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Real Wages Declining For American Workers – More Questions For November Elections

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A late-breaking New York Times story on August 28 said the median hourly wage since 2003 has declined by 2 percent after factoring in inflation.  Despite an ongoing increase in productivity, a slowing economy could make this the first period of economic growth since World War II that did not result in a "prolonged increase in real wages."

The question among Republicans and Democrats is the extent to which this phenomenon will affect voter behavior in November.  One concern among Republicans is that this period is being called the "the golden era of profitability" as corporate profits are higher than at any time since the 1960s.  At the same time, the increased worker productivity means wages and salaries make up the smallest percentage of the gross domestic product since the government began collecting these records in 1947.  

And as wage deflation is made more intense by reduced employee benefits, Republicans are worried about a backlash while Democrats are hoping for increased anger toward the current administration. 

As usual, opinions differ.  Charles Cook, who publishes a non-partisan political newsletter, said "'It’s a dangerous time for any party to have control of the federal government — the presidency, the Senate and the House.  It all feeds into ‘it’s a time for a change’ sentiment. It’s a highly combustible mixture.'"   On the other hand, Richard Curtain, director of the University of Michan's consumer surveys thinks that national economic issues are the stuff of presidential, not mid-term campaigns.

This confusion exists within the context of an attitude toward Congress that rivals the horrible scores from the public seen in the summer of 1994, when the Congress switched from Democrat to Republican.  According to an August 8 Pew Research Center report, 45% of registered voters said Congress had accomplished less than usual, higher than the 38% who felt the same way in 1994.  And one of the issues that people expect Congress to be addressing — but isn't — is the economy.

About Mark Schannon

Retired crisis & risk manager/communications expert; extensive public relations experience in most areas over 30 years. Still available for extraordinary opportunities of mind-numbing complexity. Life-long liberal agnostic...or is that agnostic liberal.
  • pleasexcusetheinterruption12

    Sorry the end of the second paragraph should have read, “The HS students that do not work are a very small MINORITY, and the subject is often a matter of embarassment for them.

  • http://www.diablog.us Dave Nalle

    Nancy, why not just round up the poor and put them in camps. Then employers could come there and hire them more easily. We could put a sign over the gate of the camps that read something like “Work Shall Make You Free” – that’s catchy.

  • pleasexcusetheinterruption12

    Im not so sure she meant for the work to be mandatory. But if it’s not mandatory it doesnt really change anything.

  • Nancy

    Well, mandatory in that if you DON’T work, you don’t get a check; that’s pretty mandatory I suppose. Dave, you have an aversion to asking people to actually EARN the handout they get from the state? Why? That does surprise me, in that from everything I’ve ever read by you, you are in favor of people earning their way instead of freeloading. At least, to date you haven’t exactly been a champion of welfare loafers. In any event, since I’m personally acquainted with at least two persons currently receiving welfare – and their families – yes: I object to people receiving support from the state and doing nothing for it, when they’re perfectly well able to perform some form of work in exchange. And if they won’t work, then I don’t see why they should be supported by public handouts. While we’re at it, I also object to those persons who get on public assistance and proceed to breed like there’s no tomorrow. I entirely approve of letting them know that if they increase their offspring while on public assistance, they do NOT get additional funding for their spawn.

    Oh – and PETI, I work an average of 60+ hours per week. And you?

  • pleasexcusetheinterruption12

    Nancy, you’re missing the point. You are not changing the system at all. All you are doing is ending welfare. If you’re mandating that people who were on welfare, go take a job for a living, that’s slavery. You can end their benefits, but you can’t force anyone to work (legally/morally) which is what it sounds like you are suggesting. And if they are working, they dont need welfare. So all your proposal amounts to is just deleting welfare. It’s not the solution you make it out to be.

  • pleasexcusetheinterruption12

    Oh – and PETI, I work an average of 60+ hours per week. And you?

    Are you honestly complaining that HS and college students only work 55 hours a week (excluding homework, chores, and community service) because you work 60+? Are you honestly complaining that because they work 5 hours less than you they are acting “entitled?” Forgive me if I don’t take your complaint seriously. If one factors in HW and community service, HS and college students work 70-110+ hours a week frequently. But of course, the whole line of reasoning is absurd. The basic principle is most HS and College students work more than the national average, and very frequently more than you do, Nancy.

  • pleasexcusetheinterruption12

    I mean honestly, did you read the rest of my post? The exact hours is hardly relevent and the hours you work are even less relevent, esp. considering they 50% more than the national average.

  • Nancy

    I don’t think you read mine, from your response. I’m advocating something along the lines of the 1930s work programs, as Clavos pointed out. They were fine programs then, and they are equally applicable now, allowing people to work and/or learn on the job skills & keep their dignity while on government relief that isn’t really. What are YOU suggesting – that it’s immoral to ask people who are accepting public assistance to do something for it? That’s far from slavery, kiddo. If it is, then everyone who works is a slave, because I guarantee you, if I refuse to work, my employer will stop paying me, and so it is with every employer. You want your money, you work for it. Same with those on welfare: if they want their money, they should be prepared to do something in exchange for it, whatever is reasonably required. When I say reasonably, I mean that obviously you don’t ask a crippled, 120-lb man to go be a lumberjack; but he’s perfectly capable of other kinds of work; you don’t ask a mentally slow but physically hulking individual to be an accountant, but he is capable of being a lumberjack. That’s reasonable. If he wants to get assistance, that is. If not, well, then he forgoes the money. His choice. That’s hardly cruel or “slavery” as you put it.

    As for the kids, that’s a silly point. I’m referring to the ones I know, and around here they mostly DON’T work, and they mostly DO get everything handed to them on a platter by overprotective or overindulgent parents, and they most certainly DO have overinflated opinions of their own value to society. If the ones around you are different, I’m glad for you. I still opine that most American kids are raised in the belief that they are so special they should only start at the top, as privileged persons. I maintain this is wrong; it wrongs the kids, and it doesn’t do them any good when they get into real life situations ’cause that’s not how it is in the real world with real employers et al. In any event, very few are brought up to consider manual labor, or non-desk jobs, and almost none except those born of farms are asked to do the kind of labor we were discussing above.

  • Martin Lav

    Dave Nalle,

    “Do you have a WholeFoods in your area? That’s where I shop when I can’t get to the Farmers Market. Price differences in the 2-5x range is about right for them.”

    Better, I shop at the Wild Oats and it’s not 2-5x higher.

    “Except that the native workers who would do these jobs have been clearly demonstrated not to exist.”

    Don’t exist or get muscled out by cheaper labor?

    Clavos,
    “At $10 an hour, it’s better pay than most unskilled jobs pay. As the article says, Americans prefer to take less pay at easier jobs, so the immigrants aren’t taking farm jobs from Americans.”

    Wrong!
    It’s the hardest work imaginable and taking advantage of uneducated immigrants to work these jobs is a form of slave labor. And who said they got paid $10.00 per hour. These jobs are piece meal mainly, in other words you get paid by the flat or by what you pick.

    Apparently neither you nor Dave have really had to leave the confines of your computer statistic world to see what is really going on beyond the real of your reality…..eh?

  • pleasexcusetheinterruption12

    I don’t think you read mine, from your response. I’m advocating something along the lines of the 1930s work programs, as Clavos pointed out. They were fine programs then, and they are equally applicable now, allowing people to work and/or learn on the job skills & keep their dignity while on government relief that isn’t really. What are YOU suggesting – that it’s immoral to ask people who are accepting public assistance to do something for it? That’s far from slavery, kiddo. If it is, then everyone who works is a slave, because I guarantee you, if I refuse to work, my employer will stop paying me, and so it is with every employer. You want your money, you work for it. Same with those on welfare: if they want their money, they should be prepared to do something in exchange for it, whatever is reasonably required. When I say reasonably, I mean that obviously you don’t ask a crippled, 120-lb man to go be a lumberjack; but he’s perfectly capable of other kinds of work; you don’t ask a mentally slow but physically hulking individual to be an accountant, but he is capable of being a lumberjack. That’s reasonable. If he wants to get assistance, that is. If not, well, then he forgoes the money. His choice. That’s hardly cruel or “slavery” as you put it.

    Ok you just totally switched what you are saying. I agree that this version is something reasonable that should be considered. But do you remember saying this?

    those who are on welfare to be assigned to various jobs, which have been filed by employers needing labor but unable to fill it on their own.

    This version essential mandates everyone work, which is an enormous invasion of privacy. You don’t even give them the option of not working at all. That is forced labor, or slavery, and that is where Dave and my comments have come from. You may say it’s not slavery b/c they get pay, but even slaves often got pay and always got other material benefits (living quarters, food etc.) Anytime you force someone to work that doesnt want to, that is slavery. Your second option allows the person to not work (and not get pay or welfare) while your first mandates that the person work against his will.

    You are also being very unclear as to the method of applying this. First you say it is like the “public works projects of the 1930s” – government jobs for CCC etc. Then you say you’re “assigning” them to a private employer. On other occasions you seem to imply they will work for the employer in order to recieve welfare – a government subsidized job (“get assitance” seems to imply they work for private employer but still recieve govt assistance). You have three conflicting proposals. If you clear up what you are proposing exactly you will be much less subject to accusations of proposing slavery. Vague statements like “assigning people on welfare to a job” are what’s getting you in trouble. You have so many conflicting ideas bouncing around it’s boggling my mind. Personally, I dont have any problem asking someone on welfare to perform a task they are really capable of – I dont know where you got the impression I do (all I said was IF you are mandating everyone currently on welfare go get a job … that is slavery. Obviously that’s not what you meant by “assigning them to a job.” That statement is unclear though because it is so vague. Is the private employer paying them? Is the govt still paying them? Do they have a choice of not working and recieving no pay/assistance?)

    Just clarify, that’s all I’m asking. And don’t call me kiddo :P.

  • pleasexcusetheinterruption12

    As for the kids, that’s a silly point. I’m referring to the ones I know, and around here they mostly DON’T work, and they mostly DO get everything handed to them on a platter by overprotective or overindulgent parents, and they most certainly DO have overinflated opinions of their own value to society. If the ones around you are different, I’m glad for you. I still opine that most American kids are raised in the belief that they are so special they should only start at the top, as privileged persons. I maintain this is wrong; it wrongs the kids, and it doesn’t do them any good when they get into real life situations ’cause that’s not how it is in the real world with real employers et al. In any event, very few are brought up to consider manual labor, or non-desk jobs, and almost none except those born of farms are asked to do the kind of labor we were discussing above.

    How is my point silly??? I was only giving a rebuttal of your false notion of a culture of laziness and entitlement. Since your theories are based on encounters with individuals and yeild a relatively small sampling size, while I am talking about the culture of work present in all HSs and Colleges and young people with which I am familiar.

    I still opine that most American kids are raised in the belief that they are so special they should only start at the top

    I know of no rational person that believes they automatically go straight to the top. I dont know many HS grads applying for research positions at Pfizer. It is universally recognized by students that the way to the top is through HARD WORK. Any student seeking a good career earns that career by
    1. Working summer jobs and during the school year (70-110 hours of work per week including school and work for school)
    2. Community service to bolster an application to college (and because it’s a good thing to do).
    3. Working hard at school to get good grades.
    4. Gaining work experience through internships.

    Kids arent raised to believe they automatically should be at the top, they are raised to aim for the top through hard work.

    And if they follow the above principles, they almost certainly will make the top. Look at the statistics on pay differences between different levels of education.

    For most college students, working at Mc D’s is not unacceptable b/c they are arrogant, it is unacceptable b/c Mc D’s wont pay enough to pay off student loans. Your example about the kid who wont work at Mc D’s is useless.

  • pleasexcusetheinterruption12

    The college kid you mentioned is going to get a good job if he makes the best of college. He’s not going to graduate college and take up agriculture. Statistically, his pay will be much higher than a HS grads and in all likelyhood will not be in labor. The comment the student made was not based on arrogance. It was based on probability.

  • pleasexcusetheinterruption12

    O and Martin- is it just me or do you misinterpret people a lot?

    Clavos,
    “At $10 an hour, it’s better pay than most unskilled jobs pay. As the article says, Americans prefer to take less pay at easier jobs, so the immigrants aren’t taking farm jobs from Americans.”

    Wrong!
    It’s the hardest work imaginable and taking advantage of uneducated immigrants to work these jobs is a form of slave labor. And who said they got paid $10.00 per hour. These jobs are piece meal mainly, in other words you get paid by the flat or by what you pick.

    Clavos said AMERICANS are the ones taking the easier jobs (and lower pay), implying that agriculture IS hard work. You misintrepeted him as saying agriculture is the easy work. Don’t be so quick to jump on things you expect people to say instead of what they are actually saying.

  • Clavos

    Martin says (#309):

    Clavos,
    “At $10 an hour, it’s better pay than most unskilled jobs pay. As the article says, Americans prefer to take less pay at easier jobs, so the immigrants aren’t taking farm jobs from Americans.”

    Wrong!
    It’s the hardest work imaginable and taking advantage of uneducated immigrants to work these jobs is a form of slave labor. And who said they got paid $10.00 per hour. These jobs are piece meal mainly, in other words you get paid by the flat or by what you pick.
    (Emphasis mine)

    Martin, I thought you said you READ the article. Since obviously you didn’t, here’s the relevant part about how much these farmworkers HERE IN FLORIDA make:

    Agricultural jobs can’t compete on wages with the construction industry, Alger said. ”Where agriculture farm workers get paid $10 bucks an hour to pick strawberries or whatever, a construction job is going to pay him $16 to carry buckets of concrete,” Alger said.

    On Thursday, South Miami-Dade farmers signed empty grocery bags they will send to lawmakers expressing support for a guest worker program.

    ”Let’s face it,” said Katie Edwards, executive director of Dade County Farm Bureau, “we don’t have willing Americans who want to take these jobs in agriculture.”

    This is true, she added, even though they pay more than jobs at fast food restaurants. (Again, emphasis mine)

    Sheesh!

  • pleasexcusetheinterruption12

    Too bad this article is lost from the most read list. No one will see it ever again :(.

  • http://www.elitistpig.com Dave Nalle

    O and Martin- is it just me or do you misinterpret people a lot?

    It’s not just you. It’s a consistent pattern.

    Speaking of which…

    “Except that the native workers who would do these jobs have been clearly demonstrated not to exist.”

    Don’t exist or get muscled out by cheaper labor?

    Did you not read the sentence to which you were responding? If they existed they’d be showing up on the unemployment rolls. They aren’t. The truth is that they move on to better jobs.

    Dave

  • Martin Lav

    You’ll all be glad to know that you aren’t talking to yourselves and I have seen your corrections and insults both. Thank you for pointing out my errors and for your observations of my inability to read or interpret.
    Let me attempt to clarify.

    Clavos: I did read the article, believe it or not. However, since most of the quotes were from farmers or illegal immigration advocates, I didn’t put a lot of credence into their statistics.
    I did get wrong the point about easier jobs and what you were referring to (thanks PETI), however, I don’t agree that farm work pays $10.00 and hour at all. So, assuming that that is incorrect, that negates the argument entirely that Americans/natives/legals would rather get paid less for easier work. MY APOLOGIES.
    FARM WORK is piecemeal pay. That’s the truth.

    Nalle,
    I don’t follow you, so chalk it up to the fact that I’m just misinterpreting you entirely.

    I shop at a Wild Oats store and I know the prices aren’t 2x-5x higher than your average grocery store, so what’s your answer on that?

  • Clavos

    however, I don’t agree that farm work pays $10.00 and hour at all. So, assuming that that is incorrect, that negates the argument entirely that Americans/natives/legals would rather get paid less for easier work.

    OK, Martin you don’t believe the $10/ hour.

    Oh, BTW the term is piecework. Piecemeal is something else entirely

  • http://www.elitistpig.com Dave Nalle

    All I can contribute to the farm wages issue is that I know for a fact that the small organic farm at the end of my street is paying $10 or more per hour for labor, and many of those working for them are NOT illegals. In fact, one of them just bought my old pickup and he’s working there as a part time job during college.

    Dave

  • http://www.elitistpig.com Dave Nalle

    I shop at a Wild Oats store and I know the prices aren’t 2x-5x higher than your average grocery store, so what’s your answer on that?

    There’s a hell of a lot of variation in produce prices depending on where you shop and where you live. My price difference estimate wasn’t even based on comparing stores, but on the differences in the same store between organic and non-organic.

    Dave

  • Clavos

    Dave #319:

    I know for a fact that the small organic farm at the end of my street is paying $10 or more per hour for labor

    I believe you, because that’s what they pay down here. But Martin won’t.

  • pleasexcusetheinterruption12

    Ive heard some farming pays pretty well too, relative to other manual labor.

  • http://www.elitistpig.com Dave Nalle

    The college kid you mentioned is going to get a good job if he makes the best of college. He’s not going to graduate college and take up agriculture.

    I think the graduates of Texas A&M, Texas A&I, Prairie View A&M and all the many other agricultural universities in the country would take issue with this statement.

    Dave