This chart released by the Congressional Budget Office in October of 2011 — just weeks after the Occupy Wall Street protests began — made the income inequality crisis crystal clear: The poorer you were, the lower your income growth — even before the Great Recession began.
The disparity between the upper-middle class — whose income grew 65 percent — and the poorest Americans, who only saw an 18 percent increase, was substantial.
But it was the richest Americans — the now infamous “1 percent” — who saw their incomes explode by 275 percent, thanks to government policies.
Since our recent recovery began, the problem has only intensified. The top 1 percent took in 95 percent of all income gains from 2009-2012.
But awareness of the problem has grown as well. This video, which illuminates how unaware Americans are of the massive wealth disparities that exist in this country, has been viewed over 12 million times.
As Occupy Wall Street has evolved into movements addressing foreclosures and debt forgiveness, former labor secretary Robert Reich released the film Inequality for All and new websites, movements and think tanks are focusing on solving what President Obama called on Wednesday “the defining issue of our time.”
On a political level, the re-election of President Obama cemented some of the achievements of his first term that promise to help those at the bottom of the economic ladder. The Elizabeth Warren-inspired Consumer Financial Protection Bureau advocates for borrowers, the Bush tax breaks for those earning over $400,000 have ended and the Affordable Care Act is, after a serious bit of website trouble, being fully implemented. These policies are promising but the president himself admits that they are not even close to enough.
Inequality was created by elected officials acting on behalf of the very richest. And it can be reversed by new policies that benefit 99 percent of America, creating a more stable and productive country for all Americans. Here are five ways to begin that change today.