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The 99% And Its Effects On Acadiana

(Photo by Max Whittaker/Getty Images)

I’m always amazed at how insulated we are in south Louisiana. Blessed with abundant natural resources, our economy is often able to maintain stability while the rest of the country is struggling. The images of thousands protesting in the streets of big cities around the country seem so distant and far removed, almost like we’re watching a movie rather than the nightly news. The oil and offshore industry has been kind to us, allowing us to live in a virtual economic bubble. We know that no matter whats happening around the country, as long as there is oil in the Gulf, Lafayette will be alright.

However, the recent major protests in New York City, Oakland, and other major cities around the country are signalling a change that the small insulated areas of the country like ourselves cannot ignore. The country is hurting and the people have taken to the streets to voice their displeasure.

At the heart of the issue lies a country fed up with the disparity of wealth between the wealthiest 1% of the population and the rest of the 99% of American citizens, but who are these 1%, what are they doing that’s so wrong, and why should we care?

For most passive news watchers, the image of the wealthiest 1% is usually something in the ballpark of millionaire tycoons with tuxedo wearing butlers, being driven around in Rolls Royces, and eating Grey Poupon. In reality, this is far from the case. According to a report by CNN as of 2009, the wealthiest 1% of the country were those whose yearly income was over $343,927, meaning one did not need to be a millionaire to be a member of the elite group.

The problem then for the protesters lies not in how much wealth, the 1% have acquired, but rather the benefits and favoritism shown to the top earners over the rest of the country. A study by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, reveals that prior to the 2007 recession, the top 1% owned 34.6% of the country’s total wealth. In the years since, that number has grown to 37.1%, meaning that while most of the country is struggling, the top 1% has actually gained wealth. This gain for the 1% has been attributed to many factors, the biggest being substantial tax breaks for those in the elite tax bracket. This growth of power for the 1% has also led to a shrinking middle class and greater class disparity between the haves and the have nots.

The goal for the 99% protesters is simple. Increased taxes on the top 1% in order to better distribute the country’s wealth, and a reformation of the economic system that has proven to benefit the the minority at the top over the vast majority.

For citizens of Acadiana viewing the whole spectacle on the outside, it is often easier to ignore the issues rather than getting involved, because, as stated above, as long as there is oil in the Gulf, Acadiana will be alright. However, the issues being discussed right now suggest a massive departure from our current way of doing things and a massive overhauling of our longstanding economic structure. These changes will be felt far into the future and will affect every single one of us.

The truth is, there won’t always be oil in the Gulf. Our security blanket will not always be there. At some point our bubble will be popped, and where will we be then?

The decisions being made by the politicians in Washington right now regarding this situation may have little impact on life as we know it, but for our children, our grandchildren, and the future of life in Acadiana, these decisions will mean the world.

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