Saturday, May 29, 2004

Ambrose Bierce got it right

Distance, n. The only thing that the rich are willing for the poor to call theirs, and keep.

Ambrose Bierce wrote that entry in The Devil's Dictionary back around 1900.

The other day, the local newspaper picked up a Chicago Tribune item, "Rank and file left out of recovery," which summarized the findings of a new study from the Center for Labor Market Studies at Northeastern University in Boston. (It was buried on page 2 of the business section -- which just goes to show it's not big news when the proletariat gets shafted.)

I'd link to the article, but it's password-protected -- and believe me, registering for our local fishwrap ain't worth the trouble. And after seven days, you gotta pay for content. Really not worth it. So here's the Cliff's Notes version:

* Last year many workers took home the same pay they did in 2001 (adjusted for inflation).

* Labor's share of the increase in national income is the lowest for any recovery since the end of World War II. In previous recoveries, labor received 54.5-66.5 percent of the increase in national income. This time, employees got 38.6 percent. Normally, corporate profits account for 15-18 percent of national income growth. This time: 40.5 percent.

* Employment rolls have shrunk by 1.6 million jobs since the recession started in March 2001. (Wait a minute -- weren't those tax cuts supposed to create jobs?)

* While productivity rose 4.4 percent in 2003 (meaning management squeezed more work out of less people), average hourly wages for non-farm workers, excluding managers and executives, rose less than 2 percent. (That's lower than the rate of inflation.)

* You'll be shocked -- shocked! -- to learn that during the same time period, median cash compensation for chief executives was up more than 7 percent. And that doesn't include stock options and other long-term incentives.

Imagine what Ambrose would say about Dubya and his tax cuts for the wealthiest 1 percent.


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