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?”