The New Economic Norm? Nah, It’s The New Cultural Norm

The economy is doing well for those who are already wealthy, but the average worker sees very little of it.  Salary increases, when they happen, don’t keep up with inflation. President Obama refers to this as an economic problem. Others call it the new economic norm.

I call it a cultural problem.

It’s a cultural problem because this is what companies do now. This is the new cultural norm. Companies use an economic downturn as an excuse to cut back on benefits and pay increases, and maybe during an economic downturn cutbacks should be expected. But a problem arises when companies continue to screw the worker while owners and executives reap the benefits of record profits. The economy for these executives is doing quite well. For everyone else? Not so much.

This new cultural norm, this is the new reality of the average working stiff. And what this means is that most measures of an improving economy are influenced by the growing gap between the wealthy and the rest of us. Sure, there’s economic growth, at least as measured by Gross Domestic Product (GDP), and sure, the stock market is up, but to the average American, the economy is not doing well. To the average American, it still very much feels like a recession.

And what is the political response to all of this, particularly on the Right? More of the same. “How dare we challenge our great capitalist system!” After all, greed — for lack of a better word — is good.

This is not an economic problem, it’s a cultural problem.