We hear a lot of talk about job creation, and bringing jobs back to America. We hear nothing about the kind of jobs we need the most: jobs that provide decent wages. From the Los Angeles Times:
While productivity has grown by more than 80% over the last 30 years, wages have effectively been flat for 80% of Americans. So, although we're making stuff faster and more efficiently, the benefits of that hard work have not trickled into the pockets of the people who do it.
In other words, more work for less pay.
First, companies are coming back to the United States because wages here are dropping, in real terms. At the same time, lower-wage corporate nirvanas such as China are no longer as cheap an alternative as they once were, partly because the sea of people who worked for next to nothing for so long have had enough and are rising up in protest.
The US is becoming the place to outsource low paying jobs to.
Second, most of the jobs coming back are not high-wage, union jobs with full healthcare and pensions. In fact, with concerted efforts by Republican governors in the Midwest to eviscerate union rights, times have never been better for corporate leaders seeking to lower labor costs. With labor costs in the U.S. dropping relative to those in the Third World, the president's offer of tax incentives to other companies that in-source is unnecessary. As Citizens for Tax Justice points out, using a 2007 Bush administration study, corporations based in the United States already have plenty of tax incentive to locate here because "the United States takes a below-average share of corporate income in taxes compared to other developed countries."
If you add those people to the people who have full-time work at or just above the minimum wage, at least 1 in 5 Americans — 30 million people — does not have a decent job. Which explains why, according to the Census Bureau, 46 million people — or about 15% of Americans — live in poverty, the highest percentage since 1993.
This is a nasty reality that politicians shy far, far away from, when they talk about jobs. Many of us (I'm one of that 15%) are relying on part time jobs, or low paying jobs that result in us not having enough to live on. This means more people relying on the shrinking safety net, and the kindness of family and friends.
We need the kind of jobs that will rebuild the middle class.
cross-posted at MainSt/workingamerica.org