We never hear any reference to the working class these days. The media and our politicians only speak of the “middle class” as if that covers everyone who isn’t either poor or wealth. Even references to the poor are scarce. The working class exists. They are sandwiched between the poor and the middle class and they are being squeezed into poverty. It is cruel to ignore them and the terrible pain they are suffering. What has happened to them, aside from being ignored can only be touched on by the four graphs that follow. These were presented in a conversation I had with conservative friend of mine who has forgotten the working class exists. There are many factors hurting the working class. This conversation was only about four factors, wage suppression, the upward redistribution of wealth, working class decent into poverty and declining upward mobility. Post this is my way of addressing what I believe is the most hurtful factor of them all… public silence.
Q: I always thought of the owners as the producers of the jobs that the workers have. You say that it is the workers who are the producers. Have you ever been employed by someone on welfare?
A: Owners coordinate the workforce, but it the employees who do the work that makes the products or services. So in a real sense, the workers ARE the producers. And this has nothing to do with welfare at all. Jobs are not a product. Stuff is a product. Things to sell or trade is a product. Workers are key to making stuff or offering stuff yet when they want a fair share of the value they create they are treated like thieves. Read this and you will know what I am talking about even if you don’t agree:
I also just ran across this table (below) that shows were all the Hourly GDP wealth has gone since the mid-’70’s.
Q: Why should it matter how much a C.E.O. makes if their workers remain on the job? It’s one of the great things about this country. You can work where ever and for whom ever you want. Someone please explain to me why it is greed for C.E.O.’s to make deals to be paid as much as the market will bear but it is ok for workers to make deals to make as much as the market will bear.
A: It may not matter to you at all, but anyone who wonder why they can’t have collective barganing while the CEO is making 400 times their salary might have questions, especially since this is strictly a feature of the US economy and others around the world are paid better than we are relative to their economies.
Don’t forget, almost 40% of people who work full time are poor. I’m not sure what percentage of the poor they account for, but it is clear when we speak of the poor we are not speaking only of people who are disabled, elderly, retired or unemployed.
Note here that in the US, the number of working poor (blue bar in right hand column) is twice the number of non-working poor. So when you and I talk about the poor, you are defining it as welfare recipients while I broadly define it as everyone living below the poverty line, the majority of whom work full time. That’s partly why we have a disconnect on this topic. In my understanding, most poor people work.
Q: I wonder how many of the poor who are now C.E.O.’s would agree with you? Or would they say : “Work hard towards your goal, as I did, and you can achieve anything.”. Isn’t this what made our economy great? Not people who wanted a wage so they could be comfortable in the position they have today? Flipping burgers at McDonalds is not supposed to be a permanent career goal. Even the management at McDonalds wants people to move up. Or am I wrong about incentive and ambition?
A: There are 17,000 companies with 500 employees or more. There are 43 million poor. If 20% of CEO’s started out as poor children that would mean there are only about 4,200 CEO openings for 43 million potential applicants. It’s a safe bet that far fewer than 20% of CEO’s come from poverty. In fact, less than 20% of children born to poorest families will make it into the middle class in their lifetime. Less than 8% will make over $140k/year, which is approximately the income line where the richest fifth starts. Of those at the top, only the smallest fraction will become a CEO. I believe that if you really understood the economic situation in America you, of all the folks I know, would be a big supporter of the working class.
As for incentive and ambition, a good paying job that makes one economically self-sufficient is the highest motivator. But a self-sufficient wage for a single earners is over $30,000/year whereas the median wage for a single earners is less than $26,000/year. In other words, the incentives are less than optimal in today’s economy, and no amount of hard work or individual effort will make a difference for most people until even low wage workers receive a fair wage for a days work.