Sometimes trying to find the truth about jobs and the economy via the major corporate media on their cable TV news channels is more like participating in a rigged shell game.
I'm a "newshound", but it seems that for the past few years I've had to get most of my REAL news from the internet, rather than from a major cable TV news station, where I suspect, they get most of THEIR news from, rather than from their own journalists (although there are some exceptions, like CNN's reporting on the fraud in charities).
If I just wanted gossip, I could buy a rag like the National Inquirer --- but if I wanted hard news, I have to spend hours searching the internet. If I want to learn anything about the economy or jobs, I have to read reports, studies and minutes from congressional hearings --- or read dedicated economic blogs.
According to a new study by the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), adjusted for inflation, the median worker in the U.S. now earns about $5,000 less than they did in 1999. But the major media wants to shove George Zimmerman and Syria down my throat, when most Americans are more concerned about the economy and jobs...and the quality of those jobs and their accompanying wages and benefits. The economy and our livelihoods affects every minute of every day of our lives --- year after year. But Congress refuses to budge when it comes to jobs, and the constant and over-reporting on Syria and George Zimmerman doesn't tell me very much about what's going on behind the closed doors at corporate board meetings, or inside the elaborately decorated congressional offices.
Congress and the major corporate media has been all but ignoring very important issues, such as tax reform, the proposed new free trade agreement (TPP), the abusive offshore tax havens, the obscenely low capital gains tax rates that CEOs pay, the corruptibly low "effective" tax rates that corporations have paid for decades, and many other very important issues. And jobs (or lack there of) is almost at the bottom of their list. The recent strikes by low-wage workers across the country may have gotten .001% of the coverage as the Jodie Aries trial.
The major news outlets and cable TV news stations are all turning into "Jerry Springer Shows". The lack of jobs for the past 5 years, especially jobs that pay a living wage, is a continuing day-to-day national crisis, but "journalists" are reporting on the day-to-day dogma of the Zimmerman divorce. Do we really need another reality TV drama? When will Americans get sick and tired of hearing about the daily poop of the Kardashians? Jobs should be the headline news stories every single day until the unemployment rate is down to at least 4%. If the media won't consistently report on issues such as this, then Congress won't ever feel a need to act.
The unemployment rate has been falling, but mostly because people are no longer counted --- because many are said to be "dropping out of the labor force". They're called "discouraged workers" because after years of trying, they were never able to land any of the non-existent jobs. The share of Americans who have stopped looking for work rose to the highest point since 1978.
According to the EPI's
study, the revived discussion of strengthening the middle class has, so far, failed to drill down to the central problem: The wage and benefit growth of the vast majority has stagnated, as the fruits of overall growth have accrued disproportionately to the richest households.
The wage-setting mechanism has been broken for a generation, but has particularly faltered in the last 10 years once the robust wage growth of the late 1990s had subsided.
Corporate profits, on the other hand, are at historic highs. Income growth has been captured by those in the top 1 percent, driven by high profitability and by the tremendous wage growth among executives that has
raged for the
past two decades. (The minimum wage would be almost $18
an hour today if it had kept pace with productivity.)
Aside from advocating an increase in the minimum wage, President Obama had overlooked what it will take to solve the wage problem, saying: "With new American revolutions in energy, technology, manufacturing, and health care, we are actually poised to reverse the forces that have battered the middle class for so long, and rebuild an economy where everyone who works hard can get ahead."
Although innovations in energy, technology, manufacturing, and health care are undoubtedly important --- however, in and of themselves, they will not reestablish the broad-based wage growth and improved job quality needed to generate and sustain middle-class income growth. Nor will they, on their own, permit access to a rising middle class for millions of those who have been left behind.
Key findings of the EPI study include:
* According to every major data source, the vast majority of U.S. workers—including white-collar and blue-collar workers and those with and without a college degree—have endured more than a decade of wage stagnation. Wage growth has significantly underperformed productivity growth regardless of occupation, gender, race/ethnicity, or education level.
* During the Great Recession and its aftermath (i.e., between 2007 and 2012), wages fell for the entire bottom 70 percent of the wage distribution, despite productivity growth of 7.7 percent.
* Weak wage growth predates the Great Recession. Between 2000 and 2007, the median worker saw wage growth of just 2.6 percent, despite productivity growth of 16.0 percent, while the 20th percentile worker saw wage growth of just 1.0 percent and the 80th percentile worker saw wage growth of just 4.6 percent.
* The weak wage growth over 2000–2007, combined with the wage losses for most workers from 2007 to 2012, means that between 2000 and 2012, wages were flat or declined for the entire bottom 60 percent of the wage distribution (despite productivity growing by nearly 25 percent over this period).
* Between 2002 and 2012, wages were stagnant or declined for the entire bottom 70 percent of the wage distribution. In other words, the vast majority of wage earners have already experienced a lost decade, one where real wages were either flat or in decline.
This lost decade for wages comes on the heels of decades of inadequate wage growth. For virtually the entire period since 1979 (with the one exception being the strong wage growth of the late 1990s), wage growth for most workers has been weak. The median worker saw an increase of just 5.0 percent between 1979 and 2012, despite productivity growth of 74.5 percent.
The EPI's study concluded that the weak wage growth since 1979 for all but those with the highest wages is the result of intentional policy decisions—including globalization, deregulation, weaker unions, and lower labor standards such as a weaker minimum wage—all that have undercut job quality for low-wage and middle-wage workers.
These policies have all been portrayed to the public as giving American consumers goods and services at lower prices. Whatever the impact on prices, these policies have lowered the earnings power of low-wage and middle-wage workers such that their real wages severely lag productivity growth.
Macroeconomic policies have often added to the forces disempowering the vast majority of workers by tolerating (or causing) unnecessarily high unemployment rates to forestall (often hypothetical) increases in inflation or interest rates.
To generate wage growth, we need to rapidly lower unemployment, which in the current moment can only be reliably accomplished through expansionary fiscal policy—particularly large-scale ongoing public investments (e.g. infrastructure building) and the reestablishment of state and local public services (government jobs) that were cut in the Great Recession and its aftermath. The priority has to be "jobs now", rather than any deficit reduction—which under current conditions, will sap demand for goods and services and slow job growth.
On top of lowering unemployment, policy should also aim to restore the bargaining power of low-wage and middle-wage workers. This means aggressively increasing the minimum wage so that it eventually grows to half the average worker’s wage. It means reestablishing the right to collective bargaining for higher wages and addressing workplace concerns.
It also means not allowing immigration policy to be dictated by employers’ desire to bring in guestworkers lacking basic labor market protections in order to undercut wages in both high-wage and low-wage occupations. Instead, guestworkers should have full rights to the same labor market protections as resident workers, and such programs SHOULD ONLY BE ALLOWED to relieve rigorously documented episodes of genuine labor shortages. It means establishing citizenship for CURRENT undocumented workers who have no criminal records and who are currently vulnerable to exploitation by unscrupulous employers who pay them below the minimum age and further depress the wage market.
It also means taking executive action to ensure that federal dollars are not spent employing people in jobs with poverty-level wages (like using federal contractors who break labor laws). Overall, it means paying attention to job quality and wage growth as the key priorities in economic policymaking and as mechanisms for economic growth and economic security for the vast majority. (Government policy gave us inequality, not the market.)
The media should focus more on jobs and stop sidelining the public with irrelevant issues and their many (often silly) distractions. According to most polls, the vast majority of Americans would like to see Congress be more focused on the economy; not brow-beating the airwaves with over-talk about Syria 24/7, which currently is garnering far much more time than was ever spent on the air strikes in Libya.
Over-paid and under-worked politicians and wealthy news pundits aren't donating enough of their time and energy to what most Americans believe is REAL news and vital policy decision-making --- what average Americans consider to be more important, more significant and more relevant in their lives. The public needs "news" in which to make serious and informed decisions, not all the silly "gossip" and nonsensical "drivel" that the rich and famous (e.g. idle and bored trust fund babies or the Housewives of Beverly Hills, etc.) loves to partake in.
Right now we have some idiots in Congress engaged in wasteful third-rate, junior high school psychodrama to see who can be the "King" of defunding Obamacare. And we have the media incessantly babbling and second-guessing what a cruise missile strike against Syria might mean to U.S. foreign policy. There are millions of people struggling to pay their rent and put food on the table every day, and they just don't give a damn about Zimmerman or Syria --- they have their own more immediate and more contentious problems to deal with. They could give a crap about George Zimmerman's divorce, unless of course, George murders someone else. But even then, it shouldn't be 24/7 news --- with a blow-by-blow account of everything she said and he said.
In other, much more relevant news, the Huffington Post recently charted the career paths of 63 former Lehman Brothers employees who had knowledge of the accounting fraud that allowed Lehman to hide the true extent of its failing company that helped wreck the economy for millions of unemployed Americans. But 5 years later a stunning 47 of these bankers still hold senior positions in the financial services industry. For example: Irina Veksler, a former vice president in Lehman's treasury department, is now a senior bank examiner at the Federal Reserve. And now Obama wants to nominate Larry Summers to be her boss, just to give average American workers "more of the same". (Economists prefer that Janet Yellen be the next Chair of the Federal Reserve.)