From David Brooks' column in today's New York Times, titled A Reality-Based Economy:
If you’ve paid attention to the presidential campaign, you’ve heard the neopopulist story line. C.E.O.’s are seeing their incomes skyrocket while the middle class gets squeezed. The tides of globalization work against average Americans while most of the benefits go to the top 1 percent.Brooks goes on to enumerate 9 of these complicating facts, as he sees them. I had some doubts about some of his reasoning, but here's the bit that really stopped me:
This story is not entirely wrong, but it is incredibly simple-minded. To believe it, you have to suppress a whole string of complicating facts.
Sixth, inequality is also rising in part because people up the income scale work longer hours. In 1965, less educated Americans and more educated Americans worked the same number of hours a week. But today, many highly educated people work like dogs while those down the income scale have seen their leisure time increase by a phenomenal 14 hours a week.
It may be true that highly educated people work like dogs, but is it directly increasing their income? Most highly educated people are probably paid on a salaried basis, not by an hourly wage. Their earnings do not necessarily increase with longer hours. Even for those who own small businesses, etc., aren't those longer hours often just a sign of the struggle to merely bake the cake, rather than piling on the icing?
And if lower income people, who are more likely to be paid on an hourly basis, have seen their "leisure time" increase drastically, might that be because they are not being given the full-time hours they might prefer? WalMart is one example of an employer that has been said to deliberately staff their stores with workers who don't get full-time hours so they can avoid giving them benefits.
I'm sure there might be other factors I'm not thinking of... what do you think?