According to economists and the media, in June 2009 we came out of the deepest recession since the Great Depression and we’ve been on the upswing since. Unemployment’s down, with corporate profits recouping their losses from the recession and hitting new highs along with the stock market.
But it really continues to be a tale of two economies: one that works for the 1 percent and another, in which the 99 percent are increasingly falling behind.
For some striking evidence, look at the recent study by a prominent economist reported in the New York Times.
As the recovery took hold in 2010, UC Berkeley economist Emmanuel Saenz reported, the top 1 percent captured 93 percent of the income gains.
Top incomes grew 11.6 percent in 2010, while the incomes of the 99 percent increased only 0.2 percent. That tiny gain followed a drop of nearly 12 percent over the previous two years – the largest two-year drop since the Depression.
Other signs on the economic landscape also show the wreckage for those not protected by wealth.
Despite a dip in unemployment and the most the most recent more optimistic job creation numbers, the economy isn’t producing enough jobs on a sustained basis to permanently reduce unemployment. And many of the jobs that have been created pay severely reduced wages. Under the two-tiered wage systems increasingly favored by U.S. corporations, new blue-collar jobs pay start at a steeply lower hourly wage than they did in the past – $12 to $19 an hour as opposed to $21 to $32.
One in seven Americans are on food stamps, while high gas prices put the squeeze on low-income and working people alike. Meanwhile, foreclosures are on the rise in the wake of the state attorneys general announcement of a settlement over foreclosure fraud charges with the biggest banks, though the details of the settlement still haven’t been released.
The Occupy movement has put the great divide between the 1 percent and the 99 percent on the political map, forcing President Obama to acknowledge income inequality in his state of the union speech as the “defining issue” of our time, while the Republican’s front-running presidential candidate, Mitt Romney has dismissed such concerns as “envy.”
Obama’s concern about inequality has yet to translate itself into effective action, and it’s unclear, given the strong ties he’s had to the big banks and corporate titans, whether he’s capable of delivering.
Occupy, after delivering a much-needed jolt to the public discourse, likewise, has also yet to show that it can go beyond influencing the debate to actually winning gains for the 99 percent and reducing the widening inequality gap.
It’s no coincidence that income inequality has accelerated as large corporations have grown more influential in our political system through the clout of their cash, encouraging deregulation, tax cuts, trade deals and a host of other policies that benefit the 1 percent and disadvantage the rest of us. The fight against income inequality and for a more fair economy inevitably leads to the fight to rid our government of toxic corporate donations. Find out about WheresOurMoney’s constitutional amendment to undo Citizens United, the U.S. Supreme Court’s terrible decision that unleashes unlimited, anonymous corporate political donations, here.