If Top 1% Hadn't Ripped Off Trillions, You'd Likely Be Making Thousands of Dollars More Right Now
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As a whole, the United States remains a prosperous country, but the economy isn't working for people who make most of their income by working – the share of the nation's income going to wages hit an all-time low last year, while the share going to corporate profits was at an all-time high.
The other crucially important point is that this isn't just about fairness, and those of us who talk about this massive redistribution of wealth aren't just “sore losers,” as conservatives often contend. There's a practical issue here: the economy simply doesn't function well when working America is taking home less than half of our national income in wages.
About two-thirds of our economy is driven by consumer spending, and studies have shown that unlike ordinary people, when the very wealthy get a tax break, they don't spend more money as a result. They bank it. The other 99 percent are consumers, but having seen their incomes stagnate for three decades, they're tapped out, up to their eyeballs in debt and unable to maintain the demand that the economy requires to keep people working.
Lack of demand, rather than some nebulous sense of “uncertainty” on the part of business leaders, is our core problem, so when the top 1 percent double their share of the take, they are, as I wrote back in July, simply killing American jobs.
Obviously, understanding this doesn't lead to a manifesto or a polished 10-point plan. But this staggering redistribution of wealth is reversible, and the Occupy Wall Street movement is beginning a national conversation on inequality that has been sorely lacking in our discourse. As Nathan Schneider noted, that conversation is taking shape “offline, in a physical, public space, live and in person.” That, he writes, is “where the occupiers are assembling the rudiments of a movement.”
Joshua Holland is an editor and senior writer at AlterNet. He is the author of The 15 Biggest Lies About the Economy: And Everything else the Right Doesn't Want You to Know About Taxes, Jobs and Corporate America . Drop him an email or follow him on Twitter .