The disappearing working middle class
You probably saw on the news recently an astounding statistic. It was reported that the top 86 wealthiest people in the world have a combined income greater than half the world’s population, 3.5 billion. This disparity, which began dramatically during the 1980s, is at the root of unrest throughout the world. Inequality is at its worst since 1928, just before the great depression
There was a time in the United States, when the working class, many working in manufacturing plants, were the middle class. They were the ones who bought homes, automobiles, went to the theater or a ballgame frequently, spent money on school clothes, Easter outfits and fun things, like vacations, whenever they could. That’s no longer true. Now both parents work, some at two jobs, just to make ends meet.
The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), became law in 1994. It doesn’t work because workers in some of the countries make slave wages and the countries are not subject to the same environmental standards and work environment requirements as in the United States. That’s where many of our manufacturing jobs went. The Tea Party Republican’s answer to keep jobs here, and promote their idea of upward mobility, is to adopt policies that rape our environment, deregulate working conditions for our workers, and pay them slave wages, as does our free trade competitors.
Now the president and big corporations are pushing for another free trade agreement, the Trans-Pacific Partnership. It will mean disaster for our workers. This could be President Obama’s biggest mistake. Urge him to withdraw his support.
I’m aware we are living in a time of a global economy. Until we all work under similar standards and pay decent wages, free trade agreements are not in our best interest.
Since 1980 the top 10 percent have seen their income rise by nearly 300 percent while the working man’s income has remained basically at the same level. Actually its been almost flat since the 1960s. The working stiff, even those making a decent wage, have been making just enough to get by for nearly 40 years. Those making the minimum wage are not getting by. I think it is no coincidence that union membership decreased while the income of the wealthiest has increased. It’s time to unionize America again.
In 2012 the minimum wage should have been over $10 an hour to be the equivalent in buying power to the $1.60 minimum wage in 1968. Today it would take a minimum wage of $13-$15 an hour to be the equivalent in purchasing power to the minimum wage 40 years ago.
If Congress only raises the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour. as the president has requested. They should add a provision which would automatically raise the minimum wage yearly, at the same percentage rate Congress’s pay increases. It would soon be $15 an hour. This would be a stimulus to the economy like none we have seen. When more people have more money to spend the economy improves accordingly.
Walmart pays its workers such a piddling amount that in most states they outnumber all other workers who must receive food stamps to feed their families. This was reported by NBC several weeks ago. In other words, the federal government, we the people, subsidize Walmart’s low wages just to enable some of their employees and their families to eat!
The CEO of Walmart makes in one hour what the average Walmart worker makes in one year, about $18,000. The average Wal-Mart worker would have to work a million years to approach what each of the Walton family heirs is worth, $20-$30 billion. Why are they so cheap with their workers? They have no excuse. They can raise their worker’s pay and fund it out of their pockets without raising prices.
The federal government should bill Walmart and other firms for every penny we spend on subsidizing their workers wages. Damn I like that idea.
It’s top management in Arkansas which is responsible for the wages and work environment most Walmart workers endure. As a matter of fact many of the local store managers do their best to give to their community food banks and support their communities in other ways. How ironic that some of their employees find themselves getting food from those very food banks from time to time.
It is time to be bold. Raise the minimum wage dramatically, stop sending our jobs overseas, and tax the wealthiest a reasonable amount to reduce the deficit. This will spur the economy and get the middle class back on the road to recovery.
Glen McAdoo, a Fallon resident, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.