Since we are, from time to time, an actual labor blog (not just an art/animation history blog), we want to lay upon you economist Paul Krugman's new Rolling Stone article. Dr. Krugman discusses some of the economic realities of America today, and he puts it in visual terms:
According to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics, the hourly wage of the average American non-supervisory worker is actually lower, adjusted for inflation, than it was in 1970. Meanwhile, CEO pay has soared -- from less than thirty times the average wage to almost 300 times the typical worker's pay.
The widening gulf between workers and executives is part of a stunning increase in inequality throughout the U.S. economy during the past thirty years. To get a sense of just how dramatic that shift has been, imagine a line of 1,000 people who represent the entire population of America. They are standing in ascending order of income, with the poorest person on the left and the richest person on the right. And their height is proportional to their income -- the richer they are, the taller they are.
Start with 1973. If you assume that a height of six feet represents the average income in that year, the person on the far left side of the line -- representing those Americans living in extreme poverty -- is only sixteen inches tall. By the time you get to the guy at the extreme right, he towers over the line at more than 113 feet.
Now take 2005. The average height has grown from six feet to eight feet, reflecting the modest growth in average incomes over the past generation. And the poorest people on the left side of the line have grown at about the same rate as those near the middle -- the gap between the middle class and the poor, in other words, hasn't changed. But people to the right must have been taking some kind of extreme steroids: The guy at the end of the line is now 560 feet tall, almost five times taller than his 1973 counterpart.
I grew up an Eisenhower Republican. My parents liked Ike, I liked Ike. When I was in high school, I supported Goldwater. And when I was in the U.S. Navy, I voted for Richard Nixon -- just one more military man voting Republican. (How many people will confess to that on a labor blog?)
So here we are in 2006, and I still think of myself as a middle-of-the-roader. Problem is, the road has swerved way east from where it was when I was growing up. Televisions, cars, radios, and most appliances were built here in the U.S. Movies were produced here. America was the largest industrial power, a major creditor nation, the country with the largest military and the biggest, most efficient factories. The nation with the largest, most prosperous middle class. My background artist father made thirty thousand dollars a year and we lived in a custom-built house, had three cars, and Mom stayed home and looked after the kids.
But hey, just look at us now. And for some reason I don't vote Republican anymore.