More “Productivity” Just Means the Rich Get More for Themselves

Over the last few years many writers and even some liberal politicians have pointed out the incredible gulf between the rich and everyone else, the inequality of income and wealth in the U.S.  Dean Baker on the website FAIR takes on Paul Samuelson who claims the “real problem for the middle class is not inequality but rather productivity growth”.   Samuelson’s idea is if we produced more things and more services working people would get more.  This in his mind no doubt would be better than doing dreadful things like raising minimum wages and taking away the power of companies to fire workers for trying to unionize.  Baker makes a lot of points against Samuelson, but one chart done by Dave Johnson on “The Contributor” does a much better job.  It shows that until the middle 1970’s productivity and wage pretty much rose at the same rate.  Then productivity took off, but wages barely went up at all.   In forty years wages went up roughly about 13% while productivity went up 154%.

The point is that workers can get as productive as all hell, but it won’t do them any good because the owners will take almost all of the gains for themselves.

Liberals use this fact to insist we go back to the “good old days” of the ‘40’s and ‘50’s when government was nicer and there were decent increases in wages.  I suspect those years were great exceptions in U.S. capitalism and that what we are living in now is the “normal”.  Until the companies are taken over and run democratically the yawning inequality will continue or increase.

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