While I was in Phoenix last week, the Census Bureau released news showing the biggest annual jump in median household income since 1967 and poverty falling the most in 50 years. Nationally, incomes jumped 5.2 percent from 2014 to last year, to $56,516. The numbers are adjusted for inflation. Thanks, Obama.
The data are more complicated for Phoenix and low-tax/light-regulation Arizona. Income statewide rose 2.8 percent to $51,492. Yet it was down 9.7 percent compared with 2007. Metropolitan Phoenix median household income increased 3.9 percent to $55,547.
In other words, the state and metro area trailed a nation that includes Alabama, Mississippi, and West Virginia. Phoenix was No. 25 among the largest metros, with Nashville and Birmingham in the lead in percentage increase.
Drilling down to the city level is even more sobering. Seattle, which is undertaking numerous progressive policies that would supposedly kill business, led the nation with a total increase of $9,374 to $80,349. Blue Portland jumped $6,268 to $60,892. Denver, another blue city, saw incomes rise $3,062 to $58,003. And Phoenix? Its income struggled up $523 to $48,452. (No, that's not a misprint).
If any comfort can be had, San Diego's median household income rose a mere $72 to $67,871. But metro Phoenix's underperforming is a serious problem. The city's poor showing is even more troubling, the "hole in the doughnut" effect. More than 23 percent of the city's residents are below the federal poverty line, compared with 13.5 percent nationally and 17.4 percent for Arizona. The state's poverty rate fell 0.9 percent from 2014 to 2015, but had risen 3.2 percent since 2007.
No, purchasing power doesn't cut it as an excuse. The conservative Tax Foundation used federal Bureau of Economic Analysis stats to calculate the real value of $100 in each state. Statewide in Arizona you get $103.73, but that's not much, and I wonder how much it translates to more expensive metro Phoenix. The bottom line is that Arizona's conservative policies have not yielded a strong economy, especially one required for such a populous state.