Lately we’ve been told that everything is turning around, the economy is recovering, unemployment is going down, and everything will be getting better. But when it comes to our lives, it sure seems like everything is getting worse. Work is getting harder, our bills are going up, and we are not bringing home any extra money.
In celebration of this supposed recovery, Obama and the Democrats are even talking about raising the federal minimum wage to a whopping nine dollars per hour. Working 40 hours a week that only adds up to $18,720 a year, barely above the federal poverty line for one person and below it for anyone with two people living with them. What Obama is calling the pathway to the middle class is in reality only keeping us in poverty.
A measly nine dollars per hour isn’t even half of where the minimum wage would have been if it had kept up since 1970. Since then we have increased our work by over 80 percent and have not had any real wage increase. If the minimum wage kept up for all of this and inflation, it would be $20 an hour today. And if the median wage kept up since 1970, it would be $92,000 a year, not $50,000. All this talk about nine dollars an hour is an insult.
As the politicians and the media keep telling us everything is getting better, we know things are getting worse. Most household wealth has declined between 28 and 45 percent over the last decade. This has translated to nearly one in three people in the U.S. living in poverty or being only a paycheck away. And California, the wealthiest state in the country, has a poverty rate of 25 percent, the highest in the U.S. At the same time 50 million people are considered “food insecure,” which means they are regularly unsure where their next meal is coming from.
So obviously this isn’t our recovery. Every time prices go up for groceries, gas, bills, health care, we feel it as another pay cut. We wait longer to get our cars or health checked out because we couldn’t afford what might be wrong anyway. We juggle which bills to pay late and which meals to skip so we don’t fall more than one check behind.
It’s not getting any easier either. Politicians may keep trying to point out that jobs are being recovered but it’s never mentioned what kind of jobs. And the jobs we are finding are harder to come by and pay even less. Peaking in 2008, 27 million people were unemployed but now 22 million still have no work – so only 5 million people have been able to find any work at all. And of the jobs found since 2008, 58 percent are low-wage, paying between $7.69 and $13.84 per hour. Month after month they tell us jobs are being added but in fact full-time jobs are disappearing. It’s only part-time jobs that are being added.
The only recovery happening is at the top. While we’re told that we’re lucky to even have jobs at all, our bosses are making more money than ever. It’s always the same lies about how they are struggling and need to cut our hours, wages, benefits, sick time, staffing and more. CEO pay has increased 27 times faster than workers’ pay since 1978 and profits are the highest they have ever been in history. Corporations have about $2 trillion of cash just sitting in banks, the largest amount at any time in the U.S. And after-tax corporate profits have grown 171 percent under Obama – faster and higher than under any U.S. president in history.
It’s not a coincidence that as we’re scraping the bottom, the rich are reaching new heights. The only minimum wage corporations are interested in is the one that is not enough to live on but just a little too much to die. The only recovery that means anything for them is a recovery of their profits – and they have never been doing better. And the only source of this recovery, the only way these corporations can make all this extra money is to take it from us. If they keep recovering like this, soon we’ll have nothing left for them to steal.