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October 26, 2011
More Fodder for Uprising Against Economic Inequality
    by Robert Kropp

The Congressional Budget Office reports that household income of the top one percent grew by 275% between 1979 and 2007.


The charges made by Republicans such as Eric Cantor and Mitt Romney that the Occupy Movement is waging class warfare, if viewed through the lens of a recently published report from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), suggest two responses.

First, if anyone is left still wondering why growing numbers of protestors are congregating in more and more cities across the US, the report from the nonpartisan CBO emphatically provides facts to explain the phenomenon.

"For the 1 percent of the population with the highest income, average real after-tax household income grew by 275 percent between 1979 and 2007," the report states.

"As a result of that uneven income growth, the distribution of after-tax household income in the United States was substantially more unequal in 2007 than in 1979," the report continues. "In fact, between 2005 and 2007, the after-tax income received by the 20 percent of the population with the highest income exceeded the aftertax income of the remaining 80 percent."

The reader will notice that the CBO analysis only extends to 2007; that is, before the financial crisis and its prolonged recessionary aftermath struck. Now, according to the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), that same top one percent now controls one-third of the nation's wealth.

EPI's analysis of the state of the economy makes for alarming reading. The wealthiest 20% of Americans now hold 87.2% of wealth. The net worth of the top one percent is 225 times greater than the median. The median net worth of black households is $2,200, the lowest ever recorded. And for the first time, the percent of home value owned by homeowners was below 50%; in other words, banks now own more of the value of the nation's housing stock than do homeowners themselves.

So the second point to be made assumes that the reader can discern the difference between inflammatory rhetoric and the fact that the Occupy Movement has proven itself to be practitioners of civil disobedience and not violence. The Movement in fact provides a valuable example of a properly functioning democracy in action, and it is clear that the protest's primary focus is on the deepening inequality that threatens to become a permanent institution in American life. To the growing number of protestors, that the 99% stand by and accept such inequality amounts to a failure of democracy.

Some members of the sustainable investment community are recognizing that the aims of the Occupy Movement align with theirs in many respects, as evidenced by the the statement of support offered recently by Zevin Asset Management, a Boston-based investment firm.

Thus far, it appears that no other sustainable investment firm or organization has publicly stated support for the Movement. But as the protests continue and the issues continue to be debated, it may well turn out that others besides Zevin will come to see the Movement as an opportunity to honor their mission of public policy engagement.

 

 
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