1 in 34 Americans Made Absolutely No Money in 2009

Monopoly ManDavid Cay Johnston writes on Tax.com:

Now for some really scary breaking news, from the latest payroll tax data. Every 34th wage earner in America in 2008 went all of 2009 without earning a single dollar, new data from the Social Security Administration show. Total wages, median wages, and average wages all declined, but at the very top, salaries grew more than fivefold.

Not a single news organization reported this data when it was released October 15, searches of Google and the Nexis databases show. Nor did any blog, so the citizen journalists and professional economists did no better than the newsroom pros in reporting this basic information about our economy.

The new data hold important lessons for economic growth and tax policy and take on added meaning when examined in light of tax return data back to 1950. The story the numbers tell is one of a strengthening economic base with income growing fastest at the bottom until, in 1981, we made an abrupt change in tax and economic policy. Since then the base has fared poorly while huge economic gains piled up at the very top, along with much lower tax burdens.

A weak foundation cannot properly support a massive superstructure, as the leaning Tower of Pisa shows. The latest wage data show the disastrous results some of us warned about, although like the famous tower, the economy only lists badly and has not collapsed.

Measured in 2009 dollars, total wages fell to just above $5.9 trillion, down $215 billion from the previous year. Compared with 2007, when the economy peaked, total wages were down $313 billion or 5 percent in real terms.

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  • http://jescie.net JESCIE

    “You see, boys and girls, the white people back then were also afraid of doing any work. So they went to Africa, kidnapped thousands of black people, brought them back to America, and forced them to work very hard for no money. And I don’t mean no money like ‘I work at Wal-Mart and make no money’ I mean zero dollars. Nothing, nada, zip. Doing it that way made the USA the richest country in the world.” – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sLzo9pOXa-s

    • http://voxmagi-necessarywords.blogspot.com/ VoxMagi

      They were even lazier than that! You give them too much credit. They couldn’t even be bothered to round up or catch slaves on their own. They just showed up on the coast of Africa and bought slaves captured from the interior from the local slave taking tribes.

    • JustStoppingBy

      Not all slaves were black. Many Native Americans were sold into slavery by rival tribes, but there is barely any mention of it in history. I this because I have ancestors who were on the Indian Freed Slave roles. Still though your comment is pretty accurate.

    • Me

      White folks were so lazy back then, that they did not even go “kidnap” anybody. They bought them from the black folks who were selling other black folks. That is a fact, and indeed, slavery still exists in Africa….look it up.

  • http://jescie.net JESCIE

    “You see, boys and girls, the white people back then were also afraid of doing any work. So they went to Africa, kidnapped thousands of black people, brought them back to America, and forced them to work very hard for no money. And I don’t mean no money like ‘I work at Wal-Mart and make no money’ I mean zero dollars. Nothing, nada, zip. Doing it that way made the USA the richest country in the world.” – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sLzo9pOXa-s

  • http://voxmagi-necessarywords.blogspot.com/ VoxMagi

    They were even lazier than that! You give them too much credit. They couldn’t even be bothered to round up or catch slaves on their own. They just showed up on the coast of Africa and bought slaves captured from the interior from the local slave taking tribes.

  • http://voxmagi-necessarywords.blogspot.com/ VoxMagi

    And this doesn’t measure people who are ‘off the grid’. It’s worse than that. In Michigan there are people living a cash free barter based existence and getting by cooperatively…because jobs just aren’t there to be had. There are PHD holders competing with 120 candidates for jobs that pay at best 40K a year in the administration of charities trade. Not even accounting for a differential due to inflation over the last 30 years, a PHD should have been bringing in half again that much in 1980 dollars. If we can’t move people off the barter economy and back into the system…this ‘recovery’ will never manifest.

    • emperorreagan

      I don’t believe there will ever be a recovery.

      The base is gone, as the article points out. The financial kings are getting their bonuses again. And the rhetoric coming out of the campaign isn’t about spurring the economy – it’s about austerity. The examples of implementing austerity measures during an economic downturn (like good ole Herbert Hoover) are disasters, but Republicans are going to march into Washington next year talking about cutting the tiny social programs we have left, cutting government jobs, etc.

      I think we’re in for a continuing sharp decline for the average American and further concentration of wealth at the top.

      • JustStoppingBy

        I agree…but I also wonder if people really want a recovery. Not because they are doing nothing, but because of how the system has already failed. Trust in our government is at an all time low, prices of food increases, pay rates stay them same if your lucky…or even worse, you get laid off like my wife and I did in November of 2009 and are forced to take unemployment.

        Honestly, after we were laid off the first thing we both started to do was pound both the pavement and keyboard looking for work. From November 2009 to November 2010 there were plenty of claims on the news that companies were hiring, and plenty of signs in places that said that businesses were hiring. The problem that we found was that either these positions were limited, temporary, or my favorite, “We really aren’t hiring, but the corporate office wants us to keep the now hiring sign out.”

        We though are one of the lucky few who finally got called back to our jobs, but it definitely is not going to keep me from growing my own vegetables from now on, hunting and fishing to supplement the fresh meat supply here.

    • Fiver

      “There are PHD holders competing with 120 candidates for jobs that pay at best 40K a year in the administration of charities trade.”

      Then all of those people wasting time and money on useless degrees need to stop what they’re doing and learn some marketable skills.

      • http://voxmagi-necessarywords.blogspot.com/ VoxMagi

        Yeah…but what would those skills be? The ones that were great ten years ago…the ones that were good five years ago…the ones that were good 2 years ago? My friend didnt get his degree last year…he got it a decade ago…it was relevant and worth good money then…still might be…in states other than Michigan which is a full depression.

        We can’t brush off people because the career path shifted on them without warning…they didn’t kill off the economy, and once its at least operational again, they’ll be ready to kick ass and get back to work.

  • http://voxmagi-necessarywords.blogspot.com/ VoxMagi

    And this doesn’t measure people who are ‘off the grid’. It’s worse than that. In Michigan there are people living a cash free barter based existence and getting by cooperatively…because jobs just aren’t there to be had. There are PHD holders competing with 120 candidates for jobs that pay at best 40K a year in the administration of charities trade. Not even accounting for a differential due to inflation over the last 30 years, a PHD should have been bringing in half again that much in 1980 dollars. If we can’t move people off the barter economy and back into the system…this ‘recovery’ will never manifest.

  • emperorreagan

    I don’t believe there will ever be a recovery.

    The base is gone, as the article points out. The financial kings are getting their bonuses again. And the rhetoric coming out of the campaign isn’t about spurring the economy – it’s about austerity. The examples of implementing austerity measures during an economic downturn (like good ole Herbert Hoover) are disasters, but Republicans are going to march into Washington next year talking about cutting the tiny social programs we have left, cutting government jobs, etc.

    I think we’re in for a continuing sharp decline for the average American and further concentration of wealth at the top.

  • Fiver

    “There are PHD holders competing with 120 candidates for jobs that pay at best 40K a year in the administration of charities trade.”

    Then all of those people wasting time and money on useless degrees need to stop what they’re doing and learn some marketable skills.

  • JustStoppingBy

    Not all slaves were black. Many Native Americans were sold into slavery by rival tribes, but there is barely any mention of it in history. I this because I have ancestors who were on the Indian Freed Slave roles. Still though your comment is pretty accurate.

  • JustStoppingBy

    I agree…but I also wonder if people really want a recovery. Not because they are doing nothing, but because of how the system has already failed. Trust in our government is at an all time low, prices of food increases, pay rates stay them same if your lucky…or even worse, you get laid off like my wife and I did in November of 2009 and are forced to take unemployment.

    Honestly, after we were laid off the first thing we both started to do was pound both the pavement and keyboard looking for work. From November 2009 to November 2010 there were plenty of claims on the news that companies were hiring, and plenty of signs in places that said that businesses were hiring. The problem that we found was that either these positions were limited, temporary, or my favorite, “We really aren’t hiring, but the corporate office wants us to keep the now hiring sign out.”

    We though are one of the lucky few who finally got called back to our jobs, but it definitely is not going to keep me from growing my own vegetables from now on, hunting and fishing to supplement the fresh meat supply here.

  • JustStoppingBy

    I agree…but I also wonder if people really want a recovery. Not because they are doing nothing, but because of how the system has already failed. Trust in our government is at an all time low, prices of food increases, pay rates stay them same if your lucky…or even worse, you get laid off like my wife and I did in November of 2009 and are forced to take unemployment.

    Honestly, after we were laid off the first thing we both started to do was pound both the pavement and keyboard looking for work. From November 2009 to November 2010 there were plenty of claims on the news that companies were hiring, and plenty of signs in places that said that businesses were hiring. The problem that we found was that either these positions were limited, temporary, or my favorite, “We really aren’t hiring, but the corporate office wants us to keep the now hiring sign out.”

    We though are one of the lucky few who finally got called back to our jobs, but it definitely is not going to keep me from growing my own vegetables from now on, hunting and fishing to supplement the fresh meat supply here.

  • http://voxmagi-necessarywords.blogspot.com/ VoxMagi

    Yeah…but what would those skills be? The ones that were great ten years ago…the ones that were good five years ago…the ones that were good 2 years ago? My friend didnt get his degree last year…he got it a decade ago…it was relevant and worth good money then…still might be…in states other than Michigan which is a full depression.

    We can’t brush off people because the career path shifted on them without warning…they didn’t kill off the economy, and once its at least operational again, they’ll be ready to kick ass and get back to work.

  • Me

    White folks were so lazy back then, that they did not even go “kidnap” anybody. They bought them from the black folks who were selling other black folks. That is a fact, and indeed, slavery still exists in Africa….look it up.