Tim fears that the "profits are screwing the workers” meme is catching on. My chart, I hope, might shed light here.It shows the share of profits and employee compensation (wages plus employers' NICs) in GDP*.My chart starts in 1955, when the ONS's quarterly GDP data began.For me, a few points stand out:
1. The wage share was unusually high in the mid-70s, and the profit share unusually low. It is, therefore a little misleading to speak of changes in income distribution since the mid-70s. Profits then were so low that they either had to rebound or capitalism would have collapsed.
2.The wage share is lower now than it was at any time up to the early 80s. However, this reflects not so much a high profit share as a rise in self-employment incomes.
3. Since the mid-90s, the wage share has risen and profit share fallen.
4.During the recession, there has actually been a shift in incomes from profits to wages. Since 2007Q4, the wage share in GDP has risen by one percentage point and the profit share has fallen by almost two percentage points - thanks to lower oil and financial profits; non-oil, non-financial profits have held up (table K1 of this pdf).
The general message I take from this is that the claim "capitalists exploit workers" is a general statement about the nature of capitalism. It might be true or false - I think true but that's another tale - but it is no truer or falser now than normal.Insofar as workers' living standards are being squeezed, it's because of the recession and stagnation in productivity, not because the rate of capitalist exploitation has increased to unusually high levels.
* I'm using employee compensation because only these data are, so far, available for Q3.