This is per a new report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, via the Huffington Post: "The economic recovery just keeps getting worse for the average worker as U.S. employers squeezed their employees even harder than usual in the first quarter, leading to the biggest drop in hourly pay on record."
Worker productivity (as usual) is up. And corporate profits are at record highs; and the stock market is setting records, too --- but workers haven't been reaping the same rewards that their employers have been.
Average Americans today are making less, after inflation, than they made in the early 1970s. Something has gone fundamentally wrong. American workplaces are simply no longer working for those who punch timecards.
Last year Walmart's CEO Mike Duke made 796 times the average worker's pay and Target's CEO made 645 times the average worker's salary. The rate of CEO pay has far outstripped wage growth for the country's rank and file. A recent report from the AFL-CIO found that CEO pay grew at a rate 127 times faster than worker pay over the last 30 years.
At a Walmart shareholder's meeting last week, as their employees were outside protesting for better wages, one shareholder condemned Mike Duke's salary. But Duke only responded by saying that Walmart paid competitive wages. Maybe for their CEOs, but not for their employees, whose average wage is 8.81 per hour. Duke earned $20.7 million last year.
But that's peanuts compared to Duke's boss. Walmart heiress Christy Walton (net worth: $25.3 billion) earns $220 million in dividends every six months. That equates to $1.2 million a day!
This is why it's very difficult for me to fathom the concept of global philanthropy and what's behind all these "free trade agreements".
Walmart is a global philanthropist, and their foundation's website says, "Walmart and the Walmart Foundation gave more than $1 billion in cash and in-kind contributions around the world." They also launched a program called Fighting Hunger Together and the website says that Walmart made a $2 billion cash and in-kind commitment through 2015 --- to help end hunger in America. But shouldn't Walmart just give their employees a raise instead, so that they wouldn't need to use food stamps?
I suspect that Walmart does this "charity work" mostly for the tax benefits --- and probably for public relations reasons. I suppose that's also why Walmart is under investigation for violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act --- and why the US has so many trade agreements --- agreements that were lobbied for and written by business groups such as the Business Roundtable and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
This redistribution of wealth --- from worker to CEO to owner --- has been rushing ahead now for over three decades. Since 1980, as analyst David Cay Johnston noted last week, “corporate pre-tax profits have grown at almost twice the rate of pre-tax wages.” Behind this massive redistribution: a relentless corporate offensive to minimize labor bargaining power by any means necessary.
It is already well known that the level of income inequality stretches much higher in the United States than in the other developed countries of Europe and North America. The U.S. is the world’s only major nation with inequality that is both high and rising. Now a report from the International Labor Organization shows that U.S. inequality has literally gone off the chart.
So not only does the economy (for working Americans) really suck, it continues to get much worse. How much blood can we get from a stone? I don't know, but I guess we'll eventually find out.