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October 2010, Week 4

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Tue, 26 Oct 2010 19:54:15 -0400
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Latest Reagan Revolution Price Tag: A $313 Billion Wage
Cut
By Isaiah J. Poole
October 25, 2010
Campaign for America's Future OurFuture.org
http://www.ourfuture.org/blog-entry/2010104325/latestreagan-revolution-price-tag-313-billion-wage-cut

There's another chapter to add to the narrative my
colleague Dave Johnson sketched out some weeks ago
about how the Reagan revolution has come home to roost
[1], based on sobering statistics uncovered this
morning by David Cay Johnston at Tax.com [2] about how
The Great Recession has harmed working families while
worsening income inequality.

New data compiled by the Social Security Administration
reveals that the total wages earned by American workers
fell by a total of $313 billion from 2007 to 2009,
Johnston writes. That's a 5 percent cut, and is
measured in 2009 dollars.

In one year alone, from 2008 to 2009, wage income
declined $215 billion.

One major reason for the wage declines is that in 2009
one out every 34 working Americans earned zero income
in 2009. In fact, there were fewer people collecting a
paycheck in 2009 than there were in 2005. Plus, those
who did collect a paycheck earned on average less,
Johnston says: $39,269, down $243 or 0.6 percent,
compared with the previous year in 2009 dollars.

But that's only 99 percent of the story.

Johnston also points out that while working-class
people on average are demonstrably poorer, the
super-rich are getting super-richer:

The number of Americans making $50 million or more, the
top income category in the data, fell from 131 in 2008
to 74 last year. But ... the average wage in this top
category increased from $91.2 million in 2008 to an
astonishing $518.8 million in 2009. That's nearly $10
million in weekly pay!

You read that right. In the Great Recession year of
2009 (officially just the first half of the year), the
average pay of the very highest-income Americans was
more than five times their average wages and bonuses in
2008. And even though their numbers shrank by 43
percent, this group's total compensation was 3.2 times
larger in 2009 than in 2008, accounting for 0.6 percent
of all pay. These 74 people made as much as the 19
million lowest-paid people in America, who constitute
one in every eight workers.

Johnston in his article makes it clear that these
conditions aren't simply unfortunate aftereffects of
the Wall Street crash. This was a long time in the
making:

The story the numbers tell is one of a strengthening
economic base with income growing fastest at the bottom
until, in 1981, we made an abrupt change in tax and
economic policy. Since then the base has fared poorly
while huge economic gains piled up at the very top,
along with much lower tax burdens.

The story can't be repeated enough: Starting with the
Reagan administration and continuing through the
calamitous George W. Bush administration, conservatives
rammed through a combination of tax and regulatory
policies that slashed taxes on the wealthiest (and
critical investments that could have been paid for with
those taxes), upset the balance of power between
workers and corporations in favor of corporations,
encouraged the movement of jobs overseas and set the
foundation for the Wall Street casino, which diverted
capital from investment in job-creation to
bubble-creating speculation.

The result is an economic crisis for millions of
working-class people, to be sure, but it is also a
moral crisis that strikes at the heart of what we have
become as a nation. Johnston writes:

The American economy in the three decades before Ronald
Reagan's election did not produce a mass audience for
celebrating wealth. In that era, books that emphasized
character sold better than today.

During the years from 1950 to 1980, the share of total
income going to those at the top declined, and the real
incomes of the vast majority grew much more quickly
than did nearly all incomes at the very top.

In those years, America had the money, and vision, to
invest in the future through education, research, and
infrastructure.

In nearly three decades of Reaganism, however, we have
become a society of mine-here-and-now. Now what we hear
from Washington is about today, not tomorrow. War
without sacrifice (or a congressional declaration).
Savings without interest. More government services
while lowering taxes.

This is what the 2010 election should be about: how we
create an economy where people who don't have jobs can
get one and in which people who do have jobs can begin
to see their income grow. On Sunday, "60 Minutes" aired
a story [3] about the millions of well-educated, highly
skilled and once high-earning people who are rapidly
reaching the ends of their economic ropes because
conservatives in Congress keep blocking measures that
would help them [4]. Stories such as that one and
Johnston's post should make you angry--make that
thoroughly disgusted--that the legitimate economic fears
of working-class voters are being manipulated by
deep-pocketed right-wing, corporate interests [5] into
voting for the very politicians whose ideologies [6]
will deepen their economic pain [7], while making the
anonymous benefactors of those politicians even more
obscenely wealthy.

That's one reason to vote on November 2 [8], with a
message that we are not going to sit still and allow
the working class to keep falling behind while a
handful of people at the very top grow financially
obese.

Links: [1]
http://www.ourfuture.org/features/reagan-revolution-
home-roost [2]
http://tax.com/taxcom/taxblog.nsf/Permalink/UBEN-8AGMUZ
?OpenDocument [3]
http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2010/10/21/60minutes/
main6978943.shtml [4]
http://www.ourfuture.org/features/jobs-crisis-fall-2010
[5]
http://www.ourfuture.org/features/tea-party-getting-
played [6]
http://www.ourfuture.org/features/young-guns-deadly-
ideas [7]
http://www.ourfuture.org/features/pledge-rob-middle-
class [8] http://www.ourfuture.org/votingfor [9]
http://www.twitter.com/ijpoole [10]
http://www.twitter.com/ourfuturedotorg

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