Archive for March 15th, 2014

“BERTRAND RUSSELL, the English philosopher, was not a fan of work. In his 1932 essay, “In Praise of Idleness”, he reckoned that if society were better managed the average person would only need to work four hours a day. Such a small working day would “entitle a man to the necessities and elementary comforts of life.” The rest of the day could be devoted to the pursuit of science, painting and writing.”

Russell thought that technological advancement could free people from toil. John Maynard Keynes sounded a similar idea in a 1930 essay, “Economic possibilities for our grandchildren,” in which he reckoned people might need work no more than 15 hours per week by 2030. But over 80 years after these speculations people seem to be working harder than ever. The Financial Times reports today that Workaholics Anonymous groups are taking off. Over the summer Bank of America faced intense criticism after a Stakhanovite intern died.

There is, of course, considerable truth to what Bertrand and Keynes said. For example, if wages had kept up with productivity growth since 1960, the federal minimum wage would be around $18 an hour, and much higher if things such as food and energy were included in the official inflation rate. Food has jumped perhaps 20 percent per year since President Obama took office, at least by some estimates.

A lot of people throughout the nation would be able to live on working only four to five hours a day or less if productivity and wages had been linked. Instead, productivity has been linked with share prices, dividends and corporate profits via federal legislation, and from which the rich primarily benefit. Free trade agreements, such as the looming Trans Pacific Partnership, the largest “free income redistribution from the 99 to the 1 percent treaty” of all time, which is also known as NAFTA on steroids, is being pushed by Obama and Wall Street Senator Ron Wyden. The latter has a history of voting 100 percent of the time on legislation that redistributes income from the 99 to the 1 percent.

It is because of Wyden’s work in the US house and senate, as well as many others, that the 99 percent in the US are working more and earning less, rather than working less and earning more. They have to support the rich and their campaign contributions and other perks the 1 percent provide the Wall Street senator. Wyden’s work is why there is such a massive financial inequality in the US. US citizens, because of Wyden, are something of a host, while Wyden’s favorite legislative beneficiaries (the 1 percent) are the parasites, in an ever increasing unequal society.

Thank you Wall Street Senator Ron Wyden, at least from Wall Street’s point of view.

Notice that US citizens are working less nowadays than in 1990. However, part of that might be due to the weakness of the economy, and the overall higher unemployment in 2012 relative to 1990. Ergo, there are less hours to work nowadays than 22 years earlier. And don’t forget, when inflation is factored in, we’re earning less now than then. The difference in real wages from what they were and what they should be has been redistributed from the 99 to the 1 percent via federal legislation, such as free trade treaties.

Check out the link below for more on the story.

Working Hours; Get a life–The Economist

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