“Booming” Economy Leaves Millions Behind: Part Three

Below is more data on the continually failing economy and how it is hurting millions across the U.S.

It can be seen from the different parts in this series, as well as other articles on the same topic,1 that there is a dire situation confronting millions of people centuries after the scientific and technical revolution made it possible to easily meet the needs of all.

To be sure, the economy is working mainly for a handful of people and cannot provide for the needs of all. And experience shows that the inability and unwillingness of the ruling elite to fix any major problems will increase in the coming years. This historically superfluous force is blocking the rise of a fresh new alternative that puts human rights center-stage. It is desperate to seize even more of the new value produced by working people no matter how damaging this is to the natural and social environment.

*****

The share of socially-produced wealth owned by the richest 0.00001 percent of Americans, representing only 18 households, has risen by a factor of nearly 10 since 1982.

“Top US corporations are raising prices on Americans even as profits surge.” Big companies and various monopolies routinely engage in price-gouging and price-fixing. The pandemic intensified corporate greed.

The concentration of wealth increased through a record number of mergers and acquisitions (M&A) in 2021 and are expected to increase in 2022. Global M&A volume exceeded $5 trillion in 2021.

“As inflation soars [now officially over 8 percent], Americans’ confidence in the economy is crumbling.” Many are not hopeful about the future of the economy. In a recent Gallup poll, only 2% of survey respondents felt that the economy was “excellent.” The real inflation rate exceeds 15 percent.

The U.S. Commerce Department recently reported that energy costs are up 34 percent while wage growth continues to lag behind widespread inflation, leaving many Americans behind.

“In March [2022], U.S. consumer sentiment reached its lowest level since 2011, according to the University of Michigan’s Surveys of Consumers, and more households said they expected their finances to worsen than at any time since May 1980.”

“US job openings reached a record 11.5 million in March [2022], according to JOLTS data released Wednesday. That’s up from the 11.3 million seen the month prior and above the forecast for 11 million openings.” The Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS) comes from the U.S. Department of Labor.

“The labor force participation rate was at 62.4% in March [2022], still below the 63.4% rate in February 2020, before the pandemic.”

“Gross domestic product unexpectedly declined at an annual rate of 1.4% during the first three months of the year — the worst quarter for the American economy since the pandemic turned the world upside down in the spring of 2020.”

“[T]he U.S. economy is more leveraged than ever, with the average consumer needing $6,400 a year in debt to maintain the current standard of living.”

MarketWatch and other mainstream news sources report that, “The bond market has crashed” and that this is the worst record for bonds in decades.

“In March of 2021, The Hope Center at Temple University conducted a survey of nearly 200,000 students attending colleges and universities around the country. Nearly three in five students said they experienced basic needs insecurity. Housing insecurity impacted 48% of those students and 14% of them were affected by homelessness.”

Officially, there are “more than 4,000 homeless [k-12] students in Palm Beach County [Florida].” Last year the number was under 3,000. Many “live in cars, parks or abandoned buildings.”

“A report from Rent.com puts a one-bedroom apartment in Miami [Florida] at $2,744 per month, up 21.6% from last year.” This pattern can be found in dozens of other American cities.

U.S. “mortgage rates hit their highest level since 2009.”

“In the six weeks ending April 2, the U.S. hotel industry sold 5.2 million fewer room nights than it did at this time in 2019.”

3.4 million more kids lived in poverty in February [2022] than last December, two months after a monthly check program to parents expired.”

“41.5 million people received SNAP (food stamps) in 2021, up nearly 6 million from 2019.”

“[N]early 20% of U.S. workers reported being bound by noncompete agreements that limited an employee’s ability to join or start up a competing firm, and said employer market power was responsible for keeping wages 15% below where they would be in a perfectly competitive market.”

On top of all this, the stock market, which produces nothing, is more turbulent than ever and recently lost several trillion dollars in paper wealth in the course of just a few days. Unpredictability and anarchy persist. The harsh reality is that economic and social decline continues uninterrupted in many parts of the world, not just the U.S.

An economy dominated by an extremely tiny elite is not going to produce solutions that favor the people. Experience and research show that problems steadily go from bad to worse under existing political and economic arrangements. Participating in outmoded arrangements that were always designed to keep people at arm’s length has not worked, as can be seen from the fact that many serious problems keep going from bad to worse, and the fact that millions feel marginalized, overwhelmed, exhausted, and disempowered today. All the liberal institutions that came into being in the twentieth century are dysfunctional, outmoded, and incapable of giving expression to the claims, will, and interests of the people.

New arrangements based on a new independent politics and a new word outlook are urgently needed. The current neoliberal trajectory is untenable and unsustainable. It only brings more tragedies to the people. Relentlessly begging politicians to do the most basic simple things to affirm the most basic rights is humiliating, exhausting, and preposterous. Democracy should not mean that people beg and chase politicians every day just to “do the right thing.” Such supplication and chasing diverts large amounts of precious attention and energy away from focusing on and building our own collective power, analysis, and actions. It prevents us from relying on ourselves and seeing ourselves as the alternative to the status quo. Getting caught up in the nasty, self-serving, pragmatic, and unprincipled internal politics, shenanigans, and chicanery of the parties of the rich, democratic or republican, will only hinder progress and prolong misery and insecurity for all. It is a non-starter. It is not politically effective. Even incremental and small “breaks” and “wins” are very hard to come by. Why is this the case in 2022 when the problems and necessity for change are so glaring? Why is it so difficult for basic rights to be affirmed?

The existing political set-up blocks the affirmation of the will of the people instead of upholding it and honoring it. Mainstream politicians and their parties are proving to be more irrelevant and ineffective with each passing day.

With democratic renewal it is possible to break free from current arrangements and usher in a new world based on a self-reliant, diverse, and balanced economy that meets the needs of all and thrives without exploitation and oppression.

• Read Part One here; read Part Two here

  1. Many other articles containing extensive facts and statistics on economic and social decline can be found at my Dissident Voice author’s page []
Shawgi Tell is author of the book Charter School Report Card. He can be reached at stell5@naz.edu.. Read other articles by Shawgi.