Thursday, June 16, 2011

WWH, June 16 ~~ Wake'N'Bake 101: Riches

The spread between the "prosperity" of the average American worker and the oligarchs to whom they are indentured is wider than that between the Dallas Mavs (Props, men!) and your local Boy's Club team. I mention this in the context of a story encountered today on Zuckerberg's Folly, in which it was even-handedly reported that American workers were struggling over and competing for an ever-diminishing scatter of crumbs from the Owners' tables, left-overs, and dog-scraps. The graph at the left charts the "good news" (for the Owners), the decline in the amount of take-home pay going home with the "98%." Click to enlarge):
Why are workers taking home such a reduced share of the pie? Opinions differ, but many experts think that the trend has to do with a number of factors, including a decline in the bargaining power of labor, and increased competition from foreign workers. Similarly, over the last year or so, U.S. companies have made record profits, while unemployment has stayed high and wages have barely risen.

The chart jibes with other data, which show that since the 1980s, income for the richest 1 percent of Americans has exploded, while hardly budging at all for everyone else.

Still, there's little sense that either Obama administration or Congress plan to do much about this growing inequality. Indeed, any serious action to boost the economy and cut unemployment now seems to be off the table.
I hope you notice the discourse, by the way: "the decline in labor bargaining power," rather than "the full-on, concentrated, Federal, State and Private attack on Unions," for instance. Or: "the increased competition from foreign workers," without reference to the fact that a big, fat chunk of 'em are doing jobs that USer/Global industries off-shored. A not-insignificant number of which were dispatched from these shore under the auspices of Bain Capital, Mitt Romney, CEO.

(Dr. Woody's Media Tip, # 55: You can learn all you need to know about the institutional predisposition/ideology of the "Press" from one, common trope. When discussing labor actions, the "Press" always reports Union "demands," but Management "offers." It's universal; nobody even notices anymore.)

FYEIEIO: This is a fascinating little link: The "minimum wage" in each state. Several states enforce NO minimum wage--I'll leave to the speculatively minded to guess which ones before looking, but think "Confederacy." The "national" minimum is $7.25/hr. At 40 hrs/wk and 50 wk/yr, that's the magisterial sum of $14,500/yr. Reckon YOU could "make it" on that?

Though he is NOT a lawyer/constitutional scholar, Dr. Woody'd acknowledge that there is no legal precedent in which the "Preamble" has been determinative, so it retains no power in law; still:
We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.
does seem to sketch out the purpose of "Government," and prominent among which is "to promote the general welfare." (And if that isn't the longest sentence you read today, I'll eat a hat...W)

In any case, what it meant, then, in a still agrarian, still frontier, still unsettled land is not what we might expect it to betoken today. So, in a predominantly "urban" civilization, where the vast majority of citizens are prohibited by location, situation and experience from eking out a subsistence "living" from their surroundings, and in a 'money' economy, a guaranteed annual "subsistence" income--equal to the minimum wage, perhaps--should be a civil right, and a perquisite of the maintenance of the 'general welfare." I can think of little else that would do as much.


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