Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Wage Suppression Revisited

On March 23, 2011 I posted an article on the results of wage suppression. In it I reviewed academic studies demonstrating the growing gap between productivity growth, which has been substantial, and wage growth, which has been nil. This gap is recent, the direct result of conservative policies favoring corporations. I followed up on April 20, 2011 with another article on why the rich vote Republican. Again, we see clear evidence of a middle class becoming undone by conservative policies.

Below is another depressing snippet of data. It may be hard to see, but it shows an index of labor's share of income (2005=100). There is a fairly steady drift downward starting around 1980, a short-lived upward trend in Clinton's second term, and a significant deterioration throughout Bush the Lesser's eight years. The trend continues in the Obama years. Some discussion and a bigger example of the chart can be found here.

To put this data in very stark terms, go have a look at Overworked America, 12 charts that will make your blood boil.There is a lot there, but one fact underscores what I have been trying to say about wage suppression in the US: wages generally followed productivity increases for most of the 20th century, at least after the New Deal. As productivity increased, so did wages. That is no longer the case, as I show above. If labor had received commensurate wages, average income would not be around $50,000, but $92,000.

Think about that for a moment. Our recession began and continues because our economy heavily depends on consumer spending. If you ever wonder why spending is flat, it is because wages are too.  Where have the productivity gains gone? The 42 grand per worker? To corporate America and the investor class.

Despite this, Republicans never miss a chance to make you think unions are to blame for America's economic illness. It takes a lot of gall to make such demonstrably false statements.

Yet millions of Americans believe them.  And that takes a lot of ignorance.

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