If anyone needed proof of the severity of the Great Recession, it arrived last week.
The Federal Reserve reported that the economic downturn wiped out almost two decades' worth of wealth accumulation for American families, a record decline. The median net worth plummeted nearly 39% to $77,300 in 2010 from $126,400 in 2007. That brought net worth to levels last posted in 1992, according to the reserve system's Survey of Consumer Finances.
The findings constitute further evidence that we are living in a Lesser Depression rather than a recession. The sterile numbers of the Fed report cannot capture the incalculable misery so many citizens have suffered since the downturn began in December 2007. Although the economic authorities that referee such matters declared the recession over in June 2009, the lingering damage to employment and family finances is more akin to that of the 1930s than any other post-World War II downturn.
One industry that has been spared the worst of the pain is healthcare. A study last week from the CMS' office that was published in the journal Health Affairs showed that U.S. health spending grew 3.9% last year to a total of $2.7 trillion. The record low rate of 3.8% was set in 2009. The growth, while sluggish by healthcare standards, is impressive given the economic climate.