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Feeling the pain: Inflation, wages, and the working class

Originally published: Liberation News on June 11, 2024 by Eugene Puryear (more by Liberation News)  | (Posted Jun 19, 2024)

Once again the mainstream press is touting a “blowout” jobs report. According to data within the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) report released Friday, 272,000 jobs were created last month, which was above most expectations from the economic “professionals.” This has led to another wave of articles about how President Biden is presiding over a booming economy but isn’t getting any credit for it because workers are too dumb to know how good they have it.

As we’ve said before,

Major economic statistics measure stability, not quality of life. This creates a disconnect between how the economy is perceived, rooted in class interests.

If we start from this point, it’s easy to understand the pessimism on the economy from many workers. Take, for instance, a recent “jobs” and “inflation” report from the BLS. According to these, in May 2024 wages on average rose 4.1%, while inflation on average rose 3.4%. Income outpacing inflation is good, right? A sign people should have at least a little more money to spend?

This is true to a degree, but a deeper look shows exactly the folly of using mainstream statistics as our sole benchmark. First, these are averages, so many people’s wages did not rise faster than inflation. Hence why 21.3% of all U.S. workers found it “very difficult” to meet their “usual household expenses” week-to-week and why an additional 44.8 million found it “somewhat difficult.”

It’s also useful to examine the most recent Consumer Price Index report from the BLS to get a sense of why workers are not jumping for joy at “Bidenomics.” The cost of housing is up 5.5% since May 2023 and electricity 5.1%, pinching you in areas where you don’t have much choice but to absorb the pain. And if you want to escape a little bit, that’s also going to hurt since the cost of “food away from home,” is up 4.1%. You can save a bit by going to the grocery store, but prices there are still up 2.2% from this time last year. Gas is “only” up 1.2% since last May, but, when gas prices are ranging from $3-$5 a gallon, any increase is less than welcome, especially if you want a summer vacation.

Is it any wonder, then, that there is a lot of economic unhappiness, when your rent, gas, groceries, cookouts, happy hours and air conditioning are all more expensive? The capitalist press and the Biden Administration all refuse to truly acknowledge this, instead blaming workers for their own problems. This, as we’ve said before, is even more evidence that “the economy needs radical change.”

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