Category Archives: Austerity

The Average American Worker Earns Less Today Than 40 Years Ago

It’s not just unemployment that matters. Many full-time workers take home less money, after inflation, than in decades.

 

Because most everything we buy gets more expensive over time, we have to earn more money each year just to maintain our existing standard of living. When we’re not given raises that keep up with this rate of inflation, we’re effectively suffering a pay cut.. That’s why many American workers are actually poorer today than four decades ago. They may be earning more money. But, in real terms, they’re getting less for it. Measured in 2014 dollars, the median male full-time worker made $50,383 last year against $53,294 in 1973, according to new U.S. Census Bureau figures.

At $50,383, the figure is the lowest it’s been since 2006. It’s also $450 lower than in 2013. Women have seen bigger increases in real pay in the last few years, though from a lower (unequal) base. The median female worker earned $30,182 in 1973 (in 2014 dollars), but $39,621 last year.

As we explored in our income inequality series recently, technology, globalization, and reduced union bargaining power are all factors behind stagnating wages. The economy has been getting bigger, driven by continuing increases in productivity. But, for one reason or another, workers haven’t been sharing in those gains. But they’re not just disappearing: They’re making a small group of people very, very rich. What are we going to do about that?

[Top Photo: Thomas Barwick/Getty Images]

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Big Banks Broke America: Why Now’s the Time to Break Our National Addiction

Why are these guys smiling? Since looting all of us for a generous bailout, you’d have thought they’d all lie low. Here’s what they did instead

Big banks broke America: Why now's the time to break our national addiction

Jamie Dimon, Lloyd Blankfein (Credit: AP/J. Scott Applewhite/Reuters/Natalie Behring/Photo montage by Salon)

By Robert Hennelly

Progressive America Rising via Salon.com

They just can’t help themselves. Like the drunk that ruins family holiday gatherings year after year, the big banks, once they are caught in yet another episode of their serial criminality, feign contrition, pay billions in fines, and swear to go forth and sin no more.

But these repeat offenders know the law does not apply to them. These 21st century pirates of the Caribbean were actually rewarded for sacking and pillaging America. They never have had a greater share of the pie and they have no allegiance other than global wealth accumulation beyond the reach of any social contract.

The one relationship to which they remain faithful is the fee for service one they have with the members of Congress they showered more than $65 million in campaign donations on since 2012.

You would have thought after they peddled hundreds of billions of dollars in worthless toxic mortgage-backed securities to the nation’s pension funds, setting into motion the largest destruction of American household wealth  since the Great Depression, the big banks would have taken their bailout and tried to stay out of the headlines.

But in the years since they took the U.S. economy for a near death spiral spin they have been caught instigating one scam after another. No sooner had the big banks settled with the federal government for perpetrating their massive mortgage fraud and they were back pushing the envelope. Law enforcement and regulatory agencies all scrambled to keep up with these banking behemoths that navigate the line between innovation and criminality with the help of former regulators and prosecutors in their employ.

Continue reading Big Banks Broke America: Why Now’s the Time to Break Our National Addiction

Beaver County Still Battling Poverty Problem

Pickup day at a food pantry

By J.D. Prose
Beaver County Times

Sept 28, 2014 – Pastor Avril Vreen doesn’t need newly released data from the U.S. Census Bureau to tell her that poverty is a problem in Beaver County.

All she had to do was watch two young brothers split a free lunch at her Holy Spirit Fellowship Church in New Brighton this past summer. One of the boys agonized over precisely dividing a slice of bread, “which suggested to me that this child has done it before,” she said.

“Right there, I said, ‘This is more necessary than we thought,’” Vreen said of her church’s summer lunch program that served about 2,500 meals to children this year.

According to data recently released by the Census’ American Community Survey, nearly 20,700 Beaver County residents, or 12.4 percent, live below the poverty line, including 6,700 children. That total number represents about a 33 percent increase from 2007, when the county’s poverty rate was 9.1 percent.

In Allegheny County, nearly 13 percent of its 1.19 million residents, or more than 151,000 people, live below the poverty line while almost 14 percent of Lawrence County residents, about 12,200 people, do.
RELATED: How is the poverty level in Beaver County different from the state average? (Info graphic)

The national poverty rate is 14.5 percent, representing about 45 million Americans, according to TalkPoverty.org.

The government’s poverty line is based on annual income. For 2012, the poverty line for a family of four was $23,050 regardless of where the family lives in the United States.

Maj. Richard Lyle, the commander of the Salvation Army in Beaver Falls, said he’s seen the effects of poverty firsthand in the Army’s food pantries and soup kitchens. Five years ago in Beaver Falls the Salvation Army was servicing about 2,000 families a month, but that crept up before making “a significant jump” to about 2,600 18 months ago.

Continue reading Beaver County Still Battling Poverty Problem

Five Ways Wall Street Continues to Screw Up the Economy for the Rest of Us and How to Fix It

By Robert Kuttner

Beaver County Blue via Huffington Post

July 2, 2014 – The shocking thing about the financial collapse of 2008 is not that Wall Street excesses pushed us into the worst economy crisis since the Depression. It’s that the same financial system has been propped back up and that elites are getting richer than ever, while the effects of that collapse are continuing to sandbag the rest of the economy. Oh, and most of this aftermath happened while a Democrat was in the White House.

Consider:

  • The biggest banks are bigger and more concentrated than ever.
  • Subprime (subprime!) is making a comeback [2] with interest rates of 8 to 13 percent.
  • Despite Michael Lewis’s devastating expose of how high speed trading is nothing but a technological scam that allows insiders to profit at the expense of small investors, regulators are not moving to abolish it [3].
  • The usual suspects are declaring the housing crisis over, even though default and foreclosure rates in the hardest hit cities and states are upwards of 25 percent.
  • The deficit is falling, now just 2.8 percent of GDP [4], thanks to massive cuts in social spending. Isn’t that reassuring?

Meanwhile, back in the real economy, good jobs are far too scarce, incomes are stagnant, while 95 percent of the gains go to the top one percent.

Continue reading Five Ways Wall Street Continues to Screw Up the Economy for the Rest of Us and How to Fix It

In Pittsburgh’s New Economy, Organized Labor Reorganizes in Unconventional Ways

Organizers Robin Sowards and Clint Benjamin at USW headquarters in downtown Pittsburgh, two blocks away from the campus of Point Park University. PPU adjunct faculty are voting this month on whether to join the Steelworkers. Credit Josh Raulerson / 90.5 WESA

Steelworkers organizing Professors

By Josh Raulerson

Beaver County Blue via NPR Pittsburgh

Like any English professor, Clint Benjamin spends a lot of his time grading papers.

“There’s a mountain – a teetering Matterhorn of papers at the end of the weekend, or during the week,” Benjamin said. “You’ve just gotta get through them.”

By his own estimate, Benjamin spends 30 to 40 hours a week on grading alone. He also has to attend meetings, answer emails, keep office hours, and commute between the Community College of Allegheny County and Duquesne University campuses, where in a typical week he prepares and teaches five sections’ of English and writing classes.

For his troubles, Benjamin earns between $25,000 and $30,000 a year and no benefits – if he’s lucky enough to get the maximum number of appointments each institution offers. As a contingent employee, Benjamin is compensated at a fraction of what his similarly credentialed tenured and tenure-track colleagues earn. (Adjunct faculty normally hold a terminal degree in their field: typically a PhD or, in Benjamin’s case, an MFA.)

Benjamin recently took on a third job as an organizer with the United Steelworkers’ Adjunct Faculty Association, which recently led a successful effort to organize part-time faculty at Duquesne.

The campaign drew national attention last year, when the death of 83-year-old adjunct professor Margaret Mary Vojtko became a cause célèbre for the higher-ed labor movement. Vojtko was broke and facing homelessness when she died shortly after being let go by Duquesne, her employer of 25 years.

Many adjuncts, like Benjamin, saw in Vojtko’s story a glimpse of their own possible future – and that of their profession.

"I do love what I’m doing, but that’s how the administration gets us," he said. “It’s a crisis.”

Continue reading In Pittsburgh’s New Economy, Organized Labor Reorganizes in Unconventional Ways

This Chart Is The Fate of Housing In America As Student Loans Bankrupt A Whole Generation

By Wolf Richter

Beaver County Blue via Naked Capitalism

May 19, 2014 – A friend of mine is suffering from excruciating anticipatory pain. He’s heading to New York to attend his daughter’s graduation, which should be a glorious moment in life. But her commencement speaker is Fed Chair Janet Yellen. “Gotta find some thorazine to take before the ceremony,” he muttered. He paid for his daughter’s education. Not many students are that lucky.

Student loan balances soared 362% to $1.1 trillion since 2003, during a period when mortgage debt – including the effects of the current Housing Bubble 2 – rose “only” 65% to $8.2 trillion and credit card debt actually declined by 4.2% to $660 billion (chart). The burden of servicing that increasing pile of student loans is eating into other forms of borrowing and spending, such as the American classic, reckless consumption on credit cards, or the purchase of a home. And so the proportion of first-time buyers – the single most important sign of a healthy housing market – has been shrinking for years.

Continue reading This Chart Is The Fate of Housing In America As Student Loans Bankrupt A Whole Generation

Overthrow the Speculators

Why the Progressive Majority Needs a Common Front vs. Finance Capital, War and the Far Right

By Chris Hedges
Beaver County Blue via Common Dreams   

Dec 20, 2013 – Money, as Karl Marx lamented, plays the largest part in determining the course of history. Once speculators are able to concentrate wealth into their hands they have, throughout history, emasculated government, turned the press into lap dogs and courtiers, corrupted the courts and hollowed out public institutions, including universities, to justify their looting and greed.

Today’s speculators have created grotesque financial mechanisms, from usurious interest rates on loans to legalized accounting fraud, to plunge the masses into crippling forms of debt peonage. They steal staggering sums of public funds, such as the $85 billion of mortgage-backed securities and bonds, many of them toxic, that they unload each month on the Federal Reserve in return for cash. And when the public attempts to finance public-works projects they extract billions of dollars through wildly inflated interest rates.

Speculators at megabanks or investment firms such as Goldman Sachs are not, in a strict sense, capitalists. They do not make money from the means of production. Rather, they ignore or rewrite the law—ostensibly put in place to protect the vulnerable from the powerful—to steal from everyone, including their shareholders. They are parasites. They feed off the carcass of industrial capitalism. They produce nothing. They make nothing. They just manipulate money. Speculation in the 17th century was a crime. Speculators were hanged.

We can wrest back control of our economy, and finally our political system, from corporate speculators only by building local movements that decentralize economic power through the creation of hundreds of publicly owned state, county and city banks.

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