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Since 1999, student debt has increased more than 500 percent, yet the average starting salary for graduates has dropped 10 percent, adjusted for inflation. Student debts can’t be cancelled in bankruptcy. A default brings penalties and ruins a credit rating. To make matters worse, the job market for new graduates remains lousy. Which is why record numbers are still living at home.
Some polls are pretty amazing. There was one conducted in the South right before the presidential elections. Just Southern whites, I think, were asked about the economic plans of the two candidates, Barack Obama and Mitt Romney. Southern whites said they preferred Romney’s plan, but when asked about its particular components, they opposed every one. Well, that’s the effect of good propaganda: getting people not to think in terms of their own interests, let alone the interest of communities and the class they’re part of. Overcoming that takes a lot of work. I don’t think it’s impossible, but it’s not going to happen easily.

Workers in seven of the 10 largest occupations typically earn less than $30,000 a year, according to new data published Friday by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That’s a far cry from the nation’s average annual pay of $45,790.

Food prep workers are the third most-common job in the U.S., but have the lowest pay, at a mere $18,720 a year for 2012. Cashiers and waiters are also popular professions, but the average pay at these jobs tallies up to less than $21,000 annually. There are 4.3 million retail sales workers out there, making them the most common job, but the position pays only $25,310 for the year.

Among the 10 most popular professions, only the nation’s 2.6 million registered nurses earn a good living, bringing home nearly $68,000 a year on average. Another two of the most common jobs – secretaries and customer service representatives – have an average annual wage of about $33,000.

Wages have been in the spotlight this year as the debate over income inequality intensified. Middle-class Americans have been losing ground, as median household income dropped by more than $4,000 since 2000.

Part of this decline stems from a disappearance of middle-class jobs and an explosion of lower-paying ones. Some 58% of the jobs created during the recovery have been low-wage positions, according to a 2012 report by the National Employment Law Project. These low-wage jobs had a median hourly wage of $13.83 or less.

Two out of three Americans are dissatisfied with the way income and wealth are currently distributed in the U.S. This includes three-fourths of Democrats and 54% of Republicans.