May 24, 1996 in City

Poll: State Voters Working Harder Just To Stay Afloat

Hal Spencer Associated Press
 
Tags:economy

The treadmill is speeding up for Jack Adams, and he’s not alone. Three of four Washington voters say they’re running harder than they were four years ago just to stay even economically.

“I’m working longer hours, and there’s more time involved. It used to be a five-day week, now it’s a seven-day week,” says Adams, a 52-year-old Hoquiam logger.

“It’s a squeeze play from every position - higher taxes, less profit, everything is so expensive.”

The lament, shared by three-fourths of the 556 voters polled in the Mood of Washington survey, didn’t surprise Jerry Lassen, a professor of economics at Evergreen State College.

“It’s well-documented that the real wage has not gone up since 1969,” he said. “Median family income has increased slightly, but one reason for that is both people are working, so everybody is working harder.”

Take taxes, for example.

“Most of the tax breaks during the 1980s were extraordinarily beneficial for the wealthy,” Lassen said. “Meanwhile, wage earners were hit by Social Security tax increases.”

The survey, conducted in late April for The Associated Press and 12 newspapers around the state by researchers at Washington State University, asked voters to respond to the following statement: “I have to work harder today to maintain my standard of living than I did four years ago.”

Respondents who agreed totaled 76.7 percent.

The survey had a margin of error of less than plus or minus 4.3 percentage points.

The view that people must work harder to stay afloat was shared almost equally by white- and blue-collar workers and by men and women, the survey showed.

“The cost of living is higher, the cost of gas and electricity has gone up,” said Gerald V. Barnett, 38, a Spokane Valley machinist.

“I work overtime and that helps. But the more you make, the more they take out in taxes.”

Judith Jenkins Harlin, 42, a teacher and now “stay-at-home-mom” in Redmond, said workers she knows, including her husband, “are being asked to work harder, faster, better, with more duties.”

“It’s ironic that with all our technology we have less leisure time,” she said.

“The faster we can move, the faster we are asked to move and it’s taking its toll on public morale.”

xxxx KEY FINDINGS The survey also found that: While voters are struggling, they’re still fairly secure in their jobs. Only one in four said they were worried about being in an unemployment line. But about 41 percent said they feared they would not be able to find another job paying as well as their current one. About 84 percent said they considered the economy a major issue in this year’s gubernatorial race, and roughly three in four said they considered state spending and overhaul of the welfare system to be big issues. Almost 84 percent said there should be limits on how long people can stay on welfare. The findings seem to add up to one thing: The economic squeeze is on and people feel it.


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