Thanks to the acts of two presidents, the American economy went into recession in 2008. The repeal of Glass-Steagall by Bill Clinton, and the complete lack of oversight by the Bush administration allowed greed to destroy the American economy. If you are a member of the working class, here are the facts without the fiction from the government or major press about the economy.
In 2007 the economy appeared to be doing extremely well. Unemployment was low, although NAFTA had allowed many of our best paying jobs to be sent to other nations. The housing industry was booming, and cars were selling. On the surface, America appeared to be a prosperous country.
When the truth reared its ugly head, the domino effect occurred. Sub-prime mortgages, granted to un-qualified buyers, forced thousands of families to face foreclosure. As homes across the country became vacant, construction halted. The building industry’s supply chain; lumber, plumbing, electrical, and excavation began mass layoffs. Retail saw customers become frugal, purchasing only what they needed. The working class lost thousands of average-pay jobs, and struggled to house, feed, and clothe their families.
While the working people of America began a lengthy struggle for survival, major corporations were making record profits. Against the wishes of its people, the government bailed out the largest banks, who were responsible for the nation’s disastrous decline. They also bailed out the auto industry, as they had the airline industry previously.
By 2011 economic indicators showed an improving economy. But that was on paper. As unemployment declined, so did the average wage. Many jobs became part time, and offered no benefits. Gas prices increased, again creating a domino effect. The increase lowered ‘take-home pay’ as more money was spent getting to and from work. The price of diesel fuel skyrocketed. Truckers were forced to spend almost twice the money on fuel than they had in the past. That increase was passed onto the consumer, as prices on everything, from food to clothing were increased. Corporations continued to see growth. The stock market eventually reached all-time highs. But the quality of life for the working class continued to decline.
Over-qualified workers were forced to take any job offered to them. Companies such as the fast food industry witnessed a much larger pool of workers from a wide variety of age and talent. But wages did not rise.
Efforts by some in the government to raise the national minimum wage were thwarted thanks to the efforts of lobbyists. Corporations paying these un-American men and women wanted to assure that their bloated profits would continue to increase at the expense of the working class.
Once again in 2013, Wall Street is seeing record profits. The working class continues to struggle.
Perhaps the best example of the difficulty of life for millions of Americans is a recent strike by the workers in fast food restaurants.
“We’re frustrated and we’re angry,” says Alex Mack, 33, a worker at Wendy’s in Chicago. “I make $8.25 an hour and it’s impossible to live on. I’m a father, a husband. I’m always robbing Peter to pay Paul, shorting one bill to pay another.” But Mack is optimistic that the strike action will be successful. “If we stick together, it’s not impossible,” he says.
The strike took place in early July. They are demanding $15 an hour.
John Mason, a professor of politics at William Paterson University in New Jersey is quick to point out that the largest employers in the United States pay minimum wage, or very near that amount, including Wal-Mart.
“The five largest employers in the US, including Walmart and McDonald’s, all pay minimum wage, or close to it,” says Mason. “They only succeed in this strategy because they’re massively subsidised by the government through food stamps and Medicare.” When the US emerged from recession in the early 90s, members of Generation X were locked angrily into “McJobs”. Now those same jobs are filled with older, better-educated workers, many trying to support families. It’s those workers in “poverty-wage” employment who are pressing for reform, says Jonathan Westin, director of Fast Food Forward. “Many have been pushed out of well-paying jobs and found themselves in the fast food industry struggling to get by,” he says. “It’s not teenagers working for pocket money, it’s mothers and fathers.”
If this article sounds pessimistic, it is meant to be. There is no light ahead for many of America’s working people. The future is not bright. Jobs are not returning from other countries, and wages are not increasing. The separation between the working class and the wealthy is widening at a frightening pace. In addition, our government wants to lower or eliminate programs such as social security and Medicare. And many want to repeal the ‘Affordable Care Act,’ ensuring that more than 40 million Americans will not have adequate health care.
They refuse to pass immigration reform. Ignoring all the rhetoric, the truth why there won’t be a change is because employers could no longer pay them any wage they choose, and would have to pay payroll taxes.
Sixty plus years ago, when I was a very young man, I was led to believe that the United States was the greatest country in the world. I don’t see it that way anymore. All I have to do is look at the facts about our country’s economy.