from David Ruccio
According to the latest reports, Americans are struggling to work under increasingly temporary and unequal conditions. Through no fault of their own, they’re trying harder and falling down.
According to the Working Poor Families Project [pdf], there were more than 100 million low-income working families in the United States in 2009, an increase of nearly a quarter million from the previous year.
This now means that nearly 1 in 3 working families in the United States, despite their hard work, are struggling to meet basic needs.
While mainstream economists and pundits are trying desperately to paint a rosy picture of recovery, with 1.17 million private sector jobs created thus far this year, many of the jobs are temporary ones. For example, in November, temporary workers accounted for 80 percent of the 50,000 jobs added by private sector employers, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics [pdf]. Within professional and business services, employment in temporary help services has risen by almost half a million since September 2009. From the evidence, temporary jobs are starting to look pretty permanent.
Finally, the Fiscal Policy Institute has just issued a report, “Grow Together or Pull Further Apart? Income Concentration Trends in New York” [pdf], which demonstrates that
Over the past three decades, the bulk of economic gains in the United States and New York have accrued to those at the very top of the income distribution. The economy has grown significantly over this period, but those at the very top of the economy have taken a vastly disproportionate share of the gains, leaving very little behind for the rest.
As it turns out, New York state is the most polarized among the fifty states, and New York City is more polarized than the state overall and is the most polarized among the 25 largest cities in the United States.
Given its degree of inequality, if New York City were a nation, it would rank 15th worst among 134 countries with respect to income concentration, in between Chile and Honduras. Wall Street, with its stratospheric profits and bonuses, sits within 15 miles of the Bronx—the nation’s poorest county.
The information in these reports forces us to go beyond the current unemployment figures (which are disastrous enough in themselves) and ask what kinds of change have to be made before those who are working but falling down are going to be allowed to stand up again.