kccu

A Challenge To The New Congress: Fix Stagnant Wages

Nov 8, 2014
Originally published on November 8, 2014 11:33 am

One of my favorite arguments — and one I've had in just about every even numbered year since the seventies — is about when to stop talking about politics. A surprising number of people think that since elections are on Tuesday, by Saturday all that can be said has been said, and nothing more should be said.

As a person who's covered politics for decades, I don't believe that. Saturday after the election and the Saturday after that are good days to talk politics. And we need to talk.

We've just done it again — played another round in our biennial ping pong match in which we deliver a stinging rebuke to people in power, vote lots of the other guys into office, and then two or sometimes four years later, we send another strong message — "you weren't listening" — deliver a serious blow to the new guys, and vote the others back. And, as discouraged citizens repeatedly tell reporters, nothing changes.

In fact, the debate does change, the issues and the emphasis do change. The stories covered in the news change as the new leaders put their party's gloss on events and how to respond. As we know, there are major differences on big issues: immigration, taxes, trade, and health insurance.

But those policy debates, while important, seem to be removed from the daily lives of American citizens.

Something that's very big in those daily lives has not changed for a very long time, and that is income. Wages have been stagnant for years, decades. So when politicians and analysts tell us that unemployment is down, jobs are up and the stock market is going up and down but mostly up — when we hear numbers that say the economy is improving, too many Americans still say, "not my economy."

Common sense would seem to dictate that if there are ways to restore prosperity, good jobs and bigger paychecks to all these good hard working people, our leaders should talk. They should confer and consult and maybe even compromise — maybe deliver at least some of what voters want.

We've heard from leaders that they plan to talk and look for common ground. Now, we wait for a couple of years and see if this time they really mean it.

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

LINDA WERTHEIMER, HOST:

One of my favorite arguments - and one I've had in just about every even numbered years since the 70s - is about when to stop talking about politics. A surprising number of people think that since elections are on Tuesdays, by Saturday all that can be said has been said and nothing more should be said. As a person who's covered politics for decades, I don't believe that. Saturday after the election and the Saturday after that are good days to talk politics and we need to talk.

We've just done it again - played another round in our biennial Ping-Pong match in which we deliver a stinging rebuke to people in power, vote lots of the other guys into office and then two or sometimes four years later we send another strong message - you weren't listening. And deliver a serious blow to the new guys and vote the others back in. And as discouraged citizens have repeatedly told reporters, nothing changes. In fact, the debate does change. The issues and the emphasis do change. The stories covered in the news will change as the new leaders put their party's gloss on events and how to respond.

As we know, there are many differences on big issues, on immigration, taxes trade, health insurance, but those policy debates, while important, seem to be somewhat removed from the daily lives of American citizens. And something that is very big in those daily lives has not changed for a very long time, and that is income. Wages have been stagnant for years - for decades - so when politicians and analysts tell us that unemployment is down, job numbers are up and the stock market is going up and down, but mostly up, when we hear numbers that say the economy is improving, too many Americans still say not my economy. Common sense would seem to dictate that if there are ways to restore prosperity, good jobs and bigger paychecks to all those good, hard-working people, our leaders should talk. They should confer and consult and maybe even compromise - maybe deliver at least some of what voters want. We've heard from leaders that they plan to talk and look for common ground. Now we wait for a couple of years and see if this time they really mean it. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.