Home         Back

Another article in the  "Best Country in the World"  Series

The Lookout

Workers’ share of national income plummets to record low

Tue Jun 14, 2011

By Zachary Roth


Over the last decade, the share of U.S. national income taken home by workers has plummeted to a record low.

Check out the chart below, compiled by the Labor Department, and posted this week by conservative writer David Frum. It shows that the decline began with the brief recession that followed 9/11 in 2001. But it continued even as the economy picked up again, and got even worse once the Great Recession hit. In the weak recovery since then, workers' share of income just kept on falling.


Why are workers taking home such a reduced share of the pie? Opinions differ, but many experts think that the trend has to do with a number of factors, including a decline in the bargaining power of labor, and increased competition from foreign workers. Similarly, over the last year or so, U.S. companies have made record profits, while unemployment has stayed high and wages have barely risen.

The chart jibes with other data, which show that since the 1980s, income for the richest 1 percent of Americans has exploded, while hardly budging at all for everyone else.

Still, there's little sense that either Obama administration or Congress plan to do much about this growing inequality. Indeed, any serious action to boost the economy and cut unemployment now seems to be off the table.

Readers Comments

Russell Tue Jun 14, 2011 01:01 pm PDT If the American Dream is dead for the average working American, no sense in sticking around. I definitely am having a harder time justifying what I am defending as a member of the military.

Terrified 1213 24 Terrified Tue Jun 14, 2011 12:35 pm PDT Truly, we are now in one of the most duped and miserable apathetic generations in American history. You no longer have to be a very clever politician to steal from this bunch...

Martha 2337 54 Martha Tue Jun 14, 2011 11:27 am PDT Now the 'average American' knew this two years ago - we wondered when someone would notice. You cannot outsource 10 MILLION jobs to India, Mexico, China etc. and not have it affect the economy. Wall St - RIch - Main St - Dying.

WM 1648 38 WM Tue Jun 14, 2011 11:46 am PDT After 18 years at Lexis Nexis, my job was outsourced to India. I had to stay for 6 months to train the Indian that took my place so that I could get my severence check. I now make 1/3 less. I am still p-off

PETER 2442 62 PETER Tue Jun 14, 2011 11:03 am PDT Anyone surprised? We have two parties captive to the corporate state, and we are headed back to the nobles and peasants society. The middle class was a temporary reward for winning two world wars, but the elite doesn't need us anymore.

M S 2354 60 M S Tue Jun 14, 2011 11:41 am PDT Do you guys remember the days when only the husband worked? On one salary families could afford a home, two cars, take vacations, etc, etc... and retire at 55. All with just a high school diploma. What happened?

homebody 946 22 homebody Tue Jun 14, 2011 11:49 am PDT So the executive guy in the big office who is an employee, not a majority owner, gets bigger and bigger income and the people who do the actual work less and less and for this he is considered to be the most productive. No wonder I think the whole system is one stinking sack of lies , fraud and deceit.

U Hairy Tick U 939 24 U Hairy Tick U Tue Jun 14, 2011 12:00 pm PDT We're in the middle of classic class warfare but only one side is fighting ..and winning.

Smash 794 20 Smash Tue Jun 14, 2011 11:45 am PDT Time to take our country back from the greedy types in congress elect the right people in office study your candidates background check there history on what they did to help America. No more Mr or Miss popular or he or she is so cute or handsome types we need real honest caring understanding people in office enough is enough I can't take this crap anymore.

Michael 1687 50 Michael Tue Jun 14, 2011 11:14 am PDT This just proves where congress' loyalties lie. The government no longer represents the masses and it serves to make the richest percent of the population stay richer. It is no surprise that most of the people that make up congress ARE the wealthiest people. If these people really wanted to stay in power, they would be wise to take care of the rest of the country which is made up of the people who actually work for them and keep them wealthy. Now the government is wondering why the economy keeps falling in worth, maybe because none of the workers have any purchasing power. Henry Ford knew that to keep a company going you have to pay the workers enough to buy your products. It's high time big business and corporations were treated for the crimes they commit. They have too much money and too much power and this is exactly what happened in Rome before it fell. Read about Rome the parallels are freaky. Democracy in America today is a joke, both the Republicans and Democrats serve big corporate interests because that's where their funding comes from. It's only a matter of time before enough people get mad enough to make some real changes, starting with the fat cats on capital hill. Rolls Royce sales were up 171 percent in 2010. As in 2009, the U.S. remains the biggest single market for Roll Royces. Starting to catch on yet?

Chris Harris 373 9 Chris Harris Tue Jun 14, 2011 11:44 am PDT All these forum psots are aware of what is happening, make good comments and call for revolution, yet 86.9% of incumbents were re elected int he last national election? Dear people of America, put down your smart phones, get away from you lap tops, turn off reality TV and sports and get out and support, help and assist the person of your choice to run for office to change this>> If not you will work for $3 an hour at best very very soon.

Gade 1308 45 Gade Tue Jun 14, 2011 11:03 am PDT LOL they are making record profits because they have moved their manufacturing overseas but are still charging the same price as if it was made here. Our country is doomed to become a third world country.

Professor 147 2 Professor Tue Jun 14, 2011 11:28 am PDT Our two party system is producing a two class system: Upper Class and Lower Class! I am just guessing that everyone you see posting here (including me) is NOT in the Upper Class!

Captain America 191 4 Captain America Tue Jun 14, 2011 02:19 pm PDT When the people fear their government, there is tyranny; when the government fears the people, there is liberty. – Thomas Jefferson

Dominick 210 5 Dominick Tue Jun 14, 2011 01:24 pm PDT I remember...my father was an italian emigrant....6th grade education....he never missed a day of work...we lived well...he had his own companies...we had the caddy, the truck, and the station wagon...my mom was a homemaker...never worked outside of the home...we had a summer house at the beach.....i have 5 siblings...FIVE... people....all just memories now....what the hell happened....It was'nt always easy, but it worked.....

charlesH 157 3 charlesH Tue Jun 14, 2011 01:05 pm PDT Once the middle class dies off it will all be over. The middle class pay the taxes and keeps the stores open.

Maryann-Toby 233 7 Maryann-Toby Tue Jun 14, 2011 12:13 pm PDT It's called corporate greed. American workers, we've been sold-out to China!!!

Roger 170 4 Roger Tue Jun 14, 2011 11:25 am PDT When 50% of U.S. consumer goods are purchased by the top ten percent money earners in our country, are you surprised. U.S. Corporations will continue to send more of our jobs to cheap labor markets where 70% of that production currently goes to other nations. Our middle class is not relevant to these companies in providing jobs as they just do not need us anymore as workers and/or buyers of their goods. We are witnessing and suffering under existing established markets being dismantled for emerging markets. Our country established the industrial revolution and now we will witness the dismantling of our middle class. Not a very good future for our kids. Reply Charles 101 1 Charles Tue Jun 14, 2011 12:55 pm PDT Yes, the rich get richer, the poor get poorer, and the taxes hit hardest on the middle class!!! Time for a NEW REVOLUTION!

BrandonR 445 20 BrandonR Tue Jun 14, 2011 11:07 am PDT The U.S is going downhill you can tell by people you see on the street or on forums everyone is so negative and depressed. I just read that Biden is saving the government money by shutting down a website for endangered turtles.... wow the $5.99 to host a website really breaking the bank I bet. It's only a matter of time before something has to give for the sake of everyone I hope it's sooner then later.

Buddy's Buddy 184 6 Buddy's Buddy Tue Jun 14, 2011 01:08 pm PDT Rich got richer and the poor got poorer. Is this revelation really shocking to anyone? How long do you super rich folks really think it will take before that scale finally tips and the streets are filled with that other 99% angry and out for blood? . Meh, that's a problem for your kids to deal with, right?

Stefanie 110 2 Stefanie Tue Jun 14, 2011 02:20 pm PDT No two ways about it, America IS in a financial DEPRESSION!

Name 109 2 Name Tue Jun 14, 2011 12:32 pm PDT There are two classes in this country: the class with lobbyists and the class without lobbyists. It's pretty easy to guess which class is doing well economically. Lobbyists help their clients get taxpayer bailouts, subsidies, tax loopholes, etc. -- for those without lobbyists these are the tools of their economic enslavement. Why should citizens be threatened with IMPRISONMENT or SEIZURE OF PROPERTY for not paying taxes that are then given to the likes of Goldman Sachs? Wall St. and its lobbyists are corrupting our "democracy" on a scale that we've never seen before. Ignore the staged drama of Right versus Left, Democrats versus Republicans, etc. The bailouts started under Bush and continued under Obama. The only thing that matters to Wall St. is that they OWN the majority of politicians from the party in power so they get more of what they want. Vote against all politicians who prostitute themselves to Wall St. regardless of party. Vote against those want the government to work to the advantage of the few at the expense of the many. Vote for America and against your own enslavement. Vote against Wall St.

ConeyIslandBaby67 127 3 ConeyIslandBaby67 Tue Jun 14, 2011 02:39 pm PDT Stop voting for Millionaires. I don't care if they are a Democrat or a Republican, a Millionaire has no idea about the struggles the American Middle Class faces. We need to get some Middle Class Americans in Congress to represent our interests.

Judith S 88 1 Judith S Tue Jun 14, 2011 06:14 pm PDT In 1965 the average CEO made 24 times the average worker. In 2005 the average CEO made 262 times the average worker. 'nuff said

P 185 7 P Tue Jun 14, 2011 11:47 am PDT Stop the outsourcing and bringing in foreign workers!

The Juneau Raven 299 14 The Juneau Raven Tue Jun 14, 2011 11:16 am PDT In every era of recorded history there always came a time when the "have nots" rose up to take away from the "haves". The elite of this world cannot protect themselves from his. I agree with the earlier posting. A revolution can't be too far away. Elitist, CEO and corporate greed have gone too far. And the destruction of the middle class is well underway, so the return to "Lords and peasants" can take place. This is not the American dream, it's the fruition of American corporate greed. Thanks a lot Corporate America!

SAM 65 0 SAM Tue Jun 14, 2011 12:35 pm PDT Is anyone really surprised. R.I.P. middle class we barely knew thee. Welcome the upcoming 2 class society the small percentage of haves and the rest of us.