Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The World Economy is Out of Balance

Over the last several decades the rewards of productivity have gone to owners of capital, not labor. Automation has reduced the need for labor in manufacturing industries, driving down wages.  Producers have moved production offshore to reduce labor costs even further. At the same time, the financial sector share of GDP has tripled. This has happened not only in the US, but in other developed countries as well.

What has been forgotten is what Henry Ford knew at the beginning of the twentieth century, namely that a thriving middle class is the source of most of the demand in consuming countries. When wages stagnate as they have in the last several decades, middle class buying power is destroyed. This may be in the producers interest if they can find buyers in other markets. But, when it happens all over the world in developed countries that supply 70% of world demand, it results in a sustained decline in the world economy.

No amount of money sloshing around in the pockets of a few wealthy people looking for a place to invest it will solve the problem. The only solution is to rebalance world wealth and incomes to put more money in the hands of people who will spend it, not people who save to invest. Until producers realize that that they need the spending power of wage earners to create demand, they are planting the seeds of their own failure. It’s time to start paying workers that spend their income a decent wage to rebalance the need of demand with the need for capital. If producers won’t do it, governments need step in and increase taxes of capital and reduce taxes on labor.

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