USA Today’s Susan Page recently interviewed Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez. She asked Perez about a paradox in the current economic recovery: unemployment is down with little increase in wages. Perez said that there is still “slack” in the market, which would mean that unemployment would have to go even lower to drive increased wages. He also discussed a White House Summit on Workers, which will take place on October 7, 2015. This sounds like good news, but what results will it bring? Perez captured the general mood of American workers this way: “They’re hard and falling behind.” Page cast this as a “disparity between the wealthy and the middle of the workforce.” I would respectfully disagree. From the Occupy protests to the ongoing Fight for 15, low wage working people are voicing their frustration and demanding justice in a way that the middle class is not. That said, most American (I’d guess 70-80%) are feeling anxiety and a lack of security. President Obama put it best when he said, “America needs a raise.”
The Miami Heat?
The Baltimore Ravens?
Nope. It’s the 1% stomping all challengers in the income game. Al Jazeera America reports that the richest of the rich collect 19.3% of all income earned in the U.S. in 2012, which is the largest share in IRS records for the past century. 95% of income increases since 2009 have gone to the top 1%, which is defined as income over $394,000 in 2012.
In some ways, these numbers aren’t surprising because they are part of a trend, more of the same. What is surprising is that so many Americans accept this situation as normal. Since the Reagan presidency, tax laws have been rigged to help the most wealthy. Meanwhile, the middle class pays more of its declining income to support the social programs needed by employees of companies like Walmart and McDonalds that pay low wages. 99% of America needs a raise.
Ralph Nader has been trying to keep Americans safe for over 50 years. He has written an essay for Common Dreams that considers the gap between CEO compensation and pay for working people. Today CEOs make 340 times average worker pay. In 1980, that figure was only 42 times average worker pay. Nader suggests that this difference is a good reason to increase the minimum wage. As Nader says, that’s a good “first step.” However, we need to look beyond the minimum wage. Whether we change the income tax structure or add a wealth tax, those who have the most – including very profitable corporations – need to contribute more to the common good. We need to move beyond the greed ethic and think more about how to preserve our common culture.
As reported in Daily Kos, camera-loving senator from Kentucky, Rand Paul, has introduced a national right to work [for less] bill. The real purpose of this bill, like the ones passed at the state level, is to gut unions. Paul claims that closed shop rules hurt workers' freedom by making them pay dues to unions that negotiate their contracts and protect their rights. However, isn't any individual free to work in any non-union [lower paid] position she wishes? Paul says every worker deserves “freedom of association” by which he means freedom not to join a union. His concern is not the individual, unless that person is a CEO of a large corporation.
The real problem is that Paul and other servants of corporate wealth have worked for decades to gut the “freedom of association” that enables workers join in a union. Laws have been passed that make organizing more and more difficult. Large corporations and small companies intimidate organizers and pay off other workers to bash unions. The corporate megaphones of conservative talk radio and Fox News have turned “union” into a dirty word for many American who can’t think critically and are ignorant of history.
When union membership was highest, so were wages of the working and middle classes. As union membership has fallen over the last three decades, so have wages. Maybe Senator Paul has confused poverty with freedom. The American people need to wake up and stop listening to lies that only serve to make the rich richer.
We often think of Rev. Martin Luther King simply as a champion of civil rights and racial equality. In today’s Daily Kos, Laura Clawson reminds us that King’s struggle also focused economic justice and working people. She points out that 10% of working families today are living in poverty. King put the workers’ plight in these words: “If we are going to get equality, if we are going to get adequate wages, we are going to have to struggle for it.”
King used the word we, a word often invoked in the president’s speech today. Let’s hope that this country can come together, and work together, to see that we all rise up – together.
Mark Gongloff of Huffington Post reports that Lloyd Blankfein, head of Goldman Sachs, is getting a 75% raise. Normally, I would try to make snarky comments here. However, I cannot match Gongloff’s skill in putting this news in its proper context. I urge you to read his article and enjoy his skill at describing the absurd.
Writing in Huffington Post, Senator Bernie Sanders asks some important questions about the “soul of America.” There is nothing bipartisan about Senator Sanders. He comes from the left and makes no attempt to hide his views. At the same time, the problems he discusses, especially the growing problem of inequality, should concern every America. Sanders asks us to consider how corporations earning big profits and paying less than ever before into the tax base. He also reminds us that American-based companies receive tax breaks for taking jobs out of the U.S. These are real problems, and Sanders is a patriot for putting them forward as national priorities. I urge you to read his essay.
Taibbi might be the best reporter and thinker writing today. He is irreverent and sometimes even trivial. But no one has done a better job taking apart the lies underneath our current economic “crisis,” especially the role of Goldman Sachs. Now he turns that same critical eyes to Occupy Wall Street and his own views of the movement. Taibbi has shifted from criticizing the movement’s apparent lack of focus to recognizing it as a model for understanding our society and how it might be changed. He is not over the top in thinking Occupy Wall Street will change America. We will never have an economy with free food or health care. But the camp in New York provides a space away from our money-choked-and-choking lives.
In his blog for the New York Times, Paul Krugman takes on claims that over-regulation has led to income inequality. In the period immediately after WWII, when regulations were strongest, average family income outpaced the top 1%. Since 1980, the top 1% has exceeded average family income by a rate that is near 4 to 1.
Does anyone wonder why the Occupy movement is so widespread? There are two Americas: One where the top slice gets most of the wealth and income; the other where people work to support the top slice. Is this what was meant by “to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity”?
- 1 of 2
- next ›