• [In] a recent survey of 116 U.S. cities, there was an average of 42 tanning salons per city. This means that tanning salons are more prevalent than Starbuck’s or McDonald’s.

    Paige Goedde
  • Males today have become much too obsessed with maintaining a masculine image in order to be constantly climbing higher on the social ladder

    Sarah Pierce
  • If the TV industry really wants to give these teens hope, they need to portray gay teens as they are—uncertainty and all. 

    Ashley Davidson
  • If we were all to just put down our devices for a short while and pull our eyes away from our phones and television screens, we might save some lives, treat everyone a little nicer, pay attention to the things that really matter, and succeed more in schoolwork and in life.

    Jillian Leedy
  • Pro-life supporters believe those who are pro-choice think that fetuses are not human, while pro-choice supporters actually think that fetuses are not human beings, a distinction that clearly needs to be made and clarified. 

    Todd Testerman

Occupy Wall Street and the Problems of Income Inequality

By Joey Crusham

“We are the 99%”; this is the slogan of the controversial Occupy Wall Street movement that developed last year. The motto is pointing toward the dominance of wealth by the top 1% wage earners and how Occupy represents the other 99% of people opposing the current situation. As much as the group has been talked about, a lot of people still don’t know what the movement stands for. Occupy Wall Street is fighting for the 99% of people in America who fall below the top 1% economically. I remember when “Occupy the Oval” was happening here at Ohio State, I heard countless people say they had no idea what the Occupy movement meant. A good friend of mine said, “They’re all just a bunch of hippies.” The main concern of Occupy Wall Street is a general disgust with the way that income is distributed in this country currently. That’s all the movement really is at its core; it’s a bunch of people fed up with the wealthy controlling money and power. Occupy Wall Street’s frustration with income inequality has merit, and this inequality negatively effects the vast majority of American citizens, 99% of them to be exact.

Where did the idea for Occupy Wall Street come from? Philosophers and political scientists have been theorizing the problems of income inequality for quite some time. Most people would immediately say that the communist works of Karl Marx apply to this movement the best, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. Elite Theory best applies to Occupy Wall Street’s arguments, and it has been discussed by many prominent theorists but most notably by George William Domhoff in his 1967 book Who Rules America?  In the book, he presents the idea of there being a distinct upper class in America. This was not a widely held opinion when he wrote the book in 1967, but recently it seems to have become more plausible. According to the Congressional Budget Office, the top 1% of Americans’ salary has gone up 275% from 1979 to 2007, while the 60% of Americans in the middle of the income scale only had a 40% increase. Domhoff writes that the same members belong to all the powerful political groups and control business as well as the government through their wealth. He adds that they are able to keep this secret by also influencing the media and what gets out to the public. This theory falls very well in line with the Occupy movement’s beliefs that the top 1% have gained too much power and wealth.

Do statistics back up the frustration? An article written by Catherine Rampell in the New York Times entitled “About That 99 Percent...” seems to indicate so. Households right at the 99th percentile cutoff will earn about $506,553 this year on average. This is a lot, but it gets worse. The income curve is VERY steep, “meaning that people just a few tenths of a percentile point above that make much, much more.” An example of this is a family at the 99.5 percentile makes $815,868 on average while a family at the 99.9 percentile makes $2,075,574 a year on average. According to Thomas Piketty and Emanuel Saez, two economists who study equality, “The top 1 percent of American earners receive about a fifth of the country’s income...” Why should one percent of the country have 20% of its income? This is only the beginning of the wealth inequality in our country; we still need to address the accumulation of wealth. Rampell’s article goes on to say, “According to an analysis of Federal Reserve data by the Economic Policy Institute, a liberal research organization, the top 1 percent of Americans by net worth hold about a third of American wealth.” The average net worth of someone in the 99th percentile was $19,167,600 as of 2007. This research clearly confirms that the Occupy movement’s disgust with wealth inequality is justified.

So now that we’ve identified a problem with wealth inequality, what can we do about it? Many would say that possibility for change is hopeless, and they may be right; any kind of change would have to come through the government. According to Politifact, 47% and 56% percent of the house and senate are millionaires respectively, so it is not in their interest to make any reforms. But there are a few things that would at least help the current situation. We could raise income tax on the wealthiest Americans, but that would most likely be met with a lot of criticism for taxing “job creators.” The most realistic thing we could do to cure our country’s wealth inequality is to raise the capital gains tax. This has gotten some recent publicity with Republican Presidential hopeful Mitt Romney releasing his tax returns. According to an article in the Huffington Post by Steve Holland entitled, “Mitt Romney Tax Returns Released,” Romney has accumulated $42.5 million between 2010 and 2011, and will only pay 15.4% of that in federal income tax. For his income tax bracket, he should be paying 35% in taxes, but since those earnings were made from investments, or “capital gains,” he only pays 15% in taxes. This is outrageous really, that someone can be paying 20% less in taxes just because it was made in the stock market. The revenue generated from these tax increases could be used toward various government programs that help the middle class and struggling demographics of society. Policies could be similar to what F.D.R. did with the New Deal; he implemented institutions such as the National Youth Administration which employed over 2 million high school and college students.      

The Occupy Wall Street movement has gotten a lot of heat when people don’t actually know what the group stands for or what the facts of the current situation are. Many college students I’ve talked with that do not care for the movement do not even realize that Occupy Wall Street has expressed concern for rising tuition rates, a concern most students would share. I think that it’s really important for people at this pivotal moment to recognize what this movement stands for and how it can help us make a better future for our country. Occupy’s message is correct; the wealth inequality in our country is terrible. Change is needed desperately. Alexis de Tocqueville came to America in 1835 to observe democracy and compare it to the terrible aristocracy in his native France. He wrote the classic Democracy in America describing his trip. Tocqueville said that the best thing about our country was the sense of equality that everyone shared. We need to move closer toward what he admired and further from the tyrannical aristocracy that the current wealth inequality is causing in our nation. So, Occupy Wall Street is not about adopting a radical change in our society as many fear; it is actually the contrary. It is about returning to our country’s roots.  

See more articles about: