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Waiting for Godot

from David Ruccio

The official unemployment rate continues to fall in the United States. And everyone, at least among top policymakers and the business press, has been promising that workers’ wages will finally break out.

As it turns out, the unemployment rate (the red line in the chart above) in September was 4.1 percent, far below the high of 10 percent in October of 2009 and a new low for the so-called recovery from the Second Great Depression. However, hourly wages (for production and nonsupervisory workers, the blue line) rose only 2.5 percent on an annual basis, even less than the 2.7 percent workers were gaining at the height of the depression.

The only possible conclusion is that, in the United States, expecting workers’ wages to finally begin to catch up is like Vladimir and Estragon waiting below a leafless tree for the arrival of someone named Godot.

  1. November 9, 2017 at 2:24 pm

    And the unemployment rate should take into account the underemployment rate of 14% ( https://www.statista.com/statistics/205240/us-underemployment-rate/ ).

  2. dmf
    • November 9, 2017 at 4:20 pm

      I understand heterodox economics to be a fairly broad philosophical tent. And it is attracting young people worldwide, which is exciting. But if we are truly to mount a challenge to predatory corporate capitalism that has any chance of influence, we must go beyond theory and analysis and use it to inform activism.

      These books published by Routledge are hideously expensive (that cited here is $186 on Amazon. I know of no effective activists who command the sort of income and wealth that could afford Routledge’s expensive books (my affluent friends are too comfortable to be activists). And thus we are precluded from what might be good information (for example, contributor Petra Dünhaupt’s interesting work linking financialization with labor’s declining share (http://www.ipe-berlin.org/fileadmin/downloads/working_paper/ipe_working_paper_17.pdf).

      I have no idea why these books are so expensive: limited production? ripoff? who knows?. Am I the only one who cares about this?

      • Risk Analyst
        November 9, 2017 at 6:18 pm

        If you have or can get access to a Kindle reader, Amazon’s price today is $43 for the Kindle version of that book. And yes, I am very concerned about book prices since anything that seems to smell like a college textbook is in danger of a huge markup.

      • dmf
        November 9, 2017 at 9:27 pm

        I raise the issue all of the time, no good reason for tenured faculty to use these publishers who are mainly selling to university libraries (they aren’t big sellers on the public market).

  3. Judith Cook
    November 9, 2017 at 2:34 pm

    The unemployment rate is a superficial statistic that ignores both the underemployment rate and the workforce participation rate. These will both need to improve before significant wage increase will occur. The problem is far deeper than the unemployment rate makes it appear so it will not be a quick fix.

  4. November 9, 2017 at 11:59 pm

    Reclaiming the State: A Progressive Vision of Sovereignty for a Post-Neoliberal World – published by Pluto Books (UK) on September 15, 2017.

    The crisis of the neoliberal order has resuscitated a political idea widely believed to be consigned to the dustbin of history. Brexit, the election of Donald Trump, and the neo-nationalist, anti-globalisation and anti-establishment backlash engulfing the West all involve a yearning for a relic of the past: national sovereignty. In response to these challenging times, economist William Mitchell and political theorist Thomas Fazi reconceptualise the nation state as a vehicle for progressive change.

    They show how despite the ravages of neoliberalism, the state still contains resources for democratic control of a nation’s economy and finances. The populist turn provides an opening to develop an ambitious but feasible left political strategy. Reclaiming the Nation State offers an urgent, provocative and prescient political analysis of our current predicament, and lays out a comprehensive strategy for revitalising progressive economics in the 21st century.

    To buy the book for £15, go to Pluto Books and enter the discount coupon ‘MITCHELL15’ at the checkout

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