Why is the American Worker Being Shortchanged in Our Expanding Economy?

In the 50s and 60s, single worker families were the norm. One paycheck was most often enough to enable the family to own a home and provide a comfortable lifestyle. The American Dream was more and more a reality for the growing middle class. At the same time, an informal social contract existed between employer and employee which provided a measure of security in return for an honest day's work

But in the 70s, something began to go terribly wrong for American workers and their families. In the face of increasing global competition, business abandoned its partnership with its workers, choosing instead to cut jobs in order to maximize short-term profits. Today, the middle class is shrinking rapidly and it often takes two paychecks just to keep the family going.

Workers who once looked forward to an increase in leisure time as the work week shrank are now working record levels of overtime at lower salaries. Taxes and trade policies, structured in the 50s to favor working families, have since been skewed to provide a windfall for corporations and the rich at the expense of hard working middle class Americans.

In 1950, corporate and excise taxes accounted for 45% of Federal tax revenue. Thanks to Congressional largesse to corporate interests, that percentage shrank to only 12% by 1990. And guess who's making up the difference. The hard working middle class American, who has seen his or her share of the tax burden rise from 51% to 83% (combined income and social security taxes). The average American worker is paying five times the amount of Social Security taxes his or her counterpart paid in 1950. Is it any wonder that workers are feeling overburdened?

As corporations continue to cut jobs in large numbers, stock market prices and CEO paychecks reach every higher records while the average worker struggles to hold on. Since 1980, while real wages for workers have fallen, the pay for corporate executives has risen by nearly 500 percent. As companies increasingly ask workers to work longer hour for less pay and benefits, a tremendous toll is being taken on American families. Time starved parents have less and less time to spend with their families, having to work increasingly hard and long just to pay the bills.

There's a lot more to tell about why the American worker is being shortchanged and why he or she rightfully feels uneasy about the future. Check out our new magazine, Working People, and our Discussion of Major Worker Issues as we provide the details over the coming months. But the news is not all bad. Working People will also tell you about the good things that some companies are doing to help their workers lead better lives. And get involved! To help make things better for yourself and your fellow workers, join Workers of America. Each Workers of America membership includes a subscription to Working People Magazine.

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