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Who destroyed the middle class?
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  • Man, that's hardcore stuff. I'm buying land so I can grow stuff to eat...and maybe smoke.

  • This is what the JPMorgan Chase investor newsletter, Eyes on the Market, of July 11, 2011, had to say on this question:

    [P]rofit margins have reached levels not seen in decades. The challenge, which we have discussed many times before: what is driving these margins? One useful way to deconstruct profits is to measure them from peak to peak, and analyze what changed. As shown in the first chart, S&P 500 profit margins increased by 1.3% from 2000 to 2007. There are a lot of moving parts in the margin equation, but as shown in the second chart, REDUCTIONS IN WAGES AND BENEFITS EXPLAIN THE MAJORITY OF THE NET IMPROVEMENT IN [PROFIT] MARGINS. This trend has continued; as we have shown several times over the last two years, US labor compensation is now at a 50-year low relative to both company sales and US GDP (see EoTM April 26, 2011).

    Note that this analysis only goes through 2007; it's far worse now. U.S. corporate profits are at record highs, despite the depression economy.

  • The devaluation of the dollar and interest rate fluctuation closely mimik that graph I believe. it's also a reason why the stock market looks so high right now. Take into consideration the devaluation of the dollar and the stock market looks much worse than it is.

  • @johnnymossville

    What devaluation, and against what currency? The dollar has lost ground against the yen in recent years, but the dollar is the highest it's been in years against the Euro, and currencies of our trading partners are generally weak. And domestic inflation is low.

    Besides, if the dollar is devalued, wages have plunged even more.

  • It's class warfare, plain and simple. Don't blame it on dollar devaluation.

  • @jrd. 10 years ago the dollar was stronger than the euro. look at longer trends. It's lost 30-40% to the Euro since then. Also, exactly, if the dollar devalues, wages devalue, that was my point.

    Also, one more observation. in the late 70's starting wages were high considering inflation, but,... if you take into account interest rates were up to 17% that wage didn't buy much. Cheaper money didn't come until the 80's, and jobs came as well.

    "domestic inflation is low" ???? have you been to a grocery store in the past two years? prices have skyrocketed to put it mildly.

  • @johnnymossville

    Please, no impressionistic claims ("prices have skyrocketed to put it mildly"). Unless you have better data, the CPI is what we should be talking about.

    Since profits are measured against the the baseline of previous quarters, how would dollar devaluation 10 years ago against the Euro prove these gains in profits are illusory?

  • I can tell you who destroyed the middle class. The middle class did. Our apathy let the greed of others take our rights away and our own greed played right into the hands of the criminal banks. We did it to ourselves while we play with our gadgets made in China while we complain that we aren't getting paid enough to sit in front of computers surfing the internet instead of working.

  • @svart

    That's an unusual way to understand 30+ years of class-warfare in the U.S. The rich and powerful no doubt agree with you, in believing that it's entirely the fault of the lazy middle-classes themselves.

  • In Germany, profits of DAX companies (100 largest companies) generally have constantly been rising with lots of record profits being reported each year the past decades, even during and after crisis, while incomes of people have stagnated or declined. That development is well known for years, question is what to do, many are involved, people, policy, industry... I'm usually for modest behaviour but I more and more tend towards radical approaches.

  • Blame the victim eh svart?

  • We did it to ourselves while we play with our gadgets made in China while we complain that we aren't getting paid enough to sit in front of computers surfing the internet instead of working

    It was hard :-)

  • It was Colonel Mustard with the candlestick in the Cellar.

  • Sad part is that's only a bit of the story as prices of basics like food and fuel have rose at the same time. But look at the bright side for women the gender gap narrowed : )

  • @Jrd and @brianluce Of course I blame the victim in this situation. I AM one of the victims in this. I've done my share of hoping for "change" or expecting some government official to put my needs above those of his campaign funders, or wondering why greedy "rich" (why don't we call them prosperous?) people don't seem in tune with those around them, but this has gotten myself and those around me nothing but wishful thinking. Guess what? The greedy are greedy and make excuses for it. The poor are poor and make excuses for it. The middle class was/is blissfully ignorant, glad they aren't poor and somehow making excuses for being glad they aren't rich. Guess what? We are still in the same boat we were already in. We are still heading down the same creek with the same problems. So who is going to stand up and do something if not us?

    So yes, I am blaming the victim, because we are only victims in label. We didn't stand up when some corporations started taking advantage of us by handing us loans that both sides knew we couldn't pay back or selling us goods/services that were taken away from our workers and shipped overseas. No, we were too happy to be getting cheap junk, as long as it was cheap and we could buy more of it. So yes, the victim in this situation is also the perpetrator. If we stood up to say NO then these greedy corporations would never had existed and never thought they could get away with their criminal activities to begin with.

    Oh, but then our own government, the ones who should be PROTECTING us, decides to get in bed with these same corporations and then prop them up using our OWN money. So that bank decided it would be a good thing to give out a bunch of mortgages that they knew people couldn't pay? Oh they bundled them up and sold them, KNOWING that they were worthless, then almost went bankrupt when their misdeeds finally came full circle? No problem, instead of letting the market let these criminals go out of business to teach others that robbing your customers is a BAD thing, the government swoops in to SAVE them! Now they are like children who got away with something, they are doing it AGAIN, just doing it more discretely so nobody catches on until later. Don't get me started on the poor who have figured out how to scam the system either. I was at the gym the other day and I sat down next to a guy who was telling his friend how he found a doctor that would take money in return for deeming the guy to be "disabled" so that he could get a check and not have to work. More greed. Just on the bottom of the ladder.

    Don't get me wrong, I AM a capitalist (sorry VK) and I think the capitalist system could work but we DON'T have a capitalist system. We never did. Once we started figuring out ways to trade in things that don't exist, we totally screwed our chances at making it work. Then, of course, we know that whoever has the most money to campaign is generally the winner of an election, so it's no wonder that our government is full of people who rather make laws that benefit their agendas rather than benefiting society at large. Our forefathers made a system that could not be changed quickly so that nobody could rig elections and change the course of the government quickly. This is now being used against us because we can't possibly get these goons out of the system. Unions and special interest groups dominate funding and squish protests and the "liberal" media shuts down any chance of fair reporting, and it's all based on human greed.

    Greed is a good thing. It causes people to strive for better and motivates people to do things, like work. But greed without conscious is bad and conscious is something we lost as a society a long time ago. So yes, we are all at fault.

  • Generally, capitalism and other ..isms are just badges.
    In reality real system changes constantly.

    And good system must be constructed and modelled first and after this, to market well, can be called something like ... superduperism.

  • And I apologize for what seems like rambling on. I just get worked up when people blame others for what we should have done for ourselves. That's the hallmark response of someone who isn't yet out of denial. The truth is that it's now almost out of our hands to do something about it too. Eventually there will be no middle class and you WILL have true class warfare, just like in science-fiction movies. Right now, class-warfare is just a word that gets thrown around in order to elicit emotional responses and rile people up.

    And yes, the "isms" never really work, but it's not because they don't work in theory, it's because people don't actually carry them out as planned. People will always bend and twist things to benefit themselves, and eventually everything that is bent and twisted must break. And VK, I think you mentioned before that someone/something must oversee the process, and I agree, in theory. The problem is that people will always be people and whoever is in charge might mean well at first, but it will eventually be changed, and never for the better.

  • And VK, I think you mentioned before that someone/something must oversee the process, and I agree, in theory. The problem is that people will always be people and whoever is in charge might mean well at first, but it will eventually be changed, and never for the better.

    I think that system must be designed with feedback. And with proper feedback.

    Try to talk with engineer or developer in any modern company. :-) On the way of feedback you'll surely will see some outsourced offshore company located in Bangladesh.

  • @svart

    Billions of dollars go annually into "manufacturing consent" -- or creating middle-class passivity and incoherence, if you prefer -- and rigging the system in favor of the already wealthy. How else could the depraved U.S. political system survive--with two parties bought and paid for by corporate interests? This class warfare has been well underway for many years. Do you really think this is a fair fight?

    Blaming the middle-class for their current plight makes as much sense as blaming a kid for being born into a poor family. Mass society is not a genius. If there aren't structures in place to curb the power of money and ensure at least some equitable distribution of resources -- usually referred to as the social welfare system or the social contract -- the result is always the same. The monied win. Just look at the Third World, which is standard the American plutocracy aspires to.

  • @Jrd, And who's fault is it that people don't strive for more than their share of "passivity" or "consent"? Just because someone tells you Sushi is gross doesn't mean you shouldn't try it. You have the free will to try it if you feel like it and then decide for yourself. Same goes for corporations and their advertisements or their "manufacturing" of consent. You can choose not to listen and you can choose to question their intent. Most people don't and it's nobody else's fault but their own. It has nothing to do with what others are trying to do to you, because it is up to you to say NO. The problem I have is that the masses are ignorant of their plight and because of such, they think they are content. This contentment means they don't actually want things to change now, even if they possibly think they could be worse off in the future.

    And no, I don't blame a kid for being poor, I blame the poor adult who never tried to become anything but a whiner who blames the: rich/Man/government/system/another race/another religion/another country/etc, when I've personally known folks who have used the system that is in place to get an education and put food on the table and actually try to make things better for themselves. I came from a poor family too but I saved my money, got an education, helped others do the same and now I'm living decently and I try to do good by others without blaming anybody else. I know "rich" people who aren't trying to scam or steal or screw other people too. There are a lot of decent people in this world, and in the USA but I'm sure that only the worst stories are told in the news around the world, as they are here.

    Anyway, class warfare is a farce. If you really want to know how it is here, I'll tell you. Most of the rich don't actually care what happens to the poor. They aren't actually trying to keep the poor, poor. Now, I think they could do a lot more to help society, but they aren't actively doing anything for the most part. The poor generally blame everybody else, but mainly that's an ego thing, to blame-shift their frustrations from themselves to someone/something else. Some realize this is bullshit and really try to make a better life for themselves. Most do, some fail and these are the stories that perpetually create the stereotypes of being "kept down by the man" or some such shit. The middle class used to not care either way, they were glad they weren't poor but they felt OK enough not to try any harder to become rich. Lazy, for the most part. Class warfare has been brought up by the far right and far left recently, mainly to try to get the lazy middle class to finally take a side in the fight. It's nothing but scare tactics and rhetoric that isn't really true but plays on fears and concerns people have, mainly based on stereotypes that people have.

  • @svart

    As a matter of interest, you might want to go back to the time of the U.S. Constitution, and read the warnings that our so-called "founding fathers" broadcast over the dangers of concentrated wealth. They foresaw all of this, over 200 years ago. Actually, they sound like commies:

    James Madison: "There is an evil which ought to be guarded against in the indefinite accumulation of property from the capacity of holding it in perpetuity by … corporations. The power of all corporations ought to be limited in this respect. The growing wealth acquired by them never fails to be a source of abuses."

    Benjamin Franklin: "All the property that is necessary to a Man, for the Conservation of the Individual and the Propagation of the Species, is his natural Right, which none can justly deprive him of: But all Property superfluous to such purposes is the Property of the Publick, who, by their Laws, have created it, and who may therefore by other laws dispose of it, whenever the Welfare of the Publick shall demand such Disposition. He that does not like civil Society on these Terms, let him retire and live among Savages. He can have no right to the benefits of Society, who will not pay his Club towards the Support of it."

    Benjamin Franklin: "Finally, there seem to be but three Ways for a Nation to acquire Wealth. The first is by War as the Romans did in plundering their conquered Neighbours. This is Robbery. The second by Commerce which is generally Cheating..."

    Thomas Jefferson: "I hope we shall crush in its birth the aristocracy of our moneyed corporations which dare already to challenge our government in a trial of strength, and bid defiance to the laws of our country."

    I guess these guys were all whiners, not willing to take adequate personal responsibility and were deluded to think class warfare was already going on.

  • @Jrd,

    James Madison was speaking of Churches holding money and power over people..

    Benjamin Franklin was speaking of taking lands away from "savages" as a right for people of a "civil society"..

    Benjamin Franklin was speaking of his own opinions that farming was the only source of honest work..

    And the last quote by Thomas Jefferson, is of dubious quality as it is questionable if it is a real quote from Jefferson himself according to a few online sources.

    I don't see how these misused quotes and using outdated and unverified quotes works in this argument. Of course, this is a typical way of argument that many use when they still have their head in the sand, and/or identify with the Occupy movement. :)

  • @svart

    I think your wrong on the Madison quote seems he wrote and meant corporations. I think your confusing most comments about the rich with upper middle class or the moderately well to do most are talking about the "money powers" the extreme rich. Though you have some points this battle you don't think exists has waged along time. It has tainted the US Democracy to the point of people have given up on the corrupted 2 party system. Here's a quote from Lincoln if you didn't like the others he seemed to think that war that doesn't exist was at his back door and I'm sure he would be sad to know there winning.

    "The money powers prey upon the nation in times of peace and conspire against it in times of adversity. It is more despotic than a monarchy, more insolent than autocracy, and more selfish than bureaucracy. It denounces as public enemies, all who question its methods or throw light upon its crimes. I have two great enemies, the Southern Army in front of me and the Bankers in the rear. Of the two, the one at my rear is my greatest foe.. corporations have been enthroned and an era of corruption in high places will follow, and the money powers of the country will endeavor to prolong its reign by working upon the prejudices of the people until the wealth is aggregated in the hands of a few, and the Republic is destroyed."

  • @svart

    The first Madison quote comes from an essay titled "Monopolies, Perpetuities, Corporations, Ecclesiastical Endowments"; you're correct that it refers specifically to Church monopolies, but that was the obvious example at time. You really want to insist that there's no contemporary relevance to the tyranny he perceived in perpetual corporations and monopoly power?

    The first Franklin quote has nothing to do with robbing native Americans; he simply advises those who don't wish to abide by the rules of society to go live with the Savages.

    The second Franklin quote does go on to praise agriculture as the only honest living, but Franklin's opinon of business is no less valid for that. You could hardly expect him to denounce the brokerage or oil business at that time.

    The Jefferson quote comes from a letter to George Logan, Nov. 12th, 1816. I have never seen its authenticity disputed.

    My point was, what you regard as the whining of feckless bleeding-heart liberals was seen as absolute evil at the time the republic was founded and was warned against in the strongest terms.

  • I agree with @JohnnyMossville most of the middle class problems are a function of decreased purchasing power (at least in the USA ) you can't measure currencies against each other, all central banks are in the devalue business right now. If you look at the Zimbabwe stock market charts from a few years ago, investing in Zimbabwe would be the new hot place to invest. But all you are really looking at is Zim dollars being devalued like crazy, when compared to real things like businesses listed on their stock exchange, yes it takes more devalued zim dollars to by the same stock in a company.|0;d|nEP3Vd0DVO3j-M: