The Spark

the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.”
— Karl Marx

2008 Economic Crisis:
The Working Class Is Still Paying

Sep 17, 2018

On September 15, 2008, Lehman Brothers collapsed, sparking the financial crisis. Today, the news media and most politicians insist “the economy” has recovered.

But talking about “the economy” is just a way for defenders of capitalism to hide who in the economy is doing well, and who is getting hammered.

For the capitalist class, “the economy” is great. The Dow is up more than 80% above its peak in 2007. If you own a lot of stocks, that means you have gotten much richer.

But working people are falling further behind. The average household in the U.S.—which doesn’t have stocks—has 20% less wealth than it had before the crash, even as the total wealth in the country has gone up. All that increase in wealth has been taken by a sliver of rich people.

Workers can see with their own eyes that wages are so low and jobs are so insecure that even with a job, it’s very difficult for many people to make ends meet. Almost half of U.S. workers earn less than $12 an hour. And almost all the jobs created in the current “recovery” have been part time, temporary, or Uber-like jobs that workers can’t count on. Today, one in three U.S. workers relies on the “gig” economy of these undependable, no-benefit, low-wage jobs!

Wages aren’t down because workers are producing less wealth. They’re down because we’re getting a smaller share of what we produce. Despite the propaganda, factories are actually producing more—U.S. manufacturing reached a new record of total output in 2016, and has continued growing since. But employment has gone down, from about 14 million manufacturing workers in 2007 to about 12.4 million today.

Fewer workers are producing more—and the bosses are taking the difference.

And working people are drowning in more debt than ever. One example: in 2008, total student loan debt in the U.S. was about 670 billion dollars. Now it’s over $1.5 trillion!

It should be no surprise that poverty remains very high, between 12 and 14 percent, depending how you measure it. And extreme poverty is way up. About three million children in the United States live in a family with an income of $2 or less per person per day—and most of these kids live with an adult who worked at least part of the year!

And what about the bank bailouts? According to Bloomberg News, the U.S. lent, spent, or guaranteed 12.8 TRILLION dollars to bail out the banks. That money came out of our taxes, our roads, our schools, our emergency services.

The economy of the capitalist class has certainly recovered from 2008. But their recovery has been built on our backs.