The Wage Disparity is Worse Than You Think

Jeremy Gantz Oct 29, 2010

Thank goodness for David Cay Johnston, the former New York Times and current Tax Analysts’ columnist who this week reported on some very disturbing news hiding in plain site. He noticed some shocking stats released by the Social Security Administration on October 15, stats that went entirely unnoticed by all media:

One out of every 34 Americans who earned money in 2008 earned nothing in 2009. What this means, Johnston writes, is that U.S. underemployment and unemployment is worse than we are generally told—around 22 percent, all told. Fewer people are working (you know this), but those that are on average are making less than before (you probably didn’t know this):

Only 150.9 million Americans reported any wage income in 2009. That put us below 2005, when 151.6 million Americans reported wages, and only slightly ahead of 2004, when 149.4 million Americans held at least one paying job.

For those who did find work in 2009, the average wage slipped to $39,269, down $243 or 0.6 percent, compared with the previous year in 2009 dollars.

The median wage declined by the same ratio, down $159 to $26,261, meaning half of all workers made $505 a week or less. Significantly, the 2009 median wage was $37 less than in 2000.

As Johnston details in the excellent GRITtv interview above, the recent downward pressure on wages was simultaneous to shocking pay increases for America’s super rich:

The number of Americans making $50 million or more, the top income category in the data, fell from 131 in 2008 to 74 last year. But that’s only part of the story.

The average wage in this top category increased from $91.2 million in 2008 to an astonishing $518.8 million in 2009. That’s nearly $10 million in weekly pay!

 This article was originally published on Working In These Times.

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