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Trump has hardly championed the average American worker

By Robert B. Reich, Tribune Content Agency on

This will be the first Labor Day of the presidency of Donald J. Trump, who came to office riding a wave of anti-establishment anger from average working people. No one can say they didn't see it coming.

By the time Trump was elected, the typical American household had a net worth 14 percent lower than the typical household in 1984. The richest 1 percent of Americans controlled more wealth than the bottom 90 percent.

Last year's annual Wall Street bonus pool alone was larger than the annual year-round earnings of all 3.3 million Americans working full time at or below the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour.

While 90 percent of U.S. adults born in the early 1940s were earning more than their parents by the time they reached their prime earning years, only half of adults born in the mid-1980s are earning more than their parents in their prime earning years.

Most also have less economic security than their parents. Nearly one out of every five American workers is in a part-time job. Two-thirds are living paycheck to paycheck. Most are working more hours than they worked decades ago and taking fewer sick days or vacations.

The gap in life expectancy between the nation's most affluent and everyone else is also widening. Increasing numbers of Americans on the downward economic escalator are succumbing to opioids, chronic liver cirrhosis, and poisonings that include drug overdoses.

The standard explanation for why all of this has occurred is that most American workers are no longer "worth" as much as they were before digital technologies and globalization. So they must now settle for lower wages and less security.

Rubbish.

This doesn't explain why workers in other advanced economies facing similar forces haven't succumbed to such setbacks nearly as dramatically as have workers in the United States.

Or why the pay of top executives at big companies has soared from an average of 20 times that of the typical worker 40 years ago to almost 300 times now.

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