Re: sadly, this tracks all industries too
@Susan I don't think true earning power will come back for quite some time. The double-whammy for workers is that with every improvement in the economy, we also see efficiency gains, which means that fewer workers are actually needed. That makes it doubly hard to climb back from the employment losses.
While you're definitely right about the poor, I really worry that the U.S. hasn't figured out that we're on the verge of becoming an industrialized country without a middle class. In many areas of the country, workers haven't ensured their skills have kept pace with today's needs and in areas where workers are doing better employment wise, taxes and related costs are outpacing earning gains by leaps and bounds.
Add all this up, along with the situations you describe about saving for retirement, education, etc. and it's truly worrying. We need to spend half as much time talking about our economic security as a country as we do security in a defense context, or maybe even an IT context.
I'm far from a "Tea Party guy," but we've got to do something about the increasing costs of government. To me, this isn't a political issue, but an economic one. Just as the math behind the housing boom didn't work in the long term, this math won't either. Our only realistic choice is to do something about it that will likely involve a combination of things. Sadly, though, we can't even talk to one another as a country on difficult issues right now, so who knows where it will end up?