Low wage America and the working poor – US has one of the highest number of employees working in low wage jobs of high paying industrialized nations. 1 out of 4 Americans employed work in jobs that pay less than $10 per hour.
Low wage jobs have been a big part of the so-called recovery. What they also signify is a more troublesome trend that continues to eat away at the middle class in this country. I’ve noted that the per capita average income for Americans is $25,000 and many seem to be shocked when they hear how low this figure is. A recent presentation only reinforces this figure by discussing the number of working Americans in low wage fields. The problem with having such a large portion of our population in low wage work is that as the cost of living goes up many of these people have a harder time providing for necessities like food, education, and also healthcare. Surprising or not, the nation has been seeing a massive divide between the working class and those at the top. The low wage employment growth signifies a continuation of this trend.
Educating students to debt – Student loan debt now second largest sector of household debt approaching $1 trillion. 14 percent of consumers have one account in collections.
College debt is fueling the out of control higher education bubble. The Federal Reserve tracks most household debt sectors very carefully including mortgage debt, auto debt, and credit card debt. You would think that they would follow student loan debt carefully. That was not the case until recently. More disturbing however is that student debt is now the second biggest debt sector for US households nearly reaching $1 trillion. Most of this debt has been taken on since 2000. Those who argue how valuable college is look at the aggregate figures of those working with college degrees that likely went to school when there was no higher education bubble. Those figures no longer hold true especially when we examine the figures of younger Americans who are facing crushing blows when it comes to employment but also wealth accumulation. One thing is certain and that is the student loan market is in one giant bubble.
The suffocation of unsustainable global debt – Total global debt is now over $190 trillion and more than three times global GDP. Contagion with European Union.
The biggest market in the world is the European Union and debt problems are still rippling through the global markets. It is apparent with the financial crisis that the global markets are tied together by large banks and interconnected trade. A problem in the largest market should be unsettling and the unemployment rate in the European Union is now at a 15 year high. The global debt problem was never really solved but papered over with extensions and banking trickery. The US has dealt with much of the debt issues by suspending major accounting rules and stuffing bad loans into the Federal Reserve like a Christmas stocking. The European Union is facing some challenges ahead and all eyes will be watching given the impact of contagion impacts. Greece was only a tiny sliver of the debt issues compared to the major debt restructuring that will be necessary for a large economy like Spain.
The phony economic deception machine – JP Morgan Chase CEO earns $23 million in 2011 while 2.7 million foreclosures are filed in the US. GDP at record levels but employment figures down by 5.3 million from their peak.
The US economic and political system is doing an excellent job sealing off opportunities for millions that aspire to be part of the middle class. Many are starting to realize that the system is rigged in favor of large financial institutions and those with political connections. The idea of raw success based on talent can be thrown out the window with the corporate welfare generosity leveled at the too big to fail financial institutions. Many Americans are being told that forced austerity is a necessary part of rebalancing yet the CEO of JP Morgan Chase just received $23 million in 2011 while tens of thousands of foreclosures riddled Chase’s balance sheet. Earned success? If we examine real GDP the facts show the US economy is as large as it has ever been but we are running it with over 5,300,000+ fewer workers. The system is designed to extract economic rents from the public and drive them into a few select sectors. The working and middle class are feeling this change deeply as noted by the over 5 million fewer workers that we have.
The creeping cost of consumer inflation brought to you by a lower US dollar – Americans squeezed as inflation filters into the cost of daily life. The uncertain employment market of low wage work.
There are unintended consequences when policy aims at depreciating a currency in favor of bolstering an ailing banking system. The Federal Reserve has been on a multi-decade mission to lower the value of the US dollar. The primary purpose of this mission is to inflate banks into solvency as they try to work their way out of the massive financial crisis. The amount of troubled real estate loans is still impressive when we look at the temporary sanctuary being provided by the Federal Reserve on their overloaded balance sheet. This luxury is not afforded to your common household and consequently many Americans are now facing higher and higher costs in items like energy even though demand is slightly lower. This occurs for a variety of reasons but a main driver is the declining purchasing power of the US dollar. This permeates over into the employment market that is largely being driven by lower wage positions. Inflation is creeping back into the economy.
Expanding the debt bubble to a tipping point – US government debt growing 4 times faster than GDP. Retail investors largely out of stock market.
The global market is being held together with the veneer of massive debt duct tape. The solution for much of the European debt crisis was to simply add more debt to the current situation. Solve a debt problem with more debt in other words. All this does is delay the inevitable. The hope is that somehow GDP in these countries will grow fast enough to pay off existing debts but the amount of debt is so enormous that it is mathematically impossible without inflating currencies away. Even the US is mired in enormous levels of debt and the pace of debt expanding is by far outpacing GDP growth. This is a major concern especially given the slower pace of GDP growth. Massively increasing debt beyond a serviceable level is always an issue especially when the core problem is solvency. Just look at what happened with US households and the recent debt bubble. Just because you have access to debt does not mean you should expand at an unrelenting pace. I wanted to pull some data showing the constraints of massive debt growth.
The modern day Gilded Age – in 2010 top one percent captured over half of all income gains. From early 2009 the S&P 500 is up 109 percent but home prices are at new lows falling almost 34 percent.
Most Americans derive their net worth from the equity built up in their homes. This has been the case for many decades. As the stock market races upwards to stratospheric highs it is hard for many average Americans to understand why it is that economically they are stuck in the same place. New tax data reveals that Americans are living in a modern day Gilded Age. The massive income inequality has only been exacerbated in the recent grand recession. Many Americans with a per capita annual wage of $25,000 have a hard time saving any sizeable amount of money once the cost of living is extracted from their income. This trend has only continued and IRS tax data reveals that the gap between middle class and wealthy is only getting bigger. This is why even in spite of a stunning stock market run, we have a record 46,000,000 Americans receiving food assistance and working class families are seeing very little growth in their real wages.