The Unseen Paycheck Deduction

(This is kind of a perfect follow-up to the Holiday Inn Horror post we put up last week, although I actually wrote this up in the Bay Area.)

It’s been at least a day. It’s been at least a day since I’ve read or heard a complaint about the government taking a fourth of someone’s paycheck in taxes. Thus, the argument goes, the government is taking a chunk of what little we have and hurting the standard of living of the working class. And indeed, the gov’t takes some of our money and spends it on war or gives a present to its friends at ExxonMobil. Indeed, this is most unfortunate.

But what about the giant invisible paycheck deduction? There is a salary-eating monster in this land that’s growing much faster than taxation. And unlike taxation, which has built-in progressivity to take more from the well-off than the ripped-off, this invisible wage-devouring monster targets the average worker directly. This salary-eating, wage-devouring, paycheck-shrinking monster is called profit.

U.S. corporate profits are up to $1.82 trillion/year. That’s over 12% of GDP, a new record. Meanwhile, total workers’ wages are down to 42.5% of GDP. The lowest ever. The lowest ever in the history of the United States of America. corporate-profits-and-wages And even those wages are counting the increasingly crazy salaries paid to CEOs. CEO pay growth CEO pay is the brother of the profit monster. Corporations (with decisions made by CEOs) have learned they can take more of the value of your labor and give it to their profit margins instead of you. These CEOs have also figured out they can just give more of the value of your labor to themselves. And of course, unlike the income tax, which takes more from the top, these profits and CEO pay raises can only come at the expense of workers’ paychecks. Not to mention that whatever does go into taxes is, at least partially, subject to our collective input, while whatever happens with privately “earned” profit is not.

Since 2009, 93% of all income gains have gone to the richest 1%, who now have more wealth than the bottom 90% combined.
Distribution of Wealth Chart

Since 1973, worker productivity has gone up at least 80%, but wages have only gone up 4%. Productivity vs. wage growth

The profit-monster is getting greedier, eating larger parts of our paycheck as he ages, no?

The minimum wage is lower (with inflation) than it was in 1968.
minimum wage vs productivity

All of that leads me to think this. If economics is the battle between labor and capital, capital is winning in a blow out. But there’s no mercy rule in the capitalism game; the more you’re losing, the more you have to play. So Americans play (that is, work) more than we did 40 years ago, after centuries of reductions. The dream of the 20-hour work week, technically very feasible, has died. Now they tell us we must cut social security, Medicare, and food stamps, while their profits grow during our recession. GDP growth doesn’t matter when all the gains go to the top. My friends, your employer is not a benevolent “job creator.” Your employer is your exploiter. Your stagnant paycheck is a product of the insatiable appetite and tremendous, undemocratic power of the profit/CEO-pay monsters. It doesn’t have to be this way. It can only happen as long as we let it. Rise up.

– Adam
Chula Vista, California

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