The amount of joy you get from a scoop of ice cream depends on lots of things. One big determinant of how much joy you get from it is how much you already have. If you already have 1,000 gallons of ice cream, your enjoyment isn't going to go up much if you get another. If you have only one scoop of ice cream, your joy will go up more. As you get more, your marginal utility (fancy economist speak for your additional joy from the next unit) falls. It is as true of money as it is for ice cream and clothes. A person with only $100 will get far more excited about another $10,000 than a person with $1 million. To be a Bush supporter is to deny this very simple and hard to refute claim.
CSPAN posted some charts today in conjunction with Bernanke's hearing, one of which I've recreated here. For me, this graph seems to capture what is indefensible about Bush's policies. (And note that even the median income in 2006 was probably much lower than what most people think - about $35,000.)
Income growth was higher for everyone during the 1990s. For those in the top ten percent, incomes grew twice as much. More important, though, is what happened to those at or below the median. The difference for those in the bottom 10 percent could hardly be more dramatic - during the 1990s, their income went up 11% and so far this decade, their incomes have dropped 3%.It is not just that the incomes are growing more slowly. The increase in marginal utility under Bush's tenure has been negligible. Is it any wonder his approval ratings have been abysmal?