NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

April 23, 2013

R.I.P., GOP

Viewpoint
Richard Joyce

---- — As Republican and corporate leaders continue to struggle to try to figure out what happened last November, they continue to fail to understand how the average American struggles to keep his (or her) head above water.

Remember, it was Clinton who had to remind himself (“It’s the economy, stupid!”) that for most Americans, social issues tend to take a back seat to economic issues once voters get into the voting booth. Immigration, abortion and gun control mean less and less when you are struggling to hold onto your job, buy groceries, heat your house, get fuel for your car, save for college payments and somehow hope to “retire” some day.

Americans are weary, stressed and fearful and, frankly, sick and tired of hearing the Republican Party tell them they are holding themselves back. The American dream is just that — a dream, and for the overwhelming majority of Americans, they see themselves slipping farther and farther behind.

The disparity between those at the top and mainstream America has never been wider and the Republican mantra: “A rising tide lifts all boats” just doesn’t, if you’ll pardon the pun, hold water.

Consider:

American CEO’s saw their pay spike 15 percent last year after a 28 percent rise the year before. Meanwhile, workers saw their inflation-adjusted wages fall 2 percent in the same time period.

CEO pay spiked 725 percent between 1978 and 2011, while worker pay rose just 5.7 percent. That means CEO pay grew 127 times faster than worker pay.

In the last 30 years, income inequality between CEO’s and workers has exploded, with CEO’s earning 209.4 times more than workers, compared to just 26.5 times more in 1978.

Corporate profits have never been higher, and they now have $1.4 trillion in available cash.

Even when companies expand, they don’t hire new workers. United Technologies, for example, has raised its annual revenues by $15 billion since 2005 but cut 4,000 workers last year and will cut another 3,000 this year.

A new survey by the American Psychological Association finds that more than half of U.S. workers feel underpaid, under-appreciated and suffer symptoms of chronic, work-induced stress. In short, those who are left working in corporate America are doing the jobs of 1 1/2 workers and are afraid to take vacations or even call in sick.

Closer to home:

Boston-based Upper Crust Pizza was recently found guilty of slashing workers’ overtime by over $350,000 while company founder Jordan Tobins diverted company funds for his own personal use, including the purchase of a Cessna plane.

Hostess Brands (come on, admit it: You miss Twinkies) recently closed their operations and put 18,500 workers out of jobs because they wouldn’t accept a new contract that would slash pay and benefits. Meanwhile, company executives gave themselves several raises and bonus checks, all the while complaining that workers were “grossly overpaid.”

Starting pay for the company I work for (which will remain nameless because I need my job) has dropped from $16.95 per hour in 2007 to $14.95 per hour in 2013.

The company my wife works for (which will also remain nameless because she needs her job) has had a pay freeze for the last six years, yet the corporation executives recently purchased a Citation jet.

So, GOP, what do you say to America’s workforce? Are you so out of touch that you can’t understand why American workers feel as though the Republican Party doesn’t represent them? If this trend continues, the next election cycle in America will elect Democrat candidates overwhelmingly — that is, if we all haven’t drowned when the “rising tide” sinks our boats.

---

Richard Joyce lives in Newburyport.