Rejoice, Oh, Austerity Mongers: It’s Already A New York Reality

In General Interest by Jonathan Tasini0 Comments

   I’ve written a lot about the complete immoral insanity of the obsession over the phony debt and deficit "crisis"and the rush to impose austerity on the people when we really need much more public spending to employ the masses of people who are falling, falling, falling further behind. Well, truth is austerity is not far off. It’s here for the people of New York.

    My good friends at the Fiscal Policy Institute have a devastating portraitof what the world looks like for regular people in New York. Here are a few of the highlights (actually, low lights):

As the unemployment crisis continues more than two years following the official end of the Great Recession of 2008-2009, New York families have smaller incomes and face fewer opportunities. Many are experiencing real hardship. New Yorkers are losing more than 500,000 employment opportunities, a combination of jobs that formerly existed but have been lost, and jobs that would have existed if unemployment was at the pre-recession level. These lost opportunities mean the loss of $31 billion in earnings on an annual basis. More than 400,000 of those lost job opportunities are wage and salary positions, and nearly twenty percent—96,000— represent fledgling businesses that haven’t been started because of the recession.

For those still working, many have had their weekly hours reduced.- Median weekly wages for workers in the bottom half have fallen by 3.4 percent over the past four years in New York City and by 0.8 percent in the downstate suburbs and upstate. New York City workers in business management and financial fields have seen large gains of 17.6 percent.[emphasis added]

Same old story for the wealthy:

In New York, the share of income going to the wealthiest one percent rose to 35 percent for the state overall in 2007 and to 44 percent in New York City. The wealthiest one percent of New York State households had an average income in 2007 that was 50 times the average for all households earning from $25,000 to $120,000.

The top one percent’s share fell in 2008 and 2009, the most recent years for which we have data. But there is every reason to believe it will start rising again, as happened after the last two recessions. There are several developments suggesting that this will occur. The Great Recession has caused a huge loss in wage and proprietors earnings, weekly wage earnings have increased fastest for those in business and financial occupations. Nationally, corporate profits have increased far faster than overall wages in the past two years, and the decline in net wealth from 2007 to 2009 has been greatest for those in the bottom 80 percent.

   More about the 99 percent:

Poverty is higher in New York City (20 percent) than the statewide average (15 percent), but it is much higher in the upstate cities, ranging from 28 percent in Albany to 34 percent in Rochester and Syracuse. Child poverty is higher still: 30 percent in New York City, and 43 to 51 percent in the four major upstate cities.

New York’s minimum wage has not been raised since 2004 and is now the same as the federal $7.25 hourly rate. Eighteen states spread across all regions of the country now have a higher minimum. The purchasing power of New York’s minimum wage is well below the levels that existed for most of the 1960s and 1970s. In 2011, a full-time minimum wage worker earns only 84 percent of the 3-person federal poverty threshold. That is about 30 percent less than the peak purchasing power level reached in 1968 and 1971.

An indication of greater hardship among New Yorkers is that 1.2 million more people are

receiving food stamps than before the recession. Growth in food stamp recipiency has been similar across the state, 63 percent in New York City and 68 percent outside the city.

Since the recession began, the number of New Yorkers without health insurance has risen by 550,000 to 2.9 million. The percent without health insurance coverage—public or private—has increased much faster in New York than in the nation as a whole. The steep falloff of 500,000 in those covered by private employer-provided health insurance largely accounts for this.

    Which leaves me with the question: if the fools of the two Catfood Commissions are so eager to cut, what exactly is left to cut for people in New York? I suppose they could cut the minimum wage…oh, I forgot, some Republicans want to do away it.

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