A few mornings ago I dropped into my neighborhood bank. I rarely go in anymore, now that online banking and ATMs are available and was courteously and pleasantly treated as always by the tellers. I was shocked later in the day to see this report (via Pharyngula) that about a third of bank tellers now depend on some form of public assistance to make ends meet. It is yet another example of the galloping divergence between the few haves and the many have-nots in the US.
Profits at the nation’s banks topped $141.3 billion last year, with the median chief executive pay hovering around $552,000, according to SNL Financial. In contrast, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics pegs the median annual income of a bank teller at $24,100, or $11.59 an hour.
This is disgraceful. Such jobs used to be the foundation for the middle class. One did not become wealthy doing them but they provided a reasonable income that one could live on, and had some security and benefits. What is the country coming to when jobs like that are now paying so poorly? How many more formerly middle class jobs will drift downwards into Walmart and fast food territory? Is it any wonder that labor unrest is spreading across the country?
The committee’s report arrives as fast-food workers, retail employees and other low-wage workers stage strikes across the country, including one planned for Thursday. They are fighting to have their pay raised to $15 an hour and for an easier path to forming unions.
What we are seeing is a long-term trend of companies seeking to increase their profits and executive compensation by squeezing workers’ wages and forcing them to seek public assistance, while their allies in Congress cut those same benefits so that the taxes on the same rich can be kept low. So the people at the bottom are being squeezed at both ends while the people at the top benefit.