Have Our Lives Improved?

Or has America been stuck in a rut for 25 years?

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Blogger and economist Dani Rodrick hammers Bill Kristol for his criticism of Michelle Obama's statement that for the "first time in my adult lifetime, I'm really proud of my country." Kristol counters that "in almost every empirical respect, American lives have in fact gotten better over the last quarter century."

Not true, says Rodrick, pointing to the usual government data showing worker compensation stagnating for the past 25 years. "Who do you think has a better sense of what has happened to 'regular folk' since 1980? Michelle Obama or Mr. Kristol?" Rodrick asks.

Of course, if you tweak the inflation numbers to account for the fact that they most likely have been overstating inflation for years—many economists on the left and right agree on this—you'll find that real compensation rose from 20 to 40 percent over that period, depending on how you run the numbers. Score one for Kristol.