Talking Inequality: Occupy makes an impact

If you were wondering if Occupy Wall Street and the Occupy Movement were having an impact, look no further than President Obama’s speech today.

In the last few decades, the average income of the top one percent has gone up by more than 250%, to $1.2 million per year. For the top one hundredth of one percent, the average income is now $27 million per year. The typical CEO who used to earn about 30 times more than his or her workers now earns 110 times more. And yet, over the last decade, the incomes of most Americans have actually fallen by about six percent.

This kind of inequality—a level we haven’t seen since the Great Depression—hurts us all. When middle-class families can no longer afford to buy the goods and services that businesses are selling, it drags down the entire economy, from top to bottom. . . . Inequality also distorts our democracy. It gives an outsized voice to the few who can afford high-priced lobbyists and unlimited campaign contributions, and runs the risk of selling out our democracy to the highest bidder. And it leaves everyone else rightly suspicious that the system in Washington is rigged against them – that our elected representatives aren’t looking out for the interests of most Americans….

This isn’t about class warfare. This is about the nation’s welfare.

Four short months ago, Republicans in Congress took the nation to the brink by refusing to raise the debt ceiling. By creating a false crisis, the right-wing had succeeded in advancing the lie that the national debt itself was the crisis, and the nation would perish unless all this socialist spending was curbed immediately.

Now nobody could care less about the dead-locked Super-Committee (although we probably should). Something changed the conversation from deficit and debt to income inequality and jobs. And that was Occupy.

Ari Berman of The Nation:

Doing the compromise dance for almost three years, Obama has mostly conceded to GOP core philosophy on “big government” and the wisdom of the “free market.”  This speech is a shift to one of basic fairness.

Of course, we know rhetoric isn’t action.

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