Sunday :: Nov 6, 2005

Working Harder - For Less


by pessimist

Our Wrong-Wing Wregulars love to brag about how well the Bu$hCo economy is doing, but they never seem to connect these statistical computations to the situation that too many face today. Up to now, the Multinational Corporate Media didn't even bother to take a look either, so maybe our WWWs can be forgiven for being misled.

But now, the very real plight of working-class America has gotten the media's attention:


Workers face paycheck pinch

After inflation, American workers earned 2.3 percent less than they did a year ago.

For all its strength, the current economic expansion is not boosting the American worker's paycheck. By one common measure, average pay for an hour's work has less purchasing power than it had four years ago. America's proud heritage as a land where the standard of living rises like late-summer corn seems, to many, to be at risk.

The automotive industry, and the nation, got a shock a few weeks ago when Delphi Corp., a major auto-parts supplier, demanded that union workers take a gargantuan pay cut so the company can survive.

The airline industry, too, faces a period of intensive restructuring that is difficult for workers of all skill levels. Pilots at Northwest Airlines last week approved a 24 percent temporary pay cut, to give the beleaguered airline breathing room while a new labor contract is negotiated.

In the grocery industry, the spread of Wal-Mart has had a similar pay-squeezing effect on some unionized supermarkets.

Nor is the challenge confined to the United States. Wage growth has been slowing in Europe and is tepid in Japan, as those regions work through a difficult restructuring of their economic base.

Wages have been rising nominally: Average pay rose 8 cents last month to $16.27 an hour, according to a government report Friday. That's not fast enough to counter inflation. It's a pattern of weak wage growth that's now several years old, but the trend has worsened in recent months. Wages for the most recent quarter were 2.3 percent lower, after inflation, than workers received a year before.

[O]n the issue of real pay for an hour's work, none of the government surveys show wages rising by even 1 percent a year between 1979 and 2003.

And this included the time of the Grate Comfusicator's Big Bull Market. - the one whose rising tide raised all boats.

There wasn't much attention paid by the media to the common man's real-life experiences. Instead, the attention was directed to stage-managed events that were intended to convince the rest of us that Reaganomics and the infamous Trickle-down Theory. Those who were paying attention back then knew the truth. For the rest, Truth knocks upon the door like a starving wolfpack:


Why a booming economy feels flat

Americans are feeling the combined pinch of slow wage growth, jobs that still aren't as plentiful as many would like, and a stock market that's snorting pretty softly for a bull. "It's hard for me to see this as a good economy," says Dean Baker, codirector of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington. "It's doing better than it had been," but given that the nation went for four years without creating any jobs to speak of, "we have a lot of ground to make up."

The pace of job growth, for one thing, was almost imperceptible during two years of concern about a 'jobless recovery'.

Personal income is one key area where workers have fallen behind, compared with past periods of strong wage growth. A boom in corporate profits has not yet created a job market that makes workers feel secure, economists say. Hiring hasn't skyrocketed. Worse, wages are stagnant. The latest numbers from the Labor Department, in fact, show average weekly earnings for US workers have fallen by 0.5 percent in the past year, after adjusting for inflation. Some experts worry that wage stagnation may prove more permanent this time, because of an increasingly global market for labor.

This paycheck squeeze may prove more worrisome than soaring oil prices and concerns over a housing bubble. Only 37 percent of the public thinks the national economy is in good shape, according to a June poll by the Pew Research Center poll. That's higher than two years ago, but down from 2004. Perhaps more ominously, the percentage of the public rating their own financial situation positively fell to 44 percent, down from 51 percent in January. Sixty percent say jobs are too scarce in their community.

Having revealed the truth as most in America see it, the captive media's corporate masters need to be assuaged that their version of 'truth' gets coverage:

Now that the economy has some momentum [note the spin - ed.], the financial press is focused on threats to consumer well-being, such as the burden of energy costs and a soaring real estate market.

But even while servicing the money men, reality can't be kept at bay:

"Surveys show that even though the economy is growing reasonably strongly, a lot of households don't feel that," says Nariman Behravesh, chief economist at Global Insight in Lexington, Mass.

He points to two key reasons. First, since the last recession ended in November 2001, job growth has been weak until last year, when the Labor Department's employer survey showed a gain of 2.2 million jobs. Second, wage growth has been lackluster, despite strong gains in worker productivity.

The reason that this would be of interest to the money class is that as workers' incomes fall behind, their purchasing power - and thus profits - fall as well. Producers have tried to improve worker productivity primarily to keep their prices to those which workers generally can afford, rather than allow the natural relationship to evolve. Even here, the truth peeks out:

Normally, as employees are able to produce more in each hour of work, the result is greater cash flow that can be divvied up between workers and owners or investors. In the long run, rising productivity means rising wages and living standards.
But in the short run, "most of the gains in the economy have gone into profits rather than wages," says Mr. Behravesh.

There it is, out in plain view for all to see. It wasn't presented by Socialist Worker or some other leftist publication whose credibility is always called into question even when they are correct in their assertions. These two articles came from The Christian Science Monitor, whose politics are somewhat Right of Center despite certain religion-based leftish leanings, like caring about the plight of the poor.

As the old saying goes, God must like poor people, because he made so many of them. Maybe now that a sufficient number of Americans have had a small sample of what much of the world experiences throughout their entire lives, a critical mass has been reached - and that long-awaited political change is going to come at long last.

Reaganomics is Dead. Long Live Reaganomics - in infamy.


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