Even after American returns to full employment, the outlook for wages is grim. My CNN column assesses the Romney and Obama ideas for raising worker pay.
If you listen carefully, you can hear something important being debated in this election, in fact one of the most important questions of them all:
What hope is there for the average American worker?
Once upon a time -- in the far-off days after World War II -- the average worker could look forward to a steadily rising standard of living. You didn't have to be anyone special or do anything special. Just keep doing your job, and over the three decades from the mid-1940s through the mid-1970s you could expect your wages to double. And that's after inflation.
That was a long time ago.
Even before the Great Recession, wages tended to stagnate or decline, except for the most skilled workers in the most robust industries: technology, finance, and so on. The middle stayed put; the top pulled away. There's little reason to expect that situation to change after recovery arrives. ...
What -- if anything -- should be done? Barack Obama and Mitt Romney each have answers, although you have to listen carefully to reconstruct them.
A significant part of my column discusses what Obama and Romney are actually promising. Here's a brief summary.
My take on Obama: "Vote for me, and government benefits and government employment will compensate for the wage increases the private job market does not deliver."
And on Romney: "The president is offering higher taxes to support more benefits. I'm offering lower taxes to drive more improvements in the private economy and better products and services for you. Vote for me."