Wage Crisis

Wage Crisis

2013, Economics  -   135 Comments
Ratings: 7.98/10 from 200 users.

The American working underclass has been under extreme tension for some time. Now with politicians not inclined to increase the minimum wage and food stamps stretched thin, the social ramification could be disastrous. The recession is not over for most American citizens. Most Americans have basically seen their salaries hibernate or go down since 2008. In fact, American average income of a full time male worker today is lower than it was 40 years ago.

Close to half of the working Americans can't save for an emergency or their own retirement. 50% of the people in U.S. live in financial uncertainty. It might be unbelievable, but New Jersey is the third richest state in the richest country on this planet, yet one it's likely to work full time there and in the same time live in financial difficulty. The prevailing story's been Obamacare and the debt ceiling, but more permanent story is the struggle to make ends meet. The middle class in the US is disappearing as wages go in reverse and secure jobs with good pay and benefits vanish.

If you think these problems are applicable only to New Jersey, think again. Across the country, from the Atlantic to the Pacific, there are more and more working people who are living in grinding poverty. America's regular working people have no sick leave, no holiday leave, no health care benefits in a society where medical aid is extremely expensive. It's morally scandalous that in a country as affluent as the U.S. they have such low, incredibly low, minimum wages.

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2 years ago

I think we should let the market determine the wage what you earn ,when someone produces he or she should be awarded more then the person that is not productive. When you make an employer raise the wages across the board he or she would raise their prices and when you go to buy something naturally you will pay more. And that sets a domino effect which on the end ALWAYS hurts the low income worker. Just look back in history ,average workers used to save before . Now when something happens and they stay out of work for two weeks they starve . Well that’s my opinion.it’s not as simple as it sounds that by raising the minimum wage across the board helps the bottom line workers.

4 years ago

Wonder what ever happened to the single mother who wanted to be a nurse or the family of five working for walmart living in a single room. 5 years have passed really hope things changed for the better.

4 years ago

Less government > less power to the fortune 500 > things would even out.

5 years ago

@TheDanishViking "In the US the public sector is starved" LMAO. The public sector has Never been larger. They are skimming all the dough. If the govt welfare dept was fired, along with some large do nothing agencies, they could hand out a very nice middle class "gift wage" to a huge portion of those in need.

When progressive policies (both RepubliCon and DemocRat) send jobs overseas. When the Fed Reserve hand Trillions in your future tax obligations to the banks who just inflate the financial markets and double down on derivative swaps rather than making loans to biz to get things rolling (as was the claim by ohbummer all the while knowing full well what the score was and giving them your money anyway just as Bush did) what did you expect?

By the way Trillions being spent by the public sector is WAY out of balance, breaking the scale on the side of govt.

Govt IS the problem, always has been. If there were NO govt. there would be gold coming out our ears.

Who makes it legal to print money making yours worth less? Who regulates small biz out of biz so the big corps have little competition? And you call that Capitalism? Ignorant again. That is Corrupt govt and Corporatism. Capitalism is a natural economic system not a political or govt system.

If you don't like a big corporation in Socialist utopia Europe, go try to compete with them. Socialism(and all forms of Collectivism) always was and always will be about getting rid of the competition so the big boys profit. That is why the big boys are pushing it here.

And y'all are falling for it, just like the Euro unthinkers. Your govt is ripping you off and helping their corporate cronies do the same, and you blame it on Capitalism like good little govt(socialism) indoctrinated minions, because they said so. Brilliant.

And YES anyone and everyone can start their own business whether it is mowing lawns, selling apples and cigarettes on the street corner... OOps! Can't have you competing with big grocery outlets, you need a Permit in Socialist utopia. You have to drive to inconvenient places in order to find a roadside fruit stand where the govt is so small they don't concern themselves with such permits. Have no dough and want to build a shack to keep out of the cold and rain? Nope need a permit, follow building codes, and engineers stamp on your plans.

How does the Eurozone like being invaded by cheap labor that would rather leach than work? Whilst those working at the big boy's factories get to pay for it? Which they are raping their daughters and bashing their sons, Nice eh?

Read the quotes from Rockefeller about the complicit media to his plans and get back to me.

7 years ago

I am a $7.25 an hour employee. Few understand the challenge of this until they walk in our shoes. God have mercy on our country.....which sent our jobs overseas to take advantage of cheap labor workers in other countries. The US is devastated ........I dont know if we can or will return to where we used to be......

7 years ago

Why weren't those stupi* owners with the dog that attach her put to pay the bills for the hospital? They should work all their lives if they have to, until they pay each cent, plus pay her all their lives because they destroyed her leg.

To all the dog owners: keep your dog close to you! Just because it never bit you, doesn't mean it won't bite another person.

One person is killed by a dog attach every 2 weeks. Yes, when I was walking with the dog, even though was the best dog I ever knew, I would always keep her out of the way when people would walk by. Don't behave like eveybody has to like your dog.

Kevin Devill
7 years ago

Thank you Congress and the Obama Administration. All of which have turned this nation into them making money off of war and fake murders like (Sandy Hook-Do you research), and the rest of us poor pawns.

matthew walker
7 years ago

I'm the first to say that the system in the US is failing miserably. For the best info on this, read or watch anything by Robert Reich. One thing I would note, however, is that in many cases, such as the majority of those interviewed in this film, having a child (or 3), when not financially prepared, is just asking for chronic impoverishment. I feel nearly zero sympathy for the couple and three children - one still in a crib - in this film. Such people knowingly increase their financial stress, and the public has to pick up the bill. I make six figures and wouldn't have a child, given the brutal nature of the current financial situation in this country. If ya lose your job and have no savings - substantial savings - you and your family are going to be in the proverbial poor house, if not on the street. I have few to blame other than myself if I were to go have a child and another child...and another child. Please stop reproducing!!!!!

8 years ago

People here have to work they cannot live off the benefit system like they can in th UK.There is no free rent and weekly allowance.When people have to go to work to live you have a much better society and economy.There are programs for the old,pregnant and children.

MAllen Documentaires
8 years ago

So many Slaves of the Federal Reserve.

9 years ago

I like how her daughter just "came along". hehe. To add proper context Journeyman, you must ask the proper questions. That matters in a world where opportunities are less frequent. The channel 4 Brit docs, which this is very much like, are typically lame. Either they placate to the unfortunate or they embellish the "ignorant American". Another Schlock "documentary". I'll put this next to my Theroux docs.

9 years ago

Yup, the American myth.

cato cato
9 years ago

What a load of lies. Socialist propaganda poorly presented as fact.

9 years ago

Super little documentary, of course many economists including Stiglitz who is on tape here have been urging a rise in the minimum wage for several years ... to no avail.

Janeen Clark
9 years ago

when enough people go through this we can end the use of money in the world

Greg R.
9 years ago

We're on a trajectory that's basically going to collapse on itself. The gap between rich and poor will continue to grow regardless. Why prolong the collapse by increasing the minimum wage? Think about it. If 99% of the population can't afford say an iphone and only the 1% can, then Apple will collapse. Apple cannot sustain itself on these limited sales. It's not like the 1% are going to go out and purchase 10,000 iphones each a year to keep Apple in business. The same will happen all across the board. There's this myth that our current system must be sustained when that's not true at all. The only people that want the Status Quo are those that have accumulated mass wealth. The human race will move on with or without this system.

9 years ago

this documentary is false and misleading, the entire united states is governed by the fair labor act including people who work for tips. the fair labor law requires that persons who work for tips will earn at least minimum wage, meaning that an employer can pay an employee 2.50 an hour however if the employee does not make at least minimum wage after factoring in their tips the employer must then make up the difference. do some research before you mislead the people in the future.

9 years ago

See the thing is with the girl she choose a bad degree. High Schools should educate teens on what degrees will make them a decent amount of money. getting paid 28k a year is no way to live, but what most people forget is that companies will pay for your knowledge if your job does not require much knowledge then odds are your going to have a bad time making a lot of money.

Its sad that we condemn people that doesn't have a good college degree.

Nicholas Hewlett
9 years ago

What i suspected , unfortunately, i would not encorage my children to go to America. Holiday , yes, work and live , no.

9 years ago

I can tell from the abstract that this is just going to be a simplistic emotional appeal to raise the minimum wage, when every honest economist can show you that poverty is aggravated by a minimum wage which prices the vast majority of 1.) black youth out of the job market, 2.) prevents the employment of anyone with a criminal record, 3.) eliminates the opportunity for any illiterate person, high school dropout, or unfortunate with a sub-85 I.Q. from getting hired. Black youth unemployment was lower than white youth unemployment in the 50s and 60s, because the Minimum Wage was so outstripped by inflation to be of no effect. Because of the Minimum Wage, marginally productive white and black youth have no choice but to turn to athletics or crime, which of course has exploded over the same period.

Consider this emotional and alarmist formulation: "In fact, American average income of a full time male worker today is lower than it was 40 years ago." Forty years ago was 1973, the very peak of the post war economic boom. Everyone was rich then or stoned. LBJ wanted "guns and butter" and legalized a Great Society. Then along came Jimmy Carter, malaise, stagflation, the loss of the Panama Canal, the rise of Islamicist terror at the US Embassy in Teheran and then Beirut.
If you won't allow someone to take a job at "whatever he can get," you just keep him out of work. You are not compassionate at all.

Murali pat
9 years ago

all over the world including communist china the rich are looting the poor. the walstreet bankers are the example. this is the beginning of the decline of America, the rich establishment does not even know it

9 years ago

Why do people think education is a free easy rout to high wages?

Find jobs that are skilled, (Trade skills for example) start at the bottom making nothing as a helper, use your eyes/ears and work hard to master the trade. A high level of skill will give you value that cost more the minimum wages.

Education is free if the job you have teaches you skills.

9 years ago

There is no explanation here of where its all gone. Multiple trillions are in tax-free tax haven bank accounts of the 1%. The 1% are doing fantastic, thank you and they are buying off Congress to ensure our nation remains in dire poverty to further enrich themselves. This global economic crisis was intentional and continues to exponentially benefit the 1%. Show the billionaires.

Lauri Neva
9 years ago

I am struggling in retirement, it just does'nt last the entire month so I use credit cards to tide my way for food and necessities. It is a no win situation growing old in this G.D. country!

Bill Farley
9 years ago

We are always reminded that this country or that country (including the USA) are suffering from huge debt. Well I have a burning question: Why is it no one talks about the people/organizations who we/they owe money to? Who are they? Based on the size of debt all over the world, someone is worth a lot of money!

9 years ago


'Linguist Noam Chomsky has criticized the way in which free market principles have been applied. He has argued that the wealthy use free-market rhetoric to justify imposing greater economic risk upon the lower classes, while being insulated from the rigours of the market by the political and economic advantages that such wealth affords. He remarked, "the free market is socialism for the rich—[free] markets for the poor and state protection for the rich."

Arguments along a similar line were raised in connection with the financial turmoil in 2008. With regard to the federal takeover of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, Ron Blackwell, chief economist of AFL-CIO, used the expression “Socialism for the rich and capitalism for the poor” to characterize the system. In September 2008, the US Senator from Vermont, Democratic Socialist Bernie Sanders said regarding the bailout of the U.S. financial system: “This is the most extreme example that I can recall of socialism for the rich and free enterprise for the poor”. The same month, economist Nouriel Roubini stated: “It is pathetic that Congress did not consult any of the many professional economists that have presented […] alternative plans that were more fair and efficient and less costly ways to resolve this crisis. This is again a case of privatizing the gains and socializing the losses; a bailout and socialism for the rich, the well-connected and Wall Street”.

Former U.S. Secretary of Labor Robert Reich adapted this phrase on The Daily Show on October 16, 2008: "We have socialism for the rich, and capitalism for everyone else."

But what are we doing about it..?

9 years ago

One has to be fast asleep to experience the American Dream.

Nikita Kade
9 years ago

Finally--FINALLY--someone is talking about this: the worst crisis this country has ever faced--the destruction of the middle class. That class has watched its opportunities, both white- and blue-collar, disappear, while employers have lowered wages, eliminated healthcare benefits, and cut out anything remotely resembling a retirement account or 401K. Desperately trying to hold on to the things their parents took nearly for granted--a home, a car, maybe even two cars, since inevitably two people in a household are both working to make ends meet--the middle class has watched itself joining the ranks of one of the only two socio-economic groups left in this country. There are the Rich, and there are the Poor. Two guesses where the middle class sees itself sliding toward.

In the meantime, greed that would be considered criminal if practiced by Tony Soprano goes unchecked and unremarked upon. Credit card companies are allowed to rape clients with staggering interest rates. Banks simply do whatever they want--raise interest rates on loans whenever they please, raise fees for ATM use and checking accounts, even dip directly into your account at other banks and remove money if you haven't paid them quickly enough--and dare you to challenge them.

On another front, the credit-reporting industry--which invented itself and has made itself supposedly indispensable, even though its reports are often inaccurate and misleading--has grown into a nightmarish Big Brother, mightier than God and Uncle Sam in deciding who will work and who will not, who will have a car to drive and who will not, who will have an apartment to live in and who will not. More than your resume, your skills, your experience, even the amount of money in your bank account, your credit rating determines where and how you will live. With countless numbers of Americans finding themselves under- or unemployed, unable to pay their bills, resorting to food stamps--who will be left to measure up to the credit raters' high standards? Yet instead of realizing this and reining in an enterprise that has grown into a monster, the country seems to be embracing the rating system more than ever, using its bloodless conclusions as a simple way of excluding "undesirables"--and insuring that countless deserving people who need a break--just one--won't get it, because they fell behind on payments after suffering through an illness or losing a job or making a mistake in handling money.

And our politicians raise taxes, raise their salaries, cut social services, go home to their comfortable beds, and sleep well.

Where can this lead? When the basic structure of the country is altered in such a manner--when a majority of its citizens cannot hope to save enough money for retirement, and many of them right now are working forty-hour weeks that keep them locked in debt and barely able to put food on their tables--what will the picture look like in thirty or forty years? We'll see. We'll be living it. From here it seems bound to be very, very ugly unless we start attacking these issues NOW.

9 years ago

That bartender is misleading with her paychecks. For the first paycheck she says she worked 28 hours over a two week period. For the second paycheck she says "it's almost a 40 hour work-week."

Also, why is she excluding to mention she made about $200 in tips per pay period? All in all she averages about $8/hr which is low for a bartender, but I've never been one to take a job which relies on tips.

Also at the end they show her with a dog. If she's broke, why does she have a dog? She obviously can't afford one.

Fabien L'Amour
9 years ago

Say thanks to globalization, U.S.A workers used to make shoes, clothes, pillows, televisions, phones, etc... Try to find any of these at Walmart that are made in U.S.A. Corporations went for the cheapest least regulated work force to increase the profits of share holders and the government was glad to cooperate because they financed their campaigns and had powerful lobbies. I always thought globalization was insanity. Giving away whole sectors of your economy to countries ruled by dictators or corrupt regimes is dumb as can be. I bet soon most of the food will come from abroad too and then the real pain will begin when they decide the US dollar is not the world reserve currency anymore.

9 years ago

Yeah, blame the FED for printing USD like crazy and US Govt. for using appro. 40% of their budget on military!

9 years ago

how many hungry are needed 'till tippingpoint ?time will tell !

John Murgaš
9 years ago

America should become self efficient, creating self efficient homes and jobs!
We got so much technology to help us that we look like we have Alien Technology!!!

If you had an iPhone 100 years ago, you would off looked like you came from another planet, but then again, we have an architecture that is mostly useless and not a very smart Social Planning Structure? You have Highrises with 2 or 3 people working on each building unswerving phone calls, The Food comes from hundreds of miles away knowing that there's so much advance in agriculture that you don't even need soil anymore, plants, fruits and vegetables grow Indoors In Aquaponics, you don't need meat to live...
We have Alien Technology in some sort of figurative speech!!!

Why are we not using this in this country? Because we are being ruined by Globalist Banking Cartels that don't give a f--k about you! only more for them selfs and less for everybody else.

Let's bring self efficiency back in the US and part of the world without sociopathic Superiority Complexes and Bring back Empathy into the World!!!

9 years ago

Whether you call it Socialism or any other "catch phrase" the only way to ever help people improve their own situation in life is to always teach self-reliance and personal responsibility. Bankers and the greedy "fat cats" will always look for "marks" and victims to prey on. The biggest burdens ever put on individuals is to preach reliance on public systems to change their 'lot in life". Laws and governments can only regulate the playing field which will always flow with current political winds. Whatever is the "truth" about America is the truth about the world. Trying to focus on America as some special case in contrast to other countries is the worst form of bias that judges individuals based on what country they happen to have been born in. We always have choice, good or bad, fair or unfair. To the extent we are victims of our own success is a result of how we respond to whatever success we have. Playing games with how we "tinker" with the tax code only plays into the hands of those that want to gain political objectives by promising solutions that only they can provide. Every new solution we buy into adds another link to our chains when we rely on the politicians and moralist to tell us what we need.

Horst Manure
9 years ago

QE fir ever is added into the GDP but is you take out the QE portion USA is in a depression and it is only just starting.
USA feds know what is to come that is why FEMA HS have enough rounds to kill every one 2.5 times.

Dave Ace
9 years ago

Ah... The American Dream. That's all it ever was America, a dream. Time to wake up to what the rest of the world has been dealing with.

Unfolding pattern of the World
9 years ago

LOL.... America, this is your Karma!

9 years ago

Notice how the guy who used to be a wall-street broker and is now
working two jobs is truly embarassed that his political views may have
shifted to the center? I experienced the same thing when I lived in the
US. People are so afraid to be associated with anything remotely
connected to "socialism" because it seems to run counter to the American
Dream. To me this is the real problem because it prevents any real
change in politics. In Denmark basically all political parties are
shades of social-democracy - what would be called center or liberal in
the US.
On a personal note: I lived very well for two years when I
was in the US with money from my homecountry and there are many great
things about the US that I often miss - however, I often felt I was a
little disconnected from reality in the US because I did not have to
worry about money. Everywhere you go there is underpaid people - often
illegal workers from South America. It is like there is this invisible
line behind the lucky people with money and then people just struggeling
and never getting a chance. It sometimes made me feel like I was living
inside a bubble and the only thing I could contribute with was to
consume stuff.

9 years ago

The fact that money is being restricted to banks only so they can still make profits and that interest rates are near zero mean that money is so short for the majority that they will stop caring for others and only care for family, this is the kind of mentality the elite want you to have so to make you ready for war, so I would say this is intentional so to make you support a war, if you look at the people behind this then it is clear you have to fight a war on another countries behalf, so your economy was crashed to play out another countries war aims, but another way to look at this is as a test. eradicate those that force you into war and you will be free.

9 years ago

Yikes! I didn't know the minimum wages were THIS bad, especially in the food and beverage industry. This is crazy. No wonder there is so much crime.

Harry Nutzack
9 years ago

the grimmest of realities. yet, if you were to consult any of numerous forums, you would see hundreds of examples of declaration that these impoverished workers "suffer due to their own shortcomings". i always wonder how many of them have ever been to camden, or newark, or gone to bed hungry after a long day of work?