Occupy Wall Street anniversary: Income inequality gap has grown wider

On September 17, 2013, the Occupy Wall Street movement celebrated its two-year anniversary. What began as a grassroots protest against income inequality has become an inspiration for similar protest movements. Unfortunately, during the past two years, the nation has seen the growth of income inequality.

English: Income inequality, United States, 197...

Income inequality, United States, 1979-2007

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Occupy Wall Street

By 2011 the effects of the stock market crash of 2008 had not lessened for most Americans. Thousands of jobs had evaporated and it was clear that the bailouts had gone to prop up the very institutions that had engineered the crash. People were angry to the point where they demanded to be heard.

On September 17, 2011, the Occupy movement established itself at the center of the global financial crisis – Wall Street. The call to occupy came from the anti-corporation magazine Adbusters. The idea was to create an American version of the Arab spring with Wall Street occupation as the equivalent of Tahrir Square.

Jeremy White detailed the timeline of the 2011 Occupy events in his December 22, 2011, post for IBTimes.com titled, “2011 In Review: Occupy Wall Street Timeline.”

According to White, “Despite constant criticisms that it lacked a concrete set of goals or demands, Occupy Wall Street’s broad critique of economic injustice resonated with a country still grappling with the fallout from the financial crisis.”

Without clearly defined demands, organization or leadership, a quick demise was predicted. Yet within weeks protests appeared in Boston and spread west to California. By November, the port of Oakland, one of the country’s largest shipping hubs, had been shut down.

A new phrase, “We are the 99 percent,” was added to the American lexicon. Not only has Occupy Wall Street endured, it has spawned similar movements such as Occupy the SEC and Occupy Our Homes.

Income Inequality and the 99 percent

The catch-phrase, “99 percent” reflects the view that the 2008 crash brought about the largest transfer of wealth in history. Millions of workers watched helplessly as their retirement funds plunged in value. As if that wasn’t enough, those who owned homes saw their equity fade into negative numbers as their home value sank well below the mortgage balance they carried.

Where did all that wealth go? Apparently it went to the one percent. According to research conducted by economists at the University of California, Berkeley and the Paris School of Economics at Oxford University, the gap between the richest one percent and the rest of Americans has grown to its widest level in history.

Inequality for all

For more than 30 years, economist Robert Reich has worked to educate Americans about the dangers of income inequality. Reich outlined his views about the rise of income inequality and what can be done with Erik Sherman in an interview for CBSNews.com titled, “Reich: Inequality approaching a tipping point.”

Summarizing some of Reich’s conclusions, Sherman said, “As he puts it, the Occupy and Tea Party movements are both reactions to the current state of things[…]. But although unequal income distribution is the problem, Reich argues that blaming one side or the other isn’t the answer.”

You can learn more about income inequality and what can be done about it in Robert Reich’s film Inequality for All, which opens on September 27, 2013.

Zombie economics

Income inequality has increased because of economic theories that are flawed yet remain in practice. An exploration as to why this is the case can be found in the book Zombie Economics: How Dead Ideas Still Walk Among Us by John Quiggin.

One theory discussed in the book is the trickle-down theory, which states that if the rich get richer that’s good for the economy. The theory postulates that the wealth will eventually trickle down to the masses below. However, history has not proven this to be the case. According to Quiggin, outdated economic theories such as trickle-down theory remain like zombies and refuse to die.

Many economists have noted that years of following trickle-down economics have gotten us nowhere. Quiggin said, “By the 1980s, economists, such as Katharine Bradbury, Gary Burtless and Paul Krugman were pointing with alarm to the disappearance of the middle-class America in which they had grown up. This concern has grown steadily, as the growth of inequality has become ever more visible.”

Robin Hood tax

HR 1579 is a tax on Wall Street transactions that will raise billions to help provide essential services for people. It is supported by Al Gore, Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, Bill Gates and United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, among others. To find out more go to RobinHoodTax.org.

Have you taken part in a Tea Party or Occupy protest? Tell us what inspired you in the comments below.

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