Thinking Aloud: All in a Day’s Work?

Mar. 22, 2015 by Darius

A story in last week’s New York Times highlighted yet another rather amazing statistic about income inequality in the US:  last year, the Wall Street bonus pool was approximately double the combined earnings of all Americans working full-time at the federal minimum wage.

Take a deep breath, then read that again.  The claim has been extensively verified and, despite the fuzziness of some of the figures involved, is true.  Currently, there are just over one million workers in the US who make the federal minimum wage of $7.25 or less.  Combined, their annual earnings add up to around $15 billion (the exact figure varies based on average hours worked and other sources of money, like tips).  In comparison, the total bonus pool paid to employees of the securities industry in New York City alone (i.e., Wall Street) was $28.5 billion, shared among 167,800 people.

Can it really be claimed that these 167,800 people are worth more to society than the entire minimum-wage workforce?  Or is it the case, once again, that our system of financial reward for a day’s work is far, far out of whack?

For more, see “Income Inequality, in One Startling Comparison,” The New York Times, March 17, 2015, p.A3, http://www.nytimes.com/2015/03/14/upshot/wall-street-bonuses-vs-total-earnings-of-full-time-minimum-wage-workers.html?_r=0

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