Editorial: Stocks soar, most Americans just sore

One of the prime indicators we use to judge American economic health is the U.S. stock market. By stock standards, 2013 was a banner year, seeing a 26 percent annual gain and finishing at a record mark of 16,576.

Do you feel the economy is off and running again? Are your pockets overstuffed with cash? In most of the country – where we don't spend all day trading stocks on Wall Street – we missed out on that historic success.

Corporate America dodged the New Years hangover with a very profitable year in 2013. Walmart saw profits rise 10 percent to $16 billion. The pharmaceutical company Pfizer pocketed $17 billion, and Apple led the top 10 with $46 billion in profit. Among the top 10 were two oil companies, two banks and three computer/software companies. Among them, they earned roughly $240 billion in profits last year.

The unemployment rate continues to hover around 7 percent and many Americans have not seen raises recently. Only half of all Americans own any stock, and that includes retirement accounts. That means the party at the top is becoming more and more exclusive.

If the current success for corporate America is an argument for the infamous model of “trickle down economics”, someone needs to turn on the faucet first. The stock market has increased 153 percent since 2009, while over the last year, hourly wages have risen only 2.1 percent.

Profits are not up because America is growing and flourishing, they are up because companies have squeezed every expense they can from their business mode in an effort to boost profits at all costs.

We have all learned a little about supply and demand – and cause and effect – and if corporate America does not recognize the peril of boosting profits at all costs it may find there is no one left to purchase the goods and services it produces.

It is an embarrassment some companies that needed federal money to stay afloat are flying high again only four years later, leaving behind those who provided the lifeline. But perhaps next time we will let bad business choices lead to failure rather than investing taxpayer money into companies that have little regard for the welfare of the taxpayer.