Do you have a nagging feeling that you’d be earning nearly double the amount of your current salary if the economy was better? Well wage slave, there’s some good news and bad news! The good news is that it isn’t all in your head. A report from the Economic Policy Institute shows that the American economy is going through a period of wage stagnation. The bad news is that their numbers were taken from 2002 to 2012, so wages were awful well before the economic crash of 2008.
Between 2002 and 2012 wages were either stagnant or declined for the entire bottom 70% of the wage distribution. Wages may have been at their worst in the past 10 years, but these numbers come after a few decades of poor wage growth. Essentially the American wage has been in decline since 1979. Workers saw a brief period of growth thanks to internet boom in the 90s, but even then those who experienced a wage increase were in very specialized fields.
The average worker has seen a meager 5% wage increase from 1979 to 2012, despite the fact that worker productivity on average has been skyrocketing. Essentially all of your after work whiskey rants are true, you ARE working way too hard for much less pay than you deserve.
The news gets even worse. Wages aren’t the only thing that has decreased, workers benefits like healthcare and paid time off have dropped off along with earnings. The college wage premium (the wage held by workers with college degrees over workers without degrees) has grown much more slowly over the past decade in comparison to 20 years ago. If that didn’t make you depressed, you should also know that corporate profits are at an all-time high in this country.
This may be shocking to you, but this isn’t news to the average economist. People know that there’s a problem, but have no idea how to fix it. Some workers have tried striking, but walk outs and protests won’t be able to fix the problem. Despite the fact that many Americans think corporations could stand to pay their employees more, they’re also rabidly opposed to making it happen since they’re worried that the “job creators” will leave towns and states if they’re forced to pay their employees a living wage. Washington D.C.’s infamous living wage bill was passed by a vote, but it seems like Mayor Vincent Gray is stalling on signing the controversial bill into law.
Currently we’re at an impasse, we know that there’s a problem but the public and the people in power can’t agree on what to do. If you’re affected by low wages, your best bet is to take on a 2nd job and forgo eating, clothing yourself, and taking care of your children.