In order to build wealth and create opportunities in and across America’s underserved communities, and reverse the troubling trends we’re seeing in our economy, we no longer find it defensible to focus on job creation alone. It’s clear that job creation does not itself equate to lasting economic change. And so, we must shift our focus to the creation of higher quality jobs — jobs that are good for workers and their families, good for businesses, and good for communities — enabling us to build an economy that works for everyone.
Each month, we bring you the latest roundup of news from the fight for quality jobs for working people.
Mixed News For Working Americans
Let’s start off this month with some good news: unemployment is at near all-times lows! That’s great news for an economy that was reeling less than ten years ago. Now we just need to get wages up. Even though most Americans who want a job can at least find a part-time one now, the majority of American workers say those jobs just aren’t paying enough for them to make ends meet.
That’s something we’ve been talking about for a long time now here at PCV. Just because the economy is creating jobs, it doesn’t help working people if those jobs don’t pay enough for us to get by. Creating good-quality jobs is something our elected representatives should be focusing on like a laser. Spoiler: they’re not.
Let’s Talk Taxes
The new tax bill making it’s way through Congress has garnered a lot of attention for how it lower taxes on wealthier individuals and big corporations, but less has been said about how it affect middle- and working-class jobs. One of the key talking points of the bill is that it will give companies more money to invest in workers and raises. That main driver of the bill has already been disproven by the CEOs of the those same companies. Instead of hiring more workers or increasing wages, executives from major companies including Cisco Systems, Pfizer, Coca-Cola, Amgen and Honeywell have said they plan to use the windfall from the corporate tax cut to first increase stock dividends or to buy back shares.
Companies have long claimed that their employees are their greatest asset, but they haven’t always treated them that way. And this tax bill won’t change this one iota.
Then there’s small business. Policymakers love talking about how America’s small businesses are the symbol of the American dream. Even though lowering taxes on small business is something the tax bill’s proponents claim is their goal, the actual bill mainly only benefits big business. According to reporting in The Washington Post, The National Football League, Fiat Chrysler, the Koch brothers’ Georgia-Pacific subsidiary, The Washington Post’s owner and more than 500 Trump entities would qualify for a substantial tax break under the proposal. But the neighborhood dry cleaner or dentist would be out of luck.
As for longer-term impacts, the plan would cut billions of dollars in incentives for the biggest new source of sustainable high-wage employment in the world: clean energy. And many of those jobs in red states.
Inroads In Inequality
New research shows that shuttling even a tiny percent of consumer transactions to small businesses in poorer neighborhoods can reduce income inequality dramatically. The study used data from 150,000 people and 95,000 businesses in Barcelona and Madrid, and on the surface the pattern of transactions and the money spent revealed that some neighborhoods were up to five times wealthier than others. But researchers were shocked to find that if as few as 5 percent of commercial transactions were changed—so that capital flowed from richer to poorer neighborhoods—income inequality in those cities was drastically reduced, up to 80 percent.
There are also two long-form pieces out this past month on some of the underlying economic issues that are creating continued income inequality, and looking at what could keep driving it in the future.
Nobel-prize winning economist Joseph Stiglitz has a new book and an accompanying essay talking about America’s monopoly problem. Not only are monopolies like Microsoft, Google, Facebook, and Comcast keeping consumers from having real choices, they’re also destroying jobs and innovation by using their immense size to purchase and disband their new competitors one by one as they emerge.
The more money and power that rests with giant corporations, the less and less leverage workers have as well. As big companies drive more and more of their profits to investors, those investors ask for bigger returns by cutting costs and automating good-paying jobs with machines. Kevin Drum has a long piece this month looking at the coming AI revolution in tech, and comes away with a warning: Sometime in the next 40 years, robots are going to take your job.