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In These Times - January 31, 2022

The consequences of this massive upward wealth transfer are enormous, which has turbocharged the domination of our political system by corporations and the wealthy. Excessive corporate profits have even contributed to the higher rate of inflation over the past year. Meanwhile, total household debt has increased as workers take out loans to cover the wages they used to get.

The fate of the Build Back Better Act is currently unknown. The bill would be the largest social spending achievement in decades and provide needed services and support to millions of families — with more than half of the proposed $1.75 trillion in spending going to child care, preschool, affordable housing, higher education and healthcare.

But this proposed spending, over 10 years, is barely noticeable compared with the wages workers have lost over the past 40 years. In terms of productivity, wages should be significantly higher than they are, and the average worker continues to be shortchanged thousands of dollars annually. And much of the money workers should be getting is instead being pumped up to the top 0.3% of income earners. 

A number of factors have contributed to this productivity-wage gap. According to EPI, starting in the late 1970s, more unemployment has been tolerated to reduce inflation, the federal minimum wage has been raised less often, the deregulation of a number of industries has kept wages lower, corporate globalization has increased, wage theft has grown, and labor laws have failed to stop growing employer hostility toward unions. As unions declined, they had less power in their industries and therefore less ability to negotiate better wages to capture productivity gains. ...
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