The 21st-century economy has been a two-decade series of punches in the gut.

The century began in economic triumphalism in the United States, with a sense that business cycles had been vanquished and prosperity secured for a blindingly bright future. Instead, a mild recession was followed by a weak recovery followed by a financial crisis followed by another weak recovery followed by a pandemic-induced collapse. A couple of good years right before the pandemic aside, it has been two decades of overwhelming inequality and underwhelming growth — an economy in which a persistently weak job market has left vast human potential untapped, helping fuel social and political dysfunction.

Those two decades coincide almost precisely with my career as an economics writer. It is the reason, among my colleagues, I have a reputation for writing stories that run the gamut from ominous to gloomy to terrifying.

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