Post-meltdown America: An economic recovery for the wealthy

As our economy teeters on the brink of another recession (even as the “old” one never seems to have disappeared), here are three indicators that the wealthiest among us have been the primary beneficiaries of any recovery from the big meltdown:

1. Executive raises make a comeback

Matt Krantz and Barbara Hansen of USA Today report that executive raises in 2010 made a comeback after a leaner 2009 (link here):

The heads of the nation’s top companies got the biggest raises in recent memory last year after taking a hiatus during the recession.

At a time most employees can barely remember their last substantial raise, median CEO pay jumped 27% in 2010 as the executives’ compensation started working its way back to prerecession levels, a USA TODAY analysis of data from GovernanceMetrics International found. Workers in private industry, meanwhile, saw their compensation grow just 2.1% in the 12 months ended December 2010, says the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

2. Many of the new jobs aren’t good jobs

We know that the unemployment rate remains at a high level. Unfortunately, it gets worse: A National Employment Law Project report, The Good Jobs Deficit (pdf here), informs us that jobs created since the meltdown have been concentrated in lower wage tiers:

In the weak recovery to date, employment growth has been concentrated in lower-wage occupations, with minimal growth in mid-wage occupations and net losses in higher-wage occupations. From the first quarter of 2010 through the first quarter of 2011, lower-wage occupations grew by 3.2 percent, with retail salespersons, office clerks, cashiers, food preparation workers  and stock clerks topping the list.  Mid-wage occupations grew by only 1.2 percent and higher-wage occupations declined by 1.2 percent.

3. I shop, therefore I am

Stephanie Clifford reports for the New York Times that the rich are once again whipping out their platinum cards (link here):

Even with the economy in a funk and many Americans pulling back on spending, the rich are again buying designer clothing, luxury cars and about anything that catches their fancy. Luxury goods stores, which fared much worse than other retailers in the recession, are more than recovering — they are zooming.

And everyone else?

Just about everyone else in America (not to mention around the world) is in a state of economic anxiety, if not downright struggle. And until we understand that a small number of people are benefiting from this insecurity and want, backed by complicit public policy makers who gratefully accept their campaign contributions, we will not be able to forge a national and global consensus for humane change.

-David Yamada


Cross-posted with Minding the Workplace


Leave a comment

Your comment