Five Ways American Workers Found Out Today That They’re Screwed
It’s a rare day in America that the government, economists and members of the media establishment will come together and tell Americans that, actually, they’re all screwed. But since today is one of those days, let’s count the ways this recession has permanently altered the American economy for the worse.
1. The poor are far more unemployed than the rich.
It’s not enough that they make more money anymore — despite everything that economics might normally predict, those with higher incomes are less likely to be unemployed during this recession. A new study from Northeastern University shows that among the top 20 percent of households — those making more than $100,000 — the unemployment rate is about 3.5 percent. In the poorest 10 percent of American households — those making under $12,800 a year — the unemployment rate is 30.8 percent. No wonder all those AIG bankers were threatening to leave their jobs in the midst of the recession: For them, there never was one.
2. The jobs that used to exist aren’t coming back.
Economists predict that at least 25 percent of the 8.4 million jobs that have disappeared thus far won’t be coming back no matter how good the economy gets. In fact, with job creation expected to be, at best, 133,000 new jobs per month over the next year — and 100,000 new people entering the work force every month — it will take more than 20 years at this rate to replace all the jobs that were lost in the last two years.
3. Corporations now know exactly how much money they save by firing workers.
And although the employment figures show that the rich stayed employed and the lowest-wage workers — who do most of the productive work in the economy — did not, companies laid off so many lower-paid workers that they are more flush with cash than Scrooge McDuck — to the tune of $1.19 trillion. But since people who kept their jobs have been busting their humps to keep them, productivity rates went up during the recession — which means your corporate overlords know exactly how hard they can work you for how little pay without reducing output. Get used to busting that hump.
- Job growth is already not meeting economists’ predictions anyway.
Despite economists’ already-less-than-rosy predictions about job growth, only 95,000 jobs were created last month. So, we’re already 38,000 jobs — or more than a month — behind the growth we’d need to make back the 8.4 million lost jobs in 20 years.
**5. Even Republicans don’t pretend that living wages exist for many Americans. **
Nearly one in eight Americans currently depends on food stamps, and many of those people are working Americans (including some members of the military). Half of the families enrolled in food stamps are working, though fully 90 percent of those receiving benefits are below the federal poverty line. Everyone from Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) to George W. Bush and his food stamp administrator Eric Bost to former Wisconsin governor and presidential candidate Tommy Thompson is a food stamp booster for the working poor — the people who make minimum wage but can’t make ends meet. But you can have a job in this country and still go hungry — and some people who acknowledge that think the best solution is just to give companies more tax breaks.