For the Middle Class, Wages Are Pretty Much the Whole Story

As I mentioned a few days ago, benefits have risen a little faster than cash wages lately:

U.S. employers are boosting benefits—including bonuses and vacation time—at a faster pace than salaries, a move that gives them more flexibility to dial back that compensation if the economy turns sour. The cost of benefits for private-sector employers rose 3% in June from a year earlier, while the cost of wages and salaries advanced 2.7%, the Labor Department said Tuesday.

This is not a huge difference, and it looks worse if you break it down by type of benefit:

Call me cynical, but without bothering to check this out I think it’s safe to say that bonuses and retirement pay are heavily skewed in favor of the affluent and the rich. For ordinary working-class and middle-class workers, total compensation has probably risen a hair faster than cash wages, but that’s all. What this means is that when you see the annual earnings reported by the Census Bureau—which is what all of us rely on for basic wage data—it’s pretty close to total compensation data. Total comp for the middle class may be growing faster than wages alone, but only by a tiny bit.

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DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

without free and fair elections, a vigorous free press, and engaged citizens to reclaim power from those who abuse it.

In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily bluster—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

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