On August 27, David Wessel of the Wall Street Journal appeared on NPR’s Morning Edition to discuss why, despite healthy corporate profits and stock market gains, wages remain stagnant. After addressing the usual suspects, such as globalization and technological change, he claimed that the best solution to wage stagnation “is the old-fashioned one: a faster growing economy.”
So, does the old adage remain true that “a rising tide lifts all boats”? To believe this, you have to ignore a lot of data. Exhibit A is the chart that the Economic Policy Institute updates every year, which shows wage growth relative to productivity growth. Since productivity growth is the measure of the economy growing, we would expect wages to rise as productivity goes up if the cure for wage stagnation was in fact a growing economy. But what do we actually see?
Growth of real hourly compensation for production/nonsupervisory workers and productivity, 1948–2011
At the Working-Class Studies conference last weekend, I heard an amazing dialogue about class, race and movement-building by five progressive journalists and activist scholars: Juan Gonzalez of Democracy Now!, Frances Fox Piven, Bill Fletcher Jr. of Blackcommentator.com, and former New York Times columnist Bob Herbert of Demos, with conference organizer Michael Zweig, author of The Working Class Majority moderating.
I was struck by how openly they disagreed with each other in front of us 200 listeners, by how passionate all five of them are about creating a more just society, and by what vast depth of experience they brought to the panel. Here are some highlights: Continue reading