After five long years of economic misery, recovery is just around the corner. Turn your television sets to just about any news network, any financial report you can find, and you’ll find a bunch of well-paid folks arguing this very point.
And there’s some truth to it. The economy certainly isn’t as bad as it was, say, when I came to Murray State in 2009. But the growth that has picked up since the “recovery” began has been meager at best. Last year, Gross Domestic Product (GDP) grew at a modest 2.2 percent, far lower than the boom years of the 1990s and yet still higher than 2011, which saw GDP growth only inch up 1.8 percent, according to Forbes magazine.
But for whom is the economy recovering? It’s certainly not you or me, folks. Sixty percent of the jobs we lost during the recession paid between $14 and $21 an hour, while 58 percent of the job gains that have occurred since the beginning of the recovery in 2010 have paid less than $14 an hour and are concentrated in food services, retail and employment services, according to the Washington Post’s Ezra Klein.
The ‘new’ economy is one of low wages, zero benefits and little room for advancement. And why should it be? There are a lot of people who have become very wealthy as the result of this recession.
Prior to the recession’s start, the top 1 percent of income earners in the United States claimed 23.5 percent of all income in the country, or about $1 out of every 4. Since the “recovery” began in 2009, Berkley economist Emanuel Saez points out, 95 percent of all income gains since the recovery began have flowed directly to the 1 percent.
With all that in mind, it’s quite clear whom this “recovery” is for. The rich have sucked 95 percent of the wealth that’s been generated by the recovery out the economy.
What we have in the U.S. today is a vampire economy – where those who work do so for long hours or without guarantees of enough hours to make ends meet, do so for low wages and low benefits, while those who employ them reap all the rewards.
The vampire economy has disfigured our politics into something unrecognizable. We today watch as two parties, run by millionaires and backed to the hilt by the very vampires who have turned this economy into their personal blood bank, debate whether or not to end the supplemental assistance nutrition program (SNAP), more commonly known as food stamps.
Conservatives for their part argue that food stamps allow a few “moochers” to get a free ride at everyone else’s expense. Sure, if you consider the elderly, disabled and kids as “moochers,” because they represent 76 percent of all SNAP benefits, according to Feeding America, an anti-hunger group.
What kind of recovery empowers those who would take food out of the mouths of children, the disabled and the elderly to give Kim Kardashian a tax cut? Certainly none I’d want a part of.
Devin Griggs is president of the Murray State College Democrats.
Column by Devin Griggs, Opinion Editor