Just as progressives divide Americans based on their race, gender, sexual orientation, etc., they separate Americans according to their pocketbook.
That some Americans earn a lot of money, while others are less fortunate, progressives believe is a social injustice. “The issue of wealth and income inequality is the great moral issue of our time,” thundered Bernie Sanders in March 2018, “it is the great economic issue of our time, and it is the great political issue of our time.”
Progressives view the American economy as if it were one huge pie. When top-earning Americans increase their wealth, progressives think lower-earning Americans are somehow worse off, that they have a smaller piece of the pie. Progressives discount the fact that generating more wealth expands the size of the pie. If a neighbor becomes wealthier, the rest of the neighborhood does not become poorer because the gap in their incomes grows wider.
Progressives nevertheless want to divide the pie so everyone has a more equal share. They discount the fact that the incomes of Americans are constantly fluctuating, that America is not a Tale of Two Cities, with a permanent rich ruling class and a permanent poor lower class.
As Thomas Sowell explains in his book, Discrimination and Disparities, people do not remain in the same income bracket. The vast majority of people in the bottom 20 percent in income, as they acquire new skills and experience, successfully climb up the economic ladder. A study at the University of Michigan found that 95 percent of the people in the bottom 20 percent in 1975 were no longer there in 1991. Of the 95 percent that moved to a higher income level, about a third rose to the top bracket. Just 5 percent of the 20 percent remained in the lower bracket – about one percent.
At some point in their lives, more than three-fourths of the American population between the ages of 25-60 “find themselves in the top 20 percent of the income distribution,” Sowell said. Of those in the top one percent income bracket in 1996, fewer than half remained in 2005.
Progressives believe they are entitled to take the money of successful upper income entrepreneurs and businesses because they did not independently earn their wealth. Progressive argue their achievements are a result of society as a whole and not their independent inventiveness and hard work. “If you’ve got a business,” explained former President Barack Obama, “you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen.”1 That somebody else, according to Obama, is the government and the public infrastructure. Echoing this view, Hillary Clinton said, “Don’t let anybody tell you that it’s corporations and businesses that create jobs.”2
Obama blames Americans who have accumulated large fortunes for the problems suffered by poverty-stricken families, struggling young people, and workers who’s can’t afford to retire. The concentration of wealth and income at the very top, Obama asserts, has “made it harder for a hardworking family to pull itself out of poverty, harder for young people to start on their careers, and tougher for workers to retire when they want to.”3
In other words, Bill Gates, former head of Microsoft, Jeff Bezos, head of Amazon, Mark Zukerberg, head of Facebook, Elon Musk, head of Tesla, and other top executives are responsible for the misery of poor families and retirees because have have been able to keep the money they earned.”
1) President Obama, campaign rally, Roanoke, VA, July 13, 2012.
2) “Clinton: ‘Don’t Let Anyone Tell You It’s Corporations and Businesses that Create Jobs,” Washington Times, October 25, 2014.
3) President Obama, State of the Union Address, January 13, 2016.
Occupy Wall Street
Progressives gathered in Zuccotti Park in the financial district of New York in September 2013 to demonstrate against the power of big banks, corporate greed, and a growing disparity in wealth.
Dubbed “Occupy Wall Street,” the protest spread to cities around the world. Activists took control of urban parks and organized solidarity marches, creating what eventually became known as the “Occupy Movement.”
To highlight income inequality in America, OWS pitted the top 1 percent earners (about 16,000 Americans) against the rest of society (the 99 percent). Activists denounced the disparity of wealth between the two groups as “the crisis of our time.” They waved signs that proclaimed, “Capitalism Doesn’t Work,” “Fight for Socialism,” and “Eat the Rich.”
OWS organizers called on the wealthy in America pay their fair share (the top 1 percent already pay nearly half of all individual income taxes). They also demanded other changes, including free college, a guaranteed living-wage income regardless of employment, open borders, $65 trillion in debt forgiveness (sovereign debt, commercial loans, home mortgages, credit card debt, student loan debt, personal loans, and World Bank loans to other countries), a single payer health system, an end to fossil fuels, and more.