With the economy beginning to slow, the current expansion has a chance to become the first sustained period of economic growth since World War II that fails to offer a prolonged increase in real wages for most workers.
The median hourly wage for American workers has declined 2 percent since 2003, after factoring in inflation. The drop has been especially notable, economists say, because productivity — the amount that an average worker produces in an hour and the basic wellspring of a nation’s living standards — has risen steadily over the same period.
As a result, wages and salaries now make up the lowest share of the nation’s gross domestic product since the government began recording the data in 1947, while corporate profits have climbed to their highest share since the 1960’s. UBS, the investment bank, recently described the current period as “the golden era of profitability.”
Until the last year, stagnating wages were somewhat offset by the rising value of benefits, especially health insurance, which caused overall compensation for most Americans to continue increasing. Since last summer, however, the value of workers’ benefits has also failed to keep pace with inflation, according to government data.
It's worth mentioning, first of all, that the only bright spot in the report, i.e. "the rising value of benefits, especially health insurance", isn't referring to people getting better benefits, but rather simply that the same benefits are costing more than ever so employers have to dig deeper into the pockets to give us the same crappy HMO coverage we were getting in 2000. So it's not really a bright spot at all, it just looks like one when you crunch the numbers.
Since the House of Reps was somewhat consistently Democratic from the Roosevelt Administration to 1994 (including a forty-year period of constant Democratic control from 1954-1994), this is the first time since WWII that the entire government has been run by the GOP for any appreciable length of time. And this is what we get.
It shouldn't be surprising, of course: an economy where businessmen prosper and workers suffer uncannily reflects Republican priorities. They favor the entrepreneur over the worker, the corporation over the consumer. And their policies, from tax cuts for the rich to failure to raise the minimum wage for a decade (which is at its lowest buying power since 1966) to the lack of oversight over corporate criminals like Enron, reflect such priorities.
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