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Thursday, June 4, 2015

Harvard Business Study: Companies Aren't Trying to Invest in Their Workers

A great Harvard Business Review study about wage stagnation.  The summary?  Companies aren't even bothering investing in their workforces:

A snippet from the piece:

"Five years after the official end of the Great Recession, corporate profits are high, and the stock market is booming. Yet most Americans are not sharing in the recovery. While the top 0.1% of income recipients—which include most of the highest-ranking corporate executives—reap almost all the income gains, good jobs keep disappearing, and new employment opportunities tend to be insecure and underpaid. Corporate profitability is not translating into widespread economic prosperity.

The allocation of corporate profits to stock buybacks deserves much of the blame. Consider the 449 companies in the S&P 500 index that were publicly listed from 2003 through 2012. During that period those companies used 54% of their earnings—a total of $2.4 trillion—to buy back their own stock, almost all through purchases on the open market. Dividends absorbed an additional 37% of their earnings. That left very little for investments in productive capabilities or higher incomes for employees."

From Chomsky:

"From roughly 1950 until the early 1970s there was a period of unprecedented economic growth and egalitarian economic growth. So the lowest quintile did as well -- in fact they even did a little bit better -- than the highest quintile. It was also a period of some limited but real form of benefits for the population. And in fact social indicators, measurements of the health of society, they very closely tracked growth. As growth went up social indicators went up, as you'd expect. Many economists called it the golden age of modern capitalism -- they should call it state capitalism because government spending was a major engine of growth and development.

In the mid 1970s that changed. Bretton Woods restrictions on finance were dismantled, finance was freed, speculation boomed, huge amounts of capital started going into speculation against currencies and other paper manipulations, and the entire economy became financialized. The power of the economy shifted to the financial institutions, away from manufacturing. And since then, the majority of the population has had a very tough time; in fact it may be a unique period in American history. There's no other period where real wages -- wages adjusted for inflation -- have more or less stagnated for so long for a majority of the population and where living standards have stagnated or declined. If you look at social indicators, they track growth pretty closely until 1975, and at that point they started to decline, so much so that now we're pretty much back to the level of 1960. There was growth, but it was highly inegalitarian -- it went into a very small number of pockets. There have been brief periods in which this shifted, so during the tech bubble, which was a bubble in the late Clinton years, wages improved and unemployment went down, but these are slight deviations in a steady tendency of stagnation and decline for the majority of the population."

The rest is here:

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