Yes income inequality is the problem
In case you were wondering if all this 99% stuff is really true, EPI has gathered all the numbers. And it is:
Daily stock indices, monthly employment reports, and even quarterly data on the gross domestic product are insufficient indicators for answering this vital question: How well is the American economy providing acceptable growth in living standards for most households? EPI’s The State of Working America, 12th Edition looks broadly at available data and concludes that the answer is simply “not well at all.”
This is not because the economy has failed to grow, on average. National income has grown enough to substantially improve the fortunes for all. As the data reveal, however, it is the top 5, the top 1, and fractions of the top 1 percent that have received almost all the benefits of the economy’s growth.
Here are some numbers for you:
A generation of rising inequalitySo let's have some more of that good stuff!
156% --- From 1979–2007, wages for the top 1 percent of wage earners grew 156 percent, compared to 17 percent for the bottom 90 percent.
60% --- From 1979–2007, the top 1 percent of tax units claimed 60 percent of the cash, market-based income growth, compared to 9 percent for the bottom 90 percent.
38.3% --- From 1983–2010, 38.3 percent of the wealth growth went to the top 1 percent and 74.2 percent to the top 5 percent. The bottom 60 percent, meanwhile, suffered a decline in wealth.
Rising inequality prevented wage growth for low- and middle-income workers
0.6% --- From 1979–2007, incomes for the middle fifth of households grew, but the annualized rate of growth (0.6 percent) reflects a deep economic failure. This middle-fifth growth lagged far behind average growth over the same period, and pales in comparison to growth during earlier periods of history; between 1947 and 1979, for example, cash incomes (not even including expanded employer-provided and government in-kind benefits like health care) for the middle fifth of American families grew at an average annual rate of 2.4 percent—or four times as fast as what was achieved by the middle fifth of households between 1979 and 2007. If the middle fifth of the income distribution had grown at the average rate of income growth overall, these households would have had income $18,897 higher in 2007.
7% --- The typical worker has not gained from improvements in the ability to produce more goods and services per hour worked (productivity growth). Between 1979 and 2011, productivity grew 69 percent, but median hourly compensation (wages and benefits) grew just 7 percent.
Policy choices generated inequality
Policy decisions made over the last several decades have caused this explosive rise in inequality. These decisions include: lowering individual and corporate tax rates; deregulating industries; failing to maintain the value of the minimum wage; failing to protect the right of workers to obtain collective bargaining; and failing to prevent asset bubbles.
As I watch liberals and conservatives alike wring their hands because teachers are striking, breathlessly recalling mean Mrs Smith in the 7th grade who didn't teach them anything, I just have to hang my head in despair.
If there is a proper metaphor for this era it's the old "fiddling while Rome burns."