America's wage problem

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  • Gildas LOGAN, UT
    Aug. 31, 2013 6:53 a.m.

    A previous evaluation of the American economy stated, I believe, that the real wages of American workers had actually fallen behind in that time frame. However that may be the doctrine that wealth reflects personal worth and personal integrity is alive and well, as it has often been before, and is as fraught with error and exceptions also.

    Who, I might ask, has not been overbilled today by some big corporation or another peddling contracts they do not keep, and warranties they do not stand by? They have teams of lawyers to tackle every small-timer who tries to have justice done.

    These corporations, and many smaller fry, outsource their labor, and sometimes even their "customer service" departments, to other nations or to illegal aliens in this country. Their god seems to be the Almighty Dollar, not their fellow countrymen, although a great many of the latter are complicit in buying their products.

  • redshirt007 tranquility base, 00
    Aug. 30, 2013 4:59 p.m.

    Do farmers eat all the grain after a harvest? NO. Well, pre monsanto, no.

    You have to keep the whole economic cycle running. If you short change your workers don't be surprised when they can't buy anything.

  • rnoble Pendleton, OR
    Aug. 30, 2013 3:18 p.m.

    It occurs to me that everybody sees that too much is being taken out of the economic stream but that there is little or no agreement about where that portion is being placed.

    I think it educational to consider the end users/receivers of what is being taken out. Note that in all cases the activity has little to do with productivity.

    1) banks and credit unions as savings---used to finance additional improvements of business and personal activity---
    2) investment houses---often just paper money that isn't real and by definition some one loses so that someone wins---
    3) government---local, state, national & regulations of same---many employees but productivity in these places does not mean additional goods---

    The difference between the 1% and the rest of us is mostly related to the amounts salted away and not used in economic activity. Instead it is sequestered as a "nest egg" for generations. They have been with us many years and are not a new thing. It is just that they have more economic freedom than the rest of us.

  • LDS Liberal Farmington, UT
    Aug. 30, 2013 7:16 a.m.


    Centerville, UT

    I own a small business and would like to give my incredible employees a raise...

    But ...

    In my world government is slowly killing us.


    But nothing.

    Simply raise your prices.

    It's called inflation.

    Oil companies do it weekly.

    BTW - Without some inflation, our economy remains stagnant.
    Worse yet, deflation is the opposite...we call that recession and depression.

  • marxist Salt Lake City, UT
    Aug. 30, 2013 1:07 a.m.

    Little light has been produced on this blog, from any side. Marx is important to economics because he sees not individual failure but rather systemic failure as the reason for our wage problems. But Marx is not welcome in conventional neoclassical economics, the type taught in most higher education. Marx deserves a hearing, and our understanding requires it.

  • David Centerville, UT
    Aug. 29, 2013 10:51 p.m.

    I own a small business and would like to give my incredible employees a raise because that is what they want, and I want to keep them employed. They comprise much of the culture and success of my business.

    But increased taxes, increased regulations, a slow economy, and many other factors have put the squeeze on the business. I wonder each month how the next month will fare.

    In my world government is slowly killing us.

    Politicians and government has, in a large measure, created greed, created the entitlement mentality, created class warfare...all to gain power.

    I agree with previous posts that speak more to changing hearts. The rich and the poor have a problem with greed, with serving, and with giving.

    Clayton Christensen, Harvard professor, has offered excellent solutions to our economic problems. Look him up.

  • Edgar Samaria, ID
    Aug. 29, 2013 5:53 p.m.

    Mountanman - "Those people" are already taking the low paying jobs or the jobs that no one else wants to do. And they're getting paid without paying any taxes to support the goverment or the Social Security system. Giving them legal status brings them into the system which will benefit them and everyone else in the country. They're already taking the jobs because so many employers want to avoid paying even minimum wages AND they want to find workers who will do the dirty jobs - like asbestos abatement. Go to any construction site in a renovated building and check out how many of "those people" are doing the nasty things, working harder that anyone else on the jobsite.

  • Mountanman Hayden, ID
    Aug. 29, 2013 4:43 p.m.

    The same Democratic political party who says they want to fight for minimum wage increases (without commensurate job skill increases) wants amnesty for illegal aliens. When that happens, these people will be lining up eager and willing to take YOUR minimum wage job and then what will YOU do?

  • LDS Liberal Farmington, UT
    Aug. 29, 2013 3:01 p.m.

    @Wanda B. Rich
    Provo, UT

    The other approach, favored by liberals, is to redistribute income through taxation. This has obvious drawbacks (see other comments above), but it does directly address the more fundamental problem of inequality and does act to decrease the debt (through higher


    A rich person NEVER has to pay taxes.

    In fact, all they have to do to avoid paying taxes is to INVEST it.
    Why do you think there are such things as tax deductions?

    The problem with the Uber-wealthy Billionaires, is that they already have everything they could possible ever want or need.
    Anything over a few million dollars is just funny pretend money to them.

    By hoarding it, and with-holding for their own greed -- they basically create vacuums in our economy, rather than jobs and opportunities...ala, the "trickledown" economics Reaganites brag about.

    The liberal idea of taxing this excesses is tantamount to saying --
    Invest it, put it back into the economic system, and drive the engine of our CAPITALISTIC economy
    We'll tax you and do it for you.

  • Nate Pleasant Grove, UT
    Aug. 29, 2013 2:50 p.m.

    @Roger B. Rich

    The third solution is better, as long as it is an association entered into freely. If any coercion were involved, that would ruin the plan. This is the reason for my aversion to approach #2. (I'll note here that approach #2 leads just as certainly to the death of the golden goose.)

    So how do you establish solution #3 without coercing it? It takes a whole community of people trying to be as virtuous as they can. Not government action, but a group of individuals acting morally, by their own choice.

  • Wanda B. Rich Provo, UT
    Aug. 29, 2013 11:59 a.m.

    To follow up on my previous comment, let me suggest that we have two basic approaches to solving our economic troubles today. The conservative approach is to ignore inequality (see comments above) and focus on reducing the debt solely by cutting government expenses. This approach brings unwanted results. It puts more people in economic jeopardy, increases inequality, decreases demand, and, eventually, will even sink the yachts of the wealthy, because they depend on the consumer classes for their wealth. In other words, this approach kills the golden goose.

    The other approach, favored by liberals, is to redistribute income through taxation. This has obvious drawbacks (see other comments above), but it does directly address the more fundamental problem of inequality and does act to decrease the debt (through higher revenues).

    Neither major political party seems able to see the obvious third (and better) solution: spread wealth more evenly by giving those who actually produce it a more equitable share of it. One mechanism that has proven effective is worker ownership of businesses. Look up the Mondragon cooperatives in Spain for a 57-year-old example. Ideology is getting in the way of intelligence on this issue.

  • Invisible Hand Provo, UT
    Aug. 29, 2013 11:30 a.m.

    @Hutterite: Letting business have what they want? Try running a business sometime. The regulations and red tape involved with even hiring someone are so much work that it's a wonder anyone has a job.

  • Hutterite American Fork, UT
    Aug. 29, 2013 11:13 a.m.

    We actually want to shoot ourselves in the foot. We balk at a minimum wage increase, let alone barely tolerate the existence of unions. We're letting the businesses have what they want, and that's what they're giving us.

  • Invisible Hand Provo, UT
    Aug. 29, 2013 10:22 a.m.

    @Shaun: I'm not saying we shouldn't have a safety net. I'm just saying that the safety net we have today does as much to trap people as protect them. How can we make the safety net more "safe" but less confining?

  • m.g. scott clearfield, UT
    Aug. 29, 2013 10:21 a.m.

    anti-liar, cjb, and LDS Liberal

    I am a conservative Republican, but I can't disagree with you on that one. There is trillions of dollars working in our economy, but right now the wealthy and big businesses are holding on to it. I won't go into why, because that's where we would probably part ways. Let's just agree that you say it's Bushs/Republicans fault, I say it's more Obama/Democrat fault. Good day.

  • Shaun Sandy, UT
    Aug. 29, 2013 10:07 a.m.

    @invisible hand. In a capitalism their will always be poor people. It would be impossible for everyone to move up for a variety of reasons and this is why a safety net is a crucial part of capitalism.

  • Invisible Hand Provo, UT
    Aug. 29, 2013 9:42 a.m.

    There are two changes in the modern economy that foster this idea that people can't get ahead. The first is globalization has made low-skilled labor a cheap commodity, while in the past it brought a higher price here in the US. The only solution to that is to not get stuck in a low-skilled job. People need to realize that they have to get additional training or education, or even start their own businesses to get ahead. By getting ahead I mean relatively, because everyone is better off when new products become mainstream and improve quality of life for even the poorest.

    The other change is that the social safety net has become something of a prison. People can't afford to take a better job because they will lose their food stamps, or medicaid, or some other benefit. So instead of taking that job that could lead to more skills and climbing the ladder, they are stuck, trapped by the system.

  • LDS Liberal Farmington, UT
    Aug. 29, 2013 9:17 a.m.

    Unions kept thing like this in check.

    So long as Billionaire suck money OUT of the economy, by stuffing their excesses into Swiss or Cayman Island bank accounts, and not putting it back into the great economic engine -- those actually working and producing all that wealth in the 1st place are left poorer and poorer.

    That's what's happening,
    [1% now have amassed 80% of the wealth, while the remaining 99% fight over the pettily remaining 20%.]
    and THAT's how and why the Rich get richer, and the poor are getting poorer.

  • Invisible Hand Provo, UT
    Aug. 29, 2013 9:14 a.m.

    All of to comments on this thread are misguided. Anti-liar, do you think "greed" is some new phenomenon, as if previous generations were not "afflicted" with self-interest? I also take issue with the assumption that inequality is a problem. I don't think we should begrudge those who have created the wonderful consumer products that even the poorest among us enjoy their reward. Yes, even the "poor" in this country have nicer cars, better housing and more "stuff" like fancy cell phones and electronics than middle class people from the 1970s ever dreamed of. So let's stop moaning about inequality. This attitude is purely the politics of envy. There are more opportunities today for people to get ahead than ever before if they are motivated.

  • Wanda B. Rich Provo, UT
    Aug. 29, 2013 8:56 a.m.

    For some time now the national economic debate his been hijacked by alarm over the debt. While the debt is worrisome, the larger and more fundamental problem is our expanding inequality. If we solve the inequality problem, much of the debt problem will again become manageable.

    Less money going to the consumer classes means they can't afford to buy consumer products, which means the corporate producers need more government welfare. It also means more people unemployed or underemployed, more people in need of help from government, more speculative investments in risky financial instruments (because low demand precludes investment in productive capacity), and more wealth accumulating among those who don't need it and don't really hire anybody (the purported "job creators).

    Solve inequality, and the debt crisis will slowly melt away.

  • Nate Pleasant Grove, UT
    Aug. 29, 2013 8:55 a.m.

    So let's talk about solutions. If the root of the problem is greed, the solution is not to throw out the entire system of liberty that brings us so many blessings. Redistributing wealth by force is not the answer. The solution is to create a change in individual hearts and minds, so that employers freely choose to be generous instead of greedy. We can do this by appealing to conscience and reason, by encouragement, and by teaching correct principles.

    We should be strengthening the institutions which cultivate virtue: families, churches, charities, service groups, community organizations.

    We can also point to concrete examples where high employee wages foster a successful business. There are many local examples, including the company where I work. My employer believes in treating his employees right, and has been rewarded many times over for his trust and generosity. His business is growing, and he has won all kinds of commercial awards in Utah. You will see many such examples, if you only look for them.

  • Roland Kayser Cottonwood Heights, UT
    Aug. 29, 2013 8:43 a.m.

    President Eisenhower once made a speech to the Detroit economic club in which he stated the genius of American capitalism was that an average worker could buy a nice house, a nice car, and send his children to college on his average working class income alone. He said the reason for this is because America's business leaders understood that it was in their own best interest to ensure that their workers were prosperous.

    He went on to say that the countries which were vulnerable to communist takeover were those in which the business elite took all of the wealth for themselves and their workers did not share in the prosperity. Sadly our leaders have forgotten that lesson.

    Although communist takeover is no longer a threat, it is simply not possible to have a stable society in which a few thousand people live like Roman Emperors while half the population can't make enough to survive. It will lead to either anarchy or a police state. I'm betting on the police state.

  • Edgar Samaria, ID
    Aug. 29, 2013 8:41 a.m.

    Whether any of us, regardless of our political stripes, want to admit it, one of the main reasons for wage stagnation is the dwindling power and influence of labor unions. Yes, unions like the UAW abused their leverage by demanindg more and more from their employers, and the employers were happy to give those benefits as long as they were making a healthy profit themselves. But even the UAW has given back benefits in recent years. What has the top management of major corporations given back besides pink slips and excuses for cutting wages or, at the very least, refusing to give wage increases. All while their bank accounts have overflowed with money.

    When unions were at their peak in terms of power and influence, ALL workers benefited with wages that were more closely aligned with management and benefits that made their lives liveable and bearable. But many or most "workers" today dream of being at the top of the heap some day and seem more than willing to accept sub-standard wages and benefit packages, assuming they will rise above it. Only when workers start standing together - again - will their situation begin to change for the better.

  • Mountanman Hayden, ID
    Aug. 29, 2013 8:04 a.m.

    But Maverick, the "rich" just got another tax increase! What are you talking about? Maybe its Obamaconomics that is has failed miserably! And by the way Reagan isn't the President anymore and neither is Bush, just so you will know!

  • marxist Salt Lake City, UT
    Aug. 29, 2013 7:59 a.m.

    Yes, but as Marx would say "it's not the people it's the system." Yes, greed has a whole lot to do with it, but such is programmed into contemporary capitalism - to the capitalist class there is never "enough." Profits are never high enough. To learn why this is so, read "Capital."

  • The Real Maverick Orem, UT
    Aug. 29, 2013 7:57 a.m.

    This is one, if not thee, problem in America.

    We have been sold a bad joke that less regulation, lower taxes (for the rich), and more productivity (by the workers) will lead the more prosperity for everyone. In fact, it hasn't. It has merely led to more money for the 1 percent.

    Reaganomics have failed... Miserably.

  • LDS Liberal Farmington, UT
    Aug. 29, 2013 7:51 a.m.

    Meanwhile --
    The 1% who have Quadrupled their "earnings",
    have been selfishly hording and not been trickling down like they promised.

  • cjb Bountiful, UT
    Aug. 29, 2013 6:44 a.m.

    The 75 percent increase in productivity could have meant a 75 percent wage increase for all Americans had it been distributed equitably. Instead this money went to the top 'one percent'.

  • anti-liar Salt Lake City, UT
    Aug. 29, 2013 12:45 a.m.

    The primary problem is not the "economy," but rather greed -- pure, unmitigated, unbridled greed. It has become a disease of epidemic proportion among American businessmen today.