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Missed economic chances

Raise a glass to the longest economic expansion in modern American history.

A full decade has passed since the end of the last recession, in June 2009, and the economy continues to grow. As of Monday, the current expansion surpassed the previous record for uninterrupted growth, set between 1991 and 2001.

But this time around, no one is accusing Americans of irrational exuberance: These good times don’t feel particularly good. Economic growth over the past decade has been slow and fragile, and most of the benefits have been claimed by a small minority of the population.

The sense of disappointment is more than a feeling. Through the first quarter of 2019, the nation’s gross domestic product had increased by 25 percent during the current expansion. Between 1991 and 2001, economic output expanded by 42 percent. Between 1982 and 1990, output increased 38 percent. And between 1961 and 1969, output grew by 52 percent.

The distribution of the gains is even less satisfying.

(…)

There is also reason to worry that America has squandered the opportunity for a more prosperous future. (…)

The end of an expansion, like the death of a star, is visible only after it happens. It is possible the economy will continue to grow for years, giving policymakers a chance to do better; long-lived expansions have become increasingly common across the developed world.

It’s also possible that the analysts predicting a recession next year — there are always analysts predicting a recession next year — will turn out to be right.

So enjoy this lackluster expansion while it lasts. What comes next may well be worse.

— The New York Times