A few years ago, I attended Occupy Denton, lending my voice to those of other Dentonites cursing the wealth and privilege of America’s richest and the bankruptcy of the American economic system. Since hindsight is always 20/20, I have recently questioned the impact and the validity of the Occupy Movement. I think the movement was poorly executed, especially considering the backlash received and the lack of progress made.
However, this isn’t to say the cause was not just. Income inequality is one of the most blatant examples of ethical bankruptcy in American culture. Capitalism is an absurd system hellbent on maximizing profits, to the point where it drives the bankruptcy of socio-political structure (see:?Citizen’s United v. FEC,?McCutcheon v. FEC).
Below are some facts highlighting the ethical bankruptcy of American economics:
- Wages, as a percentage of the overall economy, have dropped to historical lows.
- The richest 1% in America take home 20% of the national income, the highest figure since since the laissez-faire government of President Calvin Coolidge. The laissez-faire system is considered by some to be one of the major contributors to the Great Depression.
- In 81 percent of U.S. counties, the median household income, $52,000, is less than it was 15 years ago, despite the economy having grown 83 percent in the last 25 years and corporate profits having doubled. We’re producing twice the amount of?goods and services, but seeing less profit for our work.
- Wall Street, who were not held to account for their role in the Great Recession, pulled in bonuses last year that?equalled more than twice the total earnings of all minimum wage workers in the country.
- Union membership is at a 70-year low, threatening the rights of workers in the United States. Only 11% of American workers are unionized, down from 40% in 1978.
- When adjusted for inflation, the minimum wage has decreased while CEO compensation has risen 300% and corporate profits have doubled.
- The average wealth of a typical white American ($113,000) is about 20 times higher than the average wealth of the?typical African-American ($5,600) and 18 times higher than the average wealth of the?typical Hispanic American ($6,300).
- In 1970, a woman earned 60 cents on the dollar compared to men. That figure increased to 80 cents on the dollar in 2005, and has not increased since. African-American women earn 64 cents on the dollar compared to white men and Hispanic women earn 53 cents on the dollar compared to white men.
- Americans under 35 have seen the median wealth of their demographic drop 68% since 1984, while the median wealth of Americans over 35 has increased 42% in that time.
- The poorest half of the world’s population owns 1% of the worlds wealth, while the richest 1% owns 46%. More locally, the poorest half of the U.S. population owns 2.5%, while the richest 1% own 35%.
- Compared to the amount of money brought home by the average worker, CEOs made 24 times more in 1965. That number jumped to 42 times in 1980. Today, CEOs made 325 times the amount of money as the average worker. Many CEO’s actually make more than their companies pay in taxes.
- Opportunity is lost in American economics. Following World War II, a child born into poverty had a 50% chance of scaling the income ladder and becoming part of the middle class. In 1980, that figure lowered to 40% and today, a child born into poverty has only a 33% chance of?climbing into the middle class.
- Congress is responsible for taxing the wealthy, yet more than half of U.S. Congressmen are millionaires.
- In 1970, there were five registered lobbyists working on behalf of wealthy corporations in Congress. Five for all 535 Congressmen. Today, there are around 22 per Congressman.
- The United States borrowed over $1 trillion in order to cover the Bush tax cuts.
The American worker is little more than an indentured servant in a system of ethical bankruptcy designed to amputate piece-by-piece until there is nothing left to take. This was the reason for Occupy and whatever the opinion of Occupy was, given the information above, the pursuit was noble.
I don’t find it acceptable to live in an economic environment with this much ethical bankruptcy running rampant.