It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it.

  • Upton Sinclair

We are living in a period of rapid innovation in markets and products. Globalization has enabled companies to move jobs to countries with lower wages and fewer labor and environmental regulations. To make a living and stay in business, companies must perpetually innovate to add new products and services or to reduce the costs of existing products and services. This relentless march of progress results in the continued refinement of markets and the regular displacement of jobs and careers. In a healthy economy, industry practices or regulatory guidelines will provide benefits, allowing employees to live economically secure lives even within chaotic and ever-shifting market conditions.

What is Corrupt? | Zephyr Teachout

Foundations, principles, and values

Until the 1980s, companies sought loyalty from workers by providing competitive wages, incentive programs, medical benefits, progressive career paths, and retirement plans. Beginning with re-engineering in the 80s, companies shifted their employment structure to project-based work, outsourced work that did not have strategic importance, and delegated responsibility for retirement programs to the workers. The upside is a more flexible, cost-efficient structure for companies and greater career flexibility for self-directed workers who can retrain themselves for rapidly changing work. 

We have a rapidly growing gig economy – people contract for work by the “gig”; they are not employees and do not get employment benefits. Currently, over 40% of the U.S. workforce is “contingent,” meaning that these are not employees, have no job security, no health benefits, and are paid by the piece, by contract, or for specific jobs. This structure works for some who only want occasional work or have established their reputations and are in high demand. Yet for most gig workers, the growth of the “gig economy” has resulted in lower adjusted wages, the loss of workplace benefits and securities, the loss of healthcare and childcare, the threat of being fired at any time without cause, and increased levels of chronic stress, anxiety, suicide, and homelessness.

Another view of the changing workplace over time is the hands, heads, and hearts. Hands refer to the work of the hands and body: farming, ranching, machine, and industrial. As we have made this work safer and more efficient, we have put downward pressure on pricing and eliminated jobs in these markets. The service economy (“head” work) is also increasingly shaped by efficiency, innovation, and automation. As Artificial Intelligence and other foundation-shifting technologies mature, service work will also be automated. With the automation of the ‘hands and head,’ the heart remains. It is unclear how or whether ‘heart’ work will be automated at this point in history. Heart work is based on relationships like front-line health care and service, teaching, sales, and management), where creativity and subjective judgment are required.

Status: Issues & Challenges

A byproduct of this rapid evolution is the increasing distribution of incomes and wealth to the top 1%  of earners and skyrocketing income inequality. The average annual income of the top 1% of U.S. earners is $1,316,985. The average income of the bottom 99% is $50,107. The top 1% makes 26.3 times what the bottom 99% makes. Since 2020, the world has created $42 trillion in new wealth. Sixty-three percent of this wealth went to the wealthiest 1% of the population. The bottom 50%, meanwhile, owe more in debt than they own in assets.

This disparity is growing on both ends: The rich are becoming richer while the poor are becoming poorer. The “middle class,” in other words—traditionally the best measure of a national economy’s health and projected growth over time—is shrinking, creating at the same time both more incredible wealth and more severe poverty.

Wealth Inequality in America

Program Opportunities

The PSA will educate, empower, and engage people with financial literacy programs, develop (or change to) socially responsible careers, negotiate for and secure growing employment, and responsibly increase all citizens’ living standards – individually and collectively.

Suggestions for action:

  • Teach a course and develop a workshop to help members become more self-confident and economically empowered.
  • Create a course and run a role-playing workshop on “Negotiating for a livable wage.”
  • Teach a course called “How to be a rockstar employee”
  • Teach a salary negotiation workshop.
  • Develop your own personal life plan in the course “Know Thyself!
  • Start a group to build a new company or nonprofit.
  • Take the course “Game On!” to develop life skills not taught in traditional schools.
  • Teach members how to evaluate a company to make sure they have a healthy work culture.
  • If you want to move into a socially beneficial career, take the courses and workshops called “Do Something That Matters.”
Michael Freedman

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