- Important: All passwords were reset on 06/15/11. Old passwords will no longer work. Click here to retrieve your password.
- Subscribe to Our Free Dewsletter
We are non-commercial, all volunteer and supported by our readers. Please help sustain the Dew by making a donation.
The 99 Percent Spring
The people aren’t powerless in the face of extreme inequality.
At the root of this discontent are the extreme inequalities of income, wealth, and opportunity that have emerged over the last four decades.
The richest 1 percent now owns over 36 percent of all the wealth in the United States. That’s more than the net worth of the bottom 95 percent combined. This 1 percent has pocketed almost all of the wealth gains of the last decade.
In 2010, the 1 percent earned 21 percent of all income, up from only 8 percent in mid-1970s. The 400 wealthiest individuals on the Forbes 400 list have more wealth than the bottom 150 million Americans.
These trends among the 1 percent are bad for the rest of us. Concentrated wealth translates into political clout — the power to use campaign contributions to rent politicians and tilt the rules of the economy in their favor.
Websites dramatizing the “We are the 99 percent” movement are full of personal stories of young people who are saddled with debt and no futures, and middle class families that have seen the American Dream collapse around them, losing jobs, homes, and hopes for the future.
“I used to dream about becoming the first woman president,” one woman wrote. “Now I dream about getting a job with health insurance.”
Reading these stories, I’m struck that the underlying conditions that have squeezed millions of Americans aren’t going away. The current political system, captured by large corporations and the wealthy, is incapable of responding to their needs.
The “99 to 1″ dichotomy may strike some folks as polarizing and inaccurate. Yet it’s a powerful lens for understanding what’s happened to our society and economy over the last several decades. The rules guiding our economy have been skewed to benefit the 1 percent at the expense of the 99 percent. These rules include tax policies, global trade agreements, and government actions that benefit asset owners at the expense of wage earners.
Who is the “1 percent”? Primarily it consists of households with annual incomes that top $500,000 and wealth exceeding $5 million. The 1 percent isn’t a monolithic interest group. Plenty of people within this group have devoted their lives to building a healthy economy that works for everyone. But there’s a small segment within the 1 percent — the “rule riggers” — who use their power and wealth to influence the political game so that they and their corporations get more power and wealth.
Just as individuals in the 1 percent are diverse actors, the 1 percent of corporations is also not unified. There are several thousand multinational corporations — the Wall Street inequality machine — that are the drivers of rule changes. But they are the minority. There are millions of other built-to-last corporations and Main Street businesses that strengthen our communities and have a stake in an economy that works for everyone.
We must defend ourselves from the bad actors — the built-to-loot companies whose business model is focused on shifting costs onto society, shedding jobs, and extracting wealth from our communities and the healthy economy.
This spring, watch for millions of people in motion, participating in protests at banks, outside lawmakers’ offices, and in the streets. They’ll be pressing for an economy that works for the 100 percent, not just the 1 percent. This is a healthy sign for our nation because it dramatizes that the people aren’t powerless in the face of extreme inequality.
Worthy of Comment
Also on the Dew
When in the life of a democratic nation it becomes clear that the government has parted ways with the governed and evinces no intention to reform, a decent respect for the opinions of mankind requires that the governed, i.e. the People, should declare in terms both broad and narrow the causes that impel them toward a separation of their own. We the People hold to be self-evident the same truths that were proclaimed in the Declaration of Independence of 1776, chief among them an inalienable right to Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness, and we remind the nation’s leaders that e Read on →
A big part of the future of Gwinnett may be happening right now, and most people don't realize it. Already underway at the current 168-acre excess land of the OFS fiber optic cable plant (the former Western Electric site) at Jimmy Carter Boulevard and Interstate 85, is filming of a major motion picture. It's to be called Fast and Furious 7, an action-crime-thriller, and is a $300 million blockbuster being produced by Universal Studios, entirely in Gwinnett County. It stars Vin Diesel, Paul Walker and Dwayne Johnson. It's the first big movie being shot at this location. Indications are that the site Read on →
Way back in 1988, I sat across from Strom Thurmond in his Capitol Hill office in Washington, D.C., and listened as he explained his opposition to federal anti-lynching laws and any other federal encroachment on states’ rights during his long career. “I felt it was dangerous to shift it all to Washington,” the then-85-year-old U.S. senator and former Dixiecrat presidential candidate from South Carolina told me. “Lynching was nothing but murder. All states had laws against murder. … I’ve never had any feelings against minorities.” Never mind that Thurmond, who died at 101 in 2003, led the Dixiecrat revolt out of the Democratic Par Read on →
"If you ever get the chance to go to Dallas, take it from me, pass it by," so sang Jimmy Buffett. "People do you wrong down in Dallas," the song pointed out. "Dallas," written by Roger Bartlett in 1974, had nothing to do with the pain we associate with "Big D." Yet the tragedy and heartache still comes to mind whenever the song is played -- at least 'round here. Some of John F. Kennedy's advisers wished the president would pass Dallas by. His personal secretary, Evelyn Lincoln told JFK of premonitions about a Dallas trip. Kennedy revealed a sense of Read on →