America’s Big Problem: Our Wages Are Too Damn Low

by Evert Cilliers aka Adam Ash

ImagesNobody gets paid enough in this country. Here's a statistic that will blow your head right out of your ass: if we were paid by how much we've increased our productivity over the last 30 years — in other words, if our wages kept pace with our productivity — the median household in America would, instead of earning just under $50,000 a year, make $92,000 a year.

That's $42,000 stolen from you every year.

You've become more valuable to your company by $42,000 a year, but they still pay you for the value you gave them way back in 1980.

$42,000 a year robbed from all of us.

By companies who keep what should be our wages as their profits.

And those profits are going nowhere. The money just sits there. Huge heaps of it. More than in all history. In 2009, US companies had $5.1 trillion in today's dollars in cash, sitting idle.

Money that could be put to work in the economy as wages to make people buy and spend so our economy could flourish.

Imagine how great an economy we'd have today if our median household income was $92,000 instead of $50,000.

There's got to be a law about this: when your productivity goes up, your pay should go up. Simple. The Pay-For-Productivity Bill.

Put it in Congress now.

The fact is this: we are a Walmart economy instead of a Ford economy.

Henry Ford paid his workers double the going rate because he wanted his workers to be able to buy the cars they made.

A virtuous circle.

But Walmart pays their workers so little, these workers have to go on foodstamps to get by. There should be a class action suit by all US tax payers: we want the $6.2 billion back that we give to Walmart workers every year out of our taxes in public assistance, because Walmart doesn't pay them enough to goddamn exist.

A very vicious circle — where we pay to help Walmart rip off its workers.

Why should us poor taxpayers have to subsidize stinking rich Walmart? The Waltons are already the richest family in history, forchrissake. Let's not forget that the reason there's income inequality — the 1% who get richer, and the 99% who get poorer — is not simply because that's what capitalism does (make the rich richer and everybody else poorer, or as Thomas Piketty put it, the return on capital will always outpace economic growth), but also because legislation has made it so, and legislation can unmake it so. For instance, legislation could make it easier for labor unions to make a comeback, so they could fight for higher wages for us all.

What else can be done about the fact that Americans don't get paid enough in wages for us to have a flourishing economy? What other ideas can we give Congress to do instead of voting to repeal Obamacare for the gazillionth time? (Irony of ironies: you gave them your real vote so they could make symbolic votes.)

Here's a list of some other things for Congress to do that could help all us overworked, underpaid Americans:

1. Mandate a minimum wage of $15 an hour. Then those of us who make a little more won't have to support working folks with food stamps and stuff.

2. Give us a 4-day work week, which means 20% more people could be employed; solves all our unemployment problems in one stroke.

3. Make a law that requires businesses to cut hours before they cut jobs (they do that in Germany). Another solution to unemployment.

4. Give everyone a basic income whether they work or not. It will simplify all public assistance: no more food stamps, no more unemployment benefits, no more welfare: just one payment to everyone who needs a minimum to get by.

5. Mandate that every company have its workers represented by a union, with a union member on the board, so there would at least be somebody standing up for higher wages (German companies have union reps on their boards).

6. Pay proper overtime pay.

7. Give paid maternity and paternity leave, paid sick leave, and paid elder care leave.

8. Give us all a one-month-a-year fully paid vacation.

9. Also, one month's free chocolate for everyone dumped by a lover.

And whatever else you feel like adding.

End of story.

How to fix America: it's all there in eight easy bullet points.


Now somebody go do something about it.

Like you, Congress Person. You were elected to do a job, and that job is not to spend all your time raising money to get re-elected.

The rest of us: let's talk, write, argue, persuade, convince, petition, agitate, march, protest and vote for what's got to be done for us to have an economy that works for us instead of for Walmart.

(From “The Workers Manifesto: It's The Morality Of The Economy, Stupid”)