Category Archives: Economic Inequality

Richest One Percent Own Nearly Half of the World’s Wealth

Oxfam Inequality
Chart: Oxfam

According to a new Oxfam report, global inequality has reached enormous proportions, with the richest one percent owning 46 percent of the world’s wealth. In fact, just 85 individuals now own more than the poorest half of the world’s population.

The issue of economic inequality is becoming hard to ignore, with world leaders acknowledging the problem and the World Economic Forum calling it the biggest threat to the global economy.

What is sometimes obscured in the debate is the fact that inequality is a problem with political causes and political solutions. The Oxfam report makes clear that economic inequality is directly correlated with both financial deregulation and reduction of the top marginal tax rates, while it is inversely proportional to factors such as the strength of unions.

Media Matters for America has published an excellent analysis of media myths regarding economic inequality. Among the oft-repeated myths: the poor need economic growth more than equality; inequality does not cause poverty; government can’t do anything about inequality; and reducing inequality is bad for the economy. The Media Matters report counters these myths with the facts: inequality causes poverty, and government can address it by raising taxes on the rich, increasing financial regulation, and investing in education and health care, all measures that are likely to increase economic growth.

Occupy Movement Set the Stage for a Minimum Wage Increase

Occupy Tampa
An Occupy Tampa protester in October 2011. Photo: Brendan Conley.

At the height of the Occupy Wall Street demonstration and subsequent worldwide Occupy movement in the fall of 2011, the protesters were often criticized for not having clear demands or goals. However, the movement made income inequality a central part of the political conversation, and that has had lasting effects.

As Mark Weisbrot of the Center for Economic and Policy Research points out in a U.S. News & World Report article, the movement forced politicians to take a stand on income inequality and helped create a political atmosphere in which the current push to raise the minimum wage has a good chance of success. A minimum wage hike is long overdue and would be a crucial step in addressing income disparity in the United States.

Too often, street protests are dismissed because they do not have immediate effects, and later political changes are seen as the initiative of benevolent politicians. However, throughout history, demonstrations have been a vital part of the democratic process, changing the political conversation and putting the powerful on notice.