laborprod

You produce twice as much as your parents did, for one fifth of their wages

Jehu Featured, The Commune 1 Comment

I have already shown you this chart, which demonstrates that between 1964 and 2012, the nation’s labor force doubled.

Change in total nonfarm payroll between 1964 and 2012 (BLS)

Change in total nonfarm payroll between 1964 and 2012 (BLS)

During the same time as the labor force doubled, I showed, hours of labor doubled as well:

Change in total hours of labor in the United States between 1964 and 2012 (BLS)

Change in total hours of labor in the United States between 1964 and 2012 (BLS)

But this doubling of hours of labor only examines part of what has actually happened in the last fifty years. Not only has the labor force and hours of labor doubled, the Bureau of Labor Statistics data shows during that same period output per worker increased at an annual average rate of approximately 2 percent over the last fifty years. Which means output per employed worker has doubled as well.

Increase in productivity of labor between 1964 and 2012 (BLS)

Increase in productivity of labor between 1964 and 2012 (BLS)

That means we have achieved a five-fold increase in total material wealth produced annually between 1964 and 2012 in the United States. Yet, for all this increase in material wealth, poverty still exists.

It gets worse: According to data supplied by the Department of Agriculture, between 1964 and 2012, the farm labor force fell from 7.2 million to 872 thousand — a fall of 88%. Yet, despite the fall in the number of people engaged in agriculture over the period owing to improvements in the productivity of farm labor, people still go to bed hungry in this country. Total real material output rises to 500% overall and labor needed in agriculture falls 88%; yet, despite this improvement in material wealth, 43 million workers still live in poverty according to Washington. Moreover, there has been an actual increase in the number of workers living in poverty since 1964.

800px-US_poverty_rate_timeline

Despite these facts, Washington tells us we cannot afford our current material standard of living. Politicians say either retirement has to be delayed and medical coverage cut, or Washington must go still deeper in debt.

Now ask yourself: If you are working twice as long as your parents, producing five times as much material wealth, should you be better or worse off than they were? So where did all that increased wealth go? Since you are, in fact, poorer than your parents, it is obvious none of that increased wealth made its way into your pockets.

So why are we working like dogs if no increase in the amount of labor we do adds anything to our material standard of living? Ask politicians in Washington this question and they will give you two different answers. The GOP says you need to learn to live within your means, while the Democrats say you need to carry even more public debt. However, ‘your means’ have increased five-fold in the past fifty years, and debt cannot by anything that has not already appeared on the shelf at Wal-Mart. Both Republicans and Democrats say you aren’t working hard or long enough — you need to work more years and more hours. So, in return for all this additional work, they promise you less.

And why isn’t the communist Left addressing this issue?

Personally, I think they don’t talk about it because the labor hours issue doesn’t involve more fascist state spending. The communist Left in this country are a bunch of fascists dressed up as communists. For the communist Left, there is no problem that cannot be fixed with more fascist state spending.

***

The first and most banal of objections to the possibility labor can be reduced or even abolished altogether that I usually hear from communists is that any reduction in hours of labor must lead to a fall in real or nominal wages. This argument is entirely without any merit whatsoever and is made mostly by people who are either completely ignorant of the difference between nominal and real wages or prefer to pretend they don’t know the difference.

The argument is used only to distract people from the fact that nominal wages have been rising for decades while real wage has been falling. The real hourly wage peaked in 1970, as research shows, and has been stagnant even in the empirical data of the fascist state. This data is not to be trusted, however, since it rests on the most savage and highly suspect notions of ‘utility’. It is nothing more than an attempt to quantify how much it costs to maintain the working class at the lowest possible level of material subsistence consistent with the continued physical existence of the worker. And, moreover, the data itself is highly vulnerable to manipulation by anyone with a political agenda — in first place corporate interests in Washington.

However, if we measured wages in 2012 by the same objective standard used in 1964 — a definite quantity of gold with a definite exchange rate with dollars — the real wage in 2012 has fallen to just 18 percent of what it was in 1970.

Average daily wage in gold 1964-2012

Average daily wage in gold 1964-2012

Using this measure there is no question why you think you are poorer than your parents. You clearly are only earning in a week what your parents earned in a single day when they were your age.

The apologists for the fascist state (and dumb Marxist academics following them) argue employing gold as a measure for the real wage is ‘gold-buggery’ or fraudulent. Gold, they say, is a barbaric relic.

Really? Whoever showed this to be true? Marxists who agree with this bourgeois opinion need to provide evidence that this is true — any empirical evidence at all that the dollar gives gold its value, not the other way around. There are dozens of currencies in use today and hundreds in the last 200 years. Communists who mindlessly repeat the bullshit spewed by bourgeois economists need to show — employing actual empirical data, not their fevered delusions — how any currency in the world market today — from the dollar, to the euro, to the yen, or yuan — gives gold its value.

You fuckers using M.E.L.T. theory need to prove it or pack your shit and go back to the university cubicle where you fuckers belong.

There is no question at all that Americans are doing twice as much labor, producing 2.5 times as much output, for wages that are a fifth of what they were in 1964. Longer hours of labor has done nothing to increase wages; instead they have been accompanied by a continuous fall in wages. That 80 percent fall in wages between 1970 and 2012 had to go somewhere — if it did not go to the wages, then where?

There is no question what has happened in the past fifty years: every hour of additional labor has been diverted to profits and fascist state spending. The argument of the Republicans is that increased profits is necessary to the increase employment of the working class. The argument of the Democrats is that increased fascist state spending is necessary to increase the material living standard of the working class. In fact what is demonstrated in the data is that increased labor by the working class only increases profits and fascist state spending. Increased hours of labor does nothing for the working class but make it poorer — there is no trickle down.

What is so fascinating about this is that every statistic I have mentioned comes down to the same thing, which every communist researcher knows to be true. There has only been a deterioration of the condition of the working class over the past fifty years. However, no communist researcher ever seems to ever make the connection between this fact the working class is poorer today than fifty years ago and the increase in hours of labor over the same period. The cause of our increasing poverty is always attributed to some cause other than labor. Dumenil and Levy for instance argue:

“The new configuration of income distribution was the outcome of various converging trends. Strong pressure was placed on the mass of salaried workers, which helped restore profit rates from their low levels of the 1970s or, at least, to put an end to their downward trend. The opening of trade and capital frontiers paved the way to large investments in the regions of the world where prevailing social conditions allowed for high returns, thus generating income flows in favor of the U.S. upper classes (and broader groups that benefit to some extent by capital in­come). Free trade increased the pressure on workers, the effect of the competition emanating from countries where labor costs are low. Large capital income flows also derived from the growing indebtedness of house­holds and the government. Extreme degrees of sophistication and expan­sion of financial mechanisms were reached after 2000, allowing for tremendous incomes in the financial sector and in rich households. The crisis, finally, revealed that a significant fraction of these flows of income were based on dubious profits, due to an increasing overvaluation of securities.”

So what is missing here? In all the talk of “new configurations of income distribution”, “income flows”, and “financial mechanisms”, the two writers produce a book totaling hundreds of pages and never even once mention that total hours of labor and that the productivity of this labor have both doubled in the past fifty years. This is entirely laughable, since Marxism asserts that it uses ‘labor’ theory in its analysis. How can you argue you use labor theory if you never actually look at labor itself?

How does that work? Are we just supposed to take your word that you employ labor theory when you never actually mention labor? Do you think we are so dumbed down by phony debates in DC, we will just accept any assertion you make?

Author: Jehu Eaves
Visit Jehu's Website - Email Jehu
I am a "marxist-in-recovery", which is to say, I am someone trying to recover for myself the essential humanist thought of Karl Marx. I understand his writings as a radical, critical, and determined opposition to all forms of social coercion and "laws" of society, including, but not limited to, Labor, Property and the State -- a decidedly negative critique of present society that offers no vision of what replaces it. My somewhat awkward musings on this can be found at therealmovement.wordpress.com. I am also on Twitter @damn_jehu
JehuYou produce twice as much as your parents did, for one fifth of their wages

Comments 1

  1. LouiseAlvey

    I think that the real statistics are much worse.
    How many people filed a income tax this year? 130 million out of 315 million citizens meaning 130 million people in this country have a job.
    The cost of health care and college education just goes through the roof, increasing by several percentage points each year.
    Most households have huge amount of debts-education,mortgage,credit card, etc- ie money flowing from working class families to the bankers.
    Almost 75% of this country is in poverty or near poverty.

    Huge income inequality-just unimaginable.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=QPKKQnijnsM

    http://www.alternet.org/economy/real-numbers-half-america-poverty-and-its-creeping-toward-75-0

    “1. Almost half of Americans had NO assets in 2009…
    3. Based on wage figures, half of Americans are in or near poverty….
    5. Putting it in Perspective
    Inequality is at its ugliest for the hungriest people. While food support was being targeted for cuts, just 20 rich Americans made as much from their 2012 investments as the entire 2012 SNAP (food assistance) budget, which serves 47 million people.
    And as Congress continues to cut life-sustaining programs, its members should note that their 400 friends on the Forbes list made more from their stock market gains last year than the total amount of the food, housing, and education budgets combined.
    Arguments about poverty won’t end. Neither should our efforts to uncover the awful truth.