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Business and Labor

Labor is Being Squeezed

LsO (1947-2012)(Analysis) Are you better off than your parents were when they were your age? The answer to this question largely informs whether or not a country is on the right track. Sadly, too many working families today must answer “no” to this question, damning our country’s path since at least 1980.

As corporations report record profit taking and government statistical agencies report both widening income inequality and flat or declining real incomes for workers over several decades, it is not hard to understand why working families must answer “no” to this question. The chart shows an index for the value of labor’s income as a share of total output in the US business sector, and it is rapidly declining, supporting the feeling current among many working families that their living standards are worsening.

After 3+ decades of flat or declining real possibilities for working families, nothing on the foreseeable horizon looks likely to change this trend. Job growth – if it happens at all, is occurring in industries with both low union membership and low pay. Right now a most likely employer for working youth is McDonald’s or Walmart, and the likelihood for this to change as these young people age is not very promising.

We should expect to see more of the same trend as politicians pursue the same failed policies of cutting taxes for the wealthy, signing free-trade agreements like NAFTA, and privatizing government services. These are the policies pursued for the last thirty or so years, and our current predicament is their direct legacy.

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