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Monday, May 28, 2018

Table of Contents of Blog

A reader stumbling on to this blog might wonder what to read. The essay below is easy and basic. The next about Stark Inequality is a little harder, but full of basic info. The Solutions essay breaks a lot of assumptions about how to solve economic problems, and the Full Employment is good, also bursting with unconventional ideas; and last of all the Radical Populist Budget is one of my favorites. The most popular essay is "The 1950s and Today." I have few readers, but few is better than none. This is my public record book where I store thoughts. I also enjoy constructing the photos and making detailed and very involved searches  -- Growth and the Federal Budget is such a long-winded and overly detailed screed. Often I'll come back and realize that I've forgotten the content of an essay. That's because they are too dense, but, then, also I repeat a lot. The graph from Olivier Giovannoni on the decline of income share for the lower-earning 90%, from 1980 to the present, is the most important thing a reader should learn. Most of the above articles I recommended contain this graph. The Radical Populist essay has it, and in several more it appears. Even this present essay could use, so here it is, again. 

What does the graph show? The deep blue area represents the "labor share" to the lower-earning 90%. Note that in 1980 is begins to decline, from 55% to 38%. Here's what Giovannoni states at the Levy Institute: "This amounts to a transfer of $1.8 trillion from labor to capital in 2012 alone and brings the US labor share to its 1920s level." In 2018 the share decline, of 17%, represents $2.75 trillion. Without this drop the incomes of the lower-paid workers would be about $19,000 higher per worker among each one of the 144 million workers whose income is below $90,000 a year. So this is a major shift in income distribution, and if we could ever regain the "labor share" of 1945 to 1980 we would be living in a much improved society. Not perfect, by any means, but improved. That's why the graph is so important.  

The following is a short introductory essay on the economy. It should be published somewhere soon, it's not long or complicated. 

  America’s Economic Decline Simply Explained       

Many people  wonder why the U.S. economy is not working for them. I’d like to explain in simple terms. I’ve written a blog for 10 years, Economics Without Greed. I may be an amateur, yet my reasoning is not that far off. Here’s why the economy is not working: 
  1. Most people work for large corporations or non-profits. The U.S. Census shows that 82% of private sector workers are employed in firms with more than 20 workers, 65% work in firms with over 100 workers, and 51% work in firms with more than 500 workers. (I have to warn the readers to not focus on the numbers, but  focus on the main concepts.) The largest 1,909 corporations, all employing more than 5,000 workers in the U.S., generated 44% of all revenues, and employed 34% of all workers. The health (or non-health) of these large companies spills over to the smaller ones. 
  2. Large corporations distribute around 91% of their profits to shareholder owners, not to workers in higher wages, nor to plant expansions, nor to research. Wages are kept as low as possible. Since 2001, when corporate profits were 4.6% of GDP, they have increased to 8.9% of GDPin 2018. Some years these large corporations distribute more than 100% of their net profits to shareholders, thus looting their own companies. Professor William Lazonick’s research has shown “How American Corporations Transformed from Producers to Predators.” (Also “Profits Without Prosperity” published and winner of best article of the year at the Harvard Business Review.) 
  3. Most of the profits (85%) generated by corporations end up in finance seeking the highest rates of return; this surplus is not recycled into productive economic activity that would employ workers and increases prosperity. It is tied into hedged bets which act to diversify risk of catastrophic decline. Assets are added to existing value of financial assets. Seventy-five percent of financial assets are owned by 5 % of households.
  4.  Since there is a limited amount of corporate stock, these stocks necessarily increase in value. Wealth then accumulates exponentially for the minority owner class. In the past 9 years, since January of 2009, financial assets have increased their value by 87% (inflation adjusted), from $48 trillion to $98 trillion. In the same period wages for non-supervisory workers grew by 5%. And looking further back, since 1964 the S&P 500 Index has increased by 250%, and average weekly wages for nonsupervisory workers are exactly the same as in 1964, a zero percent increase. The aggregate value of stock more than triples, while weekly (and yearly) wages for 80% of the work force stays frozen. The economy’s per capita “disposable personal income” has tripled since 1964 (inflation adjusted) shows the Bureau of Economic Analysis. But average weekly wages for 80% of workers have not increased at all.                                                                          
  5. Labor organizing rights are suppressed by both corporations and by law; most of the change occurred by judicial amendment of the National Labor Relations Act, not by enacting a new law. Now strikes are rare because the original purpose of the NLRA has been nullified, and strikes normally result in lay offs. 
  6. If wages had matched the growth of productivity, the average wage income would not be today’s $46,640 but $69,648 (and that’s 49% higher). The median worker’s wage would not be $30,553 but $47,703 (and that’s 56% higher). Half of U.S. workers earn less than $30,553 a year. Adding their collective income, they earn a little more than $1 trillion in an economy that generates $16.2 trillion. Their collective average income, for 81 million workers, is less than minimum wage paid to a full-time year-round worker. There’s an interactive web page at the Economic Policy Institute that asks and answers the question “What Should You Be Earning?” It shows how large the productivity to wage gap is. Most workers could be earning about 50% more income. 

Earnings --    Would Be   ----                                  wage income    
 $10,000    ----    $17,845        --- a gain of   78%            22              
$20,000    ----    $32,256                        of   61%            36              
$30,000    ----    $46,855                        of   56%            49              
$40,000    ----    $60,744                        of   52%            61              
$50,000    ----    $73,299                        of   47%            70              
$60,000    ----    $82,747                        of   38%            77              
$70,000    ----    $92,308                        of   32%            82              
$80,000    ----   $100,453                       of   26%            86              
$90,000    ----   $107,919                       of   20%            89              
$100,000   ---   $115,832                       of   16%            91               
$110,000   ---   $123,807                       of   13%            93               
$120,000   ---   $131,782                       of   10%            94               

According to the EPI table and the Social Security table, at least 61% of workers (all in the lower earning 61%) would receive more than a 50% increase in income. Of the 163 million American workers submitting W-2 forms to the Social Security Administration in 2016, 91% reported income below $100,000. 

These are the reasons the economy is failing so many. 

The U.S. Census report, “The Supplemental Poverty Measure”, shows 43% of Americans live in households with incomes below 200% of poverty (see Figure 6). 

This interesting graphic shows one important facet of the economy: many households, about 20%, are pushed below 400% poverty. They are pushed into the lower income ranges, and the range between 1.0 and 1.99 of poverty enlarges, nearly doubles. That is, taxes push incomes down, government programs do not raise incomes upwards out of poverty, for the most part.  
Some researchers say that 200% of poverty income is poverty, and some say that 140% is actual poverty (Kathleen Short, page 23). Below 140% includes 28% of Americans. Short, a 30 year veteran of the Census department, stated, "This suggests that families with resources below approximately 140 percent of the SPM threshold, rather than 200 percent, may be characterized as not able to meet their basic needs and achieve a safe and decent standard of living, or as families with ‘low income’."
 That sounds like a definition of poverty, "not able to . . . achieve a safe and decent standard of living." Either way, a sizable portion of Americans, perhaps 93%, live with incomes below the average “disposable personal income” which the Bureau of Economic Analysis places at over $44,000 per person in 2017. A household of four with the per capita average “disposable personal income” (meaning post-taxes) would have an income of $178,000 (and that is post-tax income, so pre-tax would be about $210,000). An income of $48,600 for a  four-person family, which is twice the poverty level (200%FPL), is slightly over a quarter of the average of $178,000.  
As the SPM shows, 43% of Americans live below 200% FPL, and their pre-tax income is less than a quarter of the AVERAGE. This is inequality of a very high, extreme, stark nature. In my opinion the resources flowing to the highest income groups putrefy and go to waste. Hoarding is waste.
Shared prosperity is a long, difficult American dream away for many Americans. 

Monday, April 9, 2018

Stark Inequality

                                     Stark Inequality                                

Observing stark inequality is difficult. Yes, on the sidewalks of urban America the homeless and poor are often visible. When I walk Market Street in San Francisco the homeless are visible, and tent communities are popping up on urban sidewalks in Oakland, Berkeley, Fresno, Sacramento and I’d guess many other cities across the U.S. But most of the time, we Americans appear alike in dress, in the housing we live in, in the cars and trucks we drive, and we seem to be watching the same sports, television and Netflix, and addicted to the same computer fascinations — equal, more or less. But below these mass similarities there are substantial differences. For a view of the stark side, read the Guardian articles by Chris Arnade here

El Paso Texas
Here are four important facts about inequality in the U.S.: 

  1. 44% of American adults report they would be unable to pay an emergency $400 expense within 30 days without borrowing or selling something. But, if all adults were "average" -- or even close to average -- it would be no problem. The average net worth per adult is almost $400,000. I call this stark inequality. The Federal Reserve study also shows that 25% of adults report not seeing a doctor or a specialist or a dentist, or not purchasing a prescription drug in 2016 because of lack of money. And, one would not guess by looking, 42% report owing an unpaid medical debt, typically of around $1,000, and on average of about $1,500. 

2. Half of all U.S. workers (81 million) in 2016 earned a collective $1 trillion in wage income; this is about 6.4% of the national income. Their average income per worker is under $13,000 a year. A full-time year-round worker earning minimum wage earns $15,080, which by the way is more than $13,000. Earning just one fifteenth of all income, half of American workers are starkly underpaid. 

3. Since 1960 the median (middle) income for male workers age 18 to 34 has fallen from $27,300 a year to $15,000. The per capita “disposable income” increased by 86% between 1960 and today. In 1960 about 62% of young adults, age 18 to 35, were married or cohabiting, today it’s 32%. The average age at marriage was 22 in 1960, now it’s about 28 years old. In 1960 only 5.3% of children were born to unmarried women, in 2016 it’s 40.2%. And the average weekly and yearly earnings of a non-supervisory employee, 80% of the workforce, was 2% higher in 1964 than today, even though real per capita “disposable income” has increased by 86%. That is stark income stagnation.  
Young men are now more likely to live with a parent than to live with a spouse or partner; not so for women

4. Since 1980 the lower-earning half of U.S. adults has seen its annual income virtually freeze, it increased by 1%, from $16,000 a  year to $16,200. Concurrently the highest earning 1% of adults tripled their incomes, from $420,000 a year to $1.3 trillion. The gap also tripled from 27 to 81. Two recent reports on income growth report a total growth of 60 or 61%, 1980 to 2014. This is stark inequity of growth. 

These documented facts emphasize the extreme condition of wages, income, wealth, and the shifting trends since 1960 and 1980. 

Recently the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) weighed in with a new report, “Income Distribution in the U.S. for 2014.” Reading it in conjunction with a report from the Washington Center for Equitable Growth (WCEG) brings up interesting comparisons and conclusions. Both reports cover the identical time period, 1980 to 2014. 

Both studies show the top-earning 1% of households or adults tripling their incomes, as do other reports show (see here, here, and here). Both studies show average economy-wide growth of 60 or 61% between 1980 and 2014. The WCEG states that while the lower-earning 50% of adults gained none of the added growth, the percentiles 50 to 90 received 32%, the percentiles 91 to 99 received 32%, and the top 1% received 36%. The WCEG report states that the share of all income going to the lower earning 50% retracted from 20% in 1980 to 12.5% in 2014; and this is a mirror image of the share of income going to the top 1%, its share grew from 12% to 20%. 

The CBO report shows income growth by household income level, not by per adult income level. The growth in social benefits lifted the incomes of the lowest-earning 20% of households. This group increased its 2014 “market” pre-tax and pre-transfer income from $19,100 to $31,100 a year, an increase of 64%. The driver of this increase was in-kind (non-cash) income in the form of Medicaid services and other benefits. The income gap between the average income of the lower 20% and the top 1% before taxes is 92 times ($19,100 vs. $1,770,000). It is reduced to 38 times by taxes and transfers ($31,300 vs. $1,180,000).  

There are at the least two more important factors to consider in the big picture about inequality. The first is the fact that the share of yearly national income received by the lower-earning 90% has decreased from 55% to 37%, a shift of 18% that values today at about $2.9 trillion. (See the first graph in the essay "America's Economic Decline Simply Explained".) Dispersing that $2.9 trillion to 145 million workers would mean between a $15,000 to $20,000 a year income increase for all workers with wage income below $90,000, which is also the 90th percentile. In other words, restoring the former income distribution profile would change everything about our economy. It would re-align distribution to the contours of what it was between 1945 and 1980, and that would be a stark change. 

The other important fact of inequality has to do with the spectacular doubling in the total net worth of all U.S. households over the past 9 years, from a total of $48 trillion in January of 2009, to a total of over $98 trillion in 2018. The federal government will spend $4.1 trillion this year in comparison. Financial assets have surged in value, we have a bubble with no end in sight. This is the glowing growth center of the U.S. economy. The lower-saving 50% own perhaps 1.1% of all assets. The top one percent own maybe 42%. The wealth gap is an incredible 1 to 1,909, between the average wealth of a household in the top one percent and one in the lower 50%. Stark. 

Society experiences tensions from the extreme imbalance of financial and monetary power expressed through income and wealth divisions. Harmonizing the needs of society while maintaining an efficient economic world is the challenge we face; the imperatives of each sphere, the social and economic, must be adapted to find a living, creative balance. 

Hope is brought to the fore in a WCEG report, as it compares the different approaches between France and the U.S. between 1980 and 2014. The lower-earning 50% of French adults increased their incomes by 32%, which was the identical growth rate of the entire economy. In 1980 the lower 50% were earning an annual average income of $14,418, and now they earn almost $19,000. Now this low earning French  group earns about $3,000 more than the American group. The French economy is less productive than the U.S. on a per capita basis, it produces an average income of about $42,000 per adult, in comparison with the U.S. $64,600 per year per adult. This shows that the spread in inequality is and was not inevitable. Policy made the difference. 

Inequality is stark world-wide. Oxfam America reports that the wealthiest 8 men in the world, if they were comfortably squeezed into a stretch limo, would collectively possess more wealth than half of the humanity, some 3.6 billion humans on our marvelous planet. What would the wealth gap be? It would be stark. And the Pew Research Center reports that these low-income-and-low-wealth humans are existing day to day on an income of less than $5 a day, at most. In the U.S. at the median household income level, each person survives on $64 a day. The inequality problem stretches and stretches beyond the concerns of developing nations. To sum up, we once shared growth and prosperity, but now we have a lot of catch-up to do.        


                        A Tax on Wealth, OECD?    
A tax on wealth? The OECD report promotes a wealth tax? The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development published a report, "The Role and Development of Net Wealth Taxes in the OECD". The Real News Network reports on this report by interviewing economist Michael Roberts, a Marxist. As I shared before, a tax on financial assets equivalent to the rate of tax on "immovable property" (OECD language) or "tangible assets" (FRB Flow of Funds language) would yield about $1.2 trillion a year to the federal government. Figure 1.7 in the OECD report shows how governments tax property. 

The U.S. receives, in state and local taxes, around $458 billion in property taxes, about 2.5% of GDP, as the graph indicates. Financial assets comprise 70% of all assets, non-financial about 30% (see Flow of Funds report, Table 101.B, page 138). 
Here are two graphs that illustrate ideas I've brought up: 

Michael Roberts writes a very interesting, nearly indispensable blog.  
The OECD report does not advocate the radical position I take. It seeks to neutralize among OECD countries tax evasion and distortions as presented by imposition of taxes on wealth. This is hardly a remedy. But at least they are exploring. 

The report from U.S. Census scholar, Kathleen Short, about poverty increasing from 13% to 30% bares repeating. Page 28 of her 2013 report states: 

The difference between the family budget poverty rate and the percent of the population below 140 percent of the SPM threshold was not statistically significant. The percent of the population below 200 percent of the SPM thresholds (48.1 percent) was 60 percent higher than the percent of the population below the family budget threshold (30.0 percent). This suggests that families with resources below approximately 140 percent of the SPM threshold, rather than 200 percent, may be characterized as not able to meet their basic needs and achieve a safe and decent standard of living, or as families with ‘low income’.  

The "family budget poverty rate" that many researchers claimed to be about 200% of the  the "federal poverty level" was refuted by Short. She claimed that 140% of poverty was actual poverty. The  reports that claimed 200% of FPL brought almost half of the U.S. population into poverty status. She states that 29.9%, call it 30%, of the U.S. population are unable to "meet their basic needs and achieve a safe and decent standard of living". The average income per household is well over $100,000 a year. And 140% of poverty is about a third of $100,000 in all household sizes. This is stark inequality. Perhaps 48% are struggling to get by, but at least 30% are definitely unable to achieve a decent standard. The U.S. Census report, HINC-01 shows the breakdown in household size and median income. The median pre-tax income among four person households is over $91,000 a year, and post-tax it's about $64,000. The median pre-tax income for single person households is low, but for larger households it's somewhat high. The economy has improved since Kathleen Short's report, but the lower income households still comprise well over a quarter of all the population. And the household "average" and "median" for both income and wealth are hugely disparate, in separate worlds it seems -- income median: $60,000, income average $129,000, and wealth median $100,000, wealth average $789,000. (I'm using, Table 2.1 for income, and FRB Flow of Funds figures for net worth, with the US Census 125 million households, and doing simple division) The Congressional Joint Committee data shows (page 34) that 35.4% of all pre-tax income goes to just 6.6% of tax payers who earn over $200,000 a year, which is about equal to the income of 75.5%, all with incomes below $100,000 a year. That means the average income for the lower 75% is 11% of the average for the top 6.6%, or it's $11,000 a year versus $100,000 a year -- get it? 

Simplify: the total collective income of 75% is less than the total for the top 6.6% -- not a good ratio for a society.  And wealth ratios are much worse.  

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

          Wage Growth for 80% Stalls Since 1969        

Since 1969 average wages for nonsupervisory workers (NS) have dropped by 7% ($2,860 a year) while the GDP per capita expanded by 128%, more than doubling. The real (inflation adjusted) disposable personal income per capita has grown by 140% since 1969. 

Cumulative change in real hourly wages of men, by wage percentile, 1979–2011 

Source: Authors' analysis of Current Population Survey Outgoing Rotation Group microdata


From EPI's latest report of March 1, 2018, The State of America's Wages by Elise Gould.
This report links to EPI's site "What Should You Be Making?", showing that an income of  $40,000 today should be making $60,939, had productivity and wage gains been equal.
That's about a 50% gain in income. Most of America's workers, the 80% who are nonsupervisory workers, should and could be making about 50% more. See my list below  that shows how incomes from $10,000 to $110,000 would have risen if coupled with productivity gains.   On average most workers would be earning about 50% more than they are earning today.  

Cumulative change in total economy productivity and real hourly compensation of production/nonsupervisory workers, 1948–2015

YearReal hourly compensationProductivity
Cumulative percent change since 1948241.08%112.53%ProductivityReal hourly compensation-50050100150200250%1950196019701980199020002010

Note: Data are for compensation of production/nonsuper

Change in average real annual household income, by income group, 1979–2010

YearAll householdsBottom fifthMiddle fifth81–90%91–95%96–99%Top 1 percent
Cumulative percent change since 1979244.7%53.4%Top 1 percent96–99%91–95%Allhouseholds81–90%Bottom fifthMiddle fifth-50050100150200250300%1980199020002010
Note: Data are for comprehensive income. Shaded areas denote recessions.
Source: Authors' analysis of data from the Congressional Budget Office (2010)

From State of Working America.

From State of Working America.

And from State of Working America.

Real hourly earnings and compensation of private production and nonsupervisory workers, 1947–2013

YearHourly earningsHourly compensation
Real hourly rate (2013 dollars)Hourly compensationHourly earnings19501960197019801990200020101015202530
Note: Private production and nonsupervisory workers account for more than 80 percent of wage and salary employment.
Source: EPI analysis of Bureau of Economic Analysis National Income and Product Accounts data and Bureau of Labor Statistics Current Employment Statistics

Cumulative change in real annual wages, by wage group, 1979–2012

YearTop 1%95th to 99th90th to 95thBottom 90%
Cumulative percent change since 1979156.2%153.6%55.4%61.6%34.1%39.2%16.7%17.1%Top 1%95th to 99th90th to 95thBottom 90%-50050100150200%1980198519901995200020052010
Source: EPI analysis of Kopczuk, Saez, and Song (2010) and Social Security Administration wage statistics

See State of Working America

This report by Bivens and Mishel from EPI summarizes the graphs found at their web page, State of Working America. A key paragraph: "Since 1973, hourly compensation of the vast majority of American workers has not risen in line with economy-wide productivity. In fact, hourly compensation has almost stopped rising at all. Net productivity grew 72.2 percent between 1973 and 2014. Yet inflation-adjusted hourly compensation of the median worker rose just 8.7 percent, or 0.20 percent annually, over this same period, with essentially all of the growth occurring between 1995 and 2002." Figure B of the report shows this brief wage growth spurt. 

The Economic Policy Institute published on March 3, 2018 an interactive bar graph with specific "real" wage increases for percentiles from 10th to 90th from 1979 to 2017. The lower earning 80% of workers saw on average a 10% wage increase over 38 years, 4 cents a year. The majority of male workers lost wages, but "all workers" up to the 50th percentile saw growth of 6.5% on average, over 38 years when productivity increased by 75%. 

Today the average NS worker receives $39,032 yearly in income. In 1969 he or she was receiving $41,892. In 48 years while the economy doubles its per person output, 80% of workers get a wage cut of 7%. The chart above states "hourly" income, and I have drawn from the Federal Reserve Chart which states "weekly" income. Let's imagine that average wages grew commensurate with the whole economy's growth; that $41,892 income would be 128% higher, $95,513. The economy doubled in per capita output, why did the wages not grow equally? Even I think that is unrealistic. But between the years 1946 and 1971 the two growth rates matched.

In 1979 “nonsupervisory workers” (NS) earned $38,584 a year (in dollars adjusted for inflation, or “real”). Thirty-eight years later, in 2017, NS workers earned 1% more, $39,032 a year, on average. 
The real GDP per capita increased, 1979 to 2017, by 83% (see
The BLS states that real wages for NS workers increased by 0.7% in 2017. Hourly wages increased by 0.1%, and hours worked increased by 0.6%, giving a total increase of 0.7%. (see here: Table A-2,
What was the increase in GDP per capita for 2017? The Fed reports a 1.8% increase (
Another way to state it: the NS workers wages increased at 39% of the rate of per capita income increase, in 2017, a good year.   
The BLS says about NS workers: “These groups account for approximately four-fifths of the total employment on private nonfarm payrolls.” 

Cumulative change in hourly productivity, real average hourly compensation, and median compensation, 1973–2011

Note: Data are for compensation of production/nonsupervisory workers in the private sector and productivity of the total economy.
Source: Authors' analysis of unpublished Total Economy Productivity data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics Labor Productivity and Costs program, data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis National Income and Product Accounts, and Current Population Survey Outgoing Rotation Group microdata

From State of Working America
A web page produced by the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) states that if wages for NS workers had kept pace with the economy’s growth rate, then an income of $39,032 a year in 2017 would grow to $58,825, some $19,793 higher. Approximately a 50% gain in income. I calculate that all incomes below $80,000 would be earning approximately $20,000 a year more — if wage growth had matched economy-wide growth.  I contend - albeit a radical claim -- that all 138 million NS workers would be making about $20,000 more each year. Multiply the $20,000 by 138 million and arrive at $2.7 trillion, which is 16.6% of the total national income. The researcher at University of Texas’ Inequality Project, Olivier Giovannoni  states that the lower earning 90% of workers has lost between 15% and 18% of the national income, which is between $2.4 trillion and $2.9 trillion. This is the third essay in which I've posted this graph from Mr. Giovannoni:

(Link to graph, University of Texas, Inequality Project, Working Paper #66, page 34, also published at the Levy Economics Institute)

Main idea: most everyone who is an employee (nonsupervisory worker) could be earning $20,000 year more each year. All 138 million of them. 

Of course I'm not the only one to come to this sort of radical conclusion. The Economic Policy Institute in 2014 published an interactive web page, "What Should You Be Earning?". I collected the earnings' changes for the following incomes:

 Earnings --    Would Be   ----                                  wage income    
$10,000    ----    $17,783        --- a gain of   78%            22              
$20,000    ----    $32,547                        of   63%            36              
$30,000    ----    $46,339                        of   54%            49              
$40,000    ----    $60,939                        of   52%            61              
$50,000    ----    $73,337                        of   47%            70              
$60,000    ----    $84,920                        of   42%            77              
$70,000    ----    $93,781                        of   34%            82              
$80,000    ----   $102,374                       of   28%            86              
$90,000    ----   $109,393                       of   22%            89              
$100,000   ---   $116.953                       of   17%            91               
$110,000   ---   $125,025                       of   14%            93               
$120,000   ---   $133,155                       of   11%            94               

According to the EPI table and the Social Security table, at least 61% of workers (all in the lower earning 61%) would receive more than a 50% increase in income. Of the 163 million American workers submitting W-2 forms to the Social Security Administration in 2016, 91% reported income below $100,000. This increase of 50% also coincides with the above graph by Olivier Giovannoni; if the drop from 55% to 38% were reversed, and the 55% level were again achieved, then the lower-earning 90% would receive approximately an income gain of over 50%. 

Next, I compare the relationship between the almost static "average weekly earnings of production and nonsupervisory workers" (see Federal Reserve graph) with the more robust growth of disposable personal income per capita, and the national income in billions.  
I looked up the average weekly wages at almost 10 year intervals for nonsupervisory workers (Column 1), converted it to constant dollars, then multiplied for yearly earnings. 

Column 1 -- “average yearly incomes for nonsupervisory workers; 

Column 2 -- Real disposable Income Per Capita, and 

Column 3 -- divides Column 1 by 2; one average worker was equal to the income for x average citizens. 

Column 4 -- is the inflation adjusted national income for each year, in billions:

Column 1 Column 2 Column 3 Column 4
1964 — $39,519 $13,485 2.9         $4,212 billions 
  1971 — $43,742 $17,191 2.5         $5,772 1981 — $41,808 $20,485 2.0         $7,356
1991 — $35,516 $25,396 1.4         $9,291
2001 — $37,024 $32,075 1.2 $12,658
2011 — $37,554 $36,307 1.0 $14,836
2018 — $39,000 $39,148 0.99 $16,416

The column 4 numbers quadruple; the column 3 numbers triple, the column 1 numbers do not move much, the column 2 numbers steadily decrease. 

One average worker’s income in 1964 equaled the post-tax income of almost 3 citizens. In 2018 one worker’s income equaled less than 1 citizen. 

In Column 1 income is rising, then falling and then rising over the years --   no change after 54 years  . Here's the BLS graph for "average weekly earnings, nonsupervisory workers" 


The 2018 wage is 11% lower than the 1973 wage! 
Here's the Fed graph of same data, without adjusting for inflation (inflation calculator here).
And here is the employees in the "financial activities" sector: up 46%, while for all employees wages are down 11%. --- ????

We see an income high in 1973, and then it falls by about 5% in the 1970s, and then falls by 15% in the 1980s -- the Reagan years were not so hot in terms of wage drops, but were pretty good in terms of employment to population (see the BLS data). , and then rising little by little, but still in 2018 it remains 11% or $4,742 below the 1971 level. The chart by Giovannoni at my blog’s most recent essay shows the decreasing “income share” received by the lower-earning 90% of U.S. laborers, falling from 55% to 37%, a drop of 18% of national income. This is equivalent to an income loss of $21,000 for every one of the 138 million nonsupervisory workers in 2018 (in the lower-earning 90%), if the income ratios of 1970 had been maintained. Or, it shows a loss of $2.9 trillion in 2018 terms. 
Data source: BEA Table 2.1. 

The problem is not Trump or the Republicans, it is us not paying attention, not watching our neighbors slip into poverty and low income. 

What does that tell you?  As I said, this is the wage history of 80% of U.S. workers. 
Since 1964 the per capita GDP (output) of the economy has increased by 165%, which is double but not triple per person. 
The economy grew, the wages did not.  Who gets angry? Who gets the extra money not going to employees? 
What do the Democrats say, if anything? Who does Trump try to address when he says “you are getting a raw deal”?
Is he talking to the rich people? No, he’s talking to Democrats who vote for him and Republicans. What should the Dems do? 
It’s obvious. 

See another table at State of Working America.

Hourly and weekly earnings of private production and nonsupervisory workers, 1947–2011 (2011 dollars)

Real average earnings
Annual percent change
Note: Private production and nonsupervisory workers account for more than 80 percent of wage and salary employment.
Source: Authors' analysis of Bureau of Labor Statistics Current Employment Statistics

Updated May 14, 2012

See how little the income gain is for the lower-earning 80% since 1973, at State of Working America.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics' graph and table on  "AVERAGE WEEKLY EARNINGS OF PRODUCTION AND NONSUPERVISORY EMPLOYEES, 1982-84 DOLLARS" shows that real wages in April, 1964 were higher than those in December, 2017, 53 years prior. Since 1964 the population has increased by 70%, the total national income has nearly quadrupled (up 289%), the per capita disposable income has nearly tripled (up 190%), and wages for 80% have dropped by 0.5%. (These % come from, Personal Income, Table 2.1) They took a brief upward swing until 1973, dropped some and recovered by 1980, then plunged and never recovered. But they are up by 5% over the past 4 years! If per capita income tripled (nearly), what prevented wages from growing? Where did the extra money go, or to whom? Why? Good choice? What can be done? See my essay "Solutions" and the most recent one on a "Radical Populist Budget."  

Since December 2014 real wages have grown by 5%. 

Here is the last graph, showing the income drop suffered by male workers age 18 to 34 from 1960 to 2014. After a spectacular increase from 1940, their incomes have slipped from $27,300 in 1960 to $15,000 in 2014. (From the Pew Research Center) What caused this income paralysis is a question everyone should be asking. In France during these years the incomes of the lower 50% matched the rate of growth of the entire economy. (See this excellent article at The drop that occurred in the U.S. was not unavoidable. 

For male 18- to 34-year-olds, wages peaked around 1970 and the share living with parent(s) started its ascent

The Democratic Party needs a unified voice — The Dems have two voices. One sounds a lot like Republican-soft. 
They need a stronger, more assertive progressive voice. They should call for higher earnings and income for the 80% who work as employees, who have seen the growth of their incomes stop since 1964. Senator Sherrod Brown, Ohio Dem, has called to double the size of the Earned Income Tax Credit, from $70 billion to $140 billion. That is a real change. They should call for a $12 or $15 minimum wage, for a New Deal of public job creation, and advance ways to rein in corporate power and increase earnings of employees. The Center for America's Future proposes an eleven-point agenda that expands on this plan. 

The Dems need to be divisive. They mumble along, and the public dislikes them for not challenging the Republican corporatism. It's not exactly that, it's corporatism on an international scale driven by short-term financial speculation that is eroding our future prospects. The political system is swamped by the excesses of great wealth that over-shadow ever election and control the major media institutions. The Dems as yet do not project a real change; Trump presents himself as Mr. "marvelous", "tremendous", and "really great" to make people believe he has all the answers to stagnant income and disappearing jobs. He understands the psychological malaise. Sanders alone has drawn a plausible assertive plan. Remember one analyst claimed that under a Bernie Sanders presidency the  economy would grow at a rate of 5% a year?  Gerald Friedman made a strong case (and see here) for Sander's overall plan which included Medical for All; Friedman claimed it would spark lasting added output. Here in part is what Friedman claimed: 
The Sanders economic policy will achieve broad-based and sustained prosperity with the following:  The growth rate of the real gross domestic product will rise from 2.1% per annum to 5.3% so that real GDP per capita will be over $20,000 higher in 2026 than is projected under the current policy  Faster economic growth and redistributive taxation will raise the growth rate of median income from 0.8% per annum to 3.5%, adding nearly $22,000 to median household income in 2026  Higher GDP comes with increased employment, specifically nearly 26 million additional jobs in 2026 

Is it plausible to increase median income by $22,000 in ten years, from about $60,000 to about $80,000? Frankly I doubt it's possible. Such a gain would require a type of price control that takes the form of government provided health care, free higher education, subsidized housing, wide-spread rent control, and child care and pre-K education -- all of which would suppress household expenses which would drive up real income. But we should aim for this vision. If the "real disposable income" per citizen is as the BEA states, $44,501 (see Table 2.1), then a household of four should have a post-tax income on average of around $178,000, not today's current pre-tax income of  $91,000 (see USCensus data here). The Dems need to sell a vision. We could theoretically double the median income of all household sizes. The "disposable income" officially is there, we just do not share it. 

This may come as a shock to many readers. Are the BEA, the Census and the Social Security Administration publishing false data? Why are the actual incomes of all households so low in comparison with the official data from the BEA? Reader, can you answer that question? The answer, I believe, is that "we just do not share it." 
Why is this blog's title what it is? 
I read the book The Great Financial Crisis by John Bellamy Foster and Fred Magdoff. Here is an hour YouTube talk from November 2017 by Fred Magdoff, author of a new book, Creating an Ecological Society: Toward a Revolutionary Transformation