John David: Reinvigorating those in Hidden America (Opinion) | Chroniclers

Most people seem happy with the post-pandemic stimulus payments designed to revitalize the economy. However, there are hidden realities to be faced.

While those who return to work may be attracted to return-to-work incentives, the reality is that workers’ annual earnings are likely to decline. In fact, the Institute for Policy Studies published a study that showed that “millionaire CEOs of some of the lowest-paying American companies saw an average wage increase of 29% last year, while their workers saw a 2% drop. “

For example, David Gibbs, CEO of Yum Brands, parent company of KFC, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell, received $ 14.6 million in 2020, while the company’s median salary was $ 11,377. The rise in lower incomes is caused by an increase in part-time and seasonal work. So, whatever the hourly rate, it means little if the hours are few on an annual basis or depend on restaurant work paying the federal hourly minimum of just over $ 2 plus rare tips.

Underemployment, coupled with the decline of unions and the increase in irreversible technological change, will cripple annual family income, unless the Biden administration’s efforts to stimulate the economy with spending on infrastructure and development. of labor prevail in all fields for a considerable time.

In West Virginia, the expected recovery will depend heavily on the effects on low-income workers, small businesses and displaced coal miners who have suffered disproportionately from economics and the pandemic. The main factors that heighten concerns are inflation, wage theft and higher taxes for those who have the least.

Inflation has already started. Price increases of 10% to 30% are already common. The prices of paper products will increase in the next few weeks. Product sizes are reduced through smart packaging schemes. Companies using lumber, pipe and sheet metal have seen huge increases recently, which will be passed on to consumers. Lumber futures are more than four times the usual price at this time of year.

West Virginia American Water proposed a monthly water tariff increase of 27.55% ($ 14.81 per month) for use over 3,100 gallons and a wastewater increase of 32.69% (17, $ 70) for 2,500 gallons according to a press release from his law firm.

American Electric Power has also implemented a tariff increase.

Salary theft is also a gigantic problem, according to the Center for Public Integrity. Basically, mainly due to lack of unionization, failure to file complaints, and legal complexities, employers find it easy to cheat on wages. David Galvin, of Northwestern University, reports that the lowest paid workers lost about $ 1.67 an hour – about 21% of their income – to pay for the theft from 2009 to 2019. Economists now say that the Wage theft costs workers $ 15 billion a year, far more than the amount stolen in robberies.

Finally, taxing those who have the least is still the order of the day in West Virginia. The point is, the people deep in Hidden America are in a hurry like never before. There are many examples. Job opportunities with a living wage and benefits are disappearing. The workforce training needs for displaced workers are not being met. Housing and health conditions have deteriorated. Substance abuse, with all its attendant consequences, has become rampant. Immoral tax cuts for the rich are being considered that shift an increased burden to low-income families, while “safety net” programs are drastically reduced.

Ironically, the thousands of people who flock to West Virginia for whitewater rafting and the beauty of New River Gorge National Park rarely see the poverty and living conditions of the surrounding residents. Those most affected by the economic crisis are less likely to be registered voters, and those in political office can afford to postpone or ignore addressing their needs. As a result, public works, the social safety net, and social programs can be viewed as “wasteful public spending” with no ulterior motive.

Yet like an inside-gnawing cancer, security against want and fear has not improved for those in hiding in America. People who are afraid of tomorrow barely survive from day to day. There is little doubt that the fabric of the nation is torn apart and the socio-economic conditions of those who live in hidden America are at the breaking point.

For them, many of whom have few options, life propelled by the pandemic has never been worse. Past budget cuts, whether for housing or education, have created a sharply divided America of haves and have-nots. This apartheid has created divided economies, shared future prospects and shared priorities for daily survival.

Those who proclaim ideology and righteousness as supreme must visit reality. We need to rebuild the nation’s base by completely refocusing our priorities – before joining those other, former great corporations that have become historical curiosities.

In essence, this means that we must practice at home what we preach to others elsewhere and unite in the quest for human priorities centered on respect, dignity and survival.

It is time to move forward with deliberate speed.

John David is a contributing columnist for Gazette-Mail.


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