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Between 2010 and 2013 the majority of families median income fell 5%
But, not for all of us.
Laborer rights are at 40-60 year lows, the corruption and the eventual disbanding of numerous labor unions, pushed by private business interests, has destroyed wage and benefit progression, while productivity still climbs higher along with inequity within the workplace, and overall wealth inequalities in our society, which are at all-time highs.
In numerous cities around the country, indicators point to our homeless problem remaining the same or increasing over the next year. Wages are still stagnated or declining when adjusted for inflation, medical costs are still high, and debt is on the rise again. According to professor of economics, Steven Pressman, "median household income, adjusted for inflation, has increased by a mere 1.4 percent since 1989." What recovery was President Obama referring to in the State of the Union Address?
Home prices have recovered (magically), even though we nearly have just as many empty houses now than we had during the peak of the 2008 crisis. Housing inventory is being kept off the market in order to create artificial scarcity, to manipulate a price rise within the housing market (only a Keynesian would do such a thing and think the housing market has improved). The Federal Reserve estimates that the personal saving rate is around 4.4%, back in 1969 it was at around 10%, in 1984 it was around 11%, if we are not saving, then we are not building back the wealth lost during the crisis.
The global economy is fading, as reflected in the price of oil, and if we are truly hinged to the global economy, then that can't be a good thing for us over the next couple years. The majority of Americans are beginning to feel the sting of austerity measures, and are still woefully underprepared for the costs of long-term retirement or a major health crisis. I don't know why they laude the economy as getting better, it's not for the over 11.8 million Americans who are either long-term unemployed, or who are involuntary part-time workers, or who are known as marginally attached laborers. All 11.8 million are in extreme financial peril, which will eventually put their health in peril, and perhaps other members of our society in peril, as we know adverse economic conditions can increase crime rates.
If we also look at a significant bulk of all the full-time laborers in our workforce, who are still making less than $18 an hour, life on the ground is still more about living week-to-week, without the opportunities to build up significant savings. Those laborers making less than $18 an hour are just one financial catastrophe away from finding themselves included in the ranks of the homeless, temporary or otherwise.
Even the top income earners have not recovered fully according to the Federal Reserve, "mean and median incomes were still below 2007 levels... (for) families at the very top of the income distribution." They also found that little has changed in average real incomes for families in the middle to upper-middle class.
If we add up all the vulnerable populations of those seeking jobs without luck, or who have jobs without enough hours to work, or who are already working full-time, but don't earn a living wage, we find 7.5% of our entire workforce is operating on extreme margins. If we add in the rest of the laborers making $17 an hour or less, a very large part of our entire economic engine is teetering on financial failure, which is also putting unsustainable pressure on all of us to keep expanding the welfare state, via taxation in its numerous forms.
There is one thing that has recovered over the past few years, the price of living, which keeps going up, even though between 2010 and 2013 the majority of families' median income fell 5 percent.
While it is great to be optimistic, it might be a better option to stop repeating the same mistakes of throwing money at "job-creators", the wealthy (through tax cuts and other loop-holes), or hand-picked corporations who will receive unprecedented economic assistance via the Federal Reserve and the US Treasury; and start trying new approaches that center around strengthening the laborers, increasing the amount of producers, and start promoting better policies that directly increase the average citizen's chances of becoming financially autonomous.
Claude Morton, Column Editor: Claude Morton is an independent contributor, who mostly writes articles on politics, Veganism, philosophy, or local events. Claude has contributed to a variety of print and online outlets including Yahoo!, MovieMaker Magazine, and the Ann Arbor News. From Claude; I’m in the 1%, no, not that 1%. I’m a vegan, indie filmmaker, libertarian socialist, and a pacifist. I champion freedom as much as equality, and love discussing solutions about our country’s biggest dilemmas. ... (more...)