Retailers Finally Addressing Income Inequality

As politicians in Washington and state capitals debate raising the minimum wage, a new report from the Center for American Progress gathers new evidence showing that the United States’ top retailers are deeply concerned that stagnant wage growth and middle-class weakness are holding the economy back.

photo by pix.plz Flickr/creative commons
photo by pix.plz
Flickr/creative commons

We have written frequently about the scourge of income equality, from fast food workers‘ demanding a living wage and Wall Street’s response to connecting you to organizations on the forefront of this struggle, summing it all up this past Labor Day. Now this new report, “Retailer Revelations: Why America’s Struggling Middle Class Has Businesses Scared,” drills down further, showing us how flat wages has weakened consumer spending and put their stock prices at risk because of low demand for goods and services and high unemployment.

Retailers could improve their profits by embracing a middle-class-growth-oriented agenda instead of spending their political energy on preventing policies that increase wages. Policies such as a minimum-wage increase could provide the perfect mechanism for coordinating wage growth that could benefit the entire retail sector by fueling more consumer spending.

While banks have been rescued by our government and economic indicators in some sectors have been revived since the 2008 financial crisis, “median household income in 2013 stood 8 percentage points below its 2007 pre-recession level” while the cost of everything else, from health care to college tuition has risen.

The evidence assembled in this report directly repudiates “trickle-down economics”—the idea that the only way to produce economic growth is to redistribute money to the rich, who will create jobs for everyone else. Conservative politicians, lobbyists, and commentators may still be stuck in the trickle-down mindset of the 1980s, but corporate America and the Wall Street analysts who closely follow it know better.

In fighting income equality we have to aim our civil actions squarely on the proponents of trickle-down economics and those working actively against living wages, including lobbyists such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, until they get it. Congress is complicit in keeping the minimum wage low despite all the evidence pouring in from municipalities that have raised the minimum wage to $15/hour and actually created economic growth, including more jobs. These are the people and entities who are responsible. Educate yourself and organize accordingly.