Almost 80% Of US Workers Live From Paycheck To Paycheck. Here’s Why

relation of union membership to wage slippage

Robert Reich is one of the best analyzers and commentators on current American affairs. As the former Secretary of Labor, when Reich speaks on labor everyone should listen.

In last Sunday’s Guardian newspaper online Reich analyzes the plight of the American worker and the circumstances that led to this.

In the intro to his article Reich notes that even though the unemployment numbers are low, most people are barely making it from paycheck to paycheck. Wages in the US adjusted for inflation are almost the same that they were 40 years ago. While the US economy has grown dramatically in the past 40 years nearly all the gains have gone to those at the top. 

Reich looks for the reasons:

“What’s going on? Simply put, the vast majority of American workers have lost just about all their bargaining power. The erosion of that bargaining power is one of the biggest economic stories of the past four decades, yet it’s less about supply and demand than about institutions and politics.

Two fundamental forces have changed the structure of the US economy, directly altering the balance of power between business and labor. The first is the increasing difficulty for workers of joining together in trade unions. The second is the growing ease by which corporations can join together in oligopolies or to form monopolies.

By the mid-1950s more than a third of all private-sector workers in the United States were unionized. In subsequent decades public employees became organized, too. Employers were required by law not just to permit unions but to negotiate in good faith with them. This gave workers significant power to demand better wages, hours, benefits, and working conditions. (Agreements in unionized industries set the benchmarks for the non-unionized).


Employers have been firing workers who attempt to organize, threatening to relocate to more “business friendly” states if companies unionize, mounting campaigns against union votes, and summoning replacement workers when unionized workers strike. Employer groups have lobbied states to enact more so-called “right-to-work” laws that bar unions from requiring dues from workers they represent. A recent supreme court opinion delivered by the court’s five Republican appointees has extended the principle of “right-to-work” to public employees.”

I believe Reich leaves out one other large factor: businesses moving their manufacturing to other countries with no penalty and often with rewards for their effort. 

This should be a must read article for every Democratic politician and I would venture any politician.

As we have seen demonstrated before, our economy can not sustain the income inequality levels that we have now. Income inequality is one of many indicators that are flashing red and bringing back memories of conditions right before the Great Depression. 

While the current administration is creating a Potemkin village effect concerning their policies most Americans realize that their picture is a veneer. Behind that veneer things in so many areas continue to decline at a rapid pace. 

Over at Emily Stewart writes that the promised wage growth that was to come with the giant tax cuts last December actually turned into a wage cut for most workers:   

“When the tax bill was passed, a number of corporations announced bonuses and investments. Some of those were recycled news, and regardless, while a $1,000 one-time payout is a nice boost, it is not a sustained benefit to workers in the same way a wage increase is.

Some Republicans have even admitted that the tax cuts aren’t the boost to workers they promised. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) this spring said there is “no evidence whatsoever that money’s been massively poured back into the American worker.” President Donald Trump has already started talking about a new tax bill that would reduce the corporate tax rate even more and make temporary tax cuts for families and individuals permanent.

Further complicating the matter for the GOP: Trump’s trade war, which could wipe out the benefits of the tax bill altogether, including any potential boosts to wages. Former top Trump economic adviser Gary Cohn said in a June interview that the White House’s tariff battle could increase inflation and consumer debt and erase any positives from the tax cuts.”

Well, folks, have you had enough of this chicanery? You have one huge weapon and that is your ballot. Use it wisely and use it with the good of ALL Americans in mind, not just the top 1%.

The following video is about 4 minutes long. While it doesn’t deal with labor questions specifically, it does talk in general about the miasma America faces

About Dave Bradley

retired in West Liberty
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