Monday, August 30


Economic view in the NY Times -- It's not new jobs. It's all the jobs.

The real issue is not how well the new jobs pay, but whether the incomes of workers in general are rising or falling. On the second score, there is not much to debate. The incomes of most workers, adjusted for inflation, are sinking.

The evidence for this assertion is piling up. The Census Bureau weighed in last week with the latest update on family and household incomes. Both declined through the first three years of the Bush administration. From the Bureau of Labor Statistics comes a similar story for individual workers. Whether the measure is median weekly pay or average weekly pay, the increases have been too small since last summer to keep up with a measly climb of 1 percentage point in the inflation rate.

"That is true across nearly all full-time wage earners," said Mark Zandi, chief economist for Lower-end workers have taken the biggest hit, but people at the higher end - earning as much as $75,000 a year - are hurt, too. "The job market is still very weak," Mr. Zandi said, "and employers have the upper hand in negotiations."
Yet Mr. Bush and Mr. Kerry fail to spotlight this alarming downward trend, from which they could segue into a debate over how to ameliorate the income deterioration. A higher minimum wage would probably help. So would an expanded government role in providing health insurance, relieving employers of some of the rising cost. Perhaps some or all of the money saved would go to wage increases.

Mr. Kerry embraces these positions much more than Mr. Bush, who prefers to let the marketplace solve wage and employment problems, allowing a minimum of government intervention, except tax cuts. These are huge differences, yet the candidates become sidetracked in debates over the quality of 1.5 million newly created jobs and fail to pound away at each other in the main event - how to arrest declining income in the vastly larger work force. "


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