For most working people, there has been no sign of the economic crisis going away. Our lives have not gotten any easier as we are continuing to live in a crisis every day. So, why is that we’re being told again and again that the U.S. economy is recovering? Why are we hearing repeatedly that the worst of the crisis is over from the Obama administration and the corporate media. For ordinary people, the crisis isn’t over – it’s getting worse.
In fact, there is a recovery happening in the economy – but it is not a recovery for working people. When the media and the politicians say the economy is improving they mean one thing – banks and corporations are making more money, and this is the only recovery that is happening.
For the top 500 U.S. corporations, profits have 23 percent since before the crisis hit in 2007. And for the richest people in the U.S., the top 1 percent, they have been the only ones getting richer during this period. In 2010, the first year the recovery is said to have happened, they increased their income by more than 12 percent. And for the last three months of 2011, they became $554 billion richer. On average, the richest 1 percent controls more than 38 percent of the wealth in the U.S. The 400 richest Americans have more wealth than the bottom 150 million Americans put together.
But for the rest of the population, the official 99 percent, our incomes have dropped 17 percent since 2007. On average, that means workers are making about $4,800 less per year. That’s right – while everyone else is earning less money, the richest Americans and the wealthiest corporations are the only ones that are making more money.
So, where is all this extra money coming from during this so-called recovery? When asked, corporations explain that the source of their improved finances is their huge cuts in costs. And for nearly every corporation the only costs they are referring to are labor costs. The biggest cut in costs comes from layoffs and overall cuts in staffing levels. For the wealthiest corporations the story is the same. During the first year or two of the crisis, corporations were in a panic. Then they laid off a large part of their workforce or reduced it in other ways, and few months later, their profits not only went up, but broke records.
At the same time, if workers have been hired, it’s for less pay, and often part-time instead of full-time. The more layoffs the bosses carry out, the more viciously they think they can cut wages. So, in many cases the newest hired workers are doing more work and earning as little as half what the same job used to pay.
The only thing recovery means is a recovery of profits, a recovery of wealth for banks, corporations, and the super rich. And the only source of that recovered wealth has been by decreasing the amount of wealth going to working people. So, less money is going to workers and more money is going to the bosses. This isn’t a recovery – it’s a robbery!
So what will it mean for the economy to keep recovering, or recover even more? It would just mean that the ruling rich were able to take away even more from working people. And what is the limit to this recovery, how much can they take away from us? How many more workers will be laid off? How many more full-time jobs will disappear or be turned into part-time? How much further will they slash workers’ wages? How much more will they cut our health benefits? And how much more work will they try to pile on to us?
For this system, run by and for the richest 1 percent, there is no limit. They will try to take and take until there is nothing left. The question whether we will let them get away with it.