Robert J. Samuelson: Capital vs. labor — it's not such a simple matter

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  • Nonconlib Happy Valley, UT
    May 22, 2012 9:02 p.m.

    Invisible Hand,

    10 percent of the population owns 80 percent of the stock. And that too is getting more lopsided.

    Any way you slice it, the divide between the rich and the rest is widening, and rather rapidly, and that does not make for a healthy economy. The shallow Republican argument is that we need to lower taxes on the rich so that they will invest and create new jobs. But the rich have been raking in record profits and salaries. Where are the new jobs? Companies claim they cannot afford to hire more people because the economy is weak and there is insufficient demand. So much for supply-side economics. It never did work, and it never will. You want growth? You need consumers to spend. How will that ever happen if the consumer classes don't have enough disposable income?

    I sometimes hope that we do elect Romney and that the Republicans gain control both houses of Congress. Then we may finally see how bankrupt conservative economic theory really is. Unfortunately, that scenario may spill us into an abyss we can never climb out of.

  • pragmatistferlife salt lake city, utah
    May 22, 2012 1:24 p.m.

    Invisible Hand, you also have to remember that while workers still have some IRA's and 401K's workers participation in such programs is shrinking. It was once was a healthy participation because companies participated. Companies substituted defined contribution plans 401K's for defined benefit plans. Now most large companies and I would assume most small companies have drasticly reduced or stopped all together their contributions so all the savings are personal savings. If you're making 30K a year..good luck with that.

    The trend of more to the owners and less to the workers is just getting worse..incluing any and all previous plans where workers shared in profits.

  • Twin Lights Louisville, KY
    May 22, 2012 1:11 p.m.

    Invisible Hand,

    Truer in the past. Many companies which would have offered 401K and other retirement benefits in the past no longer do.

    Irrespective of the disagreements we may all have on the solutions, the facts on the ground are stark and well documented. Over the past several decades (several administrations of both parties) there has been a shrinking middle class and a growing divide between rich and poor.

  • Invisible Hand Provo, UT
    May 22, 2012 12:35 p.m.

    @Nonconlib: You're forgetting that most workers also own capital stock in the form of IRA, 401k and pension funds.The divide between capital and labor is not as clear cut as the class warriors want us to believe. Almost all of us represent both labor and capital to varying degrees.

  • Nonconlib Happy Valley, UT
    May 22, 2012 10:39 a.m.

    If I understand the graphic in this editorial correctly and Samuelson's explanation of it, the labor portion also includes "wages and fringe benefits" of corporate CEOs, other high-level executives, and high-paid employees (such as those in Wall Street financial institutions, who make hundreds of millions per year—or billions in some cases). If this is so, then things are worse than we think. The divide widens, and inequality will eventually sink the ship as it gets too top-heavy.

  • marxist Salt Lake City, UT
    May 22, 2012 7:52 a.m.

    "Production and technological advances that enrich capitalists also raise mass living standards. Marxism's failure to recognize this was its undoing." This statement is not accurate, at least as it pertains to Karl Marx the economist. Karl Marx appreciated the market, particularly the innovation it creates. But Marx's theoretical system is still valid, surplus value is real, that is, labor produces a surplus (labor is not compensated fully for the value it adds). For this reason, labor's interests though related to capital are not the same. Moreover, as it has amply demonstrated in our own time, capitalism is notoriously unstable, trashing lives left and right. So, the question is, how do we evolve this system?