Short of money?
By Raymond Freeman 08/01/2013
Here’s THE GRAPH. It’s important. It’s about money. Your money.
I wondered why we were short of money, even though I had a good job. Secretly, I thought my wife was frittering it away. Why weren’t we well-off? Everyone’s well-off in America! I worked superhard, got promoted and got decent bonuses. I did my own repairs to the car and our modest abode. Vacations were camping trips with the kids. Still we were short of money.
I blamed myself for this. Obviously, I was doing something wrong. I wasn’t optimistic! I went to motivational seminars. Most were useless. Get it? I was sucked into believing it’s your own fault if you’re not rich.
I was too busy to take any interest in politics, even when the Supreme Court elected George Bush Junior as president. Bush knew he was stupid. At first, he used to justify his decisions to his staff. They said, “Very good sir; you’re the boss, sir.” He soon stopped. He then said, “The interesting thing about being president is that you don’t have to explain yourself.” And that revolting smirk appeared.
He’d figured out that making his rich pals richer was like taking candy from a baby. I was outraged by that revolting smirk. That’s when I started taking notice of politics. Pay attention to politics. You’re paying attention to your money.
Bush’s tax breaks were radically tilted toward the superwealthy. He told them at a fancy dinner, “You’re my base: the haves and the have-mores.” So why do the have-nothings vote Republican? Simple: People don’t pay attention to politics, and certainly not economics. They’d rather drink a can of paint.
America’s Golden Age came from Henry Ford’s dictum: “There is one rule for the industrialist and that is: Make the best quality of goods possible at the lowest cost possible, paying the highest wages possible.” Yes, my friends, the highest wages possible. Americans are now paid the lowest wages possible. Up to 1975, productivity gains flowed into workers’ wage packets. After that, the superrich made off with the productivity gains. Wages actually fell.
This didn’t “just happen.” Ronald Reagan’s “trickle down” economics is the biggest rip-off in political history. If you vote Republican, you have a few screws loose unless you’re in the top 1 percent or 2 percent. You’re a turkey voting for Thanksgiving.
Now look at “THE GRAPH.” It shows how workers have been ripped off each year since 1975. Productivity has soared (top line) but hourly wages have fallen (bottom line). The data are from the U.S, Bureau of Labor Statistics. The difference for nonsupervisory, hourly-paid workers is around $35,000 per year. Former Labor Secretary Robert Reich has calculated that the median wage today (for all American workers) should be $91,000 to keep in line with productivity growth, not $49,000.
Here’s the interesting thing. Republicans don’t argue with the numbers. They want to shut that bureau down on the pretense of “saving money” (!). You can’t make this stuff up.
You may think I hate Republicans. I don’t. I have Republican friends. Once, I was canvassing door-to-door on a hot day for Julia Brownley and my water ran out. A Republican invited me into his house and gave me more. He was a good sport. We decried the lack of integrity and civility in today’s politics. And I was once in an impromptu debating society on a daily train. As long as they were civil — some weren’t — we let Republicans join in.
But I hate what Republicans have done. They’ve destroyed the American dream. That’s why you’re short of money. Moral? If you vote for robbers, don’t be surprised when they run off with your money.
Raymond Freeman is a retired banker, a former lawyer anda Democratic delegate for the 44th California Assembly. His goal is to penetrate the obscurity surrounding economic, financial and political matters, so that the average reader will find this new column interesting and informative.