News that Wales (and most of the Western world it seems) is heading for a slump has prompted the odd wag to ask "what, was that a boom"?
Wales for the past 10 years of Brown-inspired "boom" has seen a growth in minimum-wage jobs, soaring credit debt and a collapse in manufacturing industry. The only boom has been the artificial house prices, partly fuelled by localised booms in areas around Cardiff, the Swansea marina and the Chester overspill in Flintshire and Wrexham. Other factors are the college-related boom around Aberystwyth, which can be linked into the buy-to-let mania that has further fuelled house price inflation. Rural Wales has generally been hit by incomers moving from wealthier parts of England, pricing local people out of the housing market entirely.
All this has left Wales further behind in terms of wealth within the UK. There are 47,000 people in the UK earning £350,000 or more - only 500 or so live in Wales. If you earn £35,000 or more in Wales, you are among the wealthiest 10% of the population.
Persistent levels of low pay are at the root of many of our problems - poverty is linked to ill-health, poor housing and low levels of academic achievement. Low incomes limit people's abilities in so many ways it means the wealthier minority have a persistent advantage and that advantage is increasing.
Tackling low pay levels - the average full-time wage in Wales is just £19,100 - would tackle debt, welfare dependency and be far more productive than trying to address the symptoms rather than the causes of many of society's problems. There's a lack of affordable childcare - not because child minders or nurseries pay their staff a good rate but because people aren't paid a decent wage in the first place. It's affordable if you're middle class and able to earn £30,000 or more.
Why isn't low pay on the political agenda? Perhaps because too many of the politicians, senior civil servants, policy advisors, poverty professionals, council leaders, senior council officers, lobbyists and trade union leaders are part of that elite 10% earning more than £35,000.