Saturday, December 28, 2013

Charting Our Economic Mess

These charts (created by the Economic Policy Institute) are from the Washington Post. They have 13 of them in all, and they are all very enlightening as to the economic mess this country is in (and I urge you to go to their site and see all of them). I picked the charts above because they most clearly show the unemployment situation, and the ones below because they show why this is continuing.

The economic pundits tell us the Bush recession is over. But as I have said many times before, it is only over for the rich (and the corporations). Main Street America is still suffering from it. Not that we don't just need a few more jobs to return to a healthy economy -- we need millions more jobs. And at the rate that we are adding jobs (100,000 to 200,000 a month), it will take many years to accomplish that -- if we can ever get back to where we need to be. The current job creation would be sufficient in a healthy economy, but it is woefully inadequate in an economy trying to recover from a job-killing recession.

Another thing that is hurting the denizens of Main Street is that the rising productivity is still not being shared. As you can see from the chart below, it once was shared (and both owners and workers benefitted from that rising productivity). But the "trickle-down" economic policies instituted by the Republicans changed that. Those policies funneled more money to the rich (and away from everyone else), allowing the rich to keep all (or nearly all) of the rising productivity.

This has resulted in the incomes of the rich growing at an astronomical rate, while the incomes of workers (ordinary Americans) remain stagnant or drop. In fact, the country's median wage is falling, and even workers who are able to maintain their wage find it is being eaten up by inflation. More than half of the country has seen their income drop, and the bottom 20% has seen it drop markedly. This has resulted in the widest gap in wealth and income in over 80 years (since before the Great Depression), and that gap continues to grow.

Obviously, something must be done to fix the economy. And the Republican "plan" to give more tax cuts to the rich while cutting help for hurting Americans won't do that. It will just result in an even more economically unequal economy -- an economy of only "haves" and "have-nots" that is barreling toward another, and even deeper, recession.

A good first step would be to raise the minimum wage significantly. That would lift millions out of poverty, and would put upward pressure on all wages (restoring at least some of the productivity gains that should have gone to workers). But that is not all that needs to be done. We must remove the tax benefits to corporations for outsourcing good American jobs, strengthen labor unions and make it easier for workers to unionize, raise taxes on the rich, make sure corporations pay their taxes (by removing unneeded subsidies), stop allowing the rich and corporations to hide money overseas to avoid taxes, create more jobs by pumping more money into the economy and by rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure, and cap the worker-to-CEO pay ratio.

There is probably more that could be done, but doing the things I have listed would be a good start toward recreating a fairer and healthier economy. Surely we have learned by now that just giving more money to the rich doesn't create a healthy economy -- it damages the economy. The way to create a healthy economy is to make sure that all citizens are able to share in the rising productivity and economic growth.

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