has protected millions of poor Americans from hefty credit card fees and a host of scams.
    Maybe all this is why President Barack Obama's approval rating hit 58% in one recent poll, back to near where it was when he was first sworn-in.
    It goes without saying that too many people still live in poverty. Too many people still struggle to pay health costs. Heroin and other such overdoses have created real problems. ISIS, while weakened, remains a threat. The Syrian civil war, along with unrest in Libya, continues to harm and kill too many people around the globe. Gun violence in places such as Chicago and Baltimore remains a genuine problem. Parts of rural white America are experiencing a decline not felt by their parents or grandparents. Too many of the undocumented remain in the shadows out of fear of having their families torn apart.
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    In short, despite all of the real progress we've made, there is still much more needed. But there has never been a time in our country's history during which real problems didn't exist, not when the Greatest Generation was helping to defeat Hitler, not when Lyndon B. Johnson was signing the Civil Rights Act, not during Reagan's "Morning in America" or Bill Clinton's economic boom. If it is true, as some conservatives (and liberals) claim, that we can't consider it real economic progress until no American has been left behind, it would mean the US economy has never been strong.
    The question is why, during a period in which we've experienced so much progress -- economically and socially -- that anger and fear are the watchwords being used by so much of the media to describe the times in which we live.