Social Security Administration
released data on U.S. wages and payroll in 2010 this week, and the
news isn't good for most of the working class or middle class.
Though the average wage of a single earner stood at $39,959.30 per
year, that number was skewed by those at the very top of the survey
- the 93,725 earners who took home more than $1 million annually.
That top sliver - a fraction of a fraction of the top 1 percent -
collectively took home
, or about $2.4 million per top earner.
The median wage for the 150 million workers surveyed in 2010 was
per person. For comparison, the poverty line for an average
4-person household is set at $22,350, while the line for a single
person living alone comes in at $10,890.
When one end or the other of a set becomes skewed, averages become
extremely misleading. The $40,000-per-year figure seems reasonable
until you realize that just over 66 percent of all workers come in
under that number. As the SSA states, "by definition, 50 percent of
wage earners had
compensation less than or equal to the median wage."
In more prosperous times, it might have been safe to assume that
the average 4-person household contained two wage earners, but with
unemployment at a
seasonally adjusted rate of 16.5 percent
in September, that's far from certain. It looks like half of all
American families are a single layoff away from living in poverty.
In the meantime, the major banks
are boosted by an accounting quirk called the
value adjustment, which means that their earnings rise if their
creditors perceive their debt as riskier, and thus less valuable,
When two facts like these are set against each other, is it any
wonder that the occupations in Zuccotti Park, Dewey Square and
Grant Park continue to gather momentum?
GDP growth or decline is
- indeed, average wage growth is irrelevant - if half of all
American workers can barely sustain a family above the poverty
[Via Ezra Klein at
The Washington Post