Prosperity for the few 

To know how the nation's economy is doing, we don't need to consult the ethereal Dow Jones Average, but the Flo Chart.

Flo's a waitress at the Dine & Go Diner working the 6 to 9 breakfast shift, then she goes downtown to do grunt work from 10 to 4 for a bevy of insurance-company lawyers at the firm of Meager, Wages & Miser. Ironically, Flo doesn't have insurance. She does have a couple of great kids, though, and she considers them her real job, but she wishes she had more time with them.

Amid all the hoopla about the skyrocketing Dow, I think the politicians and the media need to pay more attention to which way the Flo Chart is moving. Hers is the heartbeat of the American majority -- the 80 percent of folks who are paid less than $50,000 a year, the 60 percent who don't own any stocks or bonds, the 75 percent who don't have a university sheepskin on the wall ... and the two-thirds who aren't voting because neither party is fighting for Flo.

Republicans and Democrats alike hail the reports that thousands of new jobs are being created these days. But for employees and job seekers, the issue isn't just getting a job (Flo has two), but getting an income you can live on, raise a family and retire on.

Here's what the Flo Chart has to say about America's so-called "prosperity": American workers are being paid less today than they were when Nixon was president. In real dollars, average hourly wages in 1973 were $13.61. Today they're down to $12.77.

We're talking about the incomes of the majority of our nation's people. This decline comes at a time when people are busting their butts, too -- working harder, longer and smarter. Since Nixon's time, worker productivity has jumped by a third.

Anyone who can spell IQ knows that it's stupid for politicians to whoop and holler about prosperity when Flo and the American majority are not a part of it.

Jim Hightower is an author, radio commentator, public speaker and political sparkplug from Austin, Texas. For more populist commentary, visit his website.

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