Are You Working for Someone Else’s Money?

GDP has doubled in the past 30 years, yet workers wages haven’t even kept up with inflation, let alone increased.

The 1.9% increase in wages was  surpassed by inflation in 2012 marking the 40th consecutive year that wages have declined below their 1972 peak. Wages fell 0.2% in 2012, from $295.49 per week, (in 1982 currency value) to $294.83 per week, according to the 2013 Economic Report of the President.

Data for production and non-supervisory workers in the private sector from “Hours and Earnings in Private Non-Agricultural Industries, 1966-2012” (taken from Appendix Table B-47) shows that this decline in wages is affecting 80% of the current private-sector workforce (as detailed in table below). At this same time, during these same years in which wages stagnated,  private non-farm productivity has doubled (in the fashion illustrated on the graph below). Therefore, higher productivity coupled with lower wages implies increasing wealth inequality. This fuels the gap that separates the rich minority from the poor majority widening into abyss.

The great irony is that the middle class is doing all the work that is enriching the top 1%. The audacity of the rhetoric from the rich minority is to accuse the poor of mooching off society and not taking responsibility for their lives — however the obvious reality is that the laborers and educated services classes are doing all the work that booms the economy. And the economy has boomed — doubling in productivity over the past 30 years. With none of the profits going towards those who do the actual work or those who deserve the increased salaries. The profits have one and all flowed like streams of increasing income into the sea of an already wealthy elite’s bank accounts. If they would only stop calumniating the poor, the situation would be almost tolerable.

If minimum wage had merely kept up with inflation for the past 30 years it would have been over $25 an hour by now. Comparatively, minimum wage is still in the sub-ten-dollar range and corporations ownership incomes are exponentially higher than they were just 5 years ago. Who is mooching off society now?

Year     Weekly Earnings (1982-84 dollars without taking into account inflation)

1972     $341.73 (peak)
1975     $314.77
1980     $290.80
1985     $284.96
1990     $271.10
1992     $266.46 (lowest point; 22% below peak)
1995     $267.17
2000     $285.00
2005     $285.05
2010     $297.79
2011     $295.49
2012     $294.83 (still 14% below peak)

Graph of Nonfarm Business Sector: Output Per Hour of All Persons