income stagnation

Who Stole the Four Hour Workday? 

Alex is a busy man. The 36-year-old husband and father of three commutes each day to his full-time job at a large telecom company in Denver, the city he moved to from his native Peru in 2003. At night, he has classes or homework for the bachelor’s in social science he is pursuing at a nearby university. With or without an alarm, he wakes up at 5 AM every day, and it’s only then, after eating breakfast and glancing at the newspaper, that he has a chance to serve in his capacity as the sole US organizer and webmaster of the Global Campaign for the 4 Hour Work-Day.

“I’ve been trying to contact other organizations,” he says, “though, ironically, I don’t have time.”

But Alex has big plans. By the end of the decade he envisions “a really crazy movement” with chapters around the world orchestrating the requisite work stoppage.

A century ago, such an undertaking would have seemed less obviously doomed. For decades the US labor movement had already been filling the streets with hundreds of thousands of workers demanding an eight-hour workday. This was just one more step in the gradual reduction of working hours that was expected to continue forever. Before the Civil War, workers like the factory women of Lowell, Massachusetts, had fought for a reduction to ten hours from 12 or more. Later, when the Great Depression hit, unions called for shorter hours to spread out the reduced workload and prevent layoffs; big companies like Kellogg’s followed suit voluntarily. But in the wake of World War II, the eight-hour grind stuck, and today most workers end up doing more than that.

The United States now leads the pack of the wealthiest countries in annual working hours. US workers put in as many as 300 more hours a year than their counterparts in Western Europe, largely thanks to the lack of paid leave. (The Germans work far less than we do, while the Greeks work considerably more.) Average worker productivity has doubled a couple of times since 1950, but income has stagnated—unless you’re just looking at the rich, who’ve become a great deal richer. The value from that extra productivity, after all, has to go somewhere.

It used to be common sense that advances in technology would bring more leisure time. “If every man and woman would work for four hours each day on something useful,” Benjamin Franklin assumed, “that labor would produce sufficient to procure all the necessaries and comforts of life.” Science fiction has tended to consider a future with shorter hours to be all but an axiom. Edward Bellamy’s 1888 best seller Looking Backward describes a year 2000 in which people do their jobs for about four to eight hours, with less attractive tasks requiring less time. In the universe of Star Trek, work is done for personal development, not material necessity. In Wall-E, robots do everything, and humans have become inert blobs lying on levitating sofas.

Continue

Why haven’t Americans felt the benefits of economic recovery? Income stagnation

By many measures, the American economy is faring quite well. Its pace of growth is healthy and the unemployment rate continues to improve. It’s now a manageable 5.8%, a significant drop from 7.2% a year before. 

But ordinary Americans still harbor extraordinary pessimism: 70% of voters in the midterm elections described the economy as “not good” or “poor,” which contributed to the Democrats’ widespread losses. An even higher percentage of people still think the U.S. is in a recession, even though it hasn’t been in one for years.

While the unemployment rate has made notable progress over the last 12 months, wages are up only 2%.

And guess who’s to blame … | Follow micdotcom 

anonymous asked:

Hey, sorry if I'm bothering you, I'm turning 18 this year and I'm enrolled to vote and so I've been trying to become more educated about Australian politics. Thus far, I think the Greens seem to have the best policies etc. However when I've talked to people about them or politics in general, many seem to think that the Greens aren't good with economic issues, so I was wondering whether you had any info on this at all or whether you could please point me in the direction to find out more? Thanks

I find that’s a common criticism of the Left - economic policy. I don’t see that as inherently true but I have my own biases. The major issue with this question is that the Greens haven’t ever led the federal government and as far as I’m aware never been state Premier’s either so that makes it harder to comment. They’re slowly just gaining traction as a third party option and their existence and influence has been not as leaders but in the senate to block things they see as damaging to our nation or to team up with Labor to form majority governments when Labor doesn’t get the necessary seats. Therefore it’s not as easy to compare their economic management to Labor or Liberals.

But I’ll do my best to talk about their hypothetical economic management vs Liberals’ actual economic management… which recently led to the highest unemployment rates in over a decade and doubled the budget deficit. (Though admittedly you can claim this was poor leadership as it was under Abbott, but opinions may vary.) This will also not delve far into historic records or performance as I only know so much so remember the limited scope of this response. Hopefully though I will be able to make an argument that The Greens have some good economic ideas. You can also look at their economic policy details on their website to better understand their positions and evaluate if you agree with that or not.

Let’s start with coal. Liberals love coal. They’re doing their best to support the dying coal industry and always talk about how it’s employing people and the last thing they want is for people to lose their jobs… unless Liberals are the ones to cut them. Coal is a finite resource and you can’t keep a mining industry afloat if a) their product supply literally cannot last and b) their product is increasingly unpopular due to a global shift to renewable energy. So what will happen to all of those jobs and what about the cost of the environmental clean up that needs to be done once these companies have moved on?

The Greens want to tax coal mining companies to fund cleaning up the environmental damage these companies will leave behind them. They then want to invest in retraining coal workers to have the skills necessary for clean energy jobs. Wahey! Protecting jobs! It’s inevitable and as things are as they are now those coal miners are losing their jobs with nothing to replace them.

The Greens voted against the removal of the Carbon Tax (which must be noted was introduced by a Labor government). Liberals successfully removed it and thus cost the budget $7.6bn a year. Their reasoning? It cost us - the consumers - money. It wasn’t really a big factor in electricity prices though despite that handy election winning claim.. Liberals now need to raise some revenue. What do? Proposed GST increase that affects everyone across the board regardless of financial situation. That would cost the average household three times more than a Carbon Tax without any extra revenue and shift the tax burden away from polluters and more onto consumers - which is everyone. Of course Bill Shorten has also said he is against an increase in the GST. Also: renewable energy is less costly than fossil fuels at this point (which are heavily subsidised worldwide). Surely The Greens’ proposal to switch to renewables would benefit the average household more?

Let’s talk about job creation: renewable energy creates more jobs than fossil fuels in terms of energy output. It employs millions of people worldwide. Coal mining companies are constantly trying to find cost effective ways to replace their workers to maximise profits as the coal market gets increasingly unfriendly. The renewable energy industry at this point has so much potential for growth. It seems like the logical step as other developed nations around the world are doing it and leaving us behind.

Greens don’t support university deregulation (and neither do Labor, gotta also point them out in this debate). High student loan debt has had a negative impact on the US economy. Debt prevents people from entering the house market and has discouraged the creation of businesses. Nobel award winning economist, Joseph Stiglitz, has attacked Liberal’s university deregulation and says it’d be working towards the American higher education model that has contributed to income inequality and economic stagnation. Greens (and Labor) would like to prevent an increase in student debt to crippling levels. Richard Di Natale (Greens party leader) voted against making Australians working overseas repay their HECS debt.

Now I know I’ve been making a lot of comparisons between Greens and Liberals that make Liberals look terrible when it comes to economic management and I’d like to point out that that’s not entirely true. Yes, they like their budget cuts and some of their cost saving measures aren’t great for the economy - or have terrible social impacts, but they do have some ideas that support economic growth. The 2016 budget had some proposed ideas that would support small business growth and crack down on tax avoidance for large multinational corporations. The argument that Liberals can navigate the economy is not completely unfounded… the argument that they’re not the best for economic management is also not unfounded.

Greens of course also want multinationals to pay tax. Duh. That’s really important.

I’d like to point out that economic management is a very complicated and nuanced thing and my response here has only really covered a small segment of it and you should definitely continue to research this topic if you want a broader and deeper understanding of it. All discussions of economic management are inherently only covering small segments. I’ve only managed to break down a few comparisons but there are many more out there. Economist Stephen Koukoulas has pointed out that Liberals have a reputation for taxing people less but this reputation is unfounded as Liberals have higher tax to GDP ratios compared to Labor governments. That by itself is interesting, but doesn’t give me everything I need to know about that statement. It does however give credence to the assertion that reputation isn’t everything. Greens have a reputation according to your friends to be weak on economic issues but that’s meaningless by itself. I feel they have good economic policies not just social ones and that’s why I’m voting for them.

If you would like to know more about what The Greens have done in relation to the economy you can check out theyvoteforyou.org.au and look up politicians or legislation to see who voted on what. That way you can see which politicians side on ideas you agree/disagree with (and it applies to everyone not just The Greens) to get a better understanding of who you’d like to vote for in the upcoming election.

“Middle-class incomes stagnated under President Bush. During the recovery of the 1990s under President Clinton, middle-class incomes grew at a healthy pace. However, during the jobless recovery of the 2000s under President Bush, that trend reversed course. Middle-class incomes continued to fall well into the recovery, and never regained their 2001 high.”

– Income Inequality and the Great Recession, a report by the Senate Joint Economic Committee.