Economics for the 99%

Day of Action against Bank of America, New York City, May 8, 2012. About 100 people gathered opposite the Bank of America tower in midtown Manhattan to protest foreclosures and tax evasion.Day of Action against Bank of America, New York City, May 8, 2012. About 100 people gathered opposite Bank of America Tower in midtown Manhattan to protest foreclosures and tax evasion. (Photo: Sunset Parkerpix)The Center for Popular Economics of Amherst, Massachusetts, has released a new booklet, “Economics for the 99%,” about the questions raised by the Occupy Wall Street (OWS) movement. That movement has brought about a remarkable change in public consciousness. Before the movement began in September 2011, it was rare to hear politicians or mainstream media discuss problems of growing poverty or income inequality. The movement turned a spotlight on these long-ignored injustices, and it shifted the public conversation. It gave all of us new ways to talk about the economy; OWS turned “the 99 percent” and “the 1 percent” into household terms.

The movement coalesced as a response to the damage caused by the financial and economic meltdown of 2008, but its relevance extends far beyond the most recent economic crisis and its effects. The OWS movement has done something that seemed nearly impossible a mere year ago – it has made this a time for new thoughts and new conversations. Thanks to the OWS movement, millions of people have begun to say, possibly for the first time, “There is something very wrong here.” There is something wrong with our society that is not simply the result of greed or bad luck – there is something wrong with our economic system.

For decades, we have been told that “there is no alternative” to an economic system in which hundreds of thousands are homeless while millions of houses stand empty, truckloads of food are wasted while 20 percent of all children live in poverty, ever-increasing resources are devoted to war while schools and hospitals fall apart, and millions are unemployed despite wanting and needing to find work. But now, in the United States and across the world, a new declaration has arisen: “Another world is possible.” Now we can imagine something new, a world in which all human beings have access to a decent education and health care, to a good job and housing. Now we can imagine a world in which the economy is not just a force of nature beyond our control, working for the enrichment of a few, but something we create for the well-being of all.

The struggle for a new world requires many things, and one of them is an understanding of the current economic system. The ongoing economic crisis that exploded in 2008 left many people wondering, “How did this happen?” How does our economic system work? Why does it work the way it does? Why does it produce the problems we see all around us, and what are the alternatives?

The new booklet “Economics for the 99%” is designed to help answer these questions. It is intended for distribution to activists in the OWS movement, and for anyone working in any of hundreds of ways to build a more just and sustainable economic system.

An initial print run of 3,500 copies will be distributed to OWS activists free of charge, and an electronic version is also available for free download. Additional printed copies will be available soon for a low price – details will be announced on the Center for Popular Economics web site.

This 36-page booklet and accompanying historical timeline provide clear, accessible explanations of the severe economic problems highlighted by the OWS movement. It shows how these problems arose from the workings of the American economic system, and it discusses a variety of possible solutions. It covers such topics as inequality of income and wealth, the economic crisis that began in 2008, the austerity war, the role of the Federal Reserve System, the housing crisis, unemployment, environmental sustainability, and the health care system. The booklet concludes by presenting alternatives to the current system – visions of a just, sustainable economy and society. It highlights key features of such systems, and it considers concrete steps that can be taken toward an economic system that provides for the needs of all.

The booklet was produced by a group of 18 economists associated with the Center for Popular Economics of Amherst, Massachusetts, which has offered economics education for activists since 1978. The booklet can be used as a complete resource in itself or as a source of short leaflets on individual topics. Each numbered section was designed to be usable on its own, to be copied or emailed to those interested in a particular topic. We encourage people to make copies to be shared and freely distributed.

The Center for Popular Economics believes that economic analysis should not just be a tool of the rich and powerful, a justification of the status quo. We stand with OWS and others working for economic justice, and we offer a variety of free and low-cost educational and organizing resources.

For further information, to learn about other opportunities for action, or to connect with others engaged in the struggle for economic justice, please visit the web site, or contact:

Emily Kawano, Executive Director, Center for Popular Economics
Email: emily[at]
Telephone: 413-545-0743
Mail: Center for Popular Economics
PO Box 785
Amherst, MA 01004