America has gone from high income inequality a century ago, to a more balanced earning curve in the late seventies largely due to the power of the unions, to very high inequality again today. The top 1% has had a massive increase in earnings since 1992, while the bottom 80% has seen a sharp decline in their earning power. This trend as well as an admiration for mass movements protesting austerity measures in England, Spain, Greece, and the Arab Spring Protests, helped to ignite the Occupy Wall Street Movement.
Americans have the highest income inequity rates in the developed world. The slogan “We are the 99%” is a reaction to feelings that the financial institutions, corporations, and the political elite, have behaved callously towards the workers, asking them to accept wage cuts and belt tightening while the corporate elite double their earnings and give themselves massive bonuses. The Occupy movement is different from earlier protests because of its populist origins; it does not have a charismatic leader, but relies on social and electronic media to get its message out. It also encompasses a wide range of concerns from “economic inequality, greed, Corruption and the undue influence of corporations on government,” to concern for the global environment.