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Quick and dirty, folks. Basically, the upper line represents the value of your work. The lower line represents what you got paid for it.
The empty space in between—the difference between what your work was worth and how much you got for it—represents the money the executives skimmed off the top and kept for themselves.
How did they do it? In part, by so destroying the notion of job security that workers increasingly felt lucky just to be able to live paycheck to paycheck.
But let me switch gears for a second here. Imagine if this chart showed the gross income of the wealthiest 1 percent in the top line, but their income after taxes on the lower line.
"What's our incentive to keep working hard?" we'd be hearing. "We're gonna go Galt!"
But that's not what it is. It's a chart about working people getting screwed. And as you know, if workers start talking about withholding labor, they're "thugs." God forbid mid- and low-level corporate administrative workers say such a thing. That's actually flat out illegal.
No, seriously. It's illegal. How do you think we got that rule? One guess.
It seems to me this tracks pretty closely with the change in the "business" culture over the past few decades. We all still cling to the old-fashioned notion of the "businessman," which is how Mitt Romney's currently selling himself. But this quaint notion of the "businessman" who's in the business of actually making something as well as it can be made, and hoping to make a profit from that, has long since been replaced by the MBA-model "businessman," for whom the product makes no difference. The "business" is in finding ways to extract more money from it, whether there's more profit from it or not.
We're all still mostly stuck in the old way of thinking about "business." Where it simply wasn't possible to extract more money unless there was more profit. But the chart tells a very different story. The way to extract more money from a business (profitable or otherwise) is increasingly to take it out of what you pay your employees, even if they're working harder for you than ever.
Now we know why the rich are so keen to be "job creators." It's certainly not that they care whether you've got a job. It's that every job they create is another opportunity to keep more of the money your work makes.
It certainly explains why they hate unions so much. Those "thugs" think you should be able to keep some of that money for yourself. So that you have "an incentive to keep working hard."
I could swear I've heard that somewhere before. But it sounded totally patriotic when I heard it last. Now it just sounds like socialmalisms.