Voters’ Doubts About Sharing in Prosperity Send a Danger Signal

By ALAN MURRAY (regular columnist of the Wall Street Journal) , Oct. 26, 2006

… Still, the economic backdrop for election 2006 should raise a warning flag about the future. Large numbers of Americans seem to have lost their belief in John F. Kennedy’s famous aphorism that a rising tide lifts all boats. “They know the economy is white hot,” says political analyst Charlie Cook, “but they also know they aren’t in it….There’s a feeling that some people are getting theirs, but we aren’t getting ours.”

There’s a well-known litany of reasons for that. Median earnings have been growing at a disturbingly slow pace, even as profits and high-end pay have soared. Health-care costs are not only increasing, they increasingly are being paid by consumers, not by employers or the government. Pensions are disappearing, as is job security — and any sense of long-term loyalty from employers. As pollster Peter Hart puts it, “there’s no gold watch” waiting at the end of a career these days. He cites a cartoon in which the boss says: “Mr. Jones, the reason we are letting you go is because you’ve given us the best years of your life.” Meanwhile, a thin slice of America is enjoying unprecedented prosperity. CEO pay is one of the most visible manifestations, rising in the past decade at triple the rate of the median worker’s pay. …

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