By David A. Love
Progressive Media Project
The Occupy Wall Street protesters have legitimate grievances, and our elected officials ought to address them.
The demonstrators are pointing at the widening inequality in America, which is not some illusion but a glaring reality, as several recent reports demonstrate.
A new report from the Bertelsmann Foundation shows that it is harder to climb the economic ladder in America than in nearly any other country in the developed world. Of the 31 countries surveyed, America came in at an astonishing 27. (Canada ranked number nine.)
Meanwhile, a study by the Congressional Budget Office found that the United States has become substantially more unequal over the past several decades. Between 1979 and 2007, the incomes of the top 1 percent of Americans increased dramatically, while the incomes of the remaining 99 percent were relatively flat.
While the top 1 percent experienced a 275 percent jump during that period, the middle 60 percent had a less than 40 percent increase. And the bottom fifth saw an increase of less than 20 percent.
An analysis by the Pew Research Center gives credence to the belief that younger Americans — with high unemployment and burgeoning student loans and mortgages — have it harder than their parents. Based on census data, the Pew study found that the wealth gap between the young and the old is the largest ever, with the average household headed by a senior having a net worth 47 times greater than a household headed by a person under 35. This gap has more than doubled since 2005, and increased five times in the past 25 years.
The vast majority of Americans understand that our economic system is rigged. According to a recent Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll, 76 percent of people agreed that America’s economic system favors a small group of rich folks over everyone else, and the government should reduce the power of the big banks and corporations.
And a recent New York Times/CBS poll showed that 66 percent of the American public believes that “the money and wealth in this country should be more evenly distributed.”
That’s what the Occupy Wall Street movement is all about. It’s about bringing economic fairness to America so that we can live up to our claim of being the land of opportunity.
David A. Love is a writer for Progressive Media Project, a source of liberal commentary on domestic and international issues; it is affiliated with The Progressive magazine.