Yesterday the Social Security Administration offered a first look into reported payroll taxes for 2010 and the news is simply awful and only add more fuel to the frustrations playing out all over the Occupy Wall Street movement.
This country has fewer jobs and those jobs that do exist pay less. Median wages fell another percent to $26,264, the lowest level, adjusting for inflation, since 1999. The number of Americans without any work fell again also. Put in perspective, 3.3 percent of the people who had a job in 2007, or one in every 33 Americans, went all of 2010 without earning a cent.
But the numbers can’t bring us to the conclusion that all of America is hurting. The number of workers making $1 million or more rose to almost 94,000 from 78,000 in 2009. It’s a deceptive rise. The numbers crunched by SSA come from all reported W-2 wage forms and add up to slightly more than $6 trillion in total wages and salaries reported. 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.
So what happened with this news? Nothing. The Senate killed a modest jobs proposal. Had they paid any attention to these numbers those championing continuing the Bush tax cuts and slashing federal spending will see that in the long run, these policies hurt even the most protected of constituencies–the very rich– making them too less well off then they would otherwise be.
Which brings us back to Occupy Wall Street. Having millions of Americans out of work and going years without the ability to get a job is not just a waste of resources, it is the stuff that produces systemic shifts in societal attitudes about work and capital. For those of us hoping to turn course toward a society of greater economic justice this is good. For Wall Street and its benefactors though, their short-term political game may cost them dearly long-term.
Photo from tracy o via flickr.