Burnard: The new American Way?Written by Don Burnard | | firstname.lastname@example.org
A recent report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) showed that in the first quarter of 2013, nonfarm wages fell at a 3.8 percent annualized rate, the largest quarterly decline since the BLS started keeping statistics on this in 1947. This comes on top of a gain in productivity over that same period. In all of 2012, workers’ wages grew by only 1.9 percent, while the Consumer Price Index grew by 1.8 percent. During the past four years, wages grew by a paltry 2 percent, which also happens to be the weakest four-year stretch on record. The working class has been steadily losing ground, not just for the past four years, but for the past 30 years.
Business and financial interests on the other hand, have come through the recent Great Recession smelling like a rose. Corporate profits and CEO compensation are at all-time highs. In the past 20 years, corporate profits have grown by 400 percent while their taxes have fallen by half. During that same time period, payroll taxes have doubled on the working class.
In a May 12 article by Paul Buchheit on AlterNet, he points out: “In effect, corporations have decided to let middle-class workers pay for national investments that have largely benefited businesses over the years. The greater part of basic research, especially for technology and health care, has been conducted with government money. Even today, 60 percent of university research is government supported. Corporations use highways and shipping lanes and airports to ship their products, the FAA and TSA and the Coast Guard and the Department of Transportation to safeguard them, a nationwide energy grid to power their factories, and communications towers and satellites to conduct online business. Yet as corporate profits surge and taxes plummet, our infrastructure is deteriorating. The American Society of Civil Engineers estimates that $3.63 trillion is needed over the next seven years to make the necessary repairs.”
Do you think these businesses are going to step up and finance that? This too will be left for the workers to pick up the tab. As of 2008, according to the IRS, 69 percent of U.S. corporations were organized as nontaxable businesses.
The “conventional” GOP wisdom for years has been that these rich folk need all that money because they are the “job creators.” Buchheit (who teaches economic inequality at DePaul University by the way) says: “Only 3 percent of the CEOs, upper management and financial professionals were entrepreneurs in 2005, even though they made up about 60 percent of the richest 0.1 percent of Americans. A recent study found that less than 1 percent of all entrepreneurs came from very rich or very poor backgrounds. Job creators come from the middle class. According to Marketwatch and economist Edward Wolff, more than 90 percent of the assets owned by millionaires are held in a combination of low-risk investments (bonds and cash), personal business accounts, the stock market, and real estate.”
The average CEO in the U.S. makes more than $9 million a year. This is an average, mind you, and does not take into account deferred compensation and stock options in many cases. They say that this is “performance-based” pay. If that is the case, how is it that the workers’ pay goes down even when productivity is up? And how come we don’t get lavish bonuses and golden parachutes when we screw up? Hardly seems fair, does it? Is this the new American Way?
The truth of the matter is, our government is being run by the business interests in this country. The average voter no longer has a voice in what his or her interests are. This is true on the state level as well. The gerrymandered representation in Columbus continually tries to hide their business dealings from the voters. They try to hide the dealings of JobsOhio, Kasich’s private state company funded by taxpayer money, from even the state auditor, and a number of attacks on Ohio’s Sunshine laws have been taking place recently as well.
The new conventional wisdom seems to be that if something could possibly be nefarious, we’ll just pass a law to hide it from public view. I think that working class people are finally starting to catch on, both here and abroad, and if this keeps up, we could see a new American Revolution. And I think it probably will be more in line with the Founding Fathers’ vision than the Constitution-spouting Tea Party advocates think, or don’t think, as the case may be. The next few election cycles will decide what America will be. It’s time to start paying attention to something besides Honey Boo Boo. This is the real reality show.
Email columnist Don Burnard at email@example.com.