Thursday, May 19, 2011

What Americans Want: Labor Fairness

The Pew Charitable Trust released survey results that found, not surprisingly, most Americans believe in helping their fellow citizens achieve economic pairity (socialism) and economic fairness (also socialism).
The following are Americans’ top five goals for how the government should work toward to help people get ahead: 1. Ensuring all children get a quality education (88%) 2. Promoting job creation (83%) 3. Ensuring equal opportunity (79%) 4. Letting people keep more of their money (78%) 5. Providing basic needs to the very poor (75%)

  1. Quality Education: Although methods of how to achieve this differ (public vs. private), the goal is the same. Nothing drives income and employment in America more than a college degree.
  2. Job Creation: American's believe it is the government that is needed to help stimulate job creation, a la FDR and the Great Depression.  More stimulus, much more stimulus, is needed to keep people employed and working.
  3. Equal Opportunity: The government clearly has a role to play in providing a level playing field for everyone, not just the super-rich.
  4. Letting people keep more of their money: Clearly a desire to level the taxation playing field to ensure that everyone is paying their fair share, especially the super-rich 2%.  Surveys show a strong desire by Americans to have the rich pay their fair share of taxes since they've reaped far more than their fair share of recent economic benefits.  Americans want to lift the burden of taxation off the backs of working and middle-class Americans and make those who benefit most, pay most.
  5. Providing basic needs for the poor: No real American wants to see their fellow citizens suffering and our collective belief in a strong social safety net continues to go unmet through the machinations of our Galtian overlords in industry.

American's also believe in the value of hard work, even though, statistically and empirically, harder work does not lead to higher wages in America.
From Economic Mobility and The American Dream - Where Do We Stand?
Hard work is surely important once you've attained a certain level of employment.  It is necessary to demonstrate your worth to your employer through hard work, but hard work won't get you that job and, in the absence of a college degree, may not help you keep that job.

When you look at what really drives higher wages in America, it's not "hard work" but rather a college degree.  If you look at the growth in productivity vs wages, it's clear that, as a nation, we're being more productive (harder work) than ever, but we're not necessarily being rewarded for it.

What creates opportunity for higher wages and lower levels of unemployment is education.  And the impact of not having a college degree on wage and unemployment is staggering.

BLS Data on Wage by Educational Level
Wage dispairity by educational level is huge in America.  Without a high school diploma, you're living on $1,800/month gross. But with a college degree, you're bringing in $4,500/month gross.  That's 2.5x higher, on average.

BLS Data on Unemployment Rates by Education
Not only do college grads make more money, they also have significantly lower rates of unemployment.  And the downturns affect them less than American's without high-school diplomas.

American's need to wake up and stop trashing out teachers and our educational system.  We need to embrace science and learning and eschew the dogma and doctrinaire thinking of the religious-right.  Without a re-commitment to education in America, we're all doomed to work at Wal-Mart or some other McJob that in the end could be done by a monkey.

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