The worst decade for the economy in modern times has economists rethinking fundamental rules about growth. There was zero net job creation between the end of 1999 and the end of 2009, and middle-income households made less in 2008 than they did in 1999 when figures are adjusted for inflation. "This was the first business cycle where a working-age household ended up worse at the end of it than the beginning, and this in spite of substantial growth in productivity, which should have been able to improve everyone's well-being," said Lawrence Mishel, president of the Economic Policy Institute, a liberal think tank.

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