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Median usual weekly earnings: Wage and Salary Workers

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If you want to understand the political economy of the New Gilded Age, this chart represents essential data.

Note that median wages were essentially unchanged between 1979 and 2017! ($335 and $345 per week respectively, 1982-84 dollars).

During this time frame, real per capita GDP almost doubled, going from $32,322 to $60,001 (2017 dollars).

This, of course, means that nearly all of the massive productivity gains during these four decades went to capital rather than labor, with the exception of what was siphoned off by employer paid benefits to fund The Best Medical System in the World ™.

The other fascinating thing here is that essentially the ONLY big gain in median wages in the last 45 years took place at the beginning of the pandemic, when they suddenly jumped by 10%, before declining again to their pre-pandemic level by the middle of 2022. Since then they’ve risen by about 3%, despite the high inflation during much of this period.

I’ll have more to say about this in a post about the cost of housing, but for now it’s worth contemplating what these statistics say about what’s happened to the American economy since the first ascendance of modern movement conservatism, with the election of Ronald Reagan and everything that followed.

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