Wealth disparity is killing us all

for The Brooklyn Paper
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Occupy Wall Street is now undeniably a fixture of global conversation. No one should be surprised. In the wake of the global economic crisis, income disparities between the rich and poor have grown more acute, more painful. Here in the United States, more people are unemployed than at any point since the Great Depression, with no improvement in sight.

You’ve seen the stats by now — which in itself counts as a success for the Occupy Wall Street movement: CEO pay has skyrocketed more than 300 percent since 1990, while pay for the average worker has grown a pitiful 4.3 percent. The richest 1 percent owns nearly half the wealth in the United States, while the poorest 250 million of us own a mere 15 percent combined.

And that’s why the movement is primed to spread into Brooklyn. New York’s largest borough is the backbone of the city, home to millions of its hardest workers. Kings County has been harder hit by the recession than almost any other in New York State — the unemployment rate has doubled since the crash of 2008. According to the latest census data, 21.7 percent of Brooklynites live in poverty. That’s some 564,000 people.

That figure should register like a punch to the gut. Hundreds of thousands of our friends, neighbors, family members, our fellow Brooklynites, don’t earn enough to make ends meet. Thousands have lost their homes. In fact, Brooklyn has one of the highest foreclosure rates in the state. And many of our neighbors were targeted for bad subprime loans by the very banks whose headquarters loom just across the East River. Yet it was those banks that got bailed out by the federal government — they’re already turning massive profits again — while struggling, middle class Brooklynites were left to drown in debt.

That’s not right. And it’s a big part of the reason Brooklyn saw the first Occupy Wall Street events last week: There was a general assembly in Downtown, a rally at Grand Army Plaza, and a peaceful protest at a foreclosure auction. These small, but spirited, events helped set the stage for what’s to come: A movement that fights for economic justice for the 99 percent. Right here in Brooklyn.

Brian Merchant was one of the organizers of Saturday’s Occupy Brooklyn rally in Grand Army Plaza.

Updated 5:27 pm, July 9, 2018
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Reasonable discourse

Or from Yellow Hook says:
If you are a member of the 99% and live in the USA, you are the 1% of the world.

I guess all the kids in your class were above average.
Nov. 3, 2011, 8:55 pm
Janet from Park Slope says:
I think we all need to recognize, there are wealthy people out there, and that is the problem.
I am glad that we sat on our haunches for years, only to respond by over-reacting now.
I think the most effective way to get our message across is to sit on streets protesting, asking for vauguely impossible goals of equaility for all, without any notion of how this should happen.
Nov. 4, 2011, 4:14 am
TB from Bay Ridge says:
Janet and Or -

Care to address the issue of wealth disparity, or is tearing down young people who - with all of their flaws - are at least standing up to try to do something about what should be an American tragedy.

99% or not, there are children in this country who cannot read, who have no food to eat, teens who end up in jail before they're in high school, and entire communities wiped out by foreclosure and overdevelopment. I can only imagine how you'd feel if they knocked out two blocks of Park Slope or Bay Ridge to build a Wal-Mart.

I guess sarcasm now qualifies as constructive civic debate.
Nov. 4, 2011, 6:45 am
Janet from Park Slope says:

Who cares if it's 99 percent, who cares at all?

I'd like a more actual reflection of an honest situation. Instead of creating disparity over years and then suddenly reacting in an exagerated fashion when you realize it suddenly doesnøt suit you, perhaps thinking more long term and evenly might help.

I think that sarcasm is a tool that can be used to point out disconnects in logic.

I don't believe that wealth is distributed fairly in the US, and i think that it has a lot to do with our lack of realizble social systems (medicine and unemployment benefits being at the top of my list). I think it is also because everyone is under taxed, not only the very wealthy. I think it is also because we allow cheap imports, which are produced in ways that would be illegal in the US (slave labor, toxic chemicals not disposed of correctly). Instead of suddenly being indignant that there are wealthy people in this country, maybe we could focus on creating a better enviornment for people to live in. A return to the thinking of the 1930s.
Nov. 4, 2011, 8:21 am
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY says:
To those that believe that OWS is anti-capitalist, let me tell you what they really are doing. First off, loosen those tin foil hats, because they are not calling for the end of capitalism, they are just asking for the rich to pay their fair share. I don't see what is wrong with that. Why should the rich get so many breaks while the rest keep on getting taxed to death? Also, why do they deserve so subsidies when they are just outsourcing anyway rather than having the jobs here? Wasn't the purpose of the Bush tax cuts so that the jobs would stay here? Instead, many of the CEOs either kept most of the money for themselves or went overseas. When it was supposed to end, they sent their best lobbyists to DC to extend it. In other words, OWS should be thanked for their protests rather than being condemned for it. Let's not forget that the pay of CEOs and higher keeps on going up so much while the rest just either stays the same, decreases, or increases very slowly. Power to the people and not to the few!
Nov. 4, 2011, 3:52 pm

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