The 'New Economy' Raw Deal for Low-Income Workers

Adam Zyglis / Buffalo News, Cagle CartoonsIn football terms, "piling on" means jumping on a player when he's down. In the economic new normal described by Bernie Sanders, it means taking most of the wealth and all of the income, moving profits and jobs overseas, and making impoverished people pay the bills.

1. Wealth Grab

According to an AP report, the stock market has regained all its losses since March, 2009 while adding an extra 18 percent. That's $11 trillion restored, plus almost $2 trillion gained. Using Economic Policy Institute figures (Tables 6 & 7), we can determine the beneficiaries of the new wealth:

  • The richest 1 percent, 1.15 million families with 38.3 percent, of the stocks, each regained their losses and added an additional $666,000.
  • The next 2-5 percent,, 4.6 million families with 30.9 percent, of the stocks, each regained their losses and added an additional $134,000.
  • The rest of the top 20 percent,, 17.25 million families with 22 percent, of the stocks, each regained their losses and added an additional $25,500.
  • The 30 percent, just above the middle, 34.5 million families with 8.9 percent, of the stocks, each regained their losses and added an additional $5,160.
  • The bottom 50 percent,, 57.5 million families with 0 percent, of the stocks, gained nothing.

2. Taking ALL the Income

Charles Koch said, "I want my fair share - and that's all of it." He's been getting his wish lately. In the first two years of the recovery, the richest 1 percent, seemingly impossibly captured 121 percent of the income gains, while incomes for 99 percent, of Americans declined, with the median household income dropping by 7.3 percent.

More and more people are working in respectable but low-wage positions in food service and retail. Low-income jobs ($7.69 to $13.83 per hour) made up 1/5 of the jobs lost to the recession, but accounted for 3/5 of the jobs regained during the recovery.

3. Corporate Betrayal

According to their own SEC reports, Citigroup, Pfizer, and Bank of America made much of their 2011-12 revenue in the U.S. (42 percent,, 40 percent,, and 82 percent,, respectively). Yet they declared a total of $69 billion in foreign profits and losses of $19 billion in the United States.

As the big companies have been declaring themselves multinationals with no allegiance to the country that made them successful, they've also eliminated tens of thousands of U.S. jobs. Citigroup, Pfizer, and Bank of America are among the leading job cutters. The shock of the recession has allowed them to turn their backs on their country, and Americans are too bewildered (and ill-represented) to properly fight back.

4. Let the Hungry Pay

The massive four-year redistribution of wealth and income toward the top leaves bills to be paid. So Congress wants to cut food assistance. Nearly 47 million people get an average of less than $5 a day to eat, at a total 2012 cost of about $80 billion, which is about the same amount made by just twenty Americans from one year of investment income.

In the spirit of American independence, Republican Congressman Stephen Fincher of Tennessee quoted the Bible: "The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat." Fincher, along with all but one of his Congressional colleagues, failed to show up for a recent unemployment hearing. Hungry Americans remain at the bottom of the pile, getting crushed by arrogance and insensitivity.

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