Factbox: Are Wall Street protesters' complaints valid?

Wed Oct 12, 2011 8:49am EDT

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(Reuters) - Protests against economic inequality and alleged Wall Street greed have spread across the country. The demonstrators have not issued a precise list of demands, but here is an examination of some of their complaints.

* "WE ARE THE 99 PERCENT" IS THE RALLYING CRY OF

PROTESTERS, WHO BELIEVE THE TOP ONE PERCENT OF AMERICANS HOLD

TOO MUCH OF THE COUNTRY'S WEALTH AND SHOULD FACE HIGHER TAXES.

The top one percent of the population held 35.6 percent of the nation's wealth in 2009, according to a study released in March by the liberal-leaning Economic Policy Institute. The same report showed that a decade earlier, in 1998, the top 1 percent held more than 38 percent of the wealth.

A similar study by the nonpartisan Levy Institute of Economics at Bard College found the wealthiest one percent of Americans held 34.6 percent of the wealth in 2007.

* THERE IS TOO MUCH INCOME INEQUALITY IN THE U.S., DIVIDING

THE COUNTRY INTO A SMALL NUMBER OF HAVES AND MANY HAVE NOTS.

The gap between rich and poor has been gradually widening for decades. The top five percent of families by income accounted for 21.7 percent of total aggregate income in 2009, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The top 20 percent of families accounted for 50.3 percent of total income. The top five percent held 16.6 percent of income in 1970, the top 20 percent held 43.3 percent of income in 1970.

The bottom 20 percent of households by income accounted for 3.4 percent of income in 2009, down from 4.1 percent in 1970.

A United Nations report showed income inequality was greater in the United States than in some other major developed economies such as Japan and Germany, but inequality was not as great as in some less developed countries such as Brazil.

The percentage of Americans living in poverty reached 15.1 percent in 2010, up from 14.3 percent in 2009, the fourth consecutive annual increase and the largest number in the 52 years estimates have been published.

* TOO MANY PEOPLE ARE OUT OF WORK AND EVEN WELL-TRAINED

PEOPLE ARE UNABLE TO FIND JOBS.

The national unemployment rate was 9.1 percent in September, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. As late as April 2008 the unemployment rate was only 4.9 percent but after the financial crisis it quickly doubled to a peak of 10.1 percent in October 2009. It has held near double digits ever since.

The United States lost 8 million jobs during the 2007-2009 recession and only about 1.4 million of those have been regained.

The lack of jobs is particularly acute among young people. with the unemployment rate for ages 20-24 at 14.7 percent in September. The unemployment rate also is higher for minorities such as Hispanics and African Americans, and for military personnel returning from wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Unemployment also is higher for less skilled workers than for those with a college degree.

The unemployment figures compiled by the government do not include people who have become discouraged and have stopped looking for work.

* BANKS CAUSED THE GLOBAL FINANCIAL CRISIS AND WERE BAILED

OUT BY THE U.S. GOVERNMENT. NOW THEY ARE MAKING HUGE PROFITS

AND ARE BACK TO GETTING FAT BONUSES.

The U.S. government spent $413 billion on its bank bailout fund, called TARP, after the 2008 crisis, of which $314 billion has been recovered by taxpayers, according to the U.S. Treasury Department. The government spent another $245 billion investing in 700 troubled financial institutions to prop them up and received $256 billion back, so it made a profit on that program.

Bank profits were $28.8 billion in the second quarter of 2011 at FDIC-insured banks, up 37.9 percent from the previous year and the eighth consecutive quarter that industry profits improved year-over-year, according to the FDIC.

Profits are expected to be up about 2 percent in the third quarter compared with a year earlier, according to Thomson Reuters Proprietary Research. Banks begin reporting those results on Thursday.

Cash bonuses paid to Wall Street employees for work done in 2010 declined 7.5 percent to $20.8 billion, according to a report released by the New York State Comptroller on Tuesday. Bonuses for work done in 2011 are expected to fall again, according to the report.

(Compiled by Roy Strom, Jason Lange, David Henry, Clare Baldwin and Greg McCune; Editing by Jerry Norton)

SOURCES: U.S. Census Bureau, Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Treasury Department, Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), Levy Institute of Economics, Economic Policy Institute, United Nations, Thomson Reuters Proprietary Research, New York State Comptroller.

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