10 April 2019   Leave a comment

The US Bureau of Labor Statistics has released its March 2019 update on wages in the US and the results are quite striking. According to Statista:

“Denominated in constant 1982-1984 dollars, average hourly wages dropped from $9.40 in February to $9.38 in March, with average weekly earnings amounting to $315.98.

“Since it’s hard to grasp the value of $9.38 in 1982 from today’s point of view, we took the liberty of calculating real wages in today’s prices and taking a look at what wages from 1964 onwards would be worth today. As the following chart shows, today’s wages in the United States are at a historically high level with average hourly earnings in March 2019 amounting to $23.24 in 2019 dollars. Coincidentally that matches the longtime peak of March 1974, when hourly wages adjusted to 2019 dollars amounted to exactly the same sum.”

The chart below puts real wages (nominalized in terms of inflation) in context. Wages have essentially stagnated since 1974. It is hard to believe that workers have not seen a real increase in wages for over 4- years.

The European Union (EU) has granted an extension to Great Britain on the terms of its exit. The new date for an agreement is 31 October. The extension means that Great Britain will participate in the elections for the European Parliament in May, although, if Great Britain leaves the EU on 31 October, its Parliament representatives will have to resign on that date. The EU had little choice but to grant the extension–France was most reluctant to grant a delay. It remains to be seen whether the additional time makes any difference given that Prime Minister May has not been able to persuade Parliament to agree to any terms of departure so far. In her weakened political position, it is hard to imagine her becoming more effective without persuading the Labor Party to participate.

It appears as if Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu will be able to organize a majority coalition in the Knesset even though his Likud Party only won the same number of seats as his opposition, the Blue and White Party led by Gantz. A variety of splinter parties have promised to support Netanyahu, giving him the majority. Those parties are described by Bernard Avishai in the New Yorker:

“In the end, Netanyahu’s Likud gained about thirteen thousand more votes than Blue and White, tying it at thirty-five seats, five more than it won in 2015. Two ultra-Orthodox, or Haredi, parties—United Torah Judaism and Shas—improved their standing, winning eight seats each, and pledged their allegiance to Netanyahu. The national-Orthodox Union of Right-Wing Parties won five seats and had already pledged the same; their settler-zealot leader, Bezalel Smotrich, the new leader of the Jewish Home party’s National Union faction and an ally of the acolytes of the late extreme-right Rabbi Meir Kahane, is claiming to have been promised both the Education and Justice ministries, which are currently held by Naftali Bennett’s ultra-right New Right Party. 

The character of the coalition suggests that Netanyahu will be beholden to the most extreme elements of the Israeli electorate. There are many who are concerned that the results of the election do not serve the interests of Israel as a democratic state. It also suggests a weakening of any prospects for a negotiated peace between Israel and the Palestinians.

Posted April 10, 2019 by vferraro1971 in World Politics

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