The Talking Dog lets out a first-rate rant. In part he is responding to this article in the Financial Times about the slow economic strangulation of the American middle class. The article profiles a couple of families who are hanging on to their modest homes and their very frugal lifestyles by working multiple jobs, and they are still one missed paycheck away from ruin.
As the article points out, the effects of globalization are hitting the entire industrialized world. But people in the rest of the industrialized world have paid health care, and their unions haven’t gone to rot. That’s softening the blow everywhere but here.
Anyway, the Dog points out that the stressed and worried American middle class doesn’t “have the juice” to take to the streets. Instead, people worry discretely and hide behind a facade of normal.
Ironically, the only people who do have “the juice” to take to the streets are the teabaggers, a mass of rabid lemmings trashing what’s left of the facade on their way to the cliffs.
Sorta kinda related — NPR reported on students at UCLA who manage to come up with the tuition but have nothing left over for room and board. So, they are homeless and hungry. One professor realized students were going without meals, so he set up a free food pantry in a closet. The homeless ones sleep in student lounges and shower in the gym.
Most interesting, the students try to hide their situation from other students. Like the stressed middle-class families, each student seems to deal with his situation alone and struggles to maintain the facade.
Meanwhile — in his most recent column, Bob Herbert talks to some economists who say there have been more lost jobs than can be blamed on the recession. It appears many companies used the recession as an excuse to cut staff and force employees to accept lower pay and fewer benefits.
â€œThey threw out far more workers and hours than they lost output,â€ said Professor Sum. â€œHereâ€™s what happened: At the end of the fourth quarter in 2008, you see corporate profits begin to really take off, and they grow by the time you get to the first quarter of 2010 by $572 billion. And over that same time period, wage and salary payments go down by $122 billion.â€
That kind of disconnect, said Mr. Sum, had never been seen before in all the decades since World War II.
In short, the corporations are making out like bandits. Now theyâ€™re sitting on mountains of cash and they still are not interested in hiring to any significant degree, or strengthening workersâ€™ paychecks.
Productivity tells the story. Increases in the productivity of American workers are supposed to go hand in hand with improvements in their standard of living. Thatâ€™s how capitalism is supposed to work. Thatâ€™s how the economic pie expands, and weâ€™re all supposed to have a fair share of that expansion.
Corporations have now said the hell with that. Economists believe the nation may have emerged, technically, from the recession early in the summer of 2009. As Professor Sum writes in a new study for the labor market center, this period of economic recovery â€œhas seen the most lopsided gains in corporate profits relative to real wages and salaries in our history.â€
Today, Paul Krugman:
Yes, growth is slowing, and the odds are that unemployment will rise, not fall, in the months ahead. Thatâ€™s bad. But whatâ€™s worse is the growing evidence that our governing elite just doesnâ€™t care â€” that a once-unthinkable level of economic distress is in the process of becoming the new normal.
If Americans of 40 years ago had woken up one morning to today’s economic conditions, there would have been hell to pay. I’m thinking massive strikes, torches and pitchforks, politicians tarred and feathered. But now most people just accept the conditions meekly and hope for the best. No juice.