The New York Times reports that according to new government data, "Americans earned a smaller average income in 2005 than in 2000, the fifth consecutive year that they had to make ends meet with less money than at the peak of the last economic expansion." As most workers' wages stagnate, however, the folks in the top two-tenths of one percent of income earners are doing quite well. According to the White House's official statement, in fact, this divergence between the vast majority of Americans and the wealthiest two-tenths of one percent "is not a very interesting story." To them, it is just an annoying distraction from their bigger goal of manipulating the labor market through immigration and globalization policies specifically designed to drive wages down even further.
Here is the excerpt:
"Growth in total incomes was concentrated among those making more than $1 million. The number of such taxpayers grew by more than 26 percent...These individuals, who constitute less than a quarter of 1 percent of all taxpayers, reaped almost 47 percent of the total income gains in 2005, compared with 2000. People with incomes of more than a million dollars also received 62 percent of the savings from the reduced tax rates on long-term capital gains and dividends that President Bush signed into law in 2003... The nearly 90 percent of Americans who make less than $100,000 a year saved on average $318 each on their investments. They collected 5.3 percent of the total savings from reduced tax rates on investment income...Tony Fratto, a White House spokesman, said the fact that nearly all of the growth in incomes was among those in the upper reaches of the income ladder and that the majority of investment tax breaks went to those making more than $1 million 'is not a very interesting story.'" (emphasis added)
What's particularly nauseating about the White House's class warfare is that it is being waged at the very same time the Bush administration is claiming a supposed shortage of workers means it's AOK to ignore how the H-1B program is being abused to drive down wages. They are also using this labor shortage claim to justify a push to enact a so-called "guest worker" program that deliberately creates a subclass of easily exploitable indentured servants with no basic labor or human rights (notice that the White House isn't pushing for more legal immigration because legal immigration would give new workers minimum economic rights). Supposedly, our country needs to ignore H-1B abuses and create this "guest worker" subclass because we just don't have enough workers to do the jobs that need to be done in this country. Except, as none other than BusinessWeek confirms, that narrative is what I've previously termed The Great Labor Shortage Lie -- and a lie directly connected to the problem of stagnating wages.
Here's the analysis -- again, it's from BusinessWeek quoting Merril Lynch, not exactly two pillars of radical leftist thinking:
"A North American economist at Merrill Lynch, he is one of a number of economists who say the concerns about too few workers are vastly overblown. Rosenberg recently studied the issue and put out a report entitled Is There a Labor Shortage? If employers are having trouble filling jobs, "perhaps they're not looking hard enough," he says. The issue may not be the number of workers, but rather the level of pay. Economists like Rosenberg argue that in a market economy, there's really no such thing as a true shortage. If you want more of something, you can pay more and have it. When employers say that there's a worker shortage, what they really mean is they can't get enough workers at the price they want to pay, the argument goes. 'While it makes for nice cocktail conversation, the data aren't saying there is an acute labor shortage in this country," Rosenberg says...According to the basic laws of economics, the tighter the supply of labor, the more it should cost. So if the economy were operating with full or near-full employment, we would be seeing an 'explosion in labor compensation,' he says. The price of labor, however, is hardly surging. In fact, key indicators of employee costs show they are tracking or trailing inflation."
You may recall that in a speech to the AFL-CIO last year, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) tried to deny these basic rules of the labor market by implying that American workers are lazy. Specifically, he claimed that even if corporations raised wages, Americans wouldn't want agricultural work because Americans "can't do it, my friends."
The White House may say that this economic persecution of America's middle class "is not a very interesting story" but most Americans find it more than just interesting -- they find it a cause for outrage. The booing at that AFL-CIO meeting is a good example. It came because American workers understand that what we are now getting from politicians of both parties on on immigration and globalization is shenanigans -- shenanigans aimed at making sure the laws of supply and demand work not to address the inequalities laid out in today's New York Times, but only to help Big Money interests that buy public policy in Washington.
Just consider the bait-and-switch quality to all this. We are told that when there is a short supply of a good or service that is in demand, the market dictates that the price for that good or service rises (as just one example, we hear this justification all the time when it comes to the supply of oil and the price of gas). This results in higher profits for the corporations producing the good or service. But we are simultaneously told that if there is a short supply of labor that is in demand, the market should not raise the price (a.k.a. wages) for that labor (which would, of course, lessen the wealth disparity in America). No, instead we are told that we should rig the labor market by flooding it with a supply of workers who will exist under a legal framework that makes them more easily exploitable than other workers (i.e. they can't form unions to demand better wages/working conditions without fearing their employer will deport them).
This is the governing ethos of economic/globalization policymaking in Washington. Couple it with tax policies that target most of their rewards to the handful of Gordon Gekkos who run Wall Street, and what you have is a pretty open, pretty vicious economic war being waged on America's middle class.
Cross-posted from Working Assets