28 October 2006

It is amazing to watch freedom-loving libertarians and free-market economists serve as apologists for the dismantling of the ladders of upward mobility

Amidst reports of a mass exodus of middle class voters from the Republican fold, President Bush and his loyalists, also in an attempt to shift focus of the debacle in Iraq, have now embarked on a campaign centered on the great economy, made in large part by the wonder of the Bush tax cuts.

While the Dow Jones Industrial Average has returned to past historic heights, I don't believe this is reflective of the economic health of nation, gauged in metrics that matter to most working Americans. With thanks and attribution to Max Sawicky, Paul Craig Roberts, Robert Kuttner, and a report from the American Center for Progress — running the gamut from progressive to non-neocon conservative, here are some salient economic truths:

  • Fewer than half of Americans own any stock at all, and 80 percent of the population has only ten percent of all stock market wealth.

  • For the bottom twenty percent of the workforce, wages fell by 1.9 percent from 2004 to 2005, but only 24 percent of these workers had health insurance.

  • The Census Bureau reported that median incomes for working-age families were down again, for the fifth straight year. Real median income for households under age 65 is down by 5.4 percent since 2000, even though the economy has grown every year. All of that gain has gone to upper-bracket people and corporate profits.

  • The economy's productivity increased by a remarkable 33.5 percent between 1995 and 2005, but real wages have declined since 2000.

  • Employer-provided health coverage declined from 69 percent in 1979 to 56 percent in 2004.

  • Household debt relative to personal disposable income, went over the one to one ratio in 2001 and now stands at 126%.

  • During the past five years (January 01 - January 06), the information sector of the U.S. economy lost 644,000 jobs, or 17.4 per cent of its work force.

  • During the past five years, U.S. manufacturing lost 2.9 million jobs, almost 17 per cent of the manufacturing work force. The wipeout is across the board. Not a single manufacturing payroll classification created a single new job.

  • For the five-year period, U.S. job growth was limited to four areas: education and health services, state and local government, leisure and hospitality, and financial services. There was no U.S. job growth outside these four areas of domestic nontradable services.

  • Accoding to Princeton economist and former Federal Reserve vice chairman Alan Blinder, 42-56 million American service sector jobs are susceptible to offshore outsourcing.

  • A comparison of starting salaries in 2005 with those in 2001 reveals a 12.7 per cent decline in computer science pay, a 12 per cent decline in computer engineering pay, and a 10.2 per cent decline in electrical engineering pay. Marketing salaries experienced a 6.5 per cent decline, and business administration salaries fell 5.7 per cent.

Once the numbers are examined, it doesn't appear quite the rosy picture being painted by the Bush administration and their loyalists. And when selected economic barometers are cited, one has to critically question for whom the benefits are accruing and for who is left behind.