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If Workers’ Share Of National Income Were At The Post-War Average, They Would Earn An Extra $740 Billion This Year

December 15th, 2011 | Pat Garofalo

Image: Pat GarofaloSince 2009, 88 percent of national income growth has gone to corporate profits, while just one percent has gone to wages, adding another chapter to the decline of the middle class, whose incomes have been shrinking and wages stagnating for decades. In fact, according to data analyzed by the Financial Times, workers’ share of national income has fallen to its lowest level on record, and if it were back at the post-war average, workers would earn an additional $740 billion this year:

“We are the 99%”, the slogan of Occupy Wall Street, is a reference to the rising wealth of the top 1 per cent of US income distribution. But an equally valid slogan might be: “We get 58%”.

That figure is the share of US national income that goes to workers as wages rather than to investors as profits and interest. It has fallen to its lowest level since records began after the second world war and is part of the reason why incomes at the top – which tend to be earned from capital – have risen so much.If wages were at their postwar average share of 63 per cent, workers would earn an extra $740bn this year, about $5,000 per worker, according to FT calculations.

This decline in workers’ share of income is actually holding back the national recovery, as “workers on lower wages consume much of their income, while higher wage earners and those with capital income are more likely to save.” Instead of going to the people who are likeliest to spend it, and thus boost the economy, more income is going to corporations and rich people who are just sitting on it. Corporations are actually holding trillions of dollars in cash reserves (and clamoring for more tax breaks), money that could create millions of jobs if it were deployed in a different fashion.

This blog originally appeared in Think Progress on December 15, 2011. Reprinted with permission.

About this Author: Pat Garofalo is Economic Policy Editor for ThinkProgress.org at the Center for American Progress Action Fund. Pat’s work has also appeared in The Nation, U.S. News & World Report, The Guardian, the Washington Examiner, and In These Times. He has been a guest on MSNBC and Al-Jazeera television, as well as many radio shows. Pat graduated from Brandeis University, where he was the editor-in-chief of The Brandeis Hoot, Brandeis’ community newspaper, and worked for the International Center for Ethics, Justice, and Public Life.

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