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Gilmore: If the 1% had less, would the 99% be better off?

Elspeth Gilmore holds an Occupy Wall Street sign.

Kai Ryssdal: I don't know that there's an official count of how long the Occupy protests have been going on, but today's day number 58 of the demonstrations that started in New York City. They've come to a close in Oakland, Calif., at least for now. Police moved in this morning to clear campers out of a plaza in downtown.

The through line of this movement so far, at least the one that's been easiest to understand, is the wealth gap. The "we are the 99 percent, but the 1 percent gets to control everything" story. We decided to turn that question on its head a little bit and ask if the 1 percent had less, would the 99 percent be bettter off?

Here's commentator Elspeth Gilmore.


Elspeth Gilmore: I am the 1 percent. I recently marched on Wall Street with the 99 percent. I stand with the 99 percent, but I marched for myself, too. For decades, the U.S. economy has been organized to boost the wealth of the 1 percent.

According to the Economic Policy Institute, 40 percent of all wealth gains between 1983 and 2009 went to the 1 percent. Eighty-two percent went to the top 5 percent. All the rules of the economy have been tilted in my favor. Yet it is not in my interest to allow the disparities of wealth to keep growing. We should not have to hoard wealth in this society in order to keep our families healthy or to get an education. Health and a good education should be rights.

My job at Resource Generation is to organize wealthy people under 35 who want to change this. There are more than 1,500 of us who know that our lives would be better if we personally had less and we could all rely on a collective safety net. We need to re-imagine what is possible.

I want to live in a world where we together provide the basic needs of all people: adequate infrastructure and roads, well-funded school systems, clean water systems, innovative transportation and health care for all.

We need a more just economy -- and one of the ways to get there is for people like me to pay higher taxes. Lets change the policies that keep the wealth in the hands of a few. Let's increase millionaire taxes and end loopholes for corporations. Please tax the income from my investments at least as much as my earned income, it's common sense.

So let me say this as plainly as I can. Tax me, tax the 1 percent. If the 1 percent had less money, we -- a 100 percent of us -- would be better off.


Ryssdal: Elspeth Gilmore is the co-director of Resource Generation. Tomorrow our series continues with Reihan Salam on the same question: "If the 1 percent had less, would the 99 percent be better off?"

Send us your thoughts.

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Elspeth Gilmore is the co-director of Resource Generation.
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Kind of a silly question that doesn't get at the heart of the issue. The question is simplistic...how are we supposed to know if the 99% would be "better off" ...the question that should be asked is "How do we make the 1% have less in order that the 99% can have more...
there's the crux of the issue. it's going to take major changes to the tax code that our elected legislators lack the mettle to reform...they won't change the tax code because that would threaten their next election. You need to take your private foundation support and go to the mat for a cause that is overdue to restore the health of this country, rather than entertaining us with another episode of marketplace...which, by the way, is very entertaining.

President Regan had it dead wrong with trickle down economics - absolutely backwards. If the 99% had more mone, they would spend it, fueling the economy and causing a trickle up effect to the super rich. The 1% having less is not the point. However, to supply the 99%with more the 1% have to be MADE to pay their fair share. Taxing the super rich, cutting programs that the government has no business being in (subsidies to super huge farms, National Endowment to the Arts, etc.), closing tax loopholes, re-evaluating giving vast sums of money outside the country for dubious purpose and even more dubious results, and keeping polititions (both sides of the aisle) un-corrupt by making them observe the same laws as everyday citizens are some ways to approach resolving the inequality. If the economic inequality is not handled, and soon, we may see a backlash here that the Arabian states have just experienced.

Where does the 99% get this money from? Could it be from the 1% who invested and created jobs so that the 99% get a paycheck? If not then from where do they get this money? Or does the government take it from the 1% in the form of taxes and gives it to the 99%? Either way it is the so called 1% that drives the economy.

Wrong. Wealth does not create labor. Labor creates wealth. Plutocrat.

Yes, the 99% would be better off and the 1% would be, too. Too many people in the top 20% seem to feel entitled to the life that they currently lead. Too many people in the bottom 30% cannot imagine a better life. Equalizing things would help this.

If I worked and became successful I would feel entitled to enjoy the fruits of my labor. It's the American way.

I think you are an excellent person with your concern for others. Our society would be so much better off if there were more like you willing to give to others.
I would be considered the "99" but I refuse to be labeled anything. Ultimately all that matters and what I have control over is, what I do with what I got. However, I feel we as human being have a "moral" obligation to assist and support the less fortunate. I have been part of giving back to support the less fortunate with small amounts of money and more amount of time. My main question to you is: Why wait on the government to take and use your money inefficiently? There are plenty of church, non-profits, organizations, that are "local". These understand the needs of those less fortunate and treat them like a human being rather than a number. There has been a large movement in the US of going "local" for food and products. Why then is care for the poor and needy required to come from Washington? The road from D.C. to the needy in the U.S. is further geographically and ideologically then any Walmart is from an organic farm.

The main reason for the political class not being able and willing to solve our major problems is gerrymandering (euphamized as "redistricting" in the news these days.) Both parties do it and most members of Congress now come from specially drawn boundaries that safely belong to one party or the other. This is why we have so many ideologues and so few deal-makers in Congress and is the root of the problem. Yet do you hear about this in the news? Nope.

raising taxes (e.g closing loopholes) on the 1% alone will not solve the countries ills. we have the best government money can buy. how is it that banks that are too big to fail are allowed to lobby? is it because the supreme court said it is so? i say close the loop holes on lobbying and lets get a government that governs instead of focusing on how raise unemployment levels to get the current president out of office!

The laws favor the 1%, for example, by allowing big banks to gamble and take all winnings. If they lose, we the people take the hit in lost jobs and lower house values. There is also a whole industry of high-stakes stock market insider trading growing under the government's nose. Yet the only major "investigation" and conviction so far is due to a whistle-blower (the Rajaratman case.) The government is also sitting on solid evidence of illegality during the housing boom where major investment banks were involved in so called "liar's loans". Granted, this is like getting Al Capone on tax evation, but at least in those days the government tried its darndest to convict him of tax evation. Also Congress members are legally (and have, including Nancy Pelosi) allowed to trade in the stock and other markets using undisclosed information of legislation in progress plus whatever their "friends" in corporations supply them. Given all that, can we consider it a coincidence that no Wall Street titan has even been fired after causing the economic problems?

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