A new analysis of Census data found that during the official recession –– December 2007 to June 2009 –– median household income fell by 3.2 percent. In the two years that followed, inflation-adjusted income fell even further, by 6.7 percent.

The dimensions of the economic cataclysm that followed the implosion of the financial industry in 2008 have been seen in lost jobs, foreclosed homes and bankrupt businesses.


But the breadth of the impact is reflected in a telling statistic: Americans' median incomes have fallen nearly 10 percent since the recession began.


A new analysis of Census data found that during the official recession –– December 2007 to June 2009 –– median household income fell by 3.2 percent. In the two years that followed, inflation-adjusted income fell even further, by 6.7 percent.


Behind those numbers are countless American stories: Young adults with college degrees, college loans and part-time jobs that neither take advantage of their skills nor cover their debts; people with established careers who've seen their hours and pay cut; people laid off in their 50s coming to grips with the fact that they'll never earn what they used to make, if they can find work at all.


More statistics: The average time it takes for someone to be unemployed before finding a job reached 40.5 weeks in September, the highest it's been in 60 years. And a Princeton professor has found that those who lost jobs in the recession and found new ones earned an average of 17.5 percent less than before they were first laid off.


Last month, the Census released another sobering report, finding that 46.2 million Americans were living in poverty in 2010, the highest number since the government began counting 52 years ago. That works out to be 15.1 percent of the population, the highest proportion since 1993.


So poverty is at record levels and household incomes have fallen nearly 10 percent in less than four years. Add in the trillions of dollars Americans have lost in home values and retirement savings. Is it any wonder people are angry?


We saw that anger directed at the government when the tea party movement caught fire in early 2009. We're seeing it again in the "Occupy" movement, which has grown in a matter of weeks from a small protest on Wall Street to ongoing activity in more than a thousand U.S. cities. Those protesters are angry at corporations, but also at the government, for failing to protect the economic interests of the "99 percent" who aren't super-rich.


Anger alone, of course, isn't enough. America needs ideas for changing the policies and habits that led us into these dire economic straits. The tea party energy inspired a political agenda on the right, and the occupy protests are incubating ideas that may similarly inspire the left.


The hard part, as we've seen, is getting a partisan, polarized political structure to translate any idea into substantive change. Protest has its place, but the path back to prosperity requires leadership and hard work.


-- The MetroWest Daily News (Mass.)