The good news on rising incomes and falling poverty means the election won't be about the economy. At least in "the reality-based community."

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I was on vacation last week when the U.S. Census Bureau reported that last year median household income made its biggest gain since 1967. Poverty fell by the largest amount in almost half a century. Lawrence Mischel, president of the Economic Policy Institute, said the report “was superb in almost every dimension.”

Let’s unpack the news:

• Thirty-nine states saw a gain in household income and none saw a decrease. Among the leaders was Oregon, up 5.9 percent. Washington’s median household income rose 4.4 percent to $64,129, well above the national average. Washington was one of only 11 states to see income rise above 2007. It’s still below 1999.

• The situation is different in Seattle. As my colleague Gene Balk reported, the city posted the nation’s largest increase in incomes. Median household income rose $9,374 to $80,369 from 2014 to 2015. The gain against some peer cities was remarkable: Boston rose $1,361 to $58,263; San Diego eked out a $72 gain to $67,871; Denver increased $3,062 to $58,003; Austin $3,792 to $62,250 and Portland $6,268 to $60,892.

• Washington’s poverty rate fell from 13.2 percent in 2014 to 12.2 percent last year. The share of Washingtonians below the poverty line fell 1 percentage point compared with a decline of 0.8 point nationally. The state’s Gini coefficient, which measures inequality, was not above the national average.

• Nationally, while much of the damage from the Great Recession has been undone, many households can’t party like it’s 1999. Median household income is 5.2 percent lower than in 2000 — for non-elderly households, the median is down 8.2 percent. The same is true across racial and ethnic lines, with African-Americans seeing the worst drop.

• In a blog post, Matthew Yglesias argued that the data probably understate an even better economic condition. His points are worth considering. “The bottom line of all of this is that as good as the 2015 census report was, the reality is probably even better.”

The sum of the data is a remarkable comeback, not least against Congress’ inaction and “austerity,” which prevented the fiscal investments that would have improved things faster and given us infrastructure for future prosperity.

It also shows that the longer the expansion powers ahead, the more people are carried upward. This was the case in the 1990s, with an upswing that pre-dated Bill Clinton’s presidency and lasted until 2000.

Unlike 1992, when President George H.W. Bush was dealing with the aftermath of a mild recession, this election year is not all about the economy, stupid. Perceptions, maybe. But not the complex reality. The Trump campaign doesn’t have a credible economic plan, anyway. Donald Trump lies with impunity. This election will turn on white anxiety and misinformation in the “post fact society.”

Which makes these data points either superfluous or critically important.


Today’s Econ Haiku:

Paperless office

Its finally on the way

You get the memo?