Sunday, May 21, 2017

22.6 - Why you are not getting a raise

Why you are not getting a raise

An article in the May 9 Washington Post had a headline that made me laugh: "You're Not Getting a Raise and Nobody Knows Why." Why did that make me laugh? I'll tell you.

The article said that the economy "today has almost everything experts look for as a sign of health," including some job growth, lower unemployment, and higher business and consumer confidence,
but one thing that really matters for workers has been stubbornly absent: strong wage growth.
No one knows precisely why wage growth has lagged behind, but economists have a few explanations.
And they went on about how the labor participation rate is still low, productivity is not increasing as fast as it had been and blah blah and mumble mumble amid a lot of head-scratching.

So why was it funny? More precisely, bitterly funny? Because they brushed up against but kept dancing away from the simple and obvious answer: Why aren't you getting a raise? Because the bosses can get away with not giving you one.

Because we are still worried about the future, still fearful that next paycheck could be last, still holding on to what we have.

Because what do we see when we look at the physical signs of the economy around us? We see more than 3500 retail stores closing in the first months of 2017.

Oh, we'll be told, that's okay because the online economy is booming. Well, yeah, we've seen a boom and bust cycle so we'll reserve judgement on this one and besides, most of us do not work in the online economy, which in any event, considering tales of how companies like treat their workers, does not sound like a reasonable alternative.

Meanwhile, the official poverty rate, which undercounts the real level, is still at 13.5%, higher than before the 2008 crash.

Poverty is 21.4% among Hispanics, 24.1% among African-Americans, and 28.3% among single-race Native American and Alaskan Natives.

Those of who are working are working more hours, but despite that, real median household income, even after some gains over the last two years, is below where is was in 2007 - which is below where it was in 1999: We have gone through more than 15 years of work to wind up behind where we started.

It's to the point where the classic American dream is for many of us dead or dying.

The baseline of that dream, as I've said for over 40 years and I was far from the first to do so, is that your kids will be better off than you. That your kids will have a better life than you did. That whatever struggles you have, the end will be that you kids will have it easier.

But the blunt fact is that according to recent research, for a lot of us that just isn't true any more: Among children born in the 1940s, about 90% grew up to earn more than their parents. For children born in the 1980s, the figure is 50%. Half of us are growing up to be no better off, even worse off, than our parents were.

It all leads to this: A great many of us feel trapped, are trapped, our only escape from a job where we are overworked and underpaid is to move to a different job where we will be overworked and underpaid in a different way.

The result is the bosses have all the power, with profits to gain and nothing to lose by saying "I won't give you a raise and if you don't like it, tough."

And yet these economists, the number-crunchers, the gods of prognostication, are dumbstruck at the fact that wages are not rising strongly, dumbstruck because they insist on treating our economy, our economic system, like it was some machine with dials to be tweaked with predictable results instead of what it is, a system rampant with, based on, greed and power-hunger.

If we want to change what will be, we have to change what is and that means attacking the power of the bosses. The "Fight for 15," the campaign for a $15 per hour minimum wage, is a good start. We should look to be going a lot further.

As a sort of footnote to this, something not directly connected but related because it will (or, more correctly, would) affect the economy is that every year, the Congressional Progressive Caucus puts out an alternative federal budget. Not a page of bullet points in a press release, but an actual budget proposal, an actual progressive or at least reasonably progressive alternate federal budget.

Every year the media takes quick note of the proposal, praises its practicality, and immediately thereafter ignores it entirely until the next year.

This year, the budget is called The People's Budget: A Roadmap for the Resistance FY 2018. Maybe this can be the year it can get more than a quick glance

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