Occupy’s message still relevant at five

Chuck Sheketoff

Five years ago, protestors descended on Zuccotti Park near Wall Street, launching the Occupy movement. The protests that flared across the nation, Oregon included, finally put income inequality on the forefront of the national dialogue, making “the 99 percent” and “the 1 percent” household terms.

But while Occupy changed the terms of the debate and our lexicon, the reality on the ground has yet to catch up. On the fifth anniversary of Occupy, it is really Oregon’s 1 percent who have reason to celebrate.

From 2011 to 2014, the year with most recent data, the top 1 percent saw their share of all Oregon income increase by about 19 percent. The bottom 99 percent of Oregonians saw their share of income decrease by about 3 percent.

Indeed, income inequality in Oregon stands near its all-time high.. The average income of a few – the top one-tenth of the 1 percent – was $3.9 million in Oregon in 2014. Meanwhile, the typical Oregonian made about $33,500 in 2014.

Fortunately, there have been policy changes in Oregon in recent years that should give the 99 percent hope. Raising the minimum wage, enacting paid sick leave, and boosting the Oregon Earned Income Tax Credit are all wins that will help working families get ahead.

But the larger challenge of reducing income inequality remains. The message of Occupy is as relevant as ever, as it is Oregon’s top 1 percent can really celebrate their gains.

Read Outsized Gains at the Top Worsen Oregon Income Inequality to learn more and sign-up to keep informed on the issue.

Oregon Center for Public PolicyChuck Sheketoff is the executive director of the Oregon Center for Public Policy. You can sign up to receive email notification of OCPP materials at www.ocpp.org.

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