At long last, American workers may be getting a break. Better still, it’s a break that is likely to last for decades. Looking back, historians may call it the Great Reversal. After half a century of insecurity and inadequate wage increases, we may now be starting a long period where workers — all workers — will enjoy nicely rising pay.
Our corporations will need to reward work with higher wages. The middle class will fear less for its future. And, believe it or not, the financing of our government is likely to improve.
Both political parties will claim credit, of course, but the turnaround won’t be the result of visionary politicians working economic magic. It will be the consequence of huge global shifts. Just as major changes reduced the power of American labor from 1970 to the present, new major changes will restore that power.
Yes, those are big claims.
But I believe the case is powerful and worthy of our attention. In this column, I’ll be laying out how we got to where we are today. In the next, I’ll be citing the forces that will cause the Great Reversal. In the third, you’ll see why we’re likely to deal with things better than other countries.
The beginning of the end
Most observers like to point to 1970 as the beginning of troubles for American workers.
I prefer an earlier starting date.
Late in 1967, Houghton Mifflin published economist John Kenneth Galbraith’s The New Industrial State.
Galbraith’s book described an economy controlled by large…