At the start of the Occupy Wall Street movement, critics claimed the protestors were without purpose and intended to create chaos in and around Wall Street. However, the general assembly of the occupy movement prepared a declaration that said they had “gathered to express a feeling of mass injustice by people who feel wronged by the corporate forces of the world,” and listed about 24 facts detailing how the wealthy and their corporations were subverting democracy and the ability of the people to have a voice in their own government. The movement’s complaints could be condensed down to growing income inequality, the lack of jobs with decent benefits, and corporate influence in government.
It is little wonder that Republicans are terrified by the occupy movement because the income inequality they cite in their declaration is the product of giving unfair advantages to the wealthiest Americans that Republicans have championed since Ronald Reagan was president. Although it has been thirty years since the Reagan Administration began promoting their trickle down economic scam, Republicans are still pushing the idea that giving the wealthy tax cuts and advantages is necessary and beneficial for economic growth and job creation that might eventually benefit the poor and middle class. The facts though, do not reflect Republicans’ contentions and if anything, prove what the occupy movement and many Americans already believe; the lion’s share of economic growth and wealth has trickled up to the wealthiest 1% of Americans.
A new report by the Congressional Budget Office shows that over the past 28 years, the wealthiest one percent of Americans’ income grew 275% and confirms the occupy movement’s claim that government policies disproportionately favor the rich. During that same period, twenty percent of the wealthiest Americans’ income grew by 65%, and those in the middle (60% of Americans) had income growth of under 40 percent. As is usually the case, Americans with the lowest income (20% of Americans) had income growth of just 18 percent. Those figures do not reflect the devastating effect of the Bush-recession caused by deregulation of the financial industry and continued tax cuts for the wealthy. It is surprising that it took this long for Americans to stand up and demand that the government halts the practice of allowing “corporations, which place profit over people, self-interest over justice, and oppression over equality, to run our government.”
The occupy movement is necessary to bring attention to just how incredibly difficult it is for Americans who are not wealthy to make economic progress. What is most troubling is the rapid increase in the number of Americans who live in abject poverty while the wealthy continue making huge economic gains. The federal poverty level is $11,000 for an individual and at the start of the Bush-recession in 2007, there were 37.3 million Americans living below the poverty level. At the start of 2011, the number grew to 46.2 million as more Americans’ jobs were sent overseas and the Bush recession caused consumers to stop spending money on goods and services that create jobs. What makes matters even worse is that, according to the Pew Economic Mobility Project, of the people who are in the bottom 20% economically, 42% of their children will never escape poverty because there is no economic mobility left in America.
The economic news is no better for middle class Americans who saw the median household income decline by 6.4% since the start of Bush’s recession to $49,445 for a family of four. Interestingly, as union membership and jobs has declined, so has the great middle class that drives the economy to create jobs. The occupy movement realizes that fact and it is why they complain that the lack of good, living-wage jobs with benefits has contributed to the income inequality that is crippling the nation’s economy. Republicans across the country have derided unions and collective bargaining agreements as the reason the economy is lagging, but there is no veracity to their argument. In fact, there is no veracity to any economic policies Republicans and their conservative think tanks like the vile Heritage Foundation have put forth. Conservatives have one economic policy and that is cut taxes for the wealthy and their corporations at the expense of the poor and middle class so the rich can continue increasing the income gap between haves and have nots.
It is unclear how far Republicans will go to enrich corporations and the wealthy, but it seems until the 99% are all living below the poverty level, no Republican will be satisfied. What is clear is that the Occupy Movement is on the right track and as news of their complaints is verified by economic data, Americans who are getting poorer while the wealthy get richer will come out and support them on the streets and at the ballot box. The Republicans in Congress are digging in their heels to reject all of President Obama’s job creation efforts because Democrats asked for a whopping 0.5% tax increase on millionaires and billionaires to pay for infrastructure improvements and to help states hire or retain teachers, police officers, and fire fighters.
The Occupy Movement has one advantage in their favor; cold hard data. The wealthy continue to prosper and thrive while middle class incomes are declining and millions more Americans fall into poverty with every Republican economic policy. The wealthy have increased their incomes by 275% and nothing has trickled down to the middle class or the poor and yet Republicans continue promoting the insane trickle down scam as if it will start working any day. It will never work and now that the Occupy Movement is drawing Americans’ attention to the widening income inequality that is destroying the 99%, the idea that government and the people owe the wealthy and their corporations more entitlements may finally come to an end. The alternative is an America with 99% of the population living in poverty while the wealthy 1% increases their wealth. There are historical instances where a few wealthy families control all the wealth, but the outcome is never good for the rich. Americans owe a debt of gratitude to the Occupy Movement for bringing the income inequality out in the open, for having the courage to stand up and say they are sick and tired of the wealthy and their corporations controlling the government, and especially for the prospect of finally ending the fallacy of the trickle down scam once and for all.