Consider this: the US economy is 72 percent consumer spending. That means the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) cannot grow if salaries don't keep up with the price of living. Low Income Families (LOF)--that is, any couple making less than $80,000--represent 50 percent of all consumer spending. These LOF's spend everything they earn just to maintain their present standard of living. So, how can these families help to grow the economy if they're already spending every last farthing they earn?
They can't! Which is why wages have to go up. The cost to short-term profits is miniscule compared to the turmoil of a deep recession which is what the world is facing right now. The present crisis could have been avoided if there was a better balance between management and labor. But the unions are weak, so salaries have languished while Wall Street has grown more powerful, stretching its tentacles into the government and spreading its anti-labor dogma wherever it goes.
The investor class has rejiggered the system to meet their particular needs. Financial wizardry has replaced factories, capital formation and hard assets while real wealth has been replaced by chopped up bits of mortgage paper, stitched together by Ivy League MBAs, and sold to investors as priceless gemstones. This is the system that Bernanke is trying to resuscitate with his multi-trillion dollar injections; a system that shifts a larger and larger amount of the nation's wealth to a smaller and smaller group of elites.
When Alan Greenspan appeared before Congress a few months ago, he admitted that he had discovered a "flaw" in his theory of how markets operate. The former Fed chief was referring to his belief that investment bankers could be trusted to regulate themselves. Whether one believes Greenspan was telling the truth or not is irrelevant. What really matters is that the wily Maestro managed to skirt the larger issues and stick to his script. Congress never challenged Greenspan's discredited, trickle-down economic theories which guided his policymaking from the get-go. Nor was he asked to explain how a consumer-driven economy can thrive when salaries stay flat for 30 years. An answer to that question might have exposed Greenspan's penchant for low interest rates and deregulation, the two fuel-sources for the massive speculative bubbles which emerged on Greenspan's watch. These are the tools the Fed chief used for 18 years to enrich his buddies at the big brokerage houses while workers slipped further and further into debt.
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Punditman says ...
As usual, Mike Whitney cuts through all the doublespeak about what is wrong with the economy, who caused it and what to do about it. He notes that salaries (thus wages) have basically stayed flat for 30 years. Punditman has noticed that the cost of living hasn't. I am assuming Whitney is excluding the parasitic financial sector from his generalization—the geniuses who got us into this mess—as well as professional athletes and a few other obscenely paid "employees" such as lying media anchorpersons and loud-mouthed blithering sportscasters—but I digress.
To stimulate the economy, the answer is not to keep the average worker one paycheck away from the homeless shelter by allowing them to accumulate more and more unsupportable debt. The answer is (wait for it) ... more income at the bottom end of the economy! Imagine that. To get out of this mess, all households that make under 80 K need a raise. I find this oddly optimistic (now: how do you un-brainwash and politicize this huge constituency?).