A little bit less unequal

We have become accustomed to the drumbeat of bad news about income equality and the sluggish economic recovery since the Great Recession. Stories have documented the seemingly endless ways in which, to borrow from a prominent area pol, the economy seems “rigged” against the middle class, while those at the top reap all the gains.

This week, however, brought news that cut sharply against the grain of that dismal storyline: Median income in the US last year rose at the sharpest rate since such records began being recorded nearly 50 years ago. Household income rose 5.2 percent to $56,516, the US Census Bureau reported.

And the gains not only came across the board, but were tilted toward those on the lower rungs. Real incomes rose 7.9 percent for those in the bottom 10 percent, but only 2.9 percent for households in the 90th percentile.

Tempering the good news is the fact that much of growth came from more household members finding work, not from wage increases among those with jobs. What’s more, the big jump in household income still leaves median inflation-adjusted US household income 1.6 percent below where it stood in 2007, before the recession hit, and 2.4 percent below where it stood during the boom of the 1990s.

The news is even more tempered in Massachusetts, where the gains were significantly more modest. Median household income here rose by just 2 percent last year. The state also lagged in the country in reducing its poverty rate and in wages for full-time male workers.

“One good year does not reverse decades of stagnation,” Jared Bernstein, an economist at the liberal Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, told the New York Times. A Globe editorial today takes a similar tack. “The question now,” it says, “is whether the household pay raises were an aberration, or the start of a prolonged period of growth.”

Any such cautions were of course of no concern when it comes to the presidential campaign.

Some models suggest the state of the economy goes a long way toward predicting election outcomes. Good numbers bode well for reelection bids; bad ones often foreshadow trouble for an incumbent.

Donald Trump did not mention the report during a Tuesday rally in Iowa, but stuck with his general refrain that the country has gone to hell under President Obama. “Poverty is beyond belief,” Trump said. “It’s time to break up the failed Democratic control over our inner cities, and provide real hope and opportunity to every single community in this nation.”

Obama, campaigning on Tuesday for Clinton in Philadelphia, couldn’t wait to trumpet the income news.

“This is a big deal,” he declared, reprising a famous pronouncement by Joe Biden, minus the modifier.  “Across every age, every race in America, incomes rose and the poverty rate fell. In fact, the typical household income of Americans rose by $2,800, which is the single biggest one-year increase on record.”

Let’s forget about deplorables and pneumonia, Hillary Clinton must be saying as she recovers and prepares to hit the campaign trail again. This week at least, the charge that she’s seeking a third Obama term may be one that she’s eager to own.



Stephen Kerrigan releases a list of top Democrats who he says support his bid to become the head of the Democratic Party in Massachusetts, but his show of force is not deterring others from taking a look at running against him. (State House News)

Rep. David Nangle of Lowell is pushing the Baker administration to replace the private operator of a state ice rink in the city because he says the company isn’t doing its job. (Lowell Sun)

House progressives — and their allies — want to push their agenda more aggressively in the coming legislative session. (WGBH News)


Gloucester Mayor Sefatia Romeo Thaken placed the police chief, Leonard Campanello, on indefinite leave and is looking for an outsider to conduct an investigation. Into what isn’t clear, with John Rosenthal, a partner with Campanello on a national program to combat opioid addiction, saying it’s a personal matter. Campanello also stepped away from the national program, which is called the Police Assisted Addiction Recovery Initiative. Detective Sgt. Sean Conners was also placed on leave for unknown reasons. (Gloucester Times)

Michael Widmer, the former head of the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation, says Boston voters should pass the Community Preservation Act, which would increase property tax bills by 1 percent to fund affordable housing, historic preservation, and open space projects. (CommonWealth)

Worcester allows dogs back into public parks for the first time in 20 years. (Masslive)

A Herald editorial takes a very dim view of a possible plastic bag ban in Boston, the subject of yesterday’s lead item in the Download. Activists in Springfield urge the City Council to ban single-use plastic bags in retail stores. (Masslive)

The Beverly City Council is planning to raise the pay of the mayor $10,000 each year for three years in a row starting in 2018. The mayor’s current pay is $100,000. (Salem News)

The Southborough Planning Board has filed suit against the town’s Zoning  Board of Appeals for its decision to grant a permit to a 40B affordable housing project, charging the ZBA did not have a quorum when it voted. (MetroWest Daily News)

Some North End neighbors are not keen on the design proposed for a new commercial building along the Rose Kennedy Greenway in Boston. (Boston Herald)


Yvonne Abraham defends Colin Kaepernick taking a knee during the national anthem. (Boston Globe) With many school children taking their cue from Kaepernick, many local officials are discussing what to do. (Lowell Sun)


A New York Times/CBS News poll of likely voters shows the race between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump is a virtual tie in the popular vote, though it doesn’t break down the electoral count.

Trump talks about his health on the Dr. Oz show. (Washington Post) Clinton releases her health records. (Time)

The race for governor in New Hampshire is set: Republican Chris Sununu will face off against Democrat Colin Van Ostern to replace Maggie Hassan, who is running for the US Senate. (Eagle-Tribune)

The National Review doesn’t put much stock in Bill Weld’s promise that he and Gary Johnson will deliver a balanced budget within 100 days of being elected.

The state Ballot Law Commission will determine the disputed residency of a candidate for Plymouth County commissioner. (State House News Service)

An independent candidate from Martha’s Vineyard has dropped out of the race for a state representative seat and thrown his support behind the other independent from Nantucket in the race to make sure an “islander” has the best chance to win. (Cape Cod Times)


A Boston-based arm of the Clinton family’s charitable operations, Clinton Health Access Initiative, would operate largely as an independent nonprofit should Hillary Clinton win the presidency. (Boston Globe)

For the second time in less than a year, a film crew is coming to Lawrence, this time shooting scenes for a Kathryn Bigelow movie about a police raid in Detroit that led to a citizen uprising. (Eagle-Tribune)

Car dealership mogul Ernie Boch Jr. is stepping forward to buy naming rights to the Citi Performing Arts Center which operates the Wang and Shubert theaters. (Boston Globe)

Samsung’s recall of 2.5 million of its high-end Galaxy Note 7 phones is causing more confusion and chaos than remedy and wreaking havoc on the company’s reputation and stock price. (New York Times)


Framingham schools spent an additional $200,000 on substitute teachers last year after the district switched to an automated system that allowed teachers to call out of work and find a substitute digitally, leading to a 15 percent increase in absenteeism. (MetroWest Daily News)


State regulators have made it easier for patients to obtain medical marijuana prescriptions by allowing nurse practitioners, as well as physicians, to certify patients to receive the treatments. (Boston Globe)


Joan Vennochi says there are plenty of legitimate questions being asked about the safety of Uber rides after several arrests of drivers for the ride-hailing service. (Boston Globe)

Now for the real test for self-driving vehicles: Boston. How will the cars react to being cut-off and flipped off? (Greater Boston)

Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack says there is no fixed timetable for establishing a Boston helipad, a perk General Electric wanted for its new corporate headquarters. (Boston Herald)


President Obama is expected to announce the designation of a national monument in the Atlantic Ocean about 130 miles off the coast of Cape Cod, a move to protect endangered marine life but which has drawn criticism from the reeling commercial fishing industry which will be banned from the area within 60 days. (Cape Cod Times)

Pilgrim nuclear power plant, off-line for eight days, was shut down once more after a mechanical malfunction occurred during the process of powering the facility back up. (Cape Cod Times)

Communities are scrambling to ensure adequate water supplies in the face of the ongoing drought. (Boston Globe) It’s not the first time communities have grappled with water woes, however. Here’s a close CommonWealth look at the problem — from 16 years ago.


The top local official for Wynn Resorts says the company opposes a ballot question that would allow another slots parlor in Revere, but offered no indication whether the firm will lead a campaign against the measure. (Boston Globe)


An audit of evidence held by Braintree police found more than $400,000 in cash missing as well as at least 60 guns and an untold quantity of drugs. But officials still haven’t answered what prompted the investigation that could impact as many as 400 criminal cases. (Patriot Ledger)

Boston is stepping up efforts to combat prostitution, including a possible “john school” that sends those arrested for soliciting prostitutes to classes to learn about sex trafficking from those who have been victims of it. (Boston Herald)

A Fall River man was pulled over for driving erratically in Portsmouth, Rhode Island. He was arrested after police saw a hypodermic needle dangling from his arm. (Herald News)


A Gallup poll finds trust of the media to be at its lowest point ever. Among Republicans, only 14 percent said they have confidence news is being reported fairly and accurately. (U.S. News & World Report)