CHICAGO — More than five years into his 14-year sentence on corruption convictions, Rod Blagojevich, who once held the highest office in Illinois, finds himself on cleaning duty at a Colorado federal prison.
"I've been given the jurisdiction to sweep and mop two floors," he said in an interview with WMAQ-TV in Chicago from prison released Monday, along with an interview in Chicago magazine. "So my jurisdiction has shrunk from the fifth biggest state in America, to these two floors. But I don't care what anybody says, I believe in clean government, and I believe in clean floors."
Blagojevich still maintains his innocence and hopes to make another appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. The 60-year-old reported to prison in 2012 after he was convicted on several counts, including for trying to sell former President Barack Obama's U.S. Senate seat.
The former governor is now housed in a lower-security section of the prison and said he spends time running on the prison track, working out in the weight room and reading. His fellow prisoners gave him a care package when he first arrived, he said.
"You walk in there on the first day and your heart's broken," he says. "You're in there and then they close the gates on you, and you're in prison. And you're yearning for your children and your wife and your home, and you're looking at 14 years."
Blagojevich sees his family on average three times a year.
"What sustains me during this very difficult long hard trial is the love I have for my children and my wife Patti," he said.
Blagojevich said he is optimistic about the future.
"Even if the world misunderstands you, criticizes you and say you're crazy, take a stand," he said. "Because you know what the truth is. And when you do it, my experience tells me, trust in God."
WASHINGTON — In a stark reminder of the damage done by the Great Recession and of the modest recovery that followed, the median American household only last year finally earned more than it did in 1999.
Incomes for a typical U.S. household, adjusted for inflation, rose 3.2 percent from 2015 to 2016 to $59,039, the Census Bureau said. The median is the point at which half the households fall below and half are above.
Last year's figure is slightly above the previous peak of $58,665, reached in 1999. It is also the first time since the recession ended in 2009 that the typical household earned more than it did in 2007, when the recession began.
Trudi Renwick, the bureau's assistant division chief, cautioned that the census in 2013 changed how it asks households about income, making historical comparisons less than precise.
Still, the Census data is closely watched because of its comprehensive nature. It is based on interviews with 70,000 households and includes detailed data on incomes and poverty across a range of demographic groups.
Elise Gould, a senior economist at the Economic Policy Institute, said that adjusting for the change in methodology, median income still remains below its 1999 peak. Yet she added that the census report shows that American households have made significant economic progress in 2015 and 2016.
"We are definitely pulling ourselves out of the deep hole of the Great Recession," Gould said on a conference call with reporters.
Median household income rose $4,641, or 8.5 percent, from 2014 through 2016. That's the best two-year gain on records dating to 1967, according to analysts at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.
Yet that improvement comes after a steep recession and a slow recovery that left most American households with barely any income increases. The lack of meaningful raises has left many people feeling left behind economically, a sentiment that factored into the 2016 elections.
The report also showed that income inequality worsened last year, extending a trend in place for roughly four decades. Average incomes among the wealthiest 5 percent climbed 5.5 percent to $375,088. Average incomes for the poorest one-fifth of households, meanwhile 2.5 percent to $12,943.
Other measures of Americans' economic health improved. The poverty rate fell last year to 12.7 percent from 13.5 percent, Census said. The number of people living below the poverty line declined 2.5 million to 40.6 million.
That brings the proportion of households living below the poverty line back to pre-recession levels, though it remains about one and half percentage points higher than its lowest point, in 2000.
A family of four with an income below $24,563 was defined as poor last year.
And the proportion of Americans without health insurance fell to 8.8 percent, the report showed, down from 9.1 percent. It is the lowest proportion on record.
The Census report covers 2016, the last year of the Obama administration.
Robert Greenstein, president of the CBPP, argued that the agenda being pursued by President Donald Trump and congressional Republican leaders would reverse those gains.
The income gains reflect mostly a rise in the number of Americans with jobs and in people working full time, the agency said. That means households were more likely to include a full-time worker. It also suggests that pay raises for those who already had jobs remained meager.
About 1.2 million more Americans earned income in 2016 than in 2015, and 2.2 million more had full-time year-round jobs.
Incomes rose for most demographic groups. African-American median household income jumped 5.7 percent to $39,490 in 2016 from the previous year, the most of any group. Among Latinos, it rose to 4.3 percent to $47,675. For whites, the gain was 2 percent to $65,041.
Asian-Americans reported the highest household incomes, at $81,431, which was little changed from 2015.
Jared Bernstein, a senior fellow at the CBPP, said the gains among African-Americans typically occur later in an economic recovery as employers widen their searches and step up hiring among traditionally disadvantaged groups.
"The solid economy is helping to close racial gaps," he said. "It won't make them go away, but it is headed in the right direction."
The report found that the gender gap in wages narrowed last year for the first time since 2007. Women earned 80.5 percent of men's earnings, up from 79.6 percent in 2015.
Still, underneath the broad improvements nationwide, pockets of hardship remain. Poverty rates fell in the Northeast and South in 2016 but were mostly unchanged in the Midwest and West.
Una Osili, a researcher at the Salvation Army and a professor of economics at Indiana University, said the nonprofit group reported a spike in requests for health-related assistance in the Midwest last year, driven mostly by demand for opioid addiction treatment.
That happened even in states like Indiana, where the unemployment rate and poverty fell, she said.
In Nevada and some other Western states, the economic recovery has raised housing costs, offsetting some of the benefit of income growth.
In those states, "the recovery is a good thing, but your rent is now higher," Osili said.
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Today is Wednesday, Sept. 13, the 256th day of 2017. There are 109 days left in the year.
Today's Highlight in History:
On September 13, 1788, the Congress of the Confederation authorized the first national election, and declared New York City the temporary national capital.
On this date:
In 1759, during the French and Indian War, the British defeated the French on the Plains of Abraham overlooking Quebec City.
In 1814, during the War of 1812, British naval forces began bombarding Fort McHenry in Baltimore but were driven back by American defenders in a battle that lasted until the following morning.
In 1911, the song "Oh, You Beautiful Doll," a romantic rag by Nat D. Ayer and Seymour Brown, was first published by Jerome H. Remick & Co.
In 1923, Miguel Primo de Rivera, the captain general of Catalonia, seized power in Spain.
In 1948, Republican Margaret Chase Smith of Maine was elected to the U.S. Senate; she became the first woman to serve in both houses of Congress.
In 1959, Elvis Presley first met his future wife, 14-year-old Priscilla Beaulieu, while stationed in West Germany with the U.S. Army. (They married in 1967, but divorced in 1973.)
In 1962, Mississippi Gov. Ross Barnett rejected the U.S. Supreme Court's order for the University of Mississippi to admit James Meredith, a black student, declaring in a televised address, "We will not drink from the cup of genocide."
In 1971, a four-day inmates' rebellion at the Attica Correctional Facility in western New York ended as police and guards stormed the prison; the ordeal and final assault claimed the lives of 32 inmates and 11 hostages.
In 1977, conductor Leopold Stokowski died in Hampshire, England, at age 95.
In 1989, Fay Vincent was elected commissioner of Major League Baseball, succeeding the late A. Bartlett Giamatti.
In 1997, funeral services were held in Calcutta, India, for Nobel peace laureate Mother Teresa.
In 2002, the earliest known online use of the term "selfie" (a photographic self-portrait, usually taken with a smartphone) occurred on an Australian Broadcasting Corp. website forum; it came from a man named Nathan Hope, who denied coining the term, saying it was "common slang."
Ten years ago: President George W. Bush, defending an unpopular war, ordered gradual reductions in U.S. forces in Iraq and said in a televised address, "The more successful we are, the more American troops can return home." Abdul-Sattar Abu Risha, the most prominent figure in a U.S.-backed revolt of Sunni sheiks against al-Qaida in Iraq, was killed by a bomb planted near his home in Anbar province. The NFL fined New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick $500,000 and the team $250,000 for spying on the New York Jets during a game.
Five years ago: Chanting "death to America," hundreds of protesters angered by an anti-Islam film stormed the U.S. Embassy compound in Yemen's capital and burned the American flag. New York City's Board of Health passed a ban on the sale of big sodas and other sugary drinks, limiting the size sold at restaurants, concession stands and other eateries to 16 ounces.
One year ago: Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump rolled out a plan aimed at making child care more affordable, guaranteeing new mothers six weeks of paid maternity leave and suggesting new incentives for employees to provide their workers childcare during a speech in Aston, Pennsylvania. Former Israeli President Shimon Peres, 93, suffered a major stroke (he died 15 days later).
— Associated Press