First look at US pay data, it’s awful

October 19, 2011

Anyone who wants to understand the enduring nature of Occupy Wall Street and similar protests across the country need only look at the first official data on 2010 paychecks, which the U.S. government posted on the Internet on Wednesday.

The figures from payroll taxes reported to the Social Security Administration on jobs and pay are, in a word, awful.

These are important and powerful figures. Maybe the reason the government does not announce their release — and so far I am the only journalist who writes about them each year — is the data show how the United States smolders while Washington fiddles.

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There were fewer jobs and they paid less last year, except at the very top where, the number of people making more than $1 million increased by 20 percent over 2009.

The median paycheck — half made more, half less — fell again in 2010, down 1.2 percent to $26,364. That works out to $507 a week, the lowest level, after adjusting for inflation, since 1999.

The number of Americans with any work fell again last year, down by more than a half million from 2009 to less than 150.4 million.

More significantly, the number of people with any work has fallen by 5.2 million since 2007, when the worst recession since the Great Depression began, with a massive taxpayer bailout of Wall Street following in late 2008.
This means 3.3 percent of people who had a job in 2007, or one in every 3330, went all of 2010 without earning a dollar. (Update: the original version of this column used the wrong ratio.)

In addition to the 5.2 million people who no longer have any work add roughly 4.5 million people who, due to population growth, would normally join the workforce in three years and you have close to 10 million workers who did not find even an hour of paid work in 2010.

These figures come from the Medicare tax database at the Social Security Administration, which processes every W-2 wage form. All wages, salaries, bonuses, independent contractor net income and other compensation for services subject to the Medicare tax are added up to the penny.

In 2010 total wages and salaries came to $6,009,831,055,912.11.

That’s a bit more than $6 trillion. Adjusted for inflation, that is less than each of the previous four years and almost identical to 2005, when the U.S. population was 4.2 percent smaller.

While median pay — the halfway point on the salary ladder declined, average pay rose because of continuing increases at the top. Average pay was $39,959 last year, up $46 — or less than a buck a week — compared with 2009. Average pay peaked in 2007 at $40,764, which is $15 a week more than average weekly wage income in 2010.

The number of workers making $1 million or more rose to almost 94,000 from 78,000 in 2009. However, that was still below some earlier years, including 2007, when more than 110,000 workers made more than $1 million each.
At the very top, the number of workers making more than $50 million rose in 2010 to 81, up from 72 the year before. But average pay in this group declined $4.5 million to $79.6 million.

What these figures tell us is that there was a reason voters responded in the fall of 2010 to the Republican promise that if given control of Congress they would focus on one thing: jobs.

But while Republicans were swept into the majority in the House of Representatives, that promise has been ignored.
Not only has no jobs bill been enacted since January, but the House will not even bring up for a vote the jobs bill sponsored by President Obama. His bill is far from perfect, but where is the promised Republican legislation to get people back to work?

Instead of jobs, the focus on Capitol Hill is on tax cuts for corporations with untaxed profits held offshore, on continuing the temporary Bush administration tax cuts — especially for those making $1 million or more – and on cutting federal spending, which mean destroying more jobs in the short run.

At the same time, nonfinancial companies are sitting on more than $2 trillion of cash — nearly $7,000 per American — with no place to invest it profitably. This money cannot even be invested to earn the rate of inflation.
All this capital is sitting on the sidelines waiting for profitable opportunities to be invested, which will not and cannot happen until more people have jobs and wages rise, creating increased demand for goods and services.

More of the same approach we have had for most of the last three decades and all of the last ten years is not going to increase demand, create more jobs or enable overall prosperity. In the long run, continuing current policies will make even the richest among us less well off than they would be in a robust economy with government policies that foster job creation and the capital investment that grows from increased demand.

On top of this are the societal problems caused by something the United States has never experienced before, except during the Depression — chronic, long-term unemployment.

Having millions who want work go years without a single day on a payroll is more than just a waste of talent and time. It also can change social attitudes about work and not for the better.

The data show why protests like Occupy Wall Street have so quickly gained momentum around the country, as people who cannot find work try to focus the federal government on creating jobs and dealing with the banking sector that many demonstrators blame for the lack of jobs.

Will official Washington look at the numbers and change course? Or do voters need to change their elected representatives if they want to put America back on a path to widespread prosperity?
(Editing by Kevin Drawbaugh)


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America is done. Face it.

Posted by Mithan | Report as abusive

It is amazing that the President is escaping this and blaming the banks. Any other time in history a sitting president with numbers this bad would be on his way out. Same with all incumbents really. I guess the media has to protect the chosen one.

Posted by UnPartisan | Report as abusive

I’m pretty sure he is on his way out.

Posted by Missinginaction | Report as abusive

“Will official Washington look at the numbers and change course? Or do voters need to change their elected representatives if they want to put America back on a path to widespread prosperity”?

Who said those were the only two alternatives?

Posted by lambertstrether | Report as abusive

The reason the President escapes blame here is that he is doing something to stem the tide of job losses and economic malaise, and he is doing what he can over the opposition of Republicans in Congress, who only want to see him out of office. When people who have no jobs see Republicans in Congress only wanting to replace the President, they can be forgiven for blaming Republicans in Congress for doing nothing.

Posted by yrbmegr | Report as abusive

If you really think that his jobs bill will do anything more than spike numbers like his census hiring stunt, you might as well believe that republicans and democrats are somehow fundamentally different, and not just paid off mouth pieces by whatever major lobby dominates their respective districts.

Posted by billt568 | Report as abusive

Just make offshore outsourcing only 50% tax deducible and jobs will return instantly.

Posted by robb1 | Report as abusive

Actually, the President is not being protected by the media, as the following PEW media analysis suggests (see below). But the fact that his approval numbers have not dropped as far as Congress’, suggests that the public recognizes where the road jams lie. The constant drum beat he’s making from the bus tour of swing states for Republicans in Congress to vote on the very same jobs proposals they’ve supported in the past, surely will further draw this distinction. It seems more and more plausible that Congressional Republicans, perhaps not even at the direction of their leadership, are going to do everything short of supporting substantial near-term job creation in order to help bolster their party’s chances of winning the White House next year. They pretend that tax increases on income over $1 Million, which is supported by the vast majority of Americans (including a majority of Republicans), won’t do anything to reduce the short and medium-term deficit. Here’s that Pew report: rimary-news-coverage-blogs-republican-pr esidential-race-barack-obama-rick–perry- herman-cain

Posted by jimrl8 | Report as abusive

Why do people think Obama can single-handedly reverse multiple decades of ignorant policy? Or rather, why does anybody blame Obama for not being able to single-handedly undo the mistakes of several generations in just a couple of years? Mr Johnston sums it up, if you want to point the finger, you need to point it in the other direction:

“But while Republicans were swept into the majority in the House of Representatives, that promise has been ignored. Not only has no jobs bill been enacted since January, but the House will not even bring up for a vote the jobs bill sponsored by President Obama. His bill is far from perfect, but where is the promised Republican legislation to get people back to work?”

Posted by Nullcorp | Report as abusive

These figures don’t lie.The fewer taxes, The more unemployment, the less spending, less investing, the fewer taxes, the more unemployment, the less spending,less investing……………..

Posted by mitchitoo | Report as abusive

Vote all incumbents out. Everyone must go, on every level, regardless of party, race, etc. 100% turnover should send the message. And while we’re at it, eliminate all political contributions. Tax every American head $10, or $20, or whatever, and divvy it up for all political campaigns. Until there are no lobbyists, special interests, etc. politicians don’t work for the American people. They are all bought.

Posted by somethingstinks | Report as abusive

The “Census Hiring Stunt” happens every 10 years regardless of the party in office….tax the “real” millionaires like the CEO of Ford ( 20 + million in compensation ) and others like him….nobody but nobody is worth that kind of money for any job!

Posted by terry641 | Report as abusive

Obama was handed one of the worst hands in the history of the united states. Yeah he’s made some mistake; one that he should’ve introduced a job bill earlier.

But one thing he successfully did was stop the hemorrhaging of job losses. Hate him all you want; blame him for every mistake in the world. But at the end of the day he likely prevented the 2nd great depression. Which was the current trend as Bush walked out of his office.

Posted by Anonhah | Report as abusive

Actually, the President is not being protected by the media, as the following PEW media analysis suggests (see below). But the fact that his approval numbers have not dropped as far as Congress’, suggests that the public recognizes where the road jams lie. The constant drum beat he’s making from the bus tour of swing states for Republicans in Congress to vote on the very same jobs proposals they’ve supported in the past, surely will further draw this distinction. It seems more and more plausible that Congressional Republicans, perhaps not even at the direction of their leadership, are going to do everything short of supporting substantial near-term job creation in order to help bolster their party’s chances of winning the White House next year. They pretend that tax increases on income over $1 Million, which is supported by the vast majority of Americans (including a majority of Republicans), won’t do anything to reduce the short and medium-term deficit. Here’s that Pew report: rimary-news-coverage-blogs-republican-pr esidential-race-barack-obama-rick–perry- herman-cain

Posted by jimrl8 | Report as abusive

President Obama and his big government is the problem. With all the regulations and upcoming Obamacare, the business leaders are scared stiff to invest money in jobs or major corporate purchases. They are sitting on that pile of money because they are afraid they will need it to counter government mandates. President Obama is not in favor of capitalism, and I don’t know why people expect him to get economic recovery going when he doesn’t believe in the economic system or in America. It is lack of leadership and vision that are keeping this country back. That is what a change in the White House can accomplish in 2012 – leadership and an attempt to let the economy recover. We need to reduce the size and scope of government. The example of Greece should be enough to tell us that huge government social programs cannot be sustained.

I think the Republicans were voted into office to stem the flowing red ink, and they are attempting to do that. The deficit is over a trillion dollars MORE per year, in the past three years, than any year that President Bush was in office. As a Republican, I have no problem increasing taxes on the rich, so long as every penny goes to reducing the debt, and as long as every income level above poverty pays something, however small, in taxes – so that people realize that any benefit comes at a cost.

Posted by stevedebi | Report as abusive

It is incredible how people in general see Obama an example as a family man, in his integrity, idealism and his view of a better society… (well , pretty much what any country wants as a guide) but cant see that the president alone cant guide the nation…
For the elite and the finantial interests the difference between Republican and Democrat is simple… Convenience…
No matter wich one has majority on Senate or Congress… it is just a matter of lobby the way through to achieve a special interest goal… just a matter of money and time… and one path may just be easier and cheaper than another…
And if it is not of interest … simply leave them divided arguing to the last breath…
It is more possible to have a guy with integrity, idealism and a better view of the future as president… highly improbable is to have hundreds in congress and senate… same thing all around the world…
Take my country for example… since people dont see a congressman or senator as a key important figure, often take only a few thousand votes for the worst kind of politician get there… not mentioning we still have former clows, former pop singers, former athlets, actors… who got there…

Posted by VonHell | Report as abusive

Why are the wealthiest always referred to as “job creators” now? Do they have some kind of immunity under the assumption that because they’re rich they’re creating American jobs? Because looks like they’re not creating anything at the moment!

Posted by mgmetz | Report as abusive

You people blaming just the President (and not Congress) are all idiots. Go back to a Civics Class.

Posted by KyuuAL | Report as abusive

You lost me when you started saying they have not done anything on jobs-this is a failure of both parties. The Democrats want to solve it with government spending and the Republicans want to solve it through deregulation and lower taxes. You show your bias to the former as you believe the only think that will create jobs is government spending. If individuals in the media would fault both parties for their failure to negotiate and find compromise problems would be solved more easily. The media is equally, of not at more fault than the parties.

Posted by Eeskin | Report as abusive

Republicans do not want an employed work force; they want a slave race readily available to mow the lawns of their sprawling estates on the cheap.

Posted by DisgustedReader | Report as abusive

I have a small business and I am petrified to invest in more workers. Business is down and Obama’s policies are going to keep it down. As long as he is president we will not expand. In other words, we will not hire.

Posted by Onceagain | Report as abusive

Just from looking at the chart, I see that our steepest job loss was 2008 – 2009; President Obama didn’t take office until January 2009, where job loss started evening out. Did y’all even read the article? Heck, you don’t even need to read, there’s a picture and everything.

Posted by thrdkllr | Report as abusive


The Republican Congress has been there for eleven months. Obama had 2 full years to address the economy, he did so and his policies didn’t work. He campaigns constantly against the Republicans, calls them his enemy, and then wonders why they aren’t working with him. He is either to blame for the mess, or powerless to change it which shows his lack of leadership. There is no other other way to get around that.

Posted by UnPartisan | Report as abusive

This is a message for thrdkllr. It is true that Obama didn’t take office until 2009, but he was running in 2008. We were told by the vast majority of our customers that they were afraid he would win and they wanted to hold on to their money. They did indeed hold on to it and the business suffered horribly and still is. Apparently many, many business people were afraid of what he would do and the country is suffering as a result.

Posted by Onceagain | Report as abusive

Minor correction to an otherwise informing piece:

1 in 33 does not equal 3.3%. The fraction you’re looking for is 1 in 30.

Posted by mathblaster | Report as abusive

The fact that people say businesses are not hiring because of fear of taxation and regulation is ridiculous. Business is about one thing. Profit. And if there is not a customer base that demands innovative products to consume, then there is no reason to innovate or hire. If a business thought they could turn a profit, they would hire in droves, regardless of taxation or regulation.

The market is stagnate. And I can understand businesses being apprehensive to make the leap and hire a bunch of people if other companies don’t follow suit. Obama seems to be the only one who recognizes that someone needs to start hiring. If not the government, then who? Come up with a plan republicans and stop just mocking the President.

Posted by inane_username | Report as abusive

It is evident that individual income would have turned direction by 2007, but for the case that income figures and associated federal tax revenues were skewed higher by a peaking corporate merger mania. By 2008, the downtrend starting to assert itself, and the trend has been down since that time.

This is the current President’s show, and he should have been smart enough to recognize that supply side policies including support of three decades of federal deficit spending and reliance on consumer debt expansion were not prescriptive for this economy. Just as Reagan’s drive for supply side spending pulled the US out of an inflationary recession, so too must the Presidental office holder lead COngress to neutralize those policies while containing the engine of deficit growth.

Posted by SanPa | Report as abusive

And this is why we’re so screwed. The tea partiers don’t want to do anything; the rest of the Republicans are pushing their tired supply side baloney that hasn’t worked for thirty years, and the Democrats are missing in action. So three years into this and nobody in Washington is doing anything effective to deal with this and industry is sitting on their hands.

Posted by majkmushrm | Report as abusive

“Will official Washington look at the numbers and change course?”…. Now that would be a historical moment… Too bad it won’t happen…
And that post by stevedebi offends the senses… Man, this person needs an education. Of course I understand how hard that is to obtain now-a-days, because the Republicans have cut education budgets so drastically….

Posted by edgyinchina | Report as abusive

1/30 = 3.3%, 1/33 = 3.0303%

Posted by mathblaster | Report as abusive

Point the finger at yourselves America. You live in a democracy and you don’t vote. Instead, you complain. You let this happen by years of abdicating your democratic responsibility. You love to tout your patriotism. What could be more patriotic than voting? And yet you don’t. You have willing handed your democracy over to the special interest groups and fringe fanatics. And now you are, finally, waking up to it. Wall Street excess, the bailout, the Tea party, are all symptoms of the real problem, which is you.don’ You want to change things, don’t engage in ultimately meaningless protests, VOTE!

Posted by ConcernedCanuck | Report as abusive


You ever hear of this thing called the filibuster? It was used an unprecedented matter of times in the last Congress. The Dems had a super majority (and barely one, even if you included people like Lieberman, Nelson, Tester, Spectre, and a few others) for all of a few months before Kennedy died. Talk about bad timing. He was VERY conciliatory to the GOP over the first two years, in fact most think most of his problem was that he took the GOP on their word (the pledge of office to work for the people) when in fact they where simply working to, and I quote because this was said verbatim, their “primary goal is for Obama to be a one-term president” by their leader, Mr McConnell. He even said this in the first year, so what we get 3.5 years of ‘trying to make Obama a one-term president”. And then you, and others have the gall to say it is Obama’s fault! Personally I find it bewildering and it gives insight into the logic that brings you to the ideological conclusions of those on the right.

Ok now back to this article, sorry when I see complete mis-characterizations I have to try and correct them…..I am interested in seeing the trends starting in the 80’s and during the more sensible taxation policies of the 90’s.

Posted by USAPragmatist | Report as abusive

I would hope at some point, America as a whole realizes that we are all to blame for the mess we are in. Be it by living beyond our means, not stressing the importance of education, saving, and work ethic to our children, cheating on our taxes, welching off the system, by being less productive in our workplaces then we know we could be, etc…., over the past twenty plus years, there’s no magic legislation, regulation, program that can fix that.
It’s going to take a couple of generations to reverse
those behaviors.

Hopefully the younger generation is taking note of what is going on and will teach their children the importance of family, education, leaving within their means, work ethic, and their greater responsible to society and all of humanity as a whole.

Posted by timdogs | Report as abusive

Median pay started to slide before Obama was pres. SO it is his fault how?

Posted by gordo365 | Report as abusive

Looking at these numbers as a tea party member – the obvious solution is to repeal 17th amendment. No – to make all students carry guns. No – abolish taxes and we all go live in caves. Yes that’s it.

Posted by gordo365 | Report as abusive

As commander-in-chief, Obama can’t blame others before him nor the republican tax-cuts not to convert war costs to non-military jobs. Democrats are even bigger military spenders.

Posted by null1 | Report as abusive

@ thrdkllr, well said

Fixing joblessness in America is a lot more complicated than the president snapping his fingers and approving a bill. Take a few things into consideration,… the digital revolution(we’re ADAPTATING); America’s resistance on switching over to clean energy and creating millions of jobs and setting a good Worldly example(we’re STUBBORN); every other Country will do our jobs for half the price(we’re GREEDY); The top one percent earns over 99 percent of the profit(we’re SLAVES); Marijuana, a plant that is a renewable energy resource and is used to produce dozens of consumer goods and not to mention millions used it for medicine and tens of millions more use it “under the counter” for relaxation, creativity, and depression, and it’s still almost completely illegal(We’re Ignorant); Tens of Thousands of Americans are graduating College every year now which is unproportional to jobs created even in a booming economy(we’re OVERLY QUALIFIED).

Our country is in a state of transition, between analog and digital, crude and clean, greedyness and reality, slavery and emancipation, ignorance and rationality, and between experience and qualifications. The money is there to be earned, but change is always hard to adapt to. So until Americans emancipate themselves from the shackles of 20th century capitalism and open their minds, recession it will be.

Posted by CCMabe | Report as abusive

The problem with America?

Derp I’m a Republican I hate Obama it’s all his fault…
or Derp I’m a Democrat it’s all the Republicans’ fault in congress…

In other words: Too many uneducated Americans voting based only on party lines, not what candidates actually DO.

Note: over half of the time of congress is spent raising money to be reelected (IE lobbying).
How much has your candidate of choice raised from corporate interests?

Posted by JH818 | Report as abusive

Wow! Sure are a lot of finger pointers. There’s plenty of blame to go around. At this point I’m more interested in doing what is needed to fix this mess. “It’s the economy stupid”. It always has been and it always will be. It needs to be protected like a child. Unfortunately, a large portion of our leaders are hell bent on cutting spending. Can you spell “spending”? I can, JOBS. Now, everytime you hear someone say spending cuts, insert the the word JOB and you will begin to understand why we’re in such a mess.
Cutting spending is the worst thing we could do right now. We need spending, spending, spending. But the spending has to be on American jobs. Construction jobs. Infrastructure jobs. I don’t care who spends the money, but if private industry won’t do it, then who will? The federal government, that’s who. For every $1.00 spent on “American” jobs, a $1.90 comes back into the treasury in the form of income taxes. You see, jobs beget jobs and jobs and jobs. And they all generate income taxes. The treasury grows, puts more dollars out there for more projects and so on. It’s like a pyramid, with the investor as the beneficiary. That’s us, the tax payers. We are the government. The faster this goes, the faster the treasury grows. At some point we are sailing along at an appropriate pace that doesn’t produce adverse effects. While everybody works, the treasury gets flush, then it balloons. This is when you pay down the debt. Then when that has been accomplished, you start cutting the tax rates. And you stop at a point that is appropriate to run the government and take care of the people.
This was tried before. A guy named Ford had this modest work force that struggled along on what they were paid. Ford had this idea. He thought that if this work force had more money, they would spend it, hopefully on what he was selling. So he doubled their wages. It worked, the workers prospered and so did Ford. He continued to reinvest creating more jobs. The cycle never stopped. Millions of American jobs were created by his actions.
Since the “Fords” of the country these days are not willing to make the investments, it is critical that the government do it. Once it starts to happen, you’ll see the money free up and we’ll be rolling again.

Posted by Bwaggener | Report as abusive

Reuters are you now failing in line with Social Media??? Right out of the box you are defending and support OWS. Shame on you. I started coming here 10 years ago to get the news!!

Posted by Crash866 | Report as abusive


And the filibusters are not a way to completely stop legislation as you surely know. Republicans did not want the Heatlh Care bill, how did it get through if filibusters are 100% effective. Because they are not, and you shouldn’t pretend that they are. If you can not convince 20% of the other party to work with you, your bill shouldn’t get passed, that is checks and balances and used to prevent government from running wild.

Ever hear of cloture?

Posted by UnPartisan | Report as abusive

I think the real reason businesses are afraid to invest in anything and are holding on to their cash is because of the unpredictability of the future. They have no way of knowing whether or not, in the long run, their taxes will be higher or lower, so they are playing it safe and holding on to their money. The only way for this economy to recover is for politicians to think long term (something that is impossible for them, both Democrats and Republicans, since they only think about their next re-election campaign and appealing to whichever lobbyists will help them finance said campaign) and develop long-term sound taxation policies that foster small business growth, not an unregulated Wall Street. Wall Street does not PRODUCE anything. Trading in markets does not make anything of substance for most Americans.

Posted by GradStudentNC | Report as abusive

Our leaders are mostly millionaires, completely reliant on the rich to keep their jobs, and take more than they give. This is an interesting time for America and the world. In the 18th century the enlightenment thought included that Countries will always require corrections via the blood of aristocratic tyrants and patriots (e.g., the French Revolution). Of coarse we are not yet in the same state as 18th France, but now would be a good time to peacefully correct the trajectory of equality in this Nation. We need to get over the virtual non-issue of Democrat vs. Republican, they are more similar than not, and find a new fiscally responsible and “Square deal” focused leadership. My hope is that the internet and movements like will become a productive mechanism for generating new parties and “non-connected” patriots to enter leadership.

Posted by ConstFundie | Report as abusive

Yeah its kind of odd, that that is the main breaking news headline!

Also, even though a lot of what this dude says is reasonably correct, a 4.2% increase in the population doesnt necessarily mean a 4.2% increase in the workforce. The national median age is 36.8 years, so any increase in the population likely means a greater % increase in the workforce, being that at 18 you enter the workforce. So things are somewhat worse than the picture painted here! enjoy.

Posted by Shukla | Report as abusive

10:15 pm EDT@USAPragmatist

And the filibusters are not a way to completely stop legislation as you surely know. Republicans did not want the Heatlh Care bill, how did it get through if filibusters are 100% effective. Because they are not, and you shouldn’t pretend that they are. If you can not convince 20% of the other party to work with you, your bill shouldn’t get passed, that is checks and balances and used to prevent government from running wild.

Ever hear of cloture?


(1) Ever hear of 50%+ being the MAJORITY?? That is how it is supposed to work.

(2) You want 20% of republican to say yes? (Aside from sounding like you believe in the Easter Bunny), you must be out of your mind.

If it is split 59 (D & I) and 41 R, you think things should only get done it a super-majority of 20% of the R’s (8.2 of’em) vote for something along with the majority of the 59?

GUess what – that is NOT how my ancestors drafted the documents creating the US. Not once. Not ever. Not ever ever ever was a super-majority required regularly

(3) Prior to the Rep knickers-in-a-twist-non-stop-tempertantr um-screaming-no-no-no, the filibuster was very infrequently threatened and used even less.

As far as I am concerned, the next time the R’s flounce around shrieking ‘no no no – do only what we want or we will filibuster’ , Reid needs to grow a pair and tell them to do it – really do it but getting up on the floor of the Senate and talking without stop around the clock. LBJ would have made them stay on the floor talking until they dropped – and bet they wouldn’t have pulled that again!

Cloture was NEVER inteneded to be the standing rule and the only way to get anything through on every piece of legislation ws to have a super majority.

Posted by onthelake | Report as abusive

That is why most of the people who are dismissing the demonstrators or laughing at them at present might find themselves on the streets too, not just by joining the protesters but because they will lose their homes too.
And the truth is that as the crisis will go deeper even those companies and people sitting on the trillions of cash might find themselves on the go as well, as the cash might be only useful for toilet paper.
We are in a system failure which is going to affect all of us regardless of social status, class, cast or nationality.
The 99% slogan will soon turn to 100%, simply those still sitting on money do not want to understand that their money, and position does not worth anything anymore.
We have to understand the new global, interconnected conditions around us, and that in these new conditions our whole previous way of life and political and economical machinery has become useless, moreover harmful.
The sooner we all realize we are sitting on the same sinking boat, the sooner we can start the mutual, equal discussion on how to build new human, social and economical systems based on the new conditions.

Posted by ZGHerm | Report as abusive

The other thing that everyone is overlooking is the price of fuel…or I should say “has been conditioned to overlook.”

Earlier this year at the start of the Arab Spring uprising, oil shot up to $120 a barrel purely on speculation there would be an oil shortage. Gasoline within a week shot up to $4 a gallon all over the country. Since then it’s only dropped about .50 cents while oil prices have seen lows down to $75 a barrel earlier this month. THERE WAS NEVER AN OIL SHORTAGE!…and yet all the speculators, and big oil, have been screwing everyone over for the last 6 months…and everyone just rolls over and takes it now. No questions asked.

Posted by gruven137 | Report as abusive

When the Wall Street boys stopped getting their million dollar bonuses, naturally the median (mid-point) pay would drop some.

Posted by Glenn-LgvwTx | Report as abusive

Why is Obama “on his way out”? There will practically only be a Republican alternative, a single candidate. This person will be for continuing and probably expanding our country’s disastrous wars and war spending. Support for expanded police powers over US citizens, especially regarding arbitrary search and surveillance, is a certainty from a Republican nominee. Spending cuts and laying off hundreds of thousands of non-police related Government workers is very likely.

In short, our Republican alternative is to shift government employment spending from things like health care, social security and food stamps to hiring more soldiers to invade more Muslim countries. And to continue to drive up deficit spending together with suppression of every single civil liberty you can think of. Just ducky. Those people do not live on the same planet as I do.

Posted by txgadfly | Report as abusive

Why anyone thinks that their paycheck is dependent on the faults or the virtues of the sitting President is beyond imagination, save for personal jealousy or hate. These are also out-dated and irrelevant facts at this point. If anything this data should be an indicator of the unwillingness of businesses (and governments) to play fair with employees. As if they resent having hired workers or hiring new ones, this attitude of objectifying people as merely “workers” or “consumers” or “voters” is the illness that Occupy describes. Bigger profits for the “shareholders” and executives is the reason for smaller paychecks. It is class warfare, but it is being waged by those that pay the salaries. Eventually there will be no masses to buy the mass-produced goods made by cheaper labor.

Posted by nieldevi | Report as abusive

Great article Mr. Johnston. thanks for the link to SSA data. For what it’s worth i calculated people earning $65k or less, or 84% of workforce, cumulatively earn $3 trillion or about half of all income earned.

Interestingly the top 1% of all wage earners begins at $200k

Perhaps the OWS movement should go after the top .1%

Posted by jusguessn | Report as abusive

I see no reason why Mr. Obama should be booted out of office ………even the smartest of persons would have to deal with this issue no differently… these are hard times… Give him credit for taking the heat on the HOT seat……


God bless him and God bless America…

Posted by WMFTE | Report as abusive

First, thanks to David for this article and unbiased analysis…extremely informative and balanced.

Secondly it is frustratingly painful to see that how masses are still blind and cannot see politics at play and still take jibes on republicans or democrats or president….take any democratic country running democracy and you would find that system is designed by rich & powerful to work like that – whereby they provide a smoke screen of left and right party to which masses believe and the top 2% just leverage left or right, whosoever in power to ensure that what they want is available to them in ALWAYS. Study history, politics and economics and results are consistent….I am not stating that communism or dictatorship or monarchy is good.. ..what needs to happen is:

a. Democratic system needs to ensure that leaders wealth is tied to the wealth of 98% of the people as part of the system. I do not think so that a solution can be proposed impromptu at this forum but this is absolute must and there are much smarter folks in the country who can help design the same
b. Any tax breaks are from grounds-up and not top down approach. Rich can enjoy tax breaks as long they get it in this mode.
c. Stashing money abroad through direct and indirect means needs to have absolute zero tax exemptions with policies designed to discourage the same.
d. Budget has to be balanced ALWAYS otherwise representatives in Congress lose their office. Period. It is Ok to have elections again so that they understand the pain.
e. Innovation is incentivized significantly which leads to conditions of sustainable growth
f. Lastly incentivize return of wealth and jobs abroad to be brought back to country with favorable tax regime.

All of this is possible and none of this is rocket science and Dems/Reps/Pres would not do this for us….we would have to force them to do it, unfortunately. Leverage democracy to our favor as democracy is just not about elections..

Wake up masses. Having #OccupyWallstreet with no specific agenda would lead us nowhere. There always needs to be a goal to achieve something and this group took first courageous step for organizing demonstrations and galvanized the voice of commoner (I appreciate it and support it)….they now need to move to step 2 to have a goal and they are losing precious time as public would slowly get disenchanted in absence of goal and lack of visibility of actions that are taken towards those goals.

Posted by duggals | Report as abusive

So here we are:
– The high financiers busted up everybody’s finance and made a fortune.
– The government bailed out the busted financial firms and got into black hole debt.
– The people wants to get bailed out by the government.
– The government can no longer borrow more and tax more.
– The politicians talk Utopian bailout as solutions.
– The central bank bailed out the banks and this year government fiscal deficit, but finds itself in a black hole too.
– The states want to get bailed out by the federal government.

All these add up to a near-bankrupt state where everybody wants to be communist without actually becoming a communist state. I think the presidential candidates should fly to Beijing to learn how a successful capitalist economy works.

Posted by TomKi | Report as abusive

I am convinced the next administration will solve all the economical problems, see to it that everybody will have work as well as more money to spend, and that all the US debts will be paid in full.

[sarcasm mode/off]

Posted by Renbe | Report as abusive

Get your heads from out of the sand and stop blaming the president. He inherited the crisis among other things like the parallel and unnecessary wars. Truth be told, people are selfish and greedy – qualities that are best accentuated by capitalism, or American Capitalism where they refuse to provide each person with basic healthcare. All the jobs have gone abroad – and I wonder how that happened? gosh… reality check.

Posted by sidqq | Report as abusive

Some of you people seem to think that Congress is controlled by the Republicans! Nonsense. First of all, the Republicans only control the House. Anything they pass is shot down by Harry Reid’s Senate. And if the Senate passed a House measure, the Executive will veto. No, the government is completely controlled by the democrats. And remember, all of Congress was controlled by the Dems. until 2 years ago. Blaming the Republicans for this and excusing the Democrats is absurd. Second of all, as long as the voters put people like Dick Durbin and Rick Santorum into office, this country’s fiscal mess will never abate. It’s time that people who actually run this country: businessmen, bankers, wall street, and entrepreneurs suck it up and do their civic duty and run for political office. Clearly these Americans are busy and overworked, and have no desire to be under the public microscope, but it is your DUTY! Save America for your posterity!

Posted by jwab | Report as abusive

In America there are two businesses that Washington has its hooks into the deepest. Two businesses whereby Washington sets the rules and doles out the enforcement. Two businesses that must adhere to the whims and fancies of political lawmakers or perish. Which two businesses are they? Why, it’s the same two businesses that are the most disliked by the majority of American’s. Banking and Health Care.

Posted by GLK | Report as abusive

Forget the politics. We’ve tried the approaches of both the left and right, oscillating back and forth between the two, and nothing ever gets better. There’s something more profound at work here. In per capita terms, the demand for labor is getting ever more out of balance with the supply. As our nation and world grow more densely populated, over-crowding erodes our per capita consumption. Out of necessity, single family homes are replaced by apartments, cars are replaced by mass transit, and so on, producing an overall decline in per capita consumption. Since per capita consumption and employment are inextricably linked, rising unemployment, falling incomes and growing poverty are the inescapable result. There are no solutions that don’t begin with stabilizing our population and halting free trade with badly overpopulated nations.

Pete Murphy
Author, “Five Short Blasts”

Posted by Pete_Murphy | Report as abusive

Why not just cancel all debts, reset all bank accounts to zero, fire everyone, scrap the military and the police force and just start over from scratch.

That’s what you guys did in Iraq. Why not do as you preach for once?

Iraq is better off now, isn’t it? right?

Posted by Stu_ell | Report as abusive

And the stalemate continues as not only the politicians argue about each other, but the citizenry also places blame on each other’s political party. Years and years of waste and abuse, easy to see if you only open your eyes and actually see what the hell is going on.
Talk about wasting votes.

Think for yourselves, and take Amerika back!

Posted by skeeteril | Report as abusive

If you look at the graph.. Look at when the Republicans were in control.. Jobs were up, income was on the rise. Yes, there was a debt-based crash–too many people overspending their bounds and our government historically (through both Democratic and Republican based leaderships). The problem was primarily created from our collective society’s tendency to live on DEBT and not on what we can actually afford.. It was a problem created by Democrats and Republicans alike.

I find it surprising the number of people who continue to bash the Republican party as if it is all their fault legislation is stalled at this juncture. Obama’s divisive personality, where he belittles and threatens anyone who doesn’t see it “his way” is “the problem” IS the problem! Obama is not an angel with answers where no one is listening to him, and all Republicans are stonewalling just for fun. The jobs bill was killed by a few votes from Democrats joined in with the Republican majority. Obama’s rhetoric about it all is what is going to get him shuffled out the door because nothing is going to get fixed as long as he’s in there with his “my way or no way” attitude too! –Keep in mind people, Obama has the mentality of vetoing anything the Republicans do, so we are currently in a deadlock of the powers on both sides.

My opinion, they all need to go and we need someone who can get people to work together, who will fairly look at solutions presented by both sides, and who will take the best of the Republican and Democratic solutions and join them in viable legislation.

I think we need to get well away from POLITICIANS as usual and go with someone who has a track record of fixing broken corporations.. My vote is going for Herman Cain. His 999 plan may not be perfect, but neither will it be passed into law as proposed… It WILL be refined through the legislative process, and it is the type of change we need.

Posted by HearHear | Report as abusive

One has to wonder why we need young programmers from India when there are armies of unemployed middle age experienced tech workers and why H2’s are still issued for Mexican construction workers when there are millions of unemployed American construction workers. It is too bad that the President can’t countermand Congress on this matter.

Posted by SanPa | Report as abusive

This is just the long term legacy of deregulation and globalism. From 1945-1970 we had the longest, most reliable slow upward trend of economic growth due to heavily regulated financials and pro-worker laws.
Despite the extreme expense of the cold war, we did very well.

Fast forward to the rise of the new Republican Party, the Reagan Revolution, and massive deregulation of Wall Street, you see numerous wild swings in the markets with a neverending cycle ob boom/bust, and the average blue collar and lower middle class white collar taxpayer ends up paying for it.

Posted by JohnSmith9875 | Report as abusive

You can all blame whichever side you would like, but it’s a no win argument. Both congress and the president, Dems and Reps are to blame. Clearly the loss of jobs began long ago with the exporting of US manufacturing. Free-trade and the ability for Americans to buy cheaper stuff that we don’t really need has pushed nearly all companies of any size to move offshore. Penalizing those companies with less tax credits for outsourcing will merely make those companies less competitive, leading to lower revenue, lower profitability and lower headcount. The only way to keep the US unemployment at the level that we’re use to seeing is by a strong, ramping economy! Any other way, whether it’s make-work programs, etc., is artificial and temporary. Government must incentivize companies to hire and begin putting a portion of the 2 trillion sitting on corporate books back in the economy. I’m not a protectionist, but I also believe we need to look much harder at tariffs and duties we’re being charged vs. charging our trade partners.

Posted by rwethereyet | Report as abusive

If we want to help the poor and middle classes the solution is obvious. We need to add a 9% sales tax and lower taxes on the rich. Duh.

Posted by anarcurt | Report as abusive

For those bashing Obama about big government, big spending, softness on illegal immigration, lack of job creation – do your own research!

Let’s take these one at a time:
1. Big Government – non-military government employees
2008 = 2.692M; 2010 = 2.778M; growth = 82k, however, if you back out the temporary census employees, the size of the government actually dropped between 2008 and 2010
[source: les/TotalGovernmentSince1962.asp]

2. Big Spending – US debt Dec 2008 = $11.0T, US Debt Dec 2010 – $14.0T; growth = $3T. Now let’s breakdown that $3T. The CBO outlook for 2009, published prior to Obama taking office, projected deficits for 2009 and 2010 of $1.2T and $0.7T respectively based on existing policy. The actual deficits for these years were $1.4T and $1.3T primarily due to revenues coming in under forecast by $0.2T and $0.4T respectively. The rest of the deficit came from increased spending the Jobs stimulus passed in February 2009 with a cost of $800B, half of which was a corporate tax break intended to stimulate hiring. So, taking $1.2T planned deficit for 2009 + $0.2T revenue shortfall; plus $0.7T planned deficit for 2010 + $0.4T revenue shortfall +$0.4T spending portion of 2009 stimulus, we have $3.1 expected growth in debt vs actual $3.0 growth. That means the rest of the government spending actually stayed flat or shrank between 2008 and 2011.
[source: t.cfm?cat=0]

3. Softness on Illegal Immigration: All you need to do is look at the graph on illegal immigrant deportations by year on the Houston Chronicle to realize how silly this charge is.
[Source: article/Record-number-of-illegal-immigra nts-deported-2225233.php]

4. Lack of job creation: I think the article above speaks to this fairly well, but if you need more evidence, look at the Bureau of Labor Statistics site [ let?request_action=wh&graph_name=LN_cpsb ref3]. Let’s look at that growth in unemployment, which began its upward trend in Feb 2008 and peaked in Oct 2009. So what changed in 2009 to stem the growth? Certainly it was not Republican policy, which had been in place since 2001. What changed was the stimulus that was passed in 2009. It halted the growth in unemployment, but could not make up for the the entire 5.2% growth since Feb 2010. If you want to blame someone, Republicans, look in the mirror. More of the same thing that got us here is not the solution.

Posted by Shohola | Report as abusive

@ Mathblaster, quite right, one in 30, not one in 33; many calculations required for this column, only a few of which are used, and I missed the typo on this one. Thanks for pointing it out.

Posted by DavidCayJ | Report as abusive

An excellent and well thought out and presented article.
It is nice to know that the majorities, basic wage now verges on the poverty line.
However, the voters must accept some responsibility for the present situation. After all who elected our representatives who fiddle while the general population smolders.
We have reduced the level of education and have a refusal to accept let alone recognize others qualifications, hence people who are quite capable of getting the job done are blocked from doing so.
Also, the general population has been drawn into believing we can go in anywhere and shoot them up, ‘for their own good,’ and come out loved by all.
The cost of these campaigns and policies is now starting to come home and of course we have our financial system which has invested heavily in our competitors, gone belly up and is then bailed out at the tax payer’s expense.
After all if we were a democratic business orientated society, we would not be getting involved in bailing out failed business’s, shooting up anyone who disagrees with us, and electing employees of various lobbyists and corporation into office.

Posted by The1eyedman | Report as abusive

An excellent and well thought out and presented article.
It is nice to know that the majorities, basic wage now verges on the poverty line.
However, the voters must accept some responsibility for the present situation. After all who elected our representatives who fiddle while the general population smolders.
We have reduced the level of education and have a refusal to accept let alone recognize others qualifications, hence people who are quite capable of getting the job done are blocked from doing so.
Also, the general population has been drawn into believing we can go in anywhere and shoot them up, ‘for their own good,’ and come out loved by all.
The cost of these campaigns and policies is now starting to come home and of course we have our financial system which has invested heavily in our competitors, gone belly up and is then bailed out at the tax payer’s expense.
After all if we were a democratic business orientated society, we would not be getting involved in bailing out failed business’s, shooting up anyone who disagrees with us, and electing employees of various lobbyists and corporation into office.

Posted by The1eyedman | Report as abusive

The opinions expressed in your “factual” report include both the obvious….(of course income has gone done) and the not so obvious…1) Far more people than the “stats” indicate are unemployed, those who have run out of benefits, those who can only find part time work, those who are underemployed. As for the reasons yes they are complex and not the result of a single president but there is not question Obama has done little to focus on jobs. Health care reform, less you forget, was his primary goal, with little effort in the job direction (significantly more important). As for Republicans and now many democrats (who are distancing themselves rapidly from Obama) in case you don’t get it cutting taxes and government puts money back into the paychecks and reduces the (in theory) ability of the government to spend. Those seem like logical goals. As for SSI and Medicare those services should be and need to be provided to senior Americans. That does not say that the fees associated with medical care should not go up and I suspect many if not most seniors would not object. As for the “sitting” capital of corporate America that’s great. Now where are the ideas for investment that can expand the economy? Also, one of the primary causes of the recession is energy cost. Go back two years and look at the impact on commodity prices (or your local grocery store) and what that does for profitability and manufacturing costs. Fortunately some “fracking” blue collar guys (thanks guys by the way) are working in places like North Dakota (and in Canada) to hopefully make us self sufficient (read up for those of you who have faith in the “green” revolution) relatively soon. Also…future automobile production (if one can give up the desire for yank tanks) will result in significantly better economy. These are just two of the positives. It is not all negative. As for employment…take a look at other countries. We are still very healthy (by comparison) or at least not as unhealthy.
As to the root causes of our problems they are many and myriad but in a nutshell are systematic in our “buy thy e votes” political system and have nothing to do with business. Finally, yes….we do need to change our government. Our founding fathers did foresee the Constitution being bastardized to the extent it has nor did they believe it would pass the test of time….hence the ability to amend it. Unfortunately the latter has not been done in a rational way. The future holds promise though as the discontent of the people may result in a a government for the people and not special interests, power mongers, and presidents who spend more time campaigning than working. Amen.

Posted by Tangoblue | Report as abusive

The Government needs to fear the people and do what they were hired for. This class warfare is only going to escalate if they dont get off their butts and do some work. I am so tired of the blame game. It doesnt matter who is at fault, the damage is done. Work together to solve the problems of this nation or join the unemployment lines.
Eventually this ugliness and hate going to lead to another bloody American Civil War.

Posted by RC63 | Report as abusive

Income disparity in a nutshell:

1. When the cost of running/starting a business increases, fewer businesses remain/are started.
2. With fewer businesses, there is less overall demand for employees.
3 With less demand for employees, employees income declines.
4. With fewer businesses, existing businesses face less competition.
5. Less competition means that remaining businesses can raise their prices.
6. Higher prices and lower wages mean more profits for the owners of remaining businesses.
7. Lower wages to employees and higher profits for owners means increased income disparity.

Now let’s reverse the process:

1. When the cost of running/starting a business decreases, more businesses remain/are started.
2. With more businesses, there is more overall demand for employees.
3 With more demand for employees, employees income rises.
4. With more businesses, remaining businesses face more competition.
5. More competition means that remaining businesses must lower their prices.
6. Lower prices and higher wages mean less profits for the owners of remaining businesses.
7. Higher wages to employees and lower profits for owners means reduced income disparity.

So, the net-net is that anything that increases the cost of running/starting a business (say Obamacare, 10 years of wars,…etc.) increases income disparity and increases prices and anything that reduces the cost of running/starting a business will reduce income disparity and reduce prices. With that in mind, it should be noted that practically everything the Occupy Wall Street crowd and our President would like to impose on the rest of us would increase the cost of running/starting a business so much that income disparity in the United States would eventually be expected to resemble that of the Soviet Union and Communist China, where party bosses lived like Kings and the rest like serfs. [Granted, with the huge income disparity already seen in America, that may not seem like much of a change but at least no one is standing in line for toilet paper yet.]

Posted by ReasonableNYC | Report as abusive

Trickle down economics works right??? Thirty some years of it pluss the slow rolling back of the new deal have landed us all in a better place then our parents ever dreamed of… As for those blaming the left or the right for the present situation. I think you are both missing the target. The Lobbyist in Washington is who you should be taking aim at. Its no longer about listening to the people. Its all about who has the money for my vote. Who do you think the legislature was listening to when they allowed the banks to become to big to fail. There once was a law against banks crossing state lines. It was made because of the first depression. Our leaders then were trying to make sure if a bank failed it would only effect one state. There was also laws on the the books about banks traiding in thin air. Its no longer about what is right for you or I, Most of us dont have enough money to be heard.

I would like to ask a question of those who vote republican and claim to hold that parties ideals at heart. Why do you hate Obama so much? He is the exactly what your party calims to hold dear. He was born into nothing a mother who was a single mom. Yet he has managed to rise above his meager beginnings to become both wealthy and even the President. He ought to be your poster child.

One last note, Why is it Class Warfair when you ask some one with money to pay there fair shair. Yet its OK to ask those with out to pay more?

Posted by GMontgomery | Report as abusive

Are you Obama apologists so lost in dogma that you fail to see he’s part of the problem and deserves no defense? Sure the conservatives have increased the debt and more importantly the cost of American blood waging wars that were unncessesary. Sure, the conservatives are lost in a failed theory of trickledown economics that is baseless in a globalized society. But Obama’s failure has been that of leadership; the man started office with no public policy management experience. This is the result. Right now we need leadership willing to make hard decisions; obviously the Republicans have no intent on providing that. The lack of people willing to make practical and targeted policy reform are found in both camps. And while the income desparity is growing and Wallstreet is out of control, Obama has had years to address these issues. Instead, he’s stolen a page from the neo-con playbook and started a bombing campaign on Lybia. Oh, and don’t forget the special forces troops we’re sending into Southern Africa. At this point, Red Team or Blue Team- it doesn’t matter. Everyone knows the solution to the problems. It’s the polarization and lack of leadership that perpetuates the pain; there is no remedy for a lack of will.

Posted by underthegun13 | Report as abusive

@UnPartisan said “It is amazing that the President is escaping this and blaming the banks. Any other time in history a sitting president with numbers this bad would be on his way out. Same with all incumbents really. I guess the media has to protect the chosen one.” Exactly what numbers are you referring to? Unemployment? According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics unemployment was 9.1% in Sep ’11, Obama’s 33rd month in office. In Sep ’83, Reagan’s 33rd month in office, unemployment was 9.2%. Given that it was 7.8% in Jan ’09, the month Obama took office and 7.5% in Jan ’81, the month Reagan took office, it is blatantly obvious that not only was the actual unemployment rate worse at this point in Reagan’s first term but it had also increased by a greater margin. Reagan was re-elected in ’84 making your statement patently false and obviously not unpartisan.
Unemployment did not drop consistently below the 7.5% rate it was the month Reagan took office until Sep ’84 and it remained at or above 7% for all of ’85 and eight months of ’86.

Expectations that the nation would recover from this recession, which has been deemed far worse than the early ’80’s recession by essentially all economists, any faster than it has are simply unrealistic and are not supported by history.

The numbers for the national debt paint a nearly identical picture. The debt measured as a percentage of GDP increased by a significantly greater margin in the first 33 months of Reagan’s first term than it has during Obama’s.

When you are truly “unpartisan” the numbers don’t lie and you don’t need to make excuses for them. You really should do some minimal fact checking before making easily falsifiable claims like the one above, not doing so just makes you look foolish and, dare I say, quite obviously partisan.

Posted by jtfane | Report as abusive

Capitalism is dead, it lasted only 22 years after communism fell in 1989. The fatcats on wall street have turned that storied institution into the greatest slot machine on Earth. Brent crude rose 10% last week based on speculation Europe’s problems were over, that kind of stuff is the problem. Basically the citizens are paying a “Greed Tax” to wall street. The “Free market” has priced itself out of the market.

Posted by Dyota | Report as abusive

Median wage at its lowest since 1999. That’s 12 years, people! Let me also share that job growth was almost nonexistent for the last decade. Stock prices are down from 2000 still. Let’s face it: that was a lost decade. We need to stop bickering about a temporary payroll tax cut and rethink this economy before we lose another decade!

Posted by ReasonableViews | Report as abusive

The median pay is $507? I sit down and think to myself, man, that’s really low. Then I realize, uh, I don’t make that. After tax, I take home $300-$450 a week. And it’s not like I work in food service or some other dead-end job. I have a degree, I work full to 3/4ths time. I know I’m only in my mid-20s, but somehow, I figure that I don’t eat less, live less, and need healthcare less than other childless adults in their 30s and 40s. Sometimes, I wish I made less so I could qualify for food stamps. I’m not eligible for any sort of state or federal aid because I make too much. In what universe is $400 a week is too much?

And you should have seen what I made before I factored in bonuses and my most recent raise. Yikes.

Posted by JennT | Report as abusive

Thank you David Cay Johnston for reporting these statistics, as your republishing these things and commenting on them helps to further awaken people to the critical need for change.

Yet, what this article is missing and what most of the commenters here are not yet seeing is that we cannot fix the problems we have created by continuing to utilize the same political and economic methodologies and structures that put us here. “The significant problems we have cannot be solved at the same level of thinking with which we created them.” (Albert Einstein).

Additionally, this is not merely an American problem that we must solve and recover from on our own. The Occupy Wall Street protests, as well as the other protests before it, all around the world, are a huge signpost, or “clarion call” to all of humanity to change. Humanity is now integrally interconnected on every societal level with each and every other society in the world. Globalization has brought all of humanity to interdependence, which means we are one great global family, and we are all in the same boat and must work together in order to progress forward. No one country can isolate itself from other countries now, for our intimate intertwinings require us all to work together to resolve and evolve to the next level, since we have reached the limits of our consumptive materialistic development.

If we look to causality, our entire world economic system is built upon the foundation of selfish egoism, greed, abusive control and exploitation, and a total imbalance with Nature and its perfectly balanced systems and resources, along with our imbalance with one another on very basic human levels. In the current antiquated systems in which we detrimentally continue to operate, the shameful fact is that in order for someone to win, it is always at someone elses or something’s expense. The outgrowth of negative qualities from this continued egoism and decadent overconsumption, has now reached its developmental peak, and we must now address this internal root issue.

The time has come for the next level of humanity’s evolution. We must invert our selfish “me, me, me” behaviors and mentalities, to the loving “we” attitudes of altruism, care, and concern for one another and for our world. We have run out of room now to continue with “things as usual,” and we must together make this shift for our survival and for the survival of our world.

In 2004, the World Wisdom Council wrote, “We conclude that the question is no longer whether a fundamental change is coming, but whether the change will be for the better or for the worse, when it will be coming and at what price. The sooner we pave the way to positive change, the less traumatic will be the transformation and the smaller its human, economic and ecological cost. All of us now share the responsibility for realizing that we live at the tipping point of contemporary civilization, and for recognizing that informed thinking and responsible acting are needed to bring us to the threshold of a civilization that is truly peaceful and sustainable.” (from the World Wisdom Council document: “Wisdom at the Tipping Point: Shifting to New Thinking and a New Civilization.”)

Education now is key to bring about “informed thinking and responsible acting.” All of our mass media channels (tv, radio, music, entertainment, internet) need to be retooled with material that promotes a reeducation of our people to think differently, from egoism to altruism, to at least not do to others what you yourself would hate done to you, which is a stepping stone on the way to actually loving others as integral parts of our one great global human family. Can you imagine what our world would be like if this root issue of inverting our egoism to altruism was addressed by us all?!

Posted by CLuview | Report as abusive

Any idea why the data cited is so different from the data used on the WSJ’s “What Percent Are You?” calculator? [See: 9/what-percent-are-you/]

– You report median income is $26,364. Their calculator puts that level of income at the 33rd percentile.

– You report that 94,000 people make $1mm or more. But the calculator says $1mm puts you at the 99.5% percentile, meaning that approximately 1.5 million Americans make that much. That’s an awfully big gap — what gives?


Posted by DavidS13 | Report as abusive

@thrdkllr, which party controlled Congress from 2008 to 2009?

Posted by Etherman | Report as abusive

@Bwaggener, the government already spends over 3 trillion dollars per year. If your snowball theory is correct then where is the giant snowball we should have? Every time the government spends a dollar it has to either take it out of the private sector (so that the private sector cannot spend it, meaning there’s no net job creation) or it borrows the money (which needs to be paid back with interest resulting in net job loss). It’s actually worse than that because the government doesn’t spend money according to market demands (which can only be done efficiently with profits as feedback) but according to cronyism a la Haliburton and Solyndra. Government spending always destroys jobs.

Posted by Etherman | Report as abusive

If one listens to the Republican candidates for president you will notice that none of them are talking about jobs. None of them are showing how they will help people get back to work. They call tax cutting and eliminating government regulations a way to produce employment however they do not show any connection. They appear not to be interested in facts. Thank you David Cay for bringing facts to the issue. How can we get Republicans to deal with the facts? They possess veto power in the United States Senate and control what is discussed in the House of Representatives, they seem not to want to help create employment because it would make President Obama look good. If they support any of his ideas, they will not be able to defeat him, especially if his ideas work. They seem to want to make him a one term President more important than the lives of millions of Americans who are suffering because they do not have employment, they are losing their homes, and have no health care coverage. Is anyone paying attention to this issue? I believe the Occupy Wall Street message will finally convince the electorate to do what is right.

Posted by EthicalMagic | Report as abusive

The minumum wage in our state WA is about to be about $9hr or $18k/yr which is more than what 90% of planet earth makes!

Also, if occupy and others want to change the way we do business and distribute wealth here in the US,we should embrace the flat/fair tax model! Too many working under the table, more than half pay no Fed tax, the 65,000 page tax code favors the rich as do deductions, 50,000+ work for the IRS-we could turn this into 100,000 private sector jobs paying $50K yr and it the green thing to do-tax folks more for more consumption! Make the flat tax greater as the incomes rise! KISS!

Posted by DrJJJJ | Report as abusive

Capitalism is not dead-only a fool/communist would make this claim! People need incentives to work, take risks/innovate or they’ll just pick the lowest fruit/take the path of least resistance and the rest will get stuck with the bill and resent it-ask Europe and see all of history! Capitalism is far from perfect and is broken bad, but it’s still the best model on planet earth!

Posted by DrJJJJ | Report as abusive

The data on wages disclose
That the specter of joblessness grows,
Except for the few
Making mega-bucks, who,
In their number, substantially rose.

Posted by DrGoose | Report as abusive

There are 10 kinds of people in this world. People who know what a binary number is and those who don’t. The world doesn’t have a production problem. There is something of a lock out going on with people who want to work being denied the opportunity. With full employment, there is plenty to share. The problem is one of distribution. That is why the government has to be involved, because, without a referee, people can’t efficiently share. How does the government facilitate sharing? It redistibutes wealth. Everyone that uses the services of the underclass of people that do serivce jobs (house cleaning, lawn maintenance, teachers, police, firemen, road repair) is actually subsidized because the people who do those jobs can’t live decent lives without help. And we want them to lead decent lives because if they don’t we will live in cities where it is not safe to walk the streets. They actually get paid much less than the value for their work. Right now is a really good time for the government to borrow money to put people to work because money is cheap and it costs us more not to spend it (and you know that when you calculate how much it takes to do a minor repair verses rebuild entire infrastructure item after waiting too long because deterioration accelerates). This is where binary comes in. If you are smart you will see that 1 + 1 = 10. All these people not working are takers and we need to make them into givers, much more efficient, better for them, better for you, better for our country.

Posted by Arshemble | Report as abusive

If we had a representative government (one person-one vote)then electing new people would be the answer. However, we see that the rich control-no new taxes. The social contract needs changing and this is only possible if the rich cannot buy influence. The question is: how is this done?…quickly.

Posted by DWTJr | Report as abusive

Those figures are testament to what has been noted regarding increasing inequality in an age of decline.

And actually what we have are only ‘themes and variations’ of a rather stale and trite symphony…
For a good 30 years, for more than a generation, the Republican domestic agenda has been fairly consistent, except when Bush II went rogue and ‘off budget’..

Reduce taxes.. hopefully permanently, especially for business and the rich (like they need it)..
Reduce the size of government (use your friendly private contractor instead); and
Reduce the social service delivery system (“Let’em eat food stamps”).

Who can forget, though many do, about the ‘Laffer Curve’, ‘flat’ taxes, the gold standard, voodoo and ‘trickle down economics”, which essentially holds that the rich, in the process of getting richer, deign to allow the rest of us to nibble on their crumbs and left-overs, gratefully mind you, lest they take it overseas, where they are more grateful. And while a rising tide lifts all boats.. yachts seem to need a whole lot more water, you know?.

Class Warfare?..Hell.. we’ve been getting massacred!

As an aside, I will confess in being tempted to eat the rich from time to time (even have a couple of recipes that I might share later), but because they so fat and bloated, just aggravate my cholesterol problems. Bad for your heart..not recommended….even with medication. Go ask Dr. Oz.

Posted by DrTLJones | Report as abusive

GM sold this year 2.5 million cars in China. Someone would think that would create good paying jobs or even jobs – it doesn’t, because most of the cars GM sold in China were made abroad or in China.

The American dream never existed.

Posted by stopnow | Report as abusive

The House passed a jobs bill months ago. The Senate refused to consider it.

Posted by Carney3 | Report as abusive

@DavidS13, my column is about wages, while the article you refer to is about total income. Also, my article is about each worker, while household data is higher because often there is more than one worker.

Also, there are various ways to measure income, some of which count the rental value of owner occupied homes as income and the value of health insurance premiums. My column is cash compensation for services — wages, salaries, bonuses.

Wages account for 69% to 81% of income of taxpayers in the $1 to $250,000 income groups the government tracks and declining amounts above that, with the 8,274 taxpayers making more than $10m (average was $29m) counting on salaries for just 19 percent of their reported income.

Posted by DavidCayJ | Report as abusive

Too many people in this country think this is a Republican / Democrat problem and it most definitely is not. Maybe 50 years ago there was a big difference in the two parties; maybe not as much as people think. The problem ultimately comes down to a couple of points: Congress makes the laws (and decides to whom they apply) and Congress has been bought and paid for by various moneyed interests in this country. Ergo, Congress works for them and not for the people they supposedly represent.

Any time you have a system where the person running for office must spend millions upon millions for a job that pays a fraction of that, they will owe allegiance to the source of the money. No one in their right mind is going to bite the hand that feeds (or pays to elect) them.

The ONLY way I see a viable Republic moving forward is to make a few changes:
1. publicly funded elections with a set starting date for campaigns and ONLY the set amount of public money may be used toward a campaign. A set of campaign ‘rules’ and if you violate the rules, you are forever ineligible for any elected or appointed government position.
2. Service Limits – say a max of 16 years at the Congressional level; these could be in the House or Senate, as long as the combined total does not exceed the set maximum. One could then run for Pres or VP, but never again for Congress.
3. Eliminate Lobbying; remove the revolving door from Congress to private jobs pushing an agenda to your former colleagues and while in office, no close family member working for any company where a conflict of interest could exist. Any infractions – along with ANY felony conviction – automatically removes you from office effective immediately and all current and future benefits (salary/ pension/ healthcare/etc) are forfeit.
4. Require any law passed by Congress to apply to all equally. No exceptions or exemptions. Require all bills to be limited to one item or topic; no sliding pork or junk into an otherwise worthy bill. All bills must be no more than 5 pages or 5,000 words; this will ensure that bills will be read and hopefully understood before voting takes place. It will make it easier to monitor how your Representative actually voted; one issue one vote. If a Representative missed more than a certain number of votes, they should have their pay docked and be automatically eligible for a recall. Just like school age children are punished for truancy, paid officials not doing their job should be punished. In any other business, workers not showing up and doing their job are dismissed; Congress should be no different particularly when you look at the Congressional calendar. They have more time off than anyone I know! Their calendar was set long before a trip home could be accomplished within a few hours; maybe it should be updated to reflect the reality of travel times today.

I believe that there are people out there who have the best interests of all our citizens at heart. I do not believe those people are actually in Congress. Maybe some of these provisions would help replace those in Congress with those who should be.

Posted by MidwestVoice | Report as abusive

12 years ago, in October 1999 there were more private sector workers than today. See the BLS numbers at let — both then and today about 109.8 million private sector workers. What does it say about our private economy that after 12 years we still employ the same number, in spite a growth in civilian non-institutional population growth of 33 million, from 207 M to 240 M (again see BLS figures at That’s an 16% growth with no growth in total private sector jobs! What did those 33 million working age adults do with themselves????— Also the $6 trillion in wages — take another look at that. That’s less than half the personal income from BEA figures on GDP. This is the second time in history that the wages figure has dropped below 50%. If you look at the Tax Policy Center’s data on income distribution you see that wages and salaries amount to only 64.5% of all personal income, and that the top 20% receive over 50% of that total. (See Sources of Cash Income by Cash Income Percentile, All Tax Units, 2006) It is complicated, but D.C. Johnson’s analysis is depressingly accurate.

Posted by BenL8t | Report as abusive

This guy is brilliant! I will be a follower of him forever more. Of course the guys to smart to run for office but he’d sure get my vote. Imagine, using your brain for once. This guy has got more than he can use and he shares it with us. The world is a better place after all.

Posted by forteinjeff | Report as abusive

The idea that the now POTUS is lone cause of our economy is at best, preposterous. It is a fact that Obama has not been able to pass any of his programs with thin “NO” congress. This congress whose platform was “jobs” has not made any attempt at the objective. They however, have been able to discuss abortion, “in God we trust”, and have wasted their time in getting rid of those who stood up against them, like Mr. Weiner. But jobs, they have not created one. Which makes it obvious that they lied to their own base and the public during their campaign when they admitted their main objective was for Obama to fail. It makes sense, since they think people are stupid and they do not notice that they have been getting paid for not working.
Americans by now, I hope they have awaken from the slumber or GOP brainwashing, and realize that we are still operating with Bush’s policies, of subsidies (or gifts) to corporations, tax cuts and veiled actions by the leadership in congress. And the children are still having pizza and soda for lunch at school.

Posted by afrommi | Report as abusive