Thursday, May 29, 2003

Caught in the Squeeze

BOB HERBERT NYTimes -- I suppose if your income is large enough, there is every reason to celebrate. After all, the tax cut could save Dick Cheney $100,000 a year, or more.

But given the economic realities in the U.S. right now, I thought the East Room celebration was in poor taste. The enormous tax-cut package (which is coupled with budget deficits that are lunging toward infinity) is a stunning example of Mr. Bush's indifference to the deepening plight of working people.

The fallout from the continued hemorrhaging of jobs and the swollen ranks of the unemployed is spreading. The Times had an article two weeks ago about college seniors' putting their dreams on hold because they're graduating into the worst hiring slump in 20 years.

The jobs squeeze has other effects. "There's been this notion along the way that if you at least kept your job, you'd be O.K.," said Jared Bernstein, an economist with the Economic Policy Institute in Washington. "But now this persistent unemployment is taking a toll on the wages of those who are still working."

Wages, when adjusted for inflation, are falling for workers across the board. An analysis of government data by Mr. Bernstein and Lawrence Mishel, the institute's president, found that the median weekly paycheck fell 1.4 percent over the past year. All the pay grades above and below the median are also sliding backward. White-collar, blue-collar — workers in all pay grades are taking a hit. Even wage earners in the highest category have seen their pay slip by 1.4 percent.

The president is not calling his tax package the "Windfall for the Wealthy" act, which is what it is. He calls it the "Jobs and Growth" act, which is what it's not.

He would like us to believe that "with tax relief will come more jobs for the American people." But that's what he said in the last round of tax cuts, and the American people are still waiting.

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