stagnation of wages for the bottom 60 percent of all workers. “In real terms,” the authors write, “earnings of the median worker in 1997 were about 3.1 percent lower than they were in 1989.” In a book filled with riveting stats, one in particular jumped out at me: “The worst declines in wages have been for entry-level jobs.” During my own job search here in D.C., I have been flabbergasted to see jobs for skilled workers advertised without apology at $20,000 a year. This, in a city with one of the highest costs of living in the whole country. Access to power is all well and good but you can’t eat it, which is why there are also so many ads in the paper “IN REAL TERMS, EARNINGS OF THE MEDIAN WORKER IN 1997 WERE ABOUT 3.1 PERCENT LOWER THAN THEY WERE IN 1989.” for third and fourth roommates, to stretch that housing dollar even further. According to the Wall Street Journal, three out of four college students think they’ll be millionaires. If they were to read Working America, they’d know that “Male college graduates with one to five years’ experience earned 6.5 percent less in 1997 than in 1989. Their female counterparts were earning 7.4 percent less in 1997 than in 1989.” At least they won’t have to worry about what to do with those stock options. I’ve decided that the national obsession with the stock market explains the popularity of cell phones and the Internet, as every American who can mouth or type the words “buy” and “sell” makes a killing while I, as usual, miss the boat. Imagine my surprise to discover that at least as of 1995 almost 60 percent of American households owned no stock. Even assuming that this percentage has dropped in the ensuing four bull-market years, it’s likely that “many of those new to the stock market have only small investments there,” according to Working America. As of 1995, for example, “fewer than one-third of all households had stock holdings greater than $5,000.” Such a presumption is reasonable because unless there are a lot of unreported bank robberies going on the bottom 90 percent of American households own just 17.1 percent of the nation’s net you have left when you subtract your debts from your assets. One out of five households in America has a zero or negative net wealth, while almost a third have net wealth of less than $10,000. There is some “good news”: “Salary, bonus and returns from stock plans of the average C.E.O. grew 100 percent between 1989 and 1997.” The top 1 percent of households control 38.5 percent of all wealth, 51.4 percent of all corporate stocks, 65.9 percent of bonds, and 69.5 percent of private business equity. Meanwhile, “the wealthiest 1 percent of families have seen their tax bills fall by $36,710 since 1977,” while the effective tax rate’ a middle class family has edged up to 24.4 percent. “It is hard to fathom an insurrection environment,” a spokesman for the Philadelphia subway smugly told the Washington Post in a follow-up story to the Metro subway mutiny. “It’s kind of hard to believe it could ever happen here. I don’t think our people are that unreasonable.” Working America is a detailed accounting of the tinderbox that is America on the cusp of a new millennium. When this combustible fuel explodes, it will be too late to acknowledge that it was not the American working people who were being unreasonable. Chris Garlock lives and writes in Washington, D.C., and works for the D.C. Metropolitan Labor Council. PROTECT YOUR RIGHTS. Join the Texas Civil Rights Project $25 a year. Volunteers needed. 2212 E. MLK, Austin, TX 78702. for more information. NATIONAL WRITERS UNION We give working writers a fighting chance. Health insurance. Solidarity. Journalists, poets, commercial writers. E-mail: [email protected] WORLDWISE DESIGN Worldwise Design is an award-winning graphic design studio that builds cutting edge creative solutions on a solid, traditional foundation. We design logos, paper systems, brochures, annual reports, advertising, packaging, direct mail, signage, books, Web pages virtually any type of promotional and educational material. [email protected] GRAY PANTHERS Join the intergenerational advocates working for single-payer national health care. $20 for individuals, $35 for families. 3710 Cedar, Austin, TX 78705. Mathis and Company Certified Public Accountants Tax Work, Litigation Support and Other Analyses Austin, Texas mnmcrthismsn.corn [email protected] ANDERSON & COMPANY COFFEE TEA SPICES TWO JEFFERSON SQUARE AUSTIN, TEXAS 78731 512-453-1533 Send me your list. Name Street City Zip MAY 14, 1999 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 29
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