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Declaring War on the Poor

by Brian T. Lynch, MSW

Thom Tillis is now Senator elect from North Carolina, having beaten Democratic incumbent Kay Hagan in the 2014 election. During his campaign Tillis berated the poor and suggested that those people who can’t help being poor, like the truly disabled, should rise up and opposed welfare for the unworthy poor. What he actually said was:

“What we have to do is find a way to divide and conquer the people who are on assistance,” 

North Carolina has 1.1 million poor. That’s 13.1% of its population. If these folks voted it would be hard to imagine Tillis getting elected, but Hagan and the Democrats have abandoned the poor and working class in this country as well. Now the poor are under attacks like this:

“We have to show respect for that woman who has cerebral palsy and had no choice, in her condition, that needs help and that we should help. And we need to get those folks to look down at these people who choose to get into a condition that makes them dependent on the government and say at some point, ‘You’re on your own. We may end up taking care of those babies, but we’re not going to take care of you.’ And we’ve got to start having that serious discussion.” – Thom Tillis

Watch for the U.S. Senate to put Tillis on the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee to replace Kay Hagan. He is destine to become the chair of the Children and Families Sub-committee with his attitudes. His appointment would amount to a declaration of war on the poor.

So how should sensible people respond to divisive attacks like this on the poor and vulnerable? Should we begin making similar distinctions between the worthy and unworthy rich? Should we affirm those who earned their great wealth and provide social benefit but rescind all advantages given to those who use their inherited wealth to squeeze the people and their government for still more?

How we respond to these questions will define who we are as a nation.

Should Living Wage Minimums be Based on Individuals or Families?

by Brian T. Lynch, MSW

FDR

 
“No business which depends for existence on paying less than living wages to its workers has any right to continue in this country… By living wages, I mean more than a bare subsistence level — I mean the wages of a decent living.” (1933, Statement on National Industrial Recovery Act – Franklin Delano Roosevelt)
 

Question:  In looking at the Living Wage calculator, I see that $10.83 for a single adult in Morris County, New Jersey  where I live. This seems fair to me for a single person, but when you add one child to that scenario the rate jumps to $22.12 per hour. This raises a serious question.  Does the Living Wage Movement suggest that wages should be adjusted according to need? [ http://livingwage.mit.edu/ ]

Answer:  That’s a great question. I am not a spokesman for, or advocate of, the living wage movement as an organization. I do believe that living wages should be the minimum wage in this country.  Minimum living wages should be what we pay summer college help or student interns, not full-time employees. It might also be appropriate for part-time seasonal help. It shouldn’t be what we pay permanently hired employees.

To answer your question, I researched what a living wage is in the 130 cities that have living wage laws. It turns out that their wage base is for a single employee, not including any dependents. A living wage in Manchester CT equals $15.54/hour (the highest) while it is $8.50 in Orlando FL (the lowest).  It would appear that the Living Wage Movement is looking to index a minimum living wage minimum to local economies based on one adult with no dependents.

That said, the minimum wage in 1986 was $10.86/hour  as opposed to its current level of $7.25/hour.  If it had been indexed to inflation in 1986 the current minimum wage today would be $23.59/hour today. That clearly was intended to provide for a worker with a family. The current median family size is 2.54 persons per household. That inflation adjusted wage equals about $47,000 per year while the current median family wage is a little over $51,000 per year (and still declining, I might add).

Here’s the thing, we have only been talking about wage adjustments to keep pace with inflation. We have not been talking about raising wages to reward workers for our growing productivity. We have not been talking about sharing the wealth that workers help create so everyone keeps pace with America’s growing economy. Cost of living adjustment are important, but they shouldn’t be confused with a productivity, or merit raise.

America is $1.7 trillion richer today than it was in 1976. Our economy has doubled, yet the share of all that new wealth created by American workers in this same period of time is insignificant.

In the 1960’s my father was an appliance repairman at Sears. His salary was enough that my mother could stay home to raise my sister and me. Her role as mother to the next generation of citizens was valued. Today, a typical family of four making about $51,000  does so because both parents work. And they are only able to make ends meet because of easy access to credit to shift their financial burdens onto their future earnings.

When I speak about a living wage I am thinking about getting back to a point where one breadwinner can hold one full-time job and still raise a small family without needing government assistance to do it. That’s what we had, and that should be our goal as a country.

Minimum Wage is a Moral Question

by Brian T. Lynch, MSW

The White House put out a brief video on why we should raise the minimum wage to $10.10/hour. It is OK as far it goes, but it is still a little disappointing to me.

Click here to see the video. [ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PqtLQgkcUFM ]

Even the White House is looking at minimum wage law though the modern day pro-business bias that has infected all of civil government. Even though raising bottom wages creates an economic stimulus that would boost spending, increase demand for goods and services and create more jobs, this isn’t the most important aspect. The main reason to raise minimum wages is because it’s simply the right thing to do.

The question of minimum wage is actually a moral question. There is no good rationale for paying a full-time employee less than a self-sufficient wage. What is almost half of a human beings waking moments worth? What is the minimum compensation they should receive for devoting that time to enrich their employers? Why should it be less than what is required to survive with human dignity?

From a social perspective, should profitable businesses be held in high esteem as models of efficiency for paying wages so low that full-time employees require taxpayer subsidy to keep from becoming homeless or having their children taken away from them? Should we have to subsidize the labor force of wealthy corporations like Walmart? Should the federal income taxes of those who make more than minimum wage have to be used to supplement the other employees who takes out the trash at night or mow the lawn? Why should any healthy corporation be allowed to boost their profits at public expense through subsidized labor?

If small businesses or start-up company need government subsidies or tax breaks to help pay their help, let these business owners apply for government assistance rather than make their employees feel inadequate by having to beg for government assistance. No man or woman who works hard all day long should have to apply for housing assistance or SNAP or KidCare or childcare assistance or HEAP or any other government subsidy. Let the business owners apply for government aid to help pay employees the self-sufficient wages all full-time workers should have. Let the means testing process for government subsidy programs fall to the employers. Let’s get it off the backs of the working poor and eliminate the social stigma they don’t deserve. Let the minimum cost of self-sufficient labor wages be part of the cost of doing business in America.

Profits for CEO’s and share holders should not come before self-sufficient wages for laborers. Exploiting workers and taxpayers to boost profits for investors and chief executives is immoral.

Inequality on a Global Scale (literally)

The cartoon below is from the great editorial cartoonist Stuart Carlson. It highlights with humor a very serious global economic condition, growing wealth inequality.

http://www.gocomics.com/stuartcarlson/2014/06/20#.U9Zns_ldXfJ (Go and enjoy his other cartoons.)

Allow me to breakdown the math for you. These figures work out to an average of $486 per poor person vs. $20 billion per rich person. This is not a measure of income but a measure of wealth, or capital.

Another important math fact from this illustration: If you have $20 billion in capital and earn an average return on investments of 4% a year, and if you lavishly spend $1 million per month on your lifestyle, at the end of 50 years you will still have $140 billion left for your children to inherit. That’s right, if you have seven children they would each get close to the 20 billion that you started out with.

This is the crisis of capital that we face. This fact is among the findings of economist Thomas Piketty in his recent book, Capital in the Twenty-First Century. Within just a few generations almost all the wealth on the planet will be handed down from parents to children. Almost no new fortunes will be made through the earnings of those who have to work for a living. We will effectively return to a feudal system even here in the United States and abroad. The phenomenon is global. The quicker national and global population stabilize or decline the faster wealth will concentrate among the wealthy.

All we have to do to return to a feudal society is… do nothing.

Someone on facebook asked me, “Is it really the zero-sum game that these breakdowns of wealth distribution always seem to imply?”  Good question! Is it the case that the growing wealth of the wealthy must come at the expense of growing poverty Or, doesn’t the growth of capital lift all ships?

When you look at national and global income-to-capital averages you see what looks like fairly stable ratios. Growing capital wealth and growth in income seem to balance. But look a littler closer and you see that more of the population falls into poverty as the value of capital grows at compounded rates. So yes, there is more national income, but there is an ever larger percentage of income coming from capital investments and going to the wealthy.  As capital becomes the main source of income, the real earnings of wage earners stretches and collapses at the lower end of the economic scale.  For the middle class, it is like being caught between the gravitational fields of two black holes… one created by poverty and  the other by capital wealth

Our Chronic Wage Stagnation, Symptoms and Treatments

by Brian T. Lynch, MSW

Decades of frozen wages relative to our expanding wealth is the root cause of many economic problems. More people falling into poverty, a shrinking middle class, declining retirement savings, increased welfare spending, higher unemployment, more aid to working families, declining government tax revenues, diminished funding for Social Security and Medicare, a sluggish economy (despite a record high stock market), slow job growth and heighten social tensions along the traditional fault lines of race, ethnicity and gender are among the many issues influenced by decades of wage stagnation.

Beginning in the late1970’s most American workers received only cost of living adjustments in their paychecks while their real earnings gradually diminished each year. Employers increased hourly wages to keep pace with inflation, but they suddenly stopped raising wages to reward workers for their productivity. Earned income has declined for most Americans as a percentage of our gross domestic product (GDP) This amounts to a dramatic and intentional redistribution of new wealth over the last 40 years. Nearly all this new wealth has gone to the rich and powerful.

The visual evidence of wage stagnation relative to hourly GDP is apparent in one powerful graph (below). You may have this it before.

hourly GDP vs Wage graph

 

SYMPTOMS

The effects of wage stagnation on our economy have been gradual and cumulative. Its impacts don’t raise red flags from one year to the next, but the cumulative effects are obvious. The trending rise in income inequality, for example, was missed entirely for 25 years, and then it still took another decade for it to catch the public’s attention.

According to USDA data on the real historical GDP and growth rates[i], the U.S. economy grew by $368 trillion between 1976 and 2013. That is a 109.4% rise in national wealth, more than a doubling of the national economy. Almost none of that wealth was shared with wage earners. If hourly wages continued to grow in proportion to hourly GDP, as it had for decades prior to the mid-70’s, the current median family income today would be close to $100,000 a year instead of the current $51,017 per year.[ii]

Think about that for a moment, and about all the implications for wage based taxes and payroll deductions. For simplicity sake, let’s say wages would have double if the workforce received productivity raises. That would significantly reduce the number of families currently eligible for taxpayer subsidies such as SNAP (food stamps), housing assistance, daycare and the like. At the same time the workforce would be generating much more income tax revenue.

Consider next the impact wage stagnation has had on payroll deductions. Social Security and Medicare premiums have not financially benefited from the growing economy. Double current wages and you double current revenues for these programs as well. Moreover, the economy has grown at an annual rate of 2.9% since 1976. If Social Security and Medicare had benefited from this new annual wealth, the effect on current revenue projections would be profound. We would not be looking at a projected shortfall any time in the future.

The impact of wage stagnation on consumer spending is perhaps the most insidious problem. While worker wages have stagnated, the production of goods and services has grown. How is that possible? Some of this production is sold in foreign markets, but domestic markets are still primary. And it is here where economic theories have done a disservice.

A generation of economists and business leaders have treated consumers and workers as if they were not one and the same. This has fractured how we look at the economy and given rise to the notion that labor is just another business commodity. It disguises the fact that labors wages fuel consumer spending. Wages help drive the whole economy while wage stagnation reduces consumption over time.

To overcome this effect we have seen the need for mother’s to enter the workforce in mass, and for banks to invent credit cards to bolster consumer spending. These and other creative measures can no longer forestall the decline in worker spending. So while the financial markets ride the tide of America’s growing wealth, the fortunes of those who have been cut off from that new wealth continue to slip beneath the waves.

As for social tensions among different racial, ethnic and gender groups, the effect of stagnant wages relative to the nation’s growing wealth creates a lifeboat mentality and zero sum thinking. For the first time in many generations parents are worried that their children will have less in life than they had. When the whole pie is shrinking a bigger slice by one person means a smaller piece for others. This thinking exists because for over 95% of wage earners the economic pie hasn’t grown in 40 years.

TREATMENTS

You may not be ready to accept chronic wage stagnation as “the syndrome” underlying our economic woes, but it’s also true from my experience that having solutions (or “treatment options”) at hand often makes it easier to identifying the problems they resolve. With that in mind, I want to offer some solutions to America’s low wage conundrum.

One direct approach to raising worker wages is the one currently being discussed in the public dialogue, raising the minimum wage. This benefits the lowest paid workers and also puts pressure on employers to increase pay for other lower wage earners. The current target of $10.10 per hour would still leave many families at or below the poverty line. Workers making the new minimum wage would still be eligible for some public assistance for the working poor. While passing a minimum wage law is at least possible, this option is not a systemic solution to wage stagnation. Even index the minimum wage to inflation would not compensate for declining wages relative to GDP growth.

Another direct approach to ending wage stagnation is to pass a living wage law. This would set the minimum wage at a level that would allow everyone working full-time to be financial independent from government assistance, including subsidized health care. A living wage law could be indexed to the local cost of living where a person is employed. This is idea because it takes into account local economic conditions which are determined by market forces rather than government edict. But passing a living wage law in the current political climate is unlikely.

There are other ways of encouraging wage growth that don’t involve direct wage regulation. One idea would require the federal government to recoup, through business income tax rebates, the cost of taxpayer supported aid to working families from profitable businesses that pay employees less than a living wage. Employee wages are easily identified through individual tax returns. Eligibility for taxpayer supported subsidies are relatively easy to estimate as well, so recouping public funding to support a company’s workforce is a practical possibility. A portion of the recovered money could be paid into Social Security and Medicare to make up for lost revenue due to substandard wages.

A welfare cost recovery plan could gain popular support given the growing public resentment towards taxpayer funded social programs. At least 40% of all full-time employees in America currently require some form of taxpayer assistance to financially survive. More importantly, this plan places the burden of supporting the workforce back on profitable businesses where the responsibility lies.

Another solution has been suggested by former US Labor Secretary, Robert Reich, and others. They support proposed legislation, SB 1372, that sets corporate taxes according to the ratio of CEO pay to the pay of the company’s typical worker. Corporations with low pay ratios get a tax break. Those with high ratios get a tax increase. This would effectively index worker wages to CEO compensation in a carrot and stick approach to corporate taxes. The details and merits of this approach is outlined elsewhere.[iii]

Do U.S. businesses have the financial capacity to offer higher wages to their workers? I would like to answer that question with another graph that you may also have seen before.

Credit: Blue Point Trading http://www.blue-point-trading.com/blue-point-trading-market-view-june-07-2012

There is a clock ticking somewhere in the background on this issue. There is a point somewhere in the future where it will be too late to fix wage stagnation through the normal democratic processes. History has proven this to be true. We are not at that point now, but we are past the point treating wage stagnation earnestly.

______________________________________________________

[i] Link: Real Historical Gross Domestic Product (GDP)

[ii] As of 2013 the median family income of $51,017 x GDP growth of 109.4% = $104,796 per year

[iii]  Link: Raising Taxes on Corporations that Pay Their CEOs Royally and Treat Their Workers Like Serfs

The Economy Didn’t Stall for Congress During Recession

by Brian T. Lynch, MSW

I know a place you can work where, on average, employees can accumulates personal wealth at a rate of over 15% per year!  The catch?  You have to get elected to Congress.
This is just one bit of information parsed from data on the average wealth of members of Congress.  The database is available at OpenSecrets.Org [http://bit.ly/vRBruV], courtesy of The Center for Responsive Politics.  It comes with some serious caveats. According to OpenSecrets:
By law, members of Congress are only required to report their wealth and liabilities in broad ranges. It’s therefore impossible to precisely determine how much value their assets are worth, or have gained or lost. from year to year. The Center for Responsive Politics determines the minimum and maximum possible asset values for each member of Congress to calculate a member’s average estimated wealth.”
Congress has set rules for itself so that we can only guess at how much each member is worth.  Their net worth can only be expressed as an average within a broad margin of error.  But it is still possible to learn some things about Congress as a whole if you aggregate the numbers and analyze how they change over time.
The analysis which follows is based on average Congressional wealth data for two points in time, in 2004 and in 2010.  It appear that the data only includes members who were in the House or Senate during this six year period.  Keep in mind that during this period of time the United States economy nearly collapsed.
Keep in mind that of the 383 members of the House or Senate included in this analysis, the fortunes of 140  member declined while in office.  The figures below on combined wealth adds up all the gains and subtract all the losses to arrive at the average wealth increases.  Also, to make the graphics more comprehendible and directly comparable, the dollar amounts are divided by the number of representative in each category and expressed as averages per legislator.
The other point to remember is that there are five members in the legislature, three in the House and two in the Senate, who are very wealthy.  There combined wealth is estimated at over $1.5 trillions dollars.  This skews the averages and makes the average member of Congress appear to be more wealthy than the are.  Nevertheless, this analysis is primarily about how Congressional wealth grows over time.
The Wealthiest US Legislators               Estimated Net Worth
Issa, Darrell (R-Calf)  House
$448,125,017
McCaul, Michael (R-Tex) House
$380,411,527
Harman, Jane (D-Calf) House
$326,844,751
Kerry, John (D-Mass) Senate 
$231,722,794
Kohl, Herb (D-Wis) Senate
$173,538,010
Combined Wealth
$1,560,642,099
 
 
 
So did the personal wealth of our legislators grow over the six year period between 2004 and 2010? 
Yes.  The combined person wealth of our legislators rose from around $2.2 billion in 2004 to $3.1 billion in 2010.  That is a 40.4 % growth in net worth, or around a 6.7% annual growth rate.*
Was there a difference in the growth rate between the political parties?
Yes. Republican’s as a group faired better than Democrats.  Republican’s had a 12.9% annual growth rate in personal wealth while Democrats gained at a 2.7% rate.  The combined gains of the three independents in the Senate was high also, but as you can see their combined income per member was much smaller that that of their colleagues.
 
 
Was there a difference between the House and the Senate in the growth rate of personal income?
Yes again.  The Senate is a much wealthier body than the House and it actually lost a little net worth over this six year period.  The House gained 75.1% in personal wealth for a 12.5% annual rate of growth.
When the data is further broken down by both political party and Congressional chamber it appears that Senate Democrats are collectively the wealthiest group, and the only group that lost a little personal wealth over six years.  The House is the wealthiest chamber for Republican’s, and it is also the chamber with the highest rate of growth in personal wealth.  House Republican’s as a group gained 92.8% in net worth while House Democrats gained 51% over six years.
Average Wealth Increase per Legislator by Party and Chamber – 2004 and 2010
Wealth /Member in 2004
Wealth /Member in 2010
Six Year Dif /Member
Total % Change
Annual % Change
House Democrats    (n=176)
$2,918,824
$4,408,237
$1,489,414
51.0%
8.50%
House Republicans (n=133)
$5,243,557
$10,111,971
$4,868,414
92.8%
15.47%
Senate Democrats   (n=40)
$20,516,818
$19,323,256
-$1,193,561
-5.8%
-0.97%
Senate Republicans (n=41)
$4,394,130
$5,128,482
$734,352
16.7%
2.79%
Senate Independents (n=3)
$577,182
$1,359,855
$782,673
135.6%
22.6%
Did everyone in Congress fair well over this six year period?
No. As mentioned earlier, 140 legislators lost wealth during this time.  The graph below breaks down the numbers of those who gained and lost personal wealth while in Congress.  House Democrats had the highest percentage of gainers at 67% while Senate Democrats has the lowest ratio of gainers at 59%.  The percent of those gaining personal wealth among House and Senate Republican’s was 62% and 65% respectively.  Overall, almost two-thirds (64%) of Congress gained personal wealth during their time in office.
  
 What about those who gained the most?  Just how well did they do?
There are at least two different ways to identify who gained the most.  You can look at in terms of dollar amounts gained or as a percentage of growth in net worth.  In come cases percentages can be misleading.  A person with $10.00 who gains a buck has a 10% rate of growth, but you wouldn’t say they got rich.  So both measures were used here and the results are in the following two graphs below.
Looking at both the percentage increase and actual dollars increase methods, the top ten House Republican’s, with the highest gains in personal wealth, clearly out paced the rest of their top ten Congressional colleagues in accruing wealth.  As a percentage increase in personal wealth the top ten Republican Senators and top ten Democratic Senators did equally well. The wealth of House Democrats appears to barely rise on the graph above, but that’s because they start out with so little compared to their colleagues.  The actual percentage increase for the top ten Democrats in the House was over 4000%.
So what does all of this mean?
Our legislative representatives are rich.  I’m not an economist, or a researcher, but a few conclusions do seem apparent from this analysis.  Congress, as a group, is quite wealthy.  While it may be true that there are over 400 billionaires in the United States and none in Congress, it is remarkable that nearly half of those in Congress (49%) were millionaires in 2010.   About 10% in Congress were multi-millionaires and five members were among the 1% of wealthiest Americans[1].  The wealthiest group in Congress are Democratic Senators.  They start out that way and stay that way, although they gain the least by being there.
While nearly a third of Congress are less well off after six years in service, the majority were better off and many were far better off in 2010 than in 2004.  The actual growth in personal wealth seems to be more apparent among Republican’s, particularly House Republicans, but the percentage of growth in personal wealth among the top ten House Democrats extraordinarily high.  Only 28 legislators have a net worth under $100,000.00 and only 15 are in debt.  I will leave it to the reader to contrast this with the your own situations and the folks you know.   What this analysis can’t do is tell us why  the data is as it appears. I will leave that to others for now.
All of the tables for this analysis appear below.  I encourage readers of this blog to review them for accuracy and use them to develop more information regarding the wealth patterns or our federal representatives .  Please leave comments if you find any errors or omissions in the tables.  I will make appropriate corrections on this blog post.

[1] In defining “the 1%” I prefer an approach based on wealth, not income.  Wealth is power.  Income is only an indirect measure of wealth and power.  (Is the strength of a batter measured by the rate at which it is charged or by the energy has stored?).  For my purposes here I am defining the 1% wealthiest legislators in Congress beginning with the assumption that one percent of American’s own 35% of the wealth in the US.  The net worth of all American households in 2009 was $54 trillion dollars.  There were 121,611,029 households in America in 2009 according to the US Census Bureau.  That means 1% of all households equals 1,216,610 Americans. So 1 % of all households own 35% of $54 trillion, or $18.9 trillion dollars.  If my math is correct that means that the average wealth of a household among the top 1% equals $149,277,318.
Total Wealth Increase of All US Legislators Between 2004 and 2010
Average Wealth in 2004
Average Wealth in 2010
Difference in Six Years
Total % Change
Annual % Change
All Members      (n=393)
$2,213,699,631
$3,108,019,528
$894,319,897
40.4%
6.7%
All Democrats    (n=216)
$1,334,385,659
$1,548,780,022
$214,394,363
16.1%
2.7%
All Republicans (n=174)
$877,552,427
$1,555,159,941
$677,607,514
77.2%
12.9%
Independents     (n=3)
$1,731,545
$4,079,565
$2,348,020
135.6%
22.6%
Senators            (n=84)
$1,002,563,604
$987,277,595
-$15,286,009
-1.5%
-0.3%
Congressmen    (n=309)
$1,211,147,532
$2,120,971,945
$909,824,413
75.1%
12.5%
Average Wealth Increase Per US Legislator by Party and Chamber Between 2004 and 2010
Wealth /Member in 2004
Wealth /Member in 2010
Six Year Dif /Member
Total % Change
Annual % Change
All Members       (n=393)
$5,632,823
$7,908,447
$2,275,623
40.4%
6.7%
All Democrats     (n=216)
$6,177,711
$7,170,278
$992,566
16.1%
2.7%
All Republicans  (n=174)
$5,043,405
$8,937,701
$3,894,296
77.2%
12.9%
Independents      (n=3)
$577,182
$1,359,855
$782,673
135.6%
22.6%
Senators             (n=84)
$11,935,281
$11,753,305
-$181,976
-1.5%
-0.3%
Congressmen     (n-309)
$3,919,571
$6,863,987
$2,944,416
75.1%
12.5%
Average Wealth Increase of All US Legislators by Party Between 2004 and 2010
Average Wealth in 2004
Average Wealth in 2010
Difference in Six Years
Total % Change
Annual % Change
House Democrats    (n=176)
$513,712,948
$775,849,769
$262,136,821
51.0%
8.50%
House Republicans (n=133)
$697,393,079
$1,344,892,164
$647,499,085
92.8%
15.47%
Senate Democrats   (n=40)
$820,672,711
$772,930,253
-$47,742,458
-5.8%
-0.97%
Senate Republicans (n=41)
$180,159,348
$210,267,777
$30,108,429
16.7%
2.79%
Senate Independents (n=3)
$1,731,545
$4,079,565
$2,348,020
135.6%
22.6%
Average Wealth Increase per Legislator by Party and Chamber – 2004 and 2010
Wealth /Member in 2004
Wealth /Member in 2010
Six Year Dif /Member
Total % Change
Annual % Change
House Democrats    (n=176)
$2,918,824
$4,408,237
$1,489,414
51.0%
8.50%
House Republicans (n=133)
$5,243,557
$10,111,971
$4,868,414
92.8%
15.47%
Senate Democrats   (n=40)
$20,516,818
$19,323,256
-$1,193,561
-5.8%
-0.97%
Senate Republicans (n=41)
$4,394,130
$5,128,482
$734,352
16.7%
2.79%
Senate Independents (n=3)
$577,182
$1,359,855
$782,673
135.6%
22.6%
Top Ten Legislators /w Biggest Jump in Wealth ($ increase) by Party and Chamber – 2004 and 2010
Aggregated Totals
Average Wealth in 2004
Average Wealth in 2010
Difference in Six Years
Total % Change
Annual % Change
House Democrats    (n=176)
$327,705,235
$568,142,204
$240,436,969
73.4%
12.2%
House Republicans (n=133)
$331,746,289
$1,005,864,579
$674,118,290
203.2%
33.9%
Senate Democrats   (n=40)
$137,206,389
$216,341,049
$79,134,660
57.7%
9.6%
Senate Republicans (n=41)
$21,576,271
$81,888,741
$60,312,470
279.5%
46.6%
Top Ten Legislators /w Biggest Jump in Wealth ($ increase) by Party and Chamber – 2004 and 2010
Average per Legislator
Wealth /Member in 2004
Wealth /Member in 2010
Six Year Dif /Member
Total % Change
Annual % Change
House Democrats    (n=176)
1,861,962
3,228,081
1,366,119
73.4%
12.2%
House Republicans (n=133)
2,494,333
7,562,892
5,068,559
203.2%
33.9%
Senate Democrats   (n=40)
3,430,160
5,408,526
1,978,367
57.7%
9.6%
Senate Republicans (n=41)
526,251
1,997,286
1,471,036
279.5%
46.6%
Top TenLegislators /w Biggest Jump in Wealth (% increase) by Chamber & Party – 2004 and 2010
Aggregated Totals
Average Wealth in 2004
Average Wealth in 2010
Difference in Six Years
Total % Change
Annual % Change
House Democrats*
$779,531
$31,996,557
$31,217,026
4004.6%
667.4%
House Republicans
$35,430,212
$392,877,862
$357,447,650
1008.9%
168.1%
Senate Democrats
$19,415,702
$56,516,827
$37,101,125
191.1%
31.8%
Senate Republicans
$11,871,405
$67,686,976
$55,815,571
470.2%
78.4%
Top TenLegislators /w Biggest Jump in Wealth (% increase) by Chamber & Party – 2004 and 2010
Average per Legislator
Wealth /Member in 2004
Wealth /Member in 2010
Six Year Dif /Member
Total % Change
Annual % Change
House Democrats*
$4,429
$181,799
$177,369
4004.6%
667.4%
House Republicans
$266,393
$2,953,969
$2,687,576
470.2%
78.4%
Senate Democrats
$485,393
$1,412,921
$927,528
191.1%
31.8%
Senate Republicans
$289,546
$1,650,902
$1,361,355
470.2%
78.4%
* One member, P. Kennedy, accounted for most of the increase.  Excluding him for the in rank on the list yeilds an increase of 1,602.6% or 267.1% annual increase.
*correction: on an earlier version I mistakenly said trillions instead of billions in referring to the collective wealth of congress.

Labor Day – A Day for Reflection

Labor Day. For much of the world this is a day of reflection to honor the martyrs who stood up to wealthy capitalists in the fight for dignified employment, the eight-hour workday and the five-day work week. It is a day to honor those who sacrificed their lives so that we might be home in time to eat dinner with our families and to have Saturday’s off to watch our children play baseball or soccer. It is a reminder that many of the blessings we take for granted today came at a terrible price.  If we forget how we got these benefits they will slowly erode over time and history will reap itself.

Much of the world celebrates Labor Day not in August, but in May. Have you ever wondered why? Would you be surprised to learn that labor celebrations around the world commemorate events that took place in Chicago in 1816?  Students of history will recognize this as the Haymarket, or May Day Massacre.  Below is one account from the Encyclopedia of Chicago History via Wikipedia.  http://www.encyclopedia.chicagohistory.org/pages/571.html

Haymarket and May DayLABOR UNREST, 1886 (MAP)

On May 1, 1886, Chicago unionists, reformers, socialists,anarchists, and ordinary workers combined to make the city the center of the national movement for an eight-hour day. Between April 25 and May 4, workers attended scores of meetings and paraded through the streets at least 19 times. On Saturday, May 1, 35,000 workers walked off their jobs. Tens of thousands more, both skilled and unskilled, joined them on May 3 and 4. Crowds traveled from workplace to workplace urging fellow workers to strike. Many now adopted the radical demand of eight hours’ work for ten hours’ pay. Police clashed with strikers at least a dozen times, three with shootings.

At the McCormick reaper plant, a long-simmering strike erupted in violence on May 3, and police fired at strikers, killing at least two. Anarchists called a protest meeting at the West Randolph Street Haymarket, advertising it in inflammatory leaflets, one of which called for “Revenge!”

The crowd gathered on the evening of May 4 on Des Plaines Street, just north of Randolph, was peaceful, and Mayor Carter H. Harrison, who attended, instructedpolice not to disturb the meeting. But when one speaker urged the dwindling crowd to “throttle” the law, 176 officers under Inspector John Bonfield marched to the meeting and ordered it to disperse.

Then someone hurled a bomb at the police, killing one officer instantly. Police drew guns, firing wildly. Sixty officers were injured, and eight died; an undetermined number of the crowd were killed or wounded.

The Haymarket bomb seemed to confirm the worst fears of business leaders and others anxious about the growing labor movement and radical influence in it. Mayor Harrison quickly banned meetings and processions. Police made picketing impossible and suppressed the radical press. Chicago newspapers publicized unsubstantiated police theories of anarchist conspiracies, and they published attacks on the foreign-born and calls for revenge, matching the anarchists in inflammatory language. The violence demoralized strikers, and only a few well-organized strikes continued.
HAYMARKET POSTER, 2002

Police arrested hundreds of people, but never determined the identity of the bomb thrower. Amidst public clamor for revenge, however, eight anarchists, including prominent speakers and writers, were tried for murder. The partisan Judge Joseph E. Gary conducted the trial, and all 12 jurors acknowledged prejudice against the defendants. Lacking credible evidence that the defendants threw the bomb or organized the bomb throwing, prosecutors focused on their writings and speeches. The jury, instructed to adopt a conspiracy theory without legal precedent, convicted all eight. Seven were sentenced to death. The trial is now considered one of the worst miscarriages of justice in American history.

Many Americans were outraged at the verdicts, but legal appeals failed. Two death sentences were commuted, but on November 11, 1887, four defendants were hanged in the Cook County jail; one committed suicide. Hundreds of thousands turned out for the funeral procession of the five dead men. In 1893, Governor John Peter Altgeld granted the three imprisoned defendants absolute pardon, citing the lack of evidence against them and the unfairness of the trial.

Inspired by the American movement for a shorter workday, socialists and unionists around the world began celebrating May 1, or “May Day,” as an international workers’ holiday. In the twentieth century, the Soviet Union and other Communist countries officially adopted it. The Haymarket tragedy is remembered throughout the world in speeches, murals, and monuments. American observance was strongest in the decade before World War I. During the Cold War, many Americans saw May Day as a Communist holiday, and President Eisenhower proclaimed May 1 as “Loyalty Day” in 1955. Interest in Haymarket revived somewhat in the 1980s.

A monument commemorating the “Haymarket martyrs” was erected in Waldheim Cemetery in 1893. In 1889 a statue honoring the dead police was erected in the Haymarket. Toppled by student radicals in 1969 and 1970, it was moved to the Chicago Police Academy.