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Pundits still dumbfounded, even as workers' share of gains hits 40-year low

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As I noted last week, media pundits like Sam Donaldson simply cannot understand why polls show the public is so down on the economic direction of our country. These commentators - who are supposed to reflect the true pulse of America - look at today's Wall Street Journal headline blaring that "Corporate Pretax Profits Jump 14.4% - Strongest Gain Since 1992" and wonder: why, oh dear god why, aren't ordinary Americans aren't jumping with joy?

The answer, as I note in my upcoming book Hostile Takeover, is simple: if you take the five seconds it takes to actually look at the underlying data, you see that those profits aren't actually benefitting ordinary workers - they are increasingly benefitting only those at the very top of the economic ladder. The Journal notes that "Corporate profits accounted for 11.6% of gross domestic product in the fourth quarter -- the biggest share of the nation's income companies have taken since 1966." In other words, the amount being pocketed by corporations - as opposed to being shared with their employees - is the highest its been in 40 years - a situation we already knew was occuring thanks to earlier stats showing workers wages are stagnating.

How has this happened? "[Companies] have been able to [create this inequality], say economists, by sharing less with their workers," says the Journal. "It highlights the increased power of corporate America versus labor," says Paul Kasriel, chief economist at Northern Trust Corp. in Chicago. "That is a reflection of the global competition that labor now faces in America."

That last phrase, of course, is a nice, business-suite tested euphemism for "American workers now have to compete with slave labor in developing countries thanks to their bought-off politicians happily passing one corporate-written free trade agreement after another."

Yes, it is true - as one top corporate economist told the Journal, "Corporations are sitting on a mountain of cash." And yes, that might make lots of insulated pundits, corrupt politicians, and business elites extremely happy. But unless that "mountain of cash" is shared with the people who created it - the workers - then no one should be surprised when average citizens tell pollsters they aren't happy with America's economy. They shouldn't be - because they are getting less and less of the profits they are helping produce.

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David Sirota is a full-time political journalist, best-selling author and nationally syndicated newspaper columnist living in Denver, Colorado. He blogs for Working Assets and the Denver Post's PoliticsWest website. He is a Senior Editor at In These Times magazine, which in 2006 received the Utne Independent Press Award for political coverage. His 2006 book, Hostile Takeover, was a New York Times bestseller, and is now out in paperback. He has been a guest on, among others, CNN, MSNBC, CNBC and NPR. His writing, which draws on his (more...)
 

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