Much has been made about the recent “#OccupyWallSt” (or “#ows” to preserve Twitter space) movement which began as a protest proposed by Adbusters. While the now global movement has struggled to define their demands, they can generally be defined as a left-wing (or liberal) attempt at drawing attention to the needs of people who feel they have been cheated by a system that failed to live up to its promises. The #ows movement has even attracted some wealthy individuals who are part of the “1%” that the “99%” vilifies. Claims of corporate greed, a political system that does not respond to the public, a tax system tilted towards the wealthy, and broken health care and education systems are among the complaints of the #ows. Al Jazeera recently approached the issue of the OWS by looking at some of the economic facts in the U.S. such as the growing disparity in wages and income.
On the opposite end, the right wing (or conservative) Tea Party has pushed for changes to tax policy as they believe they are Taxed Enough Already. The Tea party generally wants lower taxes and less progressive taxes, reduced government spending, and reductions in business and environmental regulation to spur business investment. The Tea Party was successful in the 2010 elections where they replaced a number of House and Senate offices with members sympathetic to their cause. The resulting “Tea Party Caucus” led by House Republican and Presidential candidate Michelle Bachmann has influenced policy a great deal over the last year, including what many see as a victory in the debt ceiling debate during the summer of 2011.
The two movements have been compared to one another since they have changed the political debate. What is clear is that the economic and political condition of the country is in a state where many people feel disenfranchised. The economy and political system is not working for many people, but many people on the other hand might be refusing to work very hard to improve their condition.
Questions you might answer:
- Should wealth be more equally distributed or should we ignore this problem and let markets be? How is wealth distributed now? A recent study by Norton and Arielly discussed misperceptions of wealth and the importance of considering perceptions in policy. How would you attain more or less equal distribution of wealth? What is the consequence of the status quo?
- Consider different tax proposals such as Herman Cain’s 9-9-9 plan or Rick Perry’s “flat tax” to the current U.S. system. Do you believe these systems would be more fair? How do you determine fairness? How is the tax burden distributed now? What is the consequence of the status quo?
- Should the government focus on closing the deficit now or in the near future? Or should the government continue running large deficits in the time being? What are the consequences of inaction compared to the consequences of swift action? Is there a balanced approach we might consider? You might examine the Simpson-Bowles or Rivkin-Domenici deficit reduction plans for ideas. What is the consequence of the status quo?
- You can consider anything else, as long as you focus on some aspect of the distribution of income, wealth, or debt in the economy. Choose a side and give your opinion on how the problem should be solved or left alone. Consider that deciding to leave tax policy alone upsets some on the right, as well as some on the left.