Biden says all is swell, but workers face a different reality

By Brian Williams
January 1, 2024

The Joseph Biden administration and his boosters in the liberal media are churning out propaganda claiming prospects for the U.S. capitalist economy have never looked better. They say inflation has been lowered to “acceptable” levels, full employment abounds and the stock market — home of speculation by the rich — is soaring.

“The ‘soft landing’ is in the bag,” former Federal Reserve economist Claudia Sahm boasted to the Washington Post. “Barring any other catastrophe, the economy has done the impossible.” 

But for the working class, reality looks quite different as we struggle to make ends meet. The fact is a deepening capitalist economic and social crisis continues for our class, something that official government figures can’t gloss over. 

One indication is workers are turning to their unions to fight boss attacks and battle to make up ground our wages have lost to inflation. There are fights over work schedules, to allow time for family, union meetings and recreation, and for dignity on the job. Strikes this year have resulted in the highest number of workday stoppages in 40 years. 

The consumer price index over the past 12 months rose 3.1%. But this doesn’t reflect the sharp class divisions between how prices affect the ruling rich and what we face with our rent, groceries, car bills, child care and other necessities. 

While the inflation rate has slowed from previous months, prices on many items and services that workers depend on keep rising faster than our wages. Since February 2021 consumer prices have gone up 17%, while workers’ take-home pay declined 4.2%. This is one of the reasons the majority of working people say Biden’s handling of the economy isn’t working for them. 

Grocery prices over these three years are up 21%, with some items even higher, including chicken, up 24%, and cereals and baked goods, up 25%. Energy prices are up over 30%. Fertilizers have risen 36%, making it harder for working farmers to meet their costs of production. 

In Pennsylvania grocery prices have increased 8.2% over the last year, the largest jump in any state. And prices increased even more in rural areas around the country, places where workers’ average income is lower. 

Rents are 22.1% higher than they were four years ago, forcing a growing number of young people to move in with their parents, other relatives or friends. And monthly home mortgage payments have risen over the past two years to 52% higher than the average apartment rent. 

Sky-high housing costs have resulted in record-high homelessness. According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, more than 653,000 people have found themselves homeless this year, a 12% rise since 2022. These “tallies are widely considered to be undercounts,” admitted the Wall Street Journal. 

Today more than one-quarter of homeless adults are over age 54. The number of homeless families with children rose by 15%. 

Hard to find decent jobs

More and more workers find good-paying jobs are hard to come by. Over the past six months most job openings have been in health care, leisure and hospitality, historically lower-paying jobs. Nearly 8.5 million workers say they have had to get two or more jobs to try and cover expenses for themselves and their families. Others try and make it by signing up for all the overtime they can get. And another 4 million have only been able to find part-time jobs. 

The boss press started off December by gloating that manufacturing jobs had increased. But this was a lie. What changed was that United Auto Workers union members were back on the job after their hard-fought six-week strike against General Motors, Ford and Stellantis. And some of them were promptly laid off as the bosses tried to make up wage increases by speedup. GM bosses announced they’re cutting 1,300 more jobs at two auto plants in Michigan Jan. 1. 

Jobs in manufacturing have continued to decline over the past 13 months. This includes drops in wood products, nondurable goods, and utilities production, as well as in textiles, apparel and leather. Reuters reported Dec. 15 that manufacturing bosses “were not overly optimistic that business conditions would improve over the next six months.” 

The percentage of workers over 65 who have to keep working to get by has nearly doubled since the late 1980s. Many see no other choice, with inadequate or no savings or pensions, and paltry monthly Social Security payments that don’t come close to covering their rising housing, food and medical expenses. 

Some 20% of workers over 65 had jobs this year, up from 11% in 1987, reported Pew Research Center. Workers 75 and older are now the fastest-growing age group in the workforce. About 9% of adults age 75 and older are employed, compared with 4% in 1987.