Wages, Living Standards May Not be Declining in the U.S.

Mark Skousen

Named one of the "Top 20 Living Economists," Dr. Skousen is a professional economist, investment expert, university professor, and author of more than 25 books.

Supporters of the “stagnation thesis” argue that wages and the standard of living for the average American are flat or have been declining in real terms since the 1970s, and haven’t kept up with productivity.

Here’s the chart they use to support their doom-and-gloom case:

Decreasing Wages

But this chart doesn’t tell the whole story. It leaves out compensation and benefits (medical insurance, paid leave, etc.) that have increased significantly since the 1970s.

When you include full compensation, including benefits, the gap disappears. The Peterson Institute recently released a study showing that wages have kept up with productivity when you include benefits. Here’s the chart:

Wage increses -benefits

The Peterson study comes after another study which showed that that the middle class isn’t stagnant after all. Economist Stephen Rose, of the Urban Institute, looked at how the various income classes fared between 1979 and 2014. Guess what? There was a gradual and broad-based shift of Americans from poor to rich. In fact, there was a spectacular change in the upper middle class (incomes from $100,000 to $349,999). It grew from 12.9 percent of Americans in 1979 to 29.4 percent in 2014 — from 1 in 8 U.S. households to more than 1 in 4. Meanwhile, the rich ($350,000 in income or more) went from 0.1 percent of households to 1.8 percent in 2014. If these two groups are combined, nearly one-third of Americans have incomes exceeding $100,000.

Meanwhile, the poor and near-poor (less than $29,999 of income) dropped from 24.3 percent of the population in 1979 to 19.8 percent in 2014. And the lower middle class ($30,000 to $49,999) fell from 23.9 percent to 17.1 percent. The middle class ($50,000 to $99,999) decreased from 38.8 percent to 32 percent.

Rose concluded, “The growth in the rich and upper middle classes and the declining proportion of the population in the middle and lower classes indicate widespread economic growth between 1979 and 2014.”

In sum, the Adam Smith model of democratic capitalism works. If a nation adopts his invisible hand doctrine of  a “system of natural liberty,” the results are positive for rich and poor alike, but especially the poor. As Adam Smith stated in the “Wealth of Nations” (published in 1776 as a declaration of economic independence), the nation achieves “universal opulence which extends itself to the lowest ranks of the people.”

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‘Yuge’ Trump Debate Goes Viral… Rematch Scheduled for Aug. 23

This year’s FreedomFest attracted more than 2,100 attendees, and they were not disappointed with keynote speakers Judge Andrew Napolitano, Senators Rand Paul and Ben Sasse and former heavyweight boxing champion George Foreman, among many others.

The most controversial session was the “YUGE Trump Debate” on Friday, July 15, that turned into a shouting match between pro-Trump supporters in the audience and his critics on the dais — our first all-out brouhaha at FreedomFest. Jeffrey Tucker’s three-minute clip of the debate has already been viewed by more than 125,000 people. You can watch the whole debate here: https://youtu.be/I-dOTMLridk.

As you will see, the debate was far from finished. So get ready for:

Rematch: The Yuge Debate Continues!

I will be moderating a new debate on presidential candidates Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton and how the outcome of the November election will affect your freedoms and the economy. It takes place at the San Francisco MoneyShow THIS MONTH, Tuesday, Aug. 23, at the Marriott Hotel. And get this: there is NO CHARGE to attend.

The panel will be a no-holds-barred debate, and I’m taking them all on myself. I will ask hard-hitting questions before a “who’s who” of respected FreedomFest speakers who also happen to be adamant Trump supporters: George Gilder, Steve Moore, Art Laffer and Wayne Allyn Root. I call them the Four Horsemen of the Trump Apocalypse.

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As for me? I’m supporting Gary Johnson, the Libertarian Party candidate, and my bias is certain to show. Let’s see who gets the most tomatoes thrown at the MoneyShow!

I’ve been a regular speaker at the annual San Francisco MoneyShow for almost four decades, so I also will be speaking on “Is the Golden Age of Investing Over? Not for This Market-Beating Strategy” and “The SWAN (Sleep Well at Night) Investments: High-Income Stocks that Beat the Market Most of the Time.” For a full list of other top financial speakers, go to www.sanfranciscomoneyshow.com.

The San Francisco MoneyShow will meet Aug. 23-25, and offer a wide variety of speakers and breakout sessions. FreedomFest attendees and readers of my weekly Skousen CAFÉ column may register for FREE. Just use this link to register.

You don’t want to miss the fireworks on Tuesday afternoon, Aug. 23, starting at 4:15 pm in the San Francisco Marriott Hotel. It is only three weeks away, so prepare now to join us. See you in San Francisco!

On another note, Kim Githler, the producer of the MoneyShows, is a libertarian and big supporter of FreedomFest, and she plans to attend next year’s big 10th anniversary show, July 19-22, 2017, at the Paris Resort in Vegas. We soon will announce our incredible list of keynote speakers for next year’s 10th anniversary celebration of FreedomFest. See you there, too!

Upcoming Appearances

O MoneyShow San Francisco, Aug. 23-25: Speakers include Stephen Moore (Donald Trump’s tax expert), Art Laffer, George Gilder, Mark Mills, Marilyn Cohen, Kelley Wright (“Dividends Still Don’t Lie”), John Buckingham (The Prudent Speculator), Dave Phillips (estate planning specialist), Michael Murphy, Steven Hochberg (Elliott Wave International), and Wayne Allyn Root. I am also doing a joint session with fellow newsletter colleagues Robert Carlson, Doug Fabian and Bryan Perry. To join me at The MoneyShow San Francisco, Marriott Marquis, register free as my guest by calling 1-800-970-4355 or sign up at MarkSkousen.SanFranciscoMoneyShow.com. Use priority code 041199.

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You Blew It!

Republicans are the ‘Stupid’ Party, Democrats are the ‘Evil’ Party

This week in the New York Times, foreign policy expert Max Boot wrote an op-ed about “How the ‘Stupid Party’ Created Trump.” I recommend that you read it.

In it, Boot, who is a Republican, wrote, “Mr. Trump doesn’t know the difference between the Quds Force and the Kurds. He can’t identify the nuclear triad, the American strategic nuclear arsenal’s delivery system. He had never heard of “Brexit” until a few weeks before the U.K. voters chose to leave the European Union. He thinks the Constitution has 12 Articles rather than seven. He uses the vocabulary of a fifth grader. Most damning of all, he traffics in off-the-wall conspiracy theories by insinuating that President Obama was born in Kenya and that Ted Cruz’s father was involved in the Kennedy assassination. It is hardly surprising to read Tony Schwartz, the ghostwriter for Mr. Trump’s best seller “The Art of the Deal,” say, ‘I seriously doubt that Trump has ever read a book straight through in his adult life.’”

After reading Max Boot’s op-ed, I wondered when, in the interest of fairness, the New York Times will publish a sequel on “How the ‘Evil Party’ Created Hillary.” She may know all the details of foreign and domestic policy, but it’s scary to think what the next four or eight years will bring in terms of further intervention in foreign wars, and more regulations and taxes inside of the United States.

In case you missed it, check out my e-letter column from last week about whether investors are better off with Clinton or Trump. I also invite you to comment in the space provided below.

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