So many people in this country work so hard just in order to scrape by. People wonder why celebrities get so much attention in our culture nowadays… Well, for many, they take our mind off of our own scraping-by existence. Who wouldn’t want to work a few months out of the year and get paid millions of dollars for the effort?
But America is built on the foundation of a thriving middle class. We’re seeing that middle class get chipped away at in recent decades, and even more so with the downturn of the economy. While technically we’re in a “recovery,” to many of us, it still feels like more of the same.
Remember when most low-wage jobs — think McDonald’s — went to teenagers looking to make a few bucks so they could spend money on their girlfriend or boyfriend?
Now, according to the Sacramento Bee, “About half of minimum wage workers in 2012 were older than 25, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The median age for a fast-food worker now is 29.” Eye-opening. Because most of those young adults wouldn’t be taking those kinds of jobs if they had a choice.
Federal minimum wage is measly $7.25. That’s about $1160 per month — before taxes (around $900-$1,000 after taxes for most people). Not exactly a wage most of us could live on. And yet millions of Americans do because they have no choice.
The middle class is declining, not only because of the economy and Great Recession. It’s also declining because their share of the income pie has been taken away. Not by the poor, who are still struggling — but instead by the rich:
In addition to the slow growth in overall size of the pie, the share that has been going to anyone but the richest Americans has been declining. The top-earning 1 percent of households now bring home about 20 percent of total income, up from less than 10 percent 40 years ago.
In 40 years, the richest Americans have found a way to double their income. And guess who pays? The middle class.
Now one popular economic theory — the one that Reaganomics is partially based on — says that when the rich get richer, that wealth “trickles down” to the middle and lower classes. That data show quite the opposite.
When the rich get richer, all boats don’t rise equally on the ocean of money. Rich people’s boats rise exponentially, while the middle-class’s boat stays pretty much where it was (or, during a really good economy, it slightly beats the pace of inflation).
Labor — employees — is what America was built on in the 20th century. And not just treating them like expendable resources (as the industrial age started out doing), but as human beings with their own goals, ambitions and dreams.
In the 21st century, we’re still struggling to find a groove that plays to America’s strengths.
In the meantime, I hope you enjoy the holiday. On behalf of all the workers here at Psych Central, we wish you good mental health!