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To what shrinking extent do the rich any longer need the rest of us?By Richard Clark (about the author) Page 1 of 5 page(s)
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As large corporations and the rich increasingly rely on cheap labor in and from other countries, how is their disappearing need for American middle class workers damaging our society? And what if anything can be done to reverse this process?
To begin to answer these questions, I refer you to the main points made by Bill Moyers
at the Boston University Howard Zinn Lecture Series:
For Howard Zinn, democracy was one big public fight that everyone should plunge into. That's the only way, he said, for everyday folks to get justice -- by fighting for it, continuously.
Here are some of the things that prompted Zinn to say that:
Consider the new BMW plant that recently opened in Alabama and advertised that the company would hire a thousand workers. Among the applicants: "a former manager of a major distribution center for Target; a consultant who oversaw construction projects in four western states; a supervisor at a plastics recycling firm. Some held college degrees and resumes in other fields where they made more money." And now these professionals will be paid a measly $15 an hour -- about half of what BMW workers earn in Germany.
Among our political and financial classes, this is known as "the free market at work." A better name is "wage repression," and it's been happening in our country since around 1980. Economists Thomas Piketty and Emmanuel Saez found that from 1950 through 1980, because the nation's economy was growing handsomely, the average income for 9 out of l0 Americans was growing, too -- from $17,719 to $30,941. That's a 75% increase in income in constant 2008 dollars.
But then the increase stopped. The economy continued to grow handsomely after 1980, but the financial rewards started going only to people at the top. On the chart plotting income growth, the income "growth" line flattens for the bottom 90% of Americans after 1980. For them, average income went up, barely, from that $30,941 achieved in 1980 to only $31,244 in 2008, almost 30 years later. Think about that: the average income of Americans increased just $303 dollars in 28 years and the vast majority of that increase went to the top 10%.
There's no better description for this than continued wage repression for the sake of maximally expanding profits and the now stratospheric incomes for the top 1%. More...