Daily Kos’s Mark E. Anderson examines increased productivity and stagnant wages between 1948 and 2014. His article includes a very informative graph that shows how these two economic measures were almost aligned. Now productivity doubles wages. Where has the money gone? Anderson argues that work has gone overseas where labor is cheaper and profits have gone to executives and investors. I agree, but would add one other big factor: automation. I was working with a client this weekend who works for a large technology manufacturer. His company will be able to shed hundreds of tech jobs once they move to cloud-based systems. Jobs can come back from China. Once they are automated, they are gone forever. Anderson makes a great point in concluding his article: What are the super rich and executives going to do when no one can afford to buy their products?
Much has been made of a comment by presidential candidate and former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, who said that economic growth depended on people working “longer hours and, through their productivity, gain more income for their families. That's the only way we're going to get out of this rut that we're in.” According to a source cited by Mark E. Anderson of Daily Kos, American work on average 46.7 hours per week.
My problem with Bush’s comments is that Americans are already working too many hours. As Anderson points out, many people go to work even when they’re sick because they are not eligible for paid sick leave. The problem ignored by Bush is that Americans are not getting the kind of raises they have in the past. Working Americans are stressed by too much work, burdened by death, and frightened by insecurity. President Obama put it best: “America needs a raise.”