Income Structure in America Today

Income Structure in America Today

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Excerpt from Income Structure in America Today: Hearing Before the Committee on the Budget, House of Representatives, One Hundred Third Congress, Second Session, June 8, 1994

The committee met, pursuant to call, at 10 a.m. Room 210, Cannon House Office Building, Hon. Martin Olav Sabo, Chairman, presiding.

Members present: Representatives Sabo, Coyne, Kasich, Shays, Smith of Texas, Allard, Hobson, Lazio, and Smith of Michigan. Chairman Sabo. The House Budget Committee is in session for a hearing on income structure and employment issues in America today.

I would like to welcome the distinguished members of our panel. Our witnesses this morning, all experts on labor compensation, are: Mrs. Audrey Freedman, an economic and human resources consultant from New York City; Robert J.Gordon, Professor of Economics at Northwestern University; and Marvin Kosters, resident scholar and Director of Economic Policy Studies at the American Enterprise Institute.

For several years, I have been very concerned about the growing disparities in income between the average wage earner and the upper income executive and professional class in this country. As I have discussed this problem with various experts, I was assured that it would abate when our productivity growth improved and the economy started to grow in a healthy way.

Today, we are seeing just that type of improvement in productivity, but we continue to experience what I believe to be a very unhealthy gap in wages between the top and the bottom. For this reason I have asked a panel of experts on the subject to come and visit with us about this problem.

In most ways, we have seen impressive economic improvement since January of 1993. We have added 3.1 million jobs to private nonfarm payrolls. Inflation remains at the lowest rate since 1986 and core inflation is the lowest since 1972.

Over the last four quarters, productivity has grown 2.6 percent, well above the 1 percent average of the 1980 s.Yet, the average American has to work harder just to stay in place. Real compensation for workers has increased less than 1 percent while productivity has grown almost three times as much. In fact, as the graph shows, the gap between productivity and real compensation has been widening since the mid-1980's, and it continues to widen. A large share of the economy's productivity gains is not going to its workers.

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