Friday, September 01, 2006

“There are two economies out there,” Charles Cook, the publisher of a nonpartisan newsletter told the "The New York Times" a few days ago.

“One has been just white hot, going great guns. Those are the people who have benefitted from globalization, technology, greater productivity and higher corporate earnings. And then there’s the working stiffs who just don’t feel like they’re getting ahead despite the fact that they’re working very hard. And there are a lot more people in that group than the other group.”

So, if you’re in the “other” group, Happy Labor Day! If you’re in “that” group, keep reading.

The “N.Y. Times” article is written by Steven Greenhouse and David Leonhardt, who do a fine job of parsing recent statistics about how people in “that” group, the working stiffs, are getting stiffed, and then get kind of lost trying to figure out whether the (r)epublicans, who are running every branch of government, will pay, or will not, in November.

highwayscribery hopes the peoples’ verdict is somewhat less mushy than the writers suggest.


The article is about how productivity and profitability are going through the roof, thanks to you, while wages are not only stagnating, but decreasing.

For most of the last century, when you worked harder and produced more, those increases were reflected in your paycheck. But not in recent years. From 2000 to 2005, productivity rose 16.6 percent, but wages rose only 7.2 percent.

You don’t need to be a math genius to see what that means. So where’s that money going?

Here’s a choice quote: “In 2004, the top 1 percent of earners – a group that includes many chief executives – received 11.2 percent of all wage income. Up from 8.7 percent a decade earlier and less than 6 percent three decades ago,” according to two guys you don’t really care about.

It’s that old maxim, “The rich get richer and (fill in the blanks)...”

Now, highwayscribery specializes in an anarcho-syndicalist perspective (that’s a photo of a lady anarcho-syndicalist in Spain circa the 1930s), but Bruce Bernanke, Chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank recently gave a speech saying that policy makers need, “to ensure that the benefits of global economic integration are sufficiently widely shared.”

When a blue-blood like Bernanke starts whistling “The International” you know working people have got a problem.

So what happened?

Well, Harold Meyerson at the “Washington Post” has written a timely piece entitled, "Devaluing Labor," the title of which says it all.

the scribe’s going to quote Meyerson and then get on with the weekend, making the best of his devalued wage.

“The young may understandably be incredulous, but the Great Compression, as economists call it, was the single most important social fact in our country in the decades after World War II. From 1947 through 1973, American productivity rose by a whopping 104 percent, and median family income rose by the same whopping 104 percent. More Americans bought homes and new cars and sent their kids to college than ever before. In ways more difficult to quantify, the mass prosperity fostered a generosity of spirit: The civil rights revolution and the Marshall Plan both emanated from an America in which most people were imbued with a sense of economic security.”

For those of you who think voting doesn’t make a difference (at least when they’re properly tabulated), it is worth pointing out how that America was the product of a single man’s drive and effort. And that man was Franklin Delano Roosevelt (who lost out in the highwaysribery photo sweepstakes by a hair to the anarchist girl).

Historian James M. Kennedy, in his fine and weighty tome, “Freedom from Fear: The American People in Depression and War,” noted that only the severity of the economic crisis of the ’30s allowed Roosevelt to separate Americans from their harsh individualism and inbred notion that victims were to blame for their plight, and “provide an unmatched opportunity to affect major social reforms and to change the very landscape of American politics.”

That America, Harold Meyerson notes, “is as dead as the dodo.”

Read his piece, which goes into detail regarding how globalization isn’t all to blame, how the war on American unions begun in the 1970s did much to “decouple” a company’s profits for your earnings, and how behemoths like Wal-Mart have delivered the telling blow, driving down wages and benefits across the economy.

“Devaluing labor is the very essence of our economy,” he notes.

And you should, too.

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