Friday, July 21, 2006

Kevin Drum recently wrote about the ever-widening income gap. He cited a stat that the average weekly wage for the bottom 10% earners declined by 2.7% from 2000 to 2005 but for the top 10% it increased by 5.3%.

I wonder if these figures include yearly bonuses (doubtful since the stat specifies "weekly wages"). If not, then these percentages woefully understate the already expansive gap.

For many if not most in the top 10%, it's their bonuses, and not their weekly salary/wage, that is the mother load of their annual compensation. Not true for the bottom 10%, or even the bottom 50% for that matter.

Drum rightfully states, "Maybe Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama or some other Democratic worthy will start barnstorming the country asking middle class workers why their wages have barely budged during a period when the economy has nearly doubled."

Is it any wonder two out of every three Americans feel the country is on the wrong track?

Many Republicans wonder how can this be given the economy appears to be doing so well. The widening income gap (above) is a big reason, with most Americans not participating in the recovery, but also the economic data is misleading and a bit cooked (surprise!). Example: the Household Survey of employment in May reported job gains of +288k; however, all the gains were in part-time work, with full-time jobs plunging by 292k in the month.

In addition to the part-time work distortion, another reason the unemployment rate is so low is not because of strong job creation -- quite the contrary. Since late 2001, the annual rate of job growth has been 0.6% on average, or the lowest figure on record for a recovery (typically that figure is 2.8%). But due to limited job prospects, the number of new entrants to the workforce has fallen dramatically, further artificially shrinking the unemployment rate. If the labor force were defined in a more inclusive fashion, unemployment would be closer to 8%.

Want more? Since 2001, the most expensive homes have appreciated by 57% on average, vs. half that rate for the rest of America. The bottom 20% earners spend 15% of their entire income on healthcare costs, vs. just 3% for upper-income earners. The top 1% earners now control 33.4% of our country's net worth.

Yes, as Drum states, the Democrats should aggressively run on this issue. There are many swing voters that do not qualify for the top-10% earnings group.

No comments: