According to a report released today by the Economic Policy Institute American workers are worse off than they were a decade ago, with underemployed and underpaid workers struggling to makes ends meet. “The State of Working America” documents the statistical evidence as well as personal stories of these deteriorating work conditions, revealing some startling findings about work in an unfriendly environment to both skilled and unskilled workers.
- Adjusted for inflation the median hourly wage was lower last year (2011) than it was a decade earlier.
- 2.1 million individuals quit their jobs in March 2012, down slightly from 2.9 million in December 2007, signaling a tight labor market with little to no mobility.
- Due to the housing bubble and market crash, the median income of the American family in 2010 declined to levels from the early 1990s, showing that workers have lost almost two decades of built equity in their homes.
- Tuition for education is rising faster than either inflation or wages, and the total debt from student loans is reaching an epidemic proportion that cannot be paid back.
- Entry-level hourly wages for men who recently graduated from high school fell to $11.68 last year, from $15.64 in 1979.
- The percentage of jobs that offer health insurance has plummeted to 22.8 percent, from 63.3 percent in 1979.
“Unfortunately, the wage problems brought on by the recession pile on top of a three-decade stagnation of wages for low- and middle-wage workers,” said Lawrence Mishel, the president of the Economic Policy Institute. “In the aftermath of the financial crisis, there has been persistent high unemployment as households reduced debt and scaled back purchases. The consequence for wages has been substantially slower growth across the board, including white-collar and college-educated workers.”
Who is to blame for the decline of American work? Democrats and Republicans alike have both failed to find sustainable solutions to these problems, in part, because both parties have become complicit actors in a corporate agenda that has delivered record profits for many of the nation’s largest companies, as well as widened the income gap to its largest point since the Great Depression
American voters are also to blame for being bamboozled into believing that periphery social differences between the parties—abortion, civil rights for gays and lesbians, and flag-burning—are litmus tests for public office. They have turned a blind eye to the great robbery that has become American capitalism: with armies of lobbyists and lawyers, Washington has become the center of nearly legalized political corruption where corporations can spend vast amounts of money to ensure the public agenda is shaped to benefit them rather than everyone—particularly average American workers.