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How Occupy could affect this election year... and beyond

A man wears a Guy Fawkes mask during a May Day rally in central Istanbul, on May 1, 2012.

Image of 99 to 1: How Wealth Inequality Is Wrecking the World and What We Can Do about It
Author: Chuck Collins
Publisher: Berrett-Koehler Publishers (2012)
Binding: Paperback, 168 pages

Jeremy Hobson: Protesters were out in force in several cities yesterday, demanding an end to income inequality. Many of the rallies were allied with the Occupy movement and therefore, there weren't a lot of politicians involved. Even those political leaders who agree with Occupy demonstrators have kept an arms length so far.

Chuck Collins would like to close that political gap. He's the author of a new book called "99 to 1: How Wealth Inequality is Wrecking the World and What We Can Do About It." Chuck Collins, good morning.

Chuck Collins: Good morning.

Hobson: Well how long do you think it's going to take, and what are you going to look for to know that what you want to happen in terms of reducing income inequality is working?

Collins: Actually, the realignment may happen faster than we think. Because, here were are in an election year, where the politics of the 99 to 1" I think will be at the center of our national debate. That doesn't mean anything will actually change -- in terms of laws and legislation -- in the short-term. I think over the next three, four years, however, people are waking up and saying, do these elected officials actually represent me?

Hobson: Is it your expectation then, that if President Obama gets re-elected, that all of a sudden he's going to embrace the tenants of this movement and start really dealing with inequality in a big way?

Collins: Well President Obama has -- I don't think he's leading on this issue, I think he's reflecting and mirroring shifting public opinion. The public is requiring him -- he's trying to get out in front of the parade.

Hobson: Do you think he'll be responding legislatively in the next term of his administration -- if he gets one?

Collins: I think it depends on whether these social movements succeed in connecting broadly, and also whether they can defeat candidates that have been completely aligned with the "1 percent." And that will ultimately trigger a realignment.

Hobson: Finally, I want to ask you -- you know a little something about the 1 percent; you were at one time an heir to the Oscar Meyer fortune. You gave your money away at age 26. Why did you do that, and how did that inform your point of view on this?

Collins: Yeah, it's important. I grew up in the 1 percent -- in fact, I went to high school with Mitt Romney; we grew up in the same neighborhood and sledding on the same sledding hill. So that gives me one perspective -- which is that within the "1 percent," there's a huge segment of people who are allies, who are actually working for an economy that works for everybody.

But it's also helped me understand that within the "1 percent," there's a group of people that use their wealth and power to rig the rules to get more wealth and power

Hobson: Was Romney a good sledder?

Collins: He was a good older kid in the neighborhood. He was a polite, thoughtful kid, and you know, he was the son of the governor, so he had to have good manners.

Hobson: Chuck Collins is the author of "99 to 1: How Wealth Inequality is Wrecking the World and What We Can Do About It." Chuck Collins, thanks so much.

Thanks Jeremy.

About the author

Jeremy Hobson is host of Marketplace Morning Report, where he looks at business news from a global perspective to prepare listeners for the day ahead.
Image of 99 to 1: How Wealth Inequality Is Wrecking the World and What We Can Do about It
Author: Chuck Collins
Publisher: Berrett-Koehler Publishers (2012)
Binding: Paperback, 168 pages

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