STATEMENT: Inequality Conference To Highlight National Economic Crisis

Release Date: 
May 27, 2004

New York, NY — The Inequality Matters conference kicks off on Thursday, June 3rd at New York University (NYU), with keynotes by Bill Moyers and Barbara Ehrenreich.

The conference will raise an alarm about the explosive growth in economic inequality in the U.S., examine its causes, and create a forum to press for solutions to this national crisis.

Key facts:

° The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) recently released new figures showing that the income gap in the US is now the widest in 75 years.

° While the richest one percent saw their financial wealth grow by 109 percent from 1983 to 2001, the bottom two-fifths fell by 46 percent, according to NYU economist Ed Wolff's analysis of Federal Reserve data.

° According to the US Census Bureau, the number of Americans without health insurance climbed 33 percent in the 1990's.


Despite this mounting evidence, too few politicians are addressing the divide that is moving us toward "two Americas" — the few who see their wealth multiply while tens of millions struggle to make ends meet.

America needs to have a serious conversation about the problem, according to James Lardner, director of Inequality.org. "It isn't just that some people have more things, or better things, than other people. It isn't just our tolerance for levels of deprivation that should make us ashamed," Lardner says. "The kind of inequality that we have in America today affects every dimension of life and has become a huge and unacknowledged barrier to progress in one area after another."

David Smith of Demos points out that the top 1 percent of wage earners saw their income triple in the past 25 years, while those in the bottom 5 percent saw growth under 10 percent. "Whatever you care about — decent education, universal healthcare, a robust and inclusive democracy — the chances of achieving it are eroded by the poisonous increase in inequality," Smith notes.

Betsy Leondar-Wright of United for a Fair Economy warns, "Not just overall inequality but also the racial wealth divide are likely to continue to grow, given the trends towards tax cuts for multi-millionaires, deindustrialization and more low-wage service sector jobs. The United States has fallen behind most other industrialized nations in life expectancy, infant mortality, voter participation and inter-generational mobility."

Speakers at Inequality Matters include Robert Franklin, Chellie Pingree, William Greider, Stanley Greenberg, Madeline Talbott, John Podesta, Kevin Phillips, Makani Themba-Nixon, and spokespeople from the AFL-CIO, US Action, Public Campaign, the National Partnership for Women and Families, Common Cause, and United for a Fair Economy.

Hundreds of community leaders and activists from across the country will discuss causes of, and solutions to, the wealth gap at Inequality Matters, which will be held from June 3-5 at NYU's Kimmel Center.

For more information visit www.inequality.org.

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