One Disturbing 'Headline' Speaks Volumes About Our Economy - and Helps Explain Sanders' Rise
You have all seen those click bait titles at the end of some article you've read, trying to grab your attention. The one's that begin "One weird trick ..." have become both a joke and a cliche, and yet people still click through to the link. Why? Well, I finished reading an article on a sports site this morning, that was definite click bait material, but in a way that I found profoundly disturbing. What was the title you ask? Well here it is:
An Extremely Brilliant Way To Avoid Paying Interest
On Your Credit Card Balance
I'm not going to give you the link. That isn't the point. What that click bait ad title implies, and not so subtlety, is that there are large numbers of people desperately struggling with a large amount of personal debt, whether debt incurred to pay for basic necessities such as food, shelter, and clothing, or debt incurred to pay off past debt back when they had a better job, or any job at all. Or people with large medical debts to pay off, because many do, despite the improvement in the cost of health insurance the ACA has helped bring about for many families, but sadly, not all. Or so many younger (and not so younger people know) with large amounts of student loan debt.
Not to mention the far more worrisome massive increase in personal credit card debt over the last year.
Credit card debt is ballooning, leaving American households with a net increase of $57.1 billion in new credit card debt in 2014, according to a new survey from CardHub. The credit card comparison site said it's forecasting new credit card debt will rise 5 percent in 2015, reaching $60 billion this year.
While the increased spending could signal that Americans are feeling more sanguine about their prospects and the economy, it's also a cause for concern given that most workers aren't seeing the type of wage growth that would support that higher spending. The surge has left the average household credit card balance at almost $7,200, or not far from the $8,300 level that CardHub considers unsustainable. [...]
While Americans are carrying more debt, their earnings are barely ahead of where they were a decade ago. Household earnings have increased only 2 percent during the past 10 years, The Pew Charitable Trusts said in a study issued last month.
How can this be happening, if the economy is showing a fall in the unemployment rate, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Well, that number comes from a survey, and the survey on the overall unemployment rate doesn't account for the types of jobs being created in our stagnant economy, where since 2008, part-time jobs, compared to full time jobs, has grown at a faster rate that pre-recession figures.
Back in 2008, before the Wall Street collapse triggered by the bursting of the housing bubble and the over-reliance by the Banksters on selling derivatives to institutional investors based on securitized residential mortgages, jobs designated as full time positions for all employees 16 years old and older represented 83.1% of the economy before the crash. Now they represent under 82%, with part time jobs rising from 16.9% of the economy to roughly 17.7%. That may not seem like much, until you look at the cohort of people 28-54, the group in their prime earning years where the contrast is far starker:
As you can see from that chart, the rate of part-time jobs since 2008 has grown and despite recent improvements, still exceeds the rate at which full time positions are being created. Now this isn't a result of implementation of the ACA, as some on the right would like to claim. It's a clearly a hangover from the economic policies that led to the great Depression.
"With regard to Obamacare and part-time employment, the surge in part-time employment was triggered by the recession, not by the Affordable Care Act..." The statistics show that part time employment is not correlated to any increase in part-time jobs. In fact part time positions are trending downward since the ACA was enacted and implemented. Still, growth in low wage jobs, which are more often than not part-time positions, has accounted for roughly 2/5ths of all the new jobs created since "the labor market bottomed out in February, 2010."
Every month the government heralds the falling unemployment rate as a sign of an improving economy. However, besides the growth in part time work versus full time positions, what else do the BLS unemployment statistics tell us? Or more importantly, what are our political leaders and mainstream media not telling you?
The most important thing they fail to say, or speak about in a sotto voce voice, is that a large number of the people who are jobless are not employed, and not counted as unemployed under the official statistics, because they have stopped looking for work. As of July 2015, the BLS estimates that 9.743 million people are not counted in the labor market, because they are not actively seeking work. These are people not counted in the unemployment statistics because, for whatever reason, they have been discouraged from seeking employment or have otherwise dropped out of the labor market. Percentage wise, that is the lowest rate of participation in the labor force since 1977.
“We are definitely seeing recovery but the extent of it is not as much as you would think from the unemployment rate,” says Nick Bunker, policy analyst at the Washington Center for Equitable Growth. “There is this long decline of labor force participation due to a variety of factors, mostly demographics. Obviously the unemployment rate has dropped quite a bit the last two years, but that’s hard to look at as a pure indicator of labor market health like people did prior to the recession.”
There are a couple of factors at work that undermine the reliability of the unemployment rate. As the huge Baby Boomer generation ages, the labor force participation rate declines as they either retire or, in cases more extreme than Klein’s, cannot find work at all – even part-time work. This jobs report revealed a labor force participation rate of 62.6 percent, unchanged from last month, the lowest level since 1977.
The truth is that real unemployment is not the 5.4 percent you read in newspapers. It is close to 11 percent if you include those workers who have given up looking for jobs or who are working part time when they want to work full time. Youth unemployment is over 17 percent and African-American youth unemployment is much higher than that. Today, shamefully, we have 45 million people living in poverty, many of whom are working at low-wage jobs. These are the people who struggle every day to find the money to feed their kids, to pay their electric bills and to put gas in the car to get to work. This campaign is about those people and our struggling middle class. It is about creating an economy that works for all, and not just the one percent.
Sanders' rise in popularity is due in large part to his willingness to speak the truth to the American people about the real economic struggles they face, rather than present us with happy talk about how great the unemployment numbers are. And that truth is that wages are stagnant for most people, there are far more people unemployed or marginally employed than the mainstream media wants to talk about, and as a result, personal household debt is once again on the rise.
You want to know what the one brilliant trick to not having to pay interest on your credit card balance? Not having such high credit card balances in the first place. And that will require more jobs, and better, higher paying jobs.
And among all the major candidates, Sanders has been the one person most consistent in his focus on improving wage growth (such as his strong support for a $15 an hour minimum wage) and unions, and by creating real employment gains at home by reeling in the large multinational corporations who are sending jobs overseas as well as evading taxes by hiding their profits offshore, as well.
Is there any reason to doubt why Sanders' popularity is surging despite lack of media coverage he receives compared to other candidates, especially the unparalleled attention given to the odious Donald Trump?
One man is selling himself as the savior of America. The other is telling the truth about our so-called "economic recovery" that has left millions falling ever further behind, while also offering policies and detailed plans to solve the most pressing problems those people face, policies that offer real hope and change.
Is Sanders a great orator like President Obama? No. But maybe we don't need great speeches right now. Maybe we just need someone telling the truth about the oligarchic corporate takeover of our government and the real life misery that has created for the 99% of us who aren't benefiting from corporate control of our government institutions, federal, state and local. A person committed to effecting change that will benefit the lives of African Americans, White Americans, LGBT Americans, Latino Americans, Disabled Americans, working class and poor Americans, and every other American you can think of other than those few at the top who have been soaking up all the gains from our "recovering economy" while leaving the crumbs for the rest of us.
That's my opinion, in any case, for what it is worth.
Ps. I am not affiliated in any way with the Sanders' campaign. I'm neither a volunteer nor have I made a financial donation to him. But I'm thinking I should, and soon.