U.S. workers did not share in the growth of the economy of the last forty years

According to a recent study1, unlike the growth patterns in the 1950s and 1960s, the majority of full-time workers did not share in the economic growth of the last forty years.

Had the income distributions of the three decades following World War II (1945 through 1974) held steady in the following four decades, the aggregate annual income of Americans earning below the 90th percentile would have been $2.5 trillion higher in the year 2018 alone. That is an amount equal to nearly 12 percent of GDP—enough to more than double median income—enough to pay every single working American in the bottom nine deciles an additional $1,144 a month. Every month. Every single year.

The median income for all adults with nonzero income was $42,000 in 1975 and it grew to $50,000 by 2018. Had income for this percentile grown as the same pace as the economy, it would have reached $92,000. In other words, their income growth captured only 17% of the growth that occurred in the whole economy.

 

 

 

 

  1. https://www.rand.org/pubs/working_papers/WRA516-1.html []

Management lessons from the covid-19 death spiral

An excellent article from Ed Yong1  begins like this:

Army ants will sometimes walk in circles until they die. The workers navigate by smelling the pheromone trails of workers in front of them, while laying down pheromones for others to follow. If these trails accidentally loop back on themselves, the ants are trapped. They become a thick, swirling vortex of bodies that resembles a hurricane as viewed from space. They march endlessly until they’re felled by exhaustion or dehydration. The ants can sense no picture bigger than what’s immediately ahead. They have no coordinating force to guide them to safety. They are imprisoned by a wall of their own instincts. This phenomenon is called the death spiral. I can think of no better metaphor for the United States of America’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The U.S. enters the sixth month of the pandemic with more than 6.3 million confirmed cases and more than 189,000 confirmed deaths. The toll has been enormous because the country presented the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus with a smorgasbord of vulnerabilities to exploit. But the toll continues to be enormous—every day, the case count rises by around 40,000 and the death toll by around 800—because the country has consistently thought about the pandemic in the same unproductive ways.

The author then identifies nine errors that hamper our ability to respond to the pandemic. And one stands out to me because we discuss it often in my strategy workshops.

The most accurate model to date predicts that the U.S. will head into November with 220,000 confirmed deaths. More than 1,000 health-care workers have died. One in every 1,125 Black Americans has died, along with similarly disproportionate numbers of Indigenous people, Pacific Islanders, and Latinos. And yet, a recent poll found that 57 percent of Republican voters and 33 percent of independents think the number of deaths is acceptable. “In order for us to mobilize around a social problem, we all have to agree that it’s a problem,” Lori Peek says. “It’s shocking that we haven’t, because you really would have thought that with a pandemic it would be easy.” This is the final and perhaps most costly intuitive error …

The first lesson is, of course, a refresher: Situations that require the coordination of all parties involved can only be solved by the participation of all parties involved. And that participation is best obtained when parties see and agree on the nature of the problem, rather than by means of executive fiat.

And the second lesson is the costly intuitive error: To think that because the situation is obvious to you it will be obvious to others.

 

 

 

 

 

 

  1. https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2020/09/pandemic-intuition-nightmare-spiral-winter/616204/, accessed 200911 []

We can overcome our empathy deficit

Given our current circumstances after six months of the pandemic, and not being anywhere near a new normal, you would think that we would be sensitive to the realities of the people around us. Well, according to Scientific American, it turns out we’re not.1

Empathy is a powerful force and human beings need it. Here are three things that might help to remedy our collective empathy deficit:

  1. Take the time to ask those you encounter how they are feeling, and really listen. Try to put yourself in their shoes. Remember that we all tend to underestimate other people’s emotional distress, and we’re most likely to do so when those people are different from us.
  2. Remind yourself that almost everyone is at the end of their rope these days. Many people barely have enough energy to handle their own problems, so they don’t have their normal ability to think about yours.
  3. Finally, be aware that what is empathy for one person may not be empathy for another person. It’s not a concept that speaks for itself. Asking your friends, family, and coworkers what empathy is for them might open a new door to understanding and helping those around us.

 

  1. https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/the-us-has-an-empathy-deficit accessed 200918 []

The real future of work. It’s not what you think

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports the job projected to have the largest percentage increase in employment from 2018 to 2028 is the home health aide followed by the personal care aide, a reflection of the growing older population in America.

Despite the increasing need for these workers, home health aides and personal care aides typically earn less than $12 per hour. And they are overwhelmingly women of color, and disproportionately black women: 87 percent of paid adult care workers are women, compared with 46 percent of nondomestic workers, and about 25 percent of home care aides are black, compared with 12 percent of nondomestic workers.

The workers we need the most aren’t wearing boots and hard hats; they are wearing sneakers or scrubs. (source)

The real future of work is the people who take care of us – a low-wage service work force that is disproportionately made up of black women and other women of color. A workforce that will grow in numbers as the population ages. And they are largely unprotected by our safety net.

This helps situate the relative importance of robots replacing humans and remote/distributed work.

Also, I can’t get over the numbers.

$12 an hour is $96 a day, $480 a week, $24,000 (for 50 weeks). Roughly $2,000 gross, $1,800 net.

Can one live on $1,800 net?

If you follow the 50-30-20 philosophy, you’d have $900 to cover your Needs (Housing, Groceries, Utilities, Transportation, Bills, Insurance, etc.), $540 on Wants (Shopping, Entertainment, Restaurants, Hobbies, Etc.), and $360 for Debt Payoff and Savings.

 

 

We witnessed the lynching of a black man

Note: For some reason (probably human error, that is, me) this entry did not post at the determined time, which was weeks ago now. I’m not saying anything new, but I am speaking my mind. I’m sure I will come back to this in later posts.

We witnessed the lynching of a black man. We all did.

And we were reminded of other similarly barbaric and despicable acts taking place in the recent past. Enough instances to lead one to conclude that this also is a pandemic.

I share Elie Wiesel‘s observation that

Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. Sometimes we must interfere. When human lives are endangered, when human dignity is in jeopardy, national borders and sensitivities become irrelevant. Wherever men and women are persecuted because of their race, religion, or political views, that place must – at that moment – become the center of the universe.

Indeed, “we must take sides.” (Night).

Personally, taking sides consists not only in not being racist but, rather, in being anti-racist. Reading and reflecting on this hand-out from the Racial Healing Handbook: Practical Activities to Help You Challenge Privilege, Confront Systemic Racism, and Engage in Collective Healing by Anneliese A. Singh, PhD, LPC is a good place to start.

For corporations, statements are a modest start but clearly not enough.

 

Indra Nooyi on how to get more women in the C-suite

Indra Nooyi, former CEO of PepsiCo, in the New York Times:

The issue is not women in the C-suite, it’s a leaky pipeline. The pipeline is leaking at the early stages. Because we get enough women coming into the work force in various stages. But by the time they get to Level 2 and Level 3, they just drop out of the work force for several reasons.

One that can be addressed quickly is this tremendous unconscious bias. On top of that, the time that they get to Level 2 in a company is when they will have families, and many companies are not mandated to give parental leave. People just drop out of the work force, and then we wonder why they don’t go up to the top. We can ill afford to be a country where women drop out of the work force.

More here.

Of politics and turkey

Frank Bruni in the NYT:

Every year around this time, I read about the fraught partnership of politics and turkey. How can a family survive the Thanksgiving meal with a mix of Democrats and Republicans at the table? What if some of the people voted for Trump and others didn’t? What if some continue to defend him even as others quiver in moral horror?


Well, that’s my family. And we manage just fine.


It’s not that we’re reticent, timid types. Um, we’re Italian. And while that primarily means a ridiculous abundance of food […], it also means a ridiculous abundance of opinions, registered in loud and overlapping voices.


Members of the family get worked up. Members of the family get stressed out. Members of the family even, on rare occasions, remove themselves from an overheated conversation and retreat to a different room — probably the kitchen, for seconds. We’re a ravenous lot.


But we’re a grounded one, too. All of us bear in mind that no division of thought, no partisan split, matters a fraction as much as the experiences that we’ve shared with one another, the support that we’ve lent one another and the compact that we’ve made to march together across the unpredictable years and through this messy world.


All of us, in other words, know where to draw the line. That’s key. Perspective. Proportion. I’m immeasurably thankful for relatives who hold on to those, and I hope that you and your relatives hold on to them, too.


And I wish you the happiest of Thanksgivings.

Amen!