Wall Street Bolshevism, Part 3

by Timothy Noah | October 5, 2011

Try to remember, as you read the following (full text here), that it was not written by any of the protesters currently occupying Wall Street. It's the work of Lisa Shalett, chief investment officer at Merrill Lynch Wealth Management, and her "team." The protesters and the protested have a remarkably similar worldview.

"Our colleague, Ethan Harris, Senior Economist at BofA Merrill Lynch Global Research, has suggested that one element of the structural change has to do with a transformation in the implicit contract of loyalty that historically operated between labor and management. He has illustrated that for the last 20 years, concurrent with the decline in the power of unions and the ascendance of technology and automation in the workplace, the historical pattern whereby productivity would be the shock absorber to economic cycles has been broken.... For the last two decades and especially in the current period, hours worked and actual jobs available plummeted while productivity soared. Some analysts have estimated that productivity gains achieved over the last decade are the equivalent of the permanent elimination of 37 million jobs! (Note today’s labor force is 154 million people.)"

...

"Against this backdrop, U.S. real average hourly earnings are essentially flat to down, with today’s inflation-adjusted wage equating to about the same level as that attained by workers in 1970.... While employees and families/ households were able to outrun this trend by working more hours for more years, this formula has broken down, with growth in new hours worked becoming increasingly static. Limited expansion of hours worked and no real growth in earnings/hour has manifested themselves in the last two years as total real personal income has dropped for the first time in almost 50 years and has not recovered to the 2008 peak.... [E]mployee compensation as a ratio to GDP is at all time lows.

...

"So where have the benefits of technology-driven productivity cycle gone? Almost exclusively to corporations and their very top executives.  

...

"Complicating the situation further is the concentration of what compensation and income has been paid in the U.S. The top 10% of earners now collect half of all income (including all sources); the top 5%, 40% and the top 1% nearly 25%.... Putting this in historical perspective, not only is this level higher than the pre-Depression 1920s; but it is different than prior recessions with the top 1% share 1.5x greater than the past and now runs at 2x the rate of other developed democracies. The implication is that the base in which economic recovery and prosperity can take root has thus shrunk meaningfully."

Viva la revolucion! Or perhaps I mean: "Stop me before I kill again!"

Source URL: http://www.newrepublic.com//blog/timothy-noah/95821/wall-street-bolshevism-part-3