News / Economy

Occupy Wall Street Protests Highlight Rich-Poor Gap

Protesters affiliated with the Occupy Wall Street movement hold up a sign in the center of Winter Garden Atrium in Three World Financial Center, New York, New York, December 12, 2011.
Protesters affiliated with the Occupy Wall Street movement hold up a sign in the center of Winter Garden Atrium in Three World Financial Center, New York, New York, December 12, 2011.

The growing income gap between rich and poor is one of the reasons that activists from the Occupy Wall Street movement staged protests in New York, across the United States and in other nations in 2011.

Major studies leave no doubt that the income gap is growing, but there is an even wider gulf in opinions about what, if anything, to do about it.

Activists in hundreds of cities protested economic inequality and unemployment.

They say troubled banks get bailed out by taxpayers, but ordinary people with financial problems face foreclosure.

The Occupy movement blames the financial crisis on banks and Wall Street, and says the wealthiest one percent of the population gets too much money and takes advantage of the 99 percent, buying political power to block taxes on the rich and slash social services for the poor.

It is demanding a more equitable society through more taxes on the wealthy and more regulation of business.

But Peter Wallison of the American Enterprise Institute says lower  taxes and less business regulation would help the economy.   

He says the growth of high tech firms like Apple computer show government should get out of the way of entrepreneurs like Steve Jobs.

Wallison says income inequality is less important than the possibility of getting rich, which drives entrepreneurs to take risks and create products.

"Many of these people grew up in very poor circumstances [Apple computer co-founder] Steve Jobs was a great example of that, and turned out to be a very wealthy man because of  the things he was able to do in our very flexible society," says Wallison.

But John Cavanagh of the Institute for Policy Studies says high unemployment raises doubts about the rags to riches story.

"I think why the Occupy movement has struck such a cord, and been so popular, that they are the living embodiment that that story is no longer true," Cavanagh says.

The Congressional Budget Office says the richest one percent of the U.S. population saw its income jump 275 percent over the past three decades, while the poorest one-fifth gained just 18 percent.

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development shows the wealthiest one-tenth of U.S. society has an income 14 times the size of that of the poorest one-tenth.

OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurria says inequality is a problem.  

"The social compact is starting to unravel in many countries. Uncertainty and fears of social decline and exclusion have reached the middle class in many societies. People feel that they are bearing the brunt of a crisis for which they have no responsibility, while those on high incomes appear to have been spared."

The protesters say they will continue as long as the economic problems that sparked the demonstrations, such as unemployment, remain unsolved.

You May Like

Turbulent Transition Imperils Tunisia’s Arab Spring Gains

Critics say new anti-terrorism laws worsen Tunisia's situation while others put faith in country’s vibrant civil organizations, women’s movement More

Burundi’s Political Crisis May Become Humanitarian One

United Nations aid agencies issue warning as deadly violence sends tens of thousands fleeing More

Yemenis Adjust to Life Under Houthi Rule

Locals want warring parties to strike deal to stop bloodletting before deciding how country is governed More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Texas Town Residents Told to 'Just Leave' Ahead of Flood Threati
X
Greg Flakus
May 29, 2015 11:24 PM
Water from heavy rain in eastern and central Texas is now swelling rivers that flow into the Gulf of Mexico, threatening towns along their banks. VOA’s Greg Flakus visited the town of Wharton, southwest of Houston, where the Colorado River is close to cresting.
Video

Video Texas Town Residents Told to 'Just Leave' Ahead of Flood Threat

Water from heavy rain in eastern and central Texas is now swelling rivers that flow into the Gulf of Mexico, threatening towns along their banks. VOA’s Greg Flakus visited the town of Wharton, southwest of Houston, where the Colorado River is close to cresting.
Video

Video New York's One World Trade Center Observatory Opens to Public

From New Jersey to Long Island, from Northern suburbs to the Atlantic Ocean, with all of New York City in-between.  That view became available to the public Friday as the One World Trade Center Observatory opened in New York -- atop the replacement for the buildings destroyed in the September 11, 2001, attacks.  VOA’s Bernard Shusman reports.
Video

Video Seoul Sponsors Korean Unification Fair

With inter-Korean relations deteriorating over the North’s nuclear program, past military provocations and human rights abuses, many Koreans still hold out hope for eventual peaceful re-unification. VOA’s Brian Padden visited a “unification fair” held this week in Seoul, where border communities promoted the benefits of increased cooperation.
Video

Video Purple Door Coffeeshop: Changing Lives One Cup at a Time

For a quarter of his life, Kevin Persons lived on the street. Today, he is working behind the counter of an espresso bar, serving coffee and working to transition off the streets and into a home. Paul Vargas reports for VOA.
Video

Video Modular Robot Getting Closer to Reality

A robot being developed at Carnegie Mellon University has evolved into a multi-legged modular mechanical snake, able to move over rugged surfaces and explore the surroundings. Scientists say such machines could someday help in search and rescue operations. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Shanghai Hosts Big Consumer Electronics Show

Electronic gadgets are a huge success in China, judging by the first Asian Consumer Electronics Show, held this week in Shanghai. Over the course of two days, more than 20,000 visitors watched, tested and played with useful and some less-useful electronic devices exhibited by about 200 manufacturers. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Forced to Return Home, Afghan Refugees Face Increased Hardship

Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Britain Makes Controversial Move to Crack Down on Extremism

Britain is moving to tighten controls on extremist rhetoric, even when it does not incite violence or hatred -- a move that some are concerned might unduly restrict basic freedoms. It is an issue many countries are grappling with as extremist groups gain power in the Middle East, fueled in part by donations and fighters from the West. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video 3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Car

Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Al-Shabab Recruitment Drive Still on In Kenya

The al-Shabab militants that have long battled for control of Somalia also have recruited thousands of young people in Kenya, leaving many families disconsolate. Mohammed Yusuf recently visited the Kenyan town of Isiolo, and met with relatives of those recruited, as well as a many who have helped with the recruiting.
Video

Video A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensions

When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.

VOA Blogs

World Currencies

EUR
USD
0.9115
JPY
USD
123.92
GBP
USD
0.6554
CAD
USD
1.2443
INR
USD
63.800

Rates may not be current.