Real wages continue to fall as President Bush touts a "healthy and vigorous" economy. During the annual State of the Union address, he even declared that the U.S. economy was "the envy of the world."
Yet despite economic growth, most American workers saw wages and compensation fall behind inflation, according to a recent study by the Economic Policy Institute. And those at the bottom were hit hardest.
While the overall economy may show growth, real wages -- wages that have been adjusted for inflation -- have actually fallen since 2001, according to The New Yorker.
In 2005, they fell again while workers' overall compensation -- including benefits -- stagnated, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
"Americans are working harder and producing more," said Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., "but when they clock out at the end of the day, they're taking home less in their pockets."
But rather than extend benefits for the unemployed or revamp our ailing health-care system, Bush pushed Congress to make permanent the tax cuts, which disproportionately favor corporations and the rich.
At the same time, Bush's Pentagon spending continues to grow, with the administration asking for $440 billion for the next fiscal year. The cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan has now reached $323 billion, the budget office estimates. And last week, the administration asked Congress for an additional $70 billion for the war.
Meanwhile, Bush seeks to make the deepest cuts to Medicare, which provides health care for about 43 million elderly and disabled beneficiaries. And nearly a third of the 141 programs that Bush wants Congress to eliminate or cut will be in education.
A decline in real wages does not make for a "healthy and vigorous" economy. It makes for a more difficult and insecure living.
Bernardo Ruiz is a New York-based writer and documentary filmmaker. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.