Monthly Archives: March 2015

61% of New Jobs were in Low-Paying Sectors

by Bud Meyers , published February 21, 2015

St. Louis Fed (PDF): “Since June 2009, private-sector employment has increased by about 10 million, more than offsetting the decline that occurred during the recession. However, unlike in the recession, the majority of job gains were in the low-paying industries. Of the 10 million increase in private nonfarm jobs during the current expansion, about 61 percent, 6.1 million, were in low-paying industries … In particular, job growth in the retail trade, education and health services, and leisure and hospitality industries was responsible for almost half of total job growth during the recovery.”

Chart of the Week: Growth in Real Average Income for the Bottom 90%

New York Times: “Employees are literally losing sleep as restaurants, retailers and many other businesses shrink the intervals between shifts and rely on smaller, leaner staffs to shave costs. These scheduling practices can take a toll on employees who have to squeeze commuting, family duties and sleep into fewer hours between shifts.”

New York Times: “The average hourly wage of all private-sector workers is still a meager 22 cents — or 0.9 percent — higher than it was in January 2009, adjusted for inflation … but the main reason for the increase is not a rise in wages but a fall in inflation — the sharp drop in oil prices, which has caused inflation to drop to virtually zero. Nominal wages themselves, the numbers that workers see in their paychecks, have accelerated only slightly.”

Atlanta Fed: “None of the characteristic-specific median growth rates we looked at are close to returning to prerecession levels. Lower-than-normal wage growth appears to be a very widespread feature of the labor market since the end of the recession.” Continue reading 61% of New Jobs were in Low-Paying Sectors

The REAL Jobs Report (Feb. 2015 Edition)

by Bud Meyers

We have 3 million high school graduates every year (not counting college grads or dropouts). If we divided 3 million by 12 months, that would be 250,000 a month. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the U.S. added 295,000 jobs in February 2015 and the unemployment rate fell to 5.5% — as 8.7 million jobless Americans are still counted as “unemployed”.

Also according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, we see that the number of those “not in the labor force” has also risen again during that same time — from 92.544 million in January to 92.898 million in February — for an increase of 354,000, which exceeds the 295,000 number of jobs created (Over 11 million more are not in the labor force since the Great Recession officially ended in June 2009).

The media is reporting the average wage is now $24.78 an hour. But they shouldn’t use the “average” (or “mean”) hourly wage — they should use the “median” wage to report a more representative snapshot of wages, as “averages” are very skewed by high incomes at the very top. The vast majority of wage earners do not earn anywhere NEAR $24.78 an hour. Social Security last reported 50 percent of wage earners had net compensation less than or equal to the “median” wage, which was estimated to be $28,031 a year.

Continue reading The REAL Jobs Report (Feb. 2015 Edition)

How to Become a Conservative in Four Embarrassing Steps

by Paul Buchheit, mirrored from Common Dreams

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Young conservatives rallied at the 2008 Republican National Convention. (Photo: Tom LeGrow/cc/flickr)

 

Not that we’d want to. But many Americans, perplexingly, have taken that path in the last ten years, as 27 percent of those polled now consider themselves ‘mostly’ or ‘consistently’ conservative, up from 18 percent in 2004. (Conservatives were at 30 percent in 1994. Liberals increased from 21 to over 30 percent in the 1990s and have remained approximately the same since then.)

The language of true conservatives often turns to denial, dismissal, and/or belligerence, without verifiable facts of any substance. There is also evidence for delusional thinking and a lack of empathy. Here are four ways to be just like them.

1. Ignore Facts

Research shows that conservatives tend to modify facts to accommodate their beliefs and convictions, while liberals are more willing to deal with the complexity of multiple sources of information that help determine the true facts.

In simpler terms, numerous studies (here, here, here, and here) conclude that conservatives are not very smart.

Perhaps the best example of fact-aversion is climate change. Incredibly, even though 97 percent of climate scientists agree that climate warming is very likely due to human activities, 66 percent of Republicans say they do not believe in global warming.

It’s even more incredible that the Chair of the Committee on the Environment, James Inhofe, brought a snowball to the Senate floor to back up his earlier suggestion that manmade global warming is “the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people.”

Continue reading How to Become a Conservative in Four Embarrassing Steps

The political economy
 of low-wage labor

By Trish Kahle, International Socialist Review, Issue #95

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The struggles of fast-food, retail, and other service workers since 2012 have thrust the issue of low-wage work into the national spotlight and shifted the national debate over whether to raise the minimum wage from the federally mandated non-tipped wage of $7.25 per hour. Courageous workers like George Walker, a cabin cleaner at Philadelphia International Airport, have begun challenging their impoverishment as corporate profits soar. “I am over fifty,” Walker said, “and tired of living in poverty.” Walker—forced to choose between paying for his wife’s medicine and covering the family’s housing costs—and other workers like him who have joined organizing campaigns, have highlighted the moral depravity of companies that sweep aside the daily struggles of workers in order to maximize profits. Yet even as public opinion has shifted decisively in favor of raising the minimum wage, the size of the low-wage workforce has continued to grow. Nearly 40 percent of American workers earn less than the $15.00 an hour demanded by the low-wage workers movement,(1) and the experience of low-wage work is a common one.

Still, myths abound about low-wage labor, its origins, and the workers who perform it. The ruling class has much at stake in this fight in which workers confront not only their wages and working conditions, but the ideological apparatus of neoliberalism, which stresses individual responsibility and deregulation.

Neoliberal policies, media myths, and the intersection with oppression that many low-wage workers face collude to keep them marginalized. This persists even as their labor, particularly the labor of those in industries like healthcare and education, remain central drivers of economic growth.(2)

Though the recent struggles of low-wage workers, particularly those in the Fight for 15, have focused on the ideological changes and declining living standards that resulted from neoliberal transformation, Marxists understand that low-wage labor is more than a blip in capitalism’s history. Rather, the tendency toward low-wage labor is embedded in capitalist social relations. As Marx wrote in Wage Labor and Capital, “the more productive capital grows, the more it extends the division of labor and the application of machinery; the more the division of labor and the application of machinery extend, the more does competition extend among the workers, the more do their wages shrink together.”(3) But even if we understand low-wage labor as a persistent historical feature of capitalism, we still have to explain its particularities in the neoliberal period, and what role low-wage labor plays in structuring ruling class economic and political power. As low-wage labor represents a larger and larger proportion of the American working class, the question of the nature of low-wage work, and flowing from that, the potential of low-wage workers to play a central role in transforming society, should be of primary concern for the Left.

What is low-wage labor?
What does it mean to be a low-wage worker in the United States? Workers’ concept of low-wage work is shaped by a number of sociopolitical factors—documentation status, race, gender, geographic location, education level, and previous employment. Subjective factors like workers’ perception of the job market also play a role. Economists’ category of low-wage work, meanwhile, appears similarly malleable with different markers being used in different studies. For the sake of clarity, in this article I will define low-wage labor as any job that pays $13.83 or less an hour, the most common boundary in the economic studies surveyed in this article. We should note, however, that the sheer scope of low-wage work in our economy makes any clean categorization difficult. While no one would argue that it is as difficult to get by on $20.00 an hour as it is on $7.25, most workers in both the low- and middle-wage categories—$13.83 and under and $13.84 to $21.13 per hour respectively—earn less than the estimated cost of living in most major cities for an average family. A huge spectrum of workers in the United States is kept below, at, or very barely above the poverty line.

In reality, for most people in the US, only high-wage jobs —those which pay $21.14 or more per hour—can really be considered living-wage jobs.

Continue reading The political economy
 of low-wage labor

Four Reasons Young Americans Should Burn Their Student Loan Papers

by Paul Buchheit, mirrored from Common Dreams

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‘Fifty years ago students burned their draft cards to protest an immoral war against the people of Vietnam. Today it’s a different kind of war, immoral in another way, waged against young Americans of approximately the same age, and threatening them in a manner that endangers not their lives but their livelihoods.’ (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

 

‘Hell No, We Won’t Go’ — 1967
‘No Way, We Won’t Pay’ — 2015

Fifty years ago students burned their draft cards to protest an immoral war against the people of Vietnam. Today it’s a different kind of war, immoral in another way, waged against young Americans of approximately the same age, and threatening them in a manner that endangers not their lives but their livelihoods.

There are at least four good reasons why America’s young adults— and their parents—should take up the fight against financial firms who are holding high-interest student loans that total more than the nation’s credit card debt, and more than the total income of the poorer half of America.

1. The Protest Has Already Begun

Fifteen former students of for-profit Corinthian Colleges recently announced a debt strike against the company and its predatory loan practices. The 15 students, members of the Debt Collective initiative of debt abolisher Rolling Jubilee, have refused to repay their loans. Corinthian, which has been accused of false marketing, grade tampering, and recruitment improprieties, and which has 60 percent of its students default on loans, was sued in 2013 for employing a “predatory scheme” to recruit students.

2. For-Profit Colleges Use Taxpayer Money for False Marketing to Get MORE Taxpayer Money

Corinthian isn’t the only loan predator. Of 15 for-profit colleges investigated by the Government Accountability Office, 13 were found guilty of deceptive marketing, with false job and salary guarantees. The 15 companies got a stunning 86 percent of their funding from the public, in the form of student loans and grants.

Continue reading Four Reasons Young Americans Should Burn Their Student Loan Papers