One of the primary reasons people took slaves was to work. Why would they do that? Because the cheap, extracted labor of others produces enormous wealth for the individuals who control the labor market. Obtaining and keeping slaves entailed certain costs but they were minuscule compared to the wealth produced by each individual.
Obvious right? [even as it is equally ethically despicable]
So why isn't it equally obvious that when you work for substantially less than your VALUE you are an economic slave [I mean this in no way to take away from the horrors and abuses of physical slavery], you have simply outsourced the cost of obtaining and keeping slaves as a nominal fee now paid to you.
My point here is that we have to fight to ensure that our labor is not undervalued.
Meanwhile, corporations are posting a continuous stream of record profits: http://www.economicpopulist.org/content/corporate-profits-q3-2011-21
If corporations are sitting on ~1.8 trillion dollars, that would fund 25 million jobs at $72,000/year - the vast majority of which would flow Right Back into the economy, fueling economic growth, boosting the flagging GDP, remove dependence for millions on social support structures (unemployment, health care) thus lowering the social burden. But we seem to be taking every possible action to ensure the exact opposite processes are engaged.
Are they just fearful, stupid, or evil?
What I'm absolutely certain of is that the GOP have blockaded the recovery of the economy every step of the way. The stimulus was a clear win for economic policy, now what is holding us back is partly the fear-mongering of the GOP combined with their refusal to allow anything even remotely resembling sane policy to pass the Congress.