Cause and effect, or vice versa?

November 05, 2006 by barbara

by LeftyMN

Economist Emmanuel Saez (Univ. of California, Berkeley) reported on a study showing that in 2004, the richest 1% of American households held 19.8% of the nation's wealth, up from 17.8% in 2003. Meantime, the Federal Reserve and Census Bureau report that median family income rose 1.6 % between 2001-2004 when adjusted for inflation. (From 1998 to 2001, the median family income grew by 9.5%, adjusted for inflation). Between 2000 and 2005, workers with four-year college degrees saw their wages fall 3.1% (adjusted for inflation).

From 2003 to today, corporate profits have actually been fairly robust and the stock market recently hit all time highs on the Dow Jones Industrial average.

So who holds the majority of the stock in American corporations? According to Morgan Stanley, in 2004 the median value of stock holdings for the top 10% was $110,000; the median value for the other 90% of American households was $8,350.

Corporations have been making money in two primary ways: through mergers and acquisitions and through productivity growth (which in many cases is one and the same). Productivity growth essentially means that people are working more and producing more, but they're making either the same or less in income and benefits. Most of us know our benefits have decreased, if not by actually lowering health insurance coverages or reducing employer pension co-payments, then by having higher co-payments or employee payments for insurance.

So . . . we have record stock prices, which are supposedly the cause of good profits at corporations, said stock held in overwhelming proportion by the top management of those companies, or the top management of investment banks, or the myriad interlinked members of boards of directors. The good profits resulting from higher productivity actually mean lower net income for apparently 90% of the population, according to government statistics.

One more time. The top income earners manage and own the companies. They reduce the cost of their products and services by mandating higher productivity (lower wages and benefits, outsourcing jobs and services). Via higher stock prices flows higher income for the 10%, and they are rewarded with lower tax burdens. Meanwhile, the bottom 90% accrues no apparent benefit. In fact, they toil and serve for all practical purposes to ensure the prosperity of the ownership and managerial class and get a diminishing return in compensation along with a net higher tax burden.

Somebody tell me, what is wrong with this picture?

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gtnbfghn (not verified) | June 6, 2007 - 6:23am

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