Opinion

David Cay Johnston

Occupy Wall Street

By David Cay Johnston
October 7, 2011

By David Cay Johnston
The views expressed are his own.

Pay close attention to the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations in New York and around the United States, especially if the protests endure through the cold months into the election year spring or if the New York police are ordered to violently end the demonstrations, which would ensure they spread.

The protests show signs of sparking a major change in U.S. politics by creating common ground among people with wildly divergent views. The key to their significance will be whether they foster a wholesale change in political leadership in 2013 or whether Americans return a vast majority of incumbents in both parties at all levels of government.

Occupy Wall Street differs fundamentally from the many demonstrations I have covered over more than four decades. Instead of people with similar specific interests — anti-war, anti-rape, Tea Partiers — these demonstrators come with widely varying views, experiences and backgrounds, yet unite around a common theme: bankers are ripping off America.

Two secondary themes also emerge in talking to some of the hundreds of people occupying Zuccotti Park. One is that the super rich own the politicians. The other is that the news media, almost across the board, view events through the eyes of the rich.

The protests have grown from a few hundred people to the thousands who marched on Wednesday evening.

WASHINGTON BLAMED
Even Ben Bernanke, the Federal Reserve chairman, sympathizes with the protesters. He told the Joint Economic Committee of Congress on Wednesday:

“Very generally, I think people are quite unhappy with the state of the economy and what’s happening. They blame, with some justification, the problems in the financial sector for getting us into this mess, and they’re dissatisfied with the policy response here in Washington. And at some level, I can’t blame them. Certainly 9 percent unemployment and very slow growth is not a good situation.”

In a television interview Warren Buffett sided with them. While many of the demonstrators seemed ill-informed, he said, the “feeling is real and there is enough basis in that feeling that we want to get rid of that basis,” which he described as unfair taxes and lack of jobs.

Listen to the people packing Zuccotti Park, a privately owned urban space just off Wall Street, and you will hear common themes from libertarians and liberals, truck drivers and college professors, atheists and believers.

Some are articulate, others inchoate. But there is absolute agreement that the super rich, especially the financiers, are sophisticated thieves who steal not with guns, but something called derivatives.

Dan Halloran, a New York City councilman from Queens with an affinity for libertarians like Republican U.S. Congressman Ron Paul, waded into the crowd and kept people interested in his views on the economy’s failings and the need for markets.

“From what I saw on TV I would have thought that everyone here would be a communist, under 30, never held a job,” he said, describing that media image as cartoonish. He said people with whom he had spoken, including those with whom he disagreed fundamentally, were both eager to work and afraid, not knowing what happened exactly, but insistent that they needed work and that their elected leaders seemed not to care.

NO ‘FAIR SHAKE’
Brendan Burke, a truck driver and punk rock musician who studied philosophy in college, said since the protests began almost three weeks ago, “I have heard a thousand different things people are concerned about — inadequate teacher pay, no jobs, the rich not paying their fair share of taxes and all of it was about how we working people are not getting a fair shake.”

Burke said he expected the protests to gather strength because “this oppressiveness has been going on for years; its quiet, the way the bankers constructed this mess — and nothing is being done to them.”

When I went down there on Tuesday, some asked me why no bankers had been indicted. Excellent question with no answer unless you believe the financier class exercises control over the government, enabling financial crimes through incomprehensible rules.

Each person I asked, including some in suits who came by for a gander, said they expected the mayor eventually to order the park cleared, possibly on the pretext of public sanitation. Never mind that the Constitution safeguards the right to assemble peaceably and to petition the government for a redress of grievances without a time limit.

New York’s billionaire mayor found time and money to have police barricade the Wall Street bull, that bronze symbol of faith in growing stock prices. But Michael Bloomberg has spent not even a dollar on portable restrooms to help citizens exercise their constitutional rights while maintaining sanitary conditions in his fair city.

Aristotle taught, “Democracy is when the indigent, and not the men of property, are the rulers.” That ancient insight may be unknown to many of the demonstrators, but the concept imbues Occupy Wall Street, which has the potential to change America from what Aristotle would describe as an oligarchy back into a representative democracy.

PHOTO: A demonstrator sits near a make-shift tent during the Occupy Wall Street protest outside the Federal Reserve Bank in San Francisco, California October 5, 2011. REUTERS/Stephen Lam

Comments
61 comments so far | RSS Comments RSS

When the occupiers move to the rails out West, it is all over.

Posted by HenryAudey | Report as abusive
 

As usual, an excellent op-ed, Mr. Johnston. I do have to take issue with one point you make, and that is regarding this statement: “The key to their significance will be whether they foster a wholesale change in political leadership in 2013 or whether Americans return a vast majority of incumbents in both parties at all levels of government.

Elections results aren’t going change much until we change the system. It’s the system that’s broken. We won’t replace most of the incumbents because the system makes that too difficult. And even if we did, very little would change. There would just be a new set of faces wearing the same old masks doing the same old dance. Until we get outside money out of our government and we start financing our own elections, nothing’s going to change, and those in power whom we are protesting against aim to keep it that way. Point being, don’t judge the significance of the protests by the 2012 election outcomes. It’s too late to do much about those. However, there’s more than one way to skin a cat.

Posted by doggydaddy | Report as abusive
 

I have to question the feasibility of any group changing anything when at their core, they are what you say is “creating common ground among people with wildly divergent views.” Doesn’t lthis sort of defy the defination of political cohesion? If there is no political cohesion then the group cannot change anything. If everyone is standing around protesting everything then in effect no one is protesting anything and it is all status quo. The off year election gave voice to a lot of voter dissatifaction but the exectutive branch and senate refuse to understand the water shed movement that has occurred. It is interesting that the media continues to deny that anything happened in 2010 but a rabble of union supported people with a lot of time on their hands and deep pockets reflect some sort of “movement” of significance. Yes people are upset and people will decide in the next election on the course of the country. I seriously doubt if is going to be in the direction of those who seek to out law capitalism. What is the alternative? I think that we tried the others and they failed miserably and on a scale far vaster than the recession that we have experienced. I would like to tell people – go home – write something – invent something – look at someone like Steve Jobs and be inspired to live and not begging for government solutions.

Posted by Anonymous | Report as abusive
 

Appreciate Mr. Johnston’s article. Hope this populist uprising will be as successful as that of a century ago, when common folk spoke out against their robber barons. Where is our Teddy Roosevelt?

Posted by san_antone_gal | Report as abusive
 

Great piece – finally some genuine/sincere in-depth coverage of this historic moment.

The whole purpose of the protests and the escalating worldwide crisis is for us to discover a common ground – what truly binds us together.

The current reality clearly and sharply reveals our connection. Yet, we are still examining the crisis through our limited perspective. Whether it is the volatile stock market, the weakening economies of the U.S. and European countries, or the growing disparity in wealth between individuals and between nations that leads to greater social gaps, at this point, no one can say, “This has nothing to do with me, I only need to take care of myself and my family.” This approach is no longer enough for leading a stable and balanced life, much less a happy one.

The global reality is not the currency or market fluctuations, but rather a direct result of the new global, integral, and social restructuring taking place. Until now we developed ourselves on a personal level. The value of life rose along with health standards and technological innovations.

Now humanity is approaching a new phase, and the old world must make way for the new world. We are dealing with the natural law of development that history has been following and will continue to follow. Everything that we considered true up until yesterday no longer works to secure a sustainable tomorrow for us.

Any move on our part to accelerate globalization from the place we are today is critical. The widespread social implications of everything we do is now inseparable from our economic development at both the local and global levels.

Posted by JosiaNakash | Report as abusive
 

Doggydaddy: Yes, the problem is systemic. A new set of opportunists in office, with the same set of opportunities, equals zero change. The tactical problem is, how to uproot an entrenched oligarchy? (by which I mean, the corporate/government nexus.) I think you have to attack both sides. How, is a question for more concrete minds than mine….

Posted by acebros | Report as abusive
 

Uprooting the oligarchy – a fine idea. A good starting point might just be a constitutional amendment limiting all elected officials to a set number of terms. Should we the people call for a second constitutional congress?

Posted by OFA7 | Report as abusive
 

Please, please, sign up at http://www.getmoneyout.com

Posted by PCScipio | Report as abusive
 

The world has NEVER existed without an empire….period…I believe we are in the midst of the next empire, namely the Anglo-American Empire controlled by the wealthiest people on the plnaet. Their tool for building the empire was started 110 yrs ago, namely the Federal Reserve. The Fed is intertwined with the international bankers. the only that will bring down the empire is the same thing to bring down all previous empire….a people’s revolution and then the cycl will begin again. Whether the Wallstreet movement is the beginning of this revolution is yet to be determined. One thing is for certain, if the number of protetsors get big enough, it will either be one of the bloodiest revolutions in historyor will end swiftly through extreme military force.

Posted by Jerry0921 | Report as abusive
 

Its only a matter of time before some opportunistic politicans stroll in and claim to be party of the “Occupier” party (or whatever they will call it).

All they will see if a quick road to office so they can get a seat at the money buffet known as our government.

What i would love to see, however, is normal everyday people with no political background stepping up and pushing the incumbents out of office. Given the conditions we’re facing right now, its obvious you don’t need any special set of skills to run the country INTO THE GROUND.

So yeah, come poll time, i’ll be looking for the newbie running for office because he needs to feed his family. His motivations will be genuine.

Posted by RailBended | Report as abusive
 

i’m curious what did i miss, when was this country ever a democracy, this country from the beginning, from the outset, has been founded on lies, rape, genocide, slavery & on & on?

Posted by toroleon13 | Report as abusive
 

Obama can’t get re-elected so he is giving his voice to these Union and Soros backed protestors that would institute his socialist policies. Obama can’t get re-elected so he is giving his voice to these Union and Soros backed protestors that would institute his socialist policies.
I just read the national motto for North Korea is “WE HAVE NOTHING TO ENVY,” If these idiots have their way that will be true here too.
I Suppose that if Bloomburg needs to facilitate their free speech by offering toilets etc., the government should pay for everyone to be in hotels, have transportation (How about Obama’s new bus!).
Soros was arrested for insider trading, and he is the billionaire behind these protests.
I just read the national motto for North Korea is “WE HAVE NOTHING TO ENVY,” If these idiots have their way that will be true here too.
I Suppose that if Bloomburg needs to facilitate their free speech by offering toilets etc., the government should pay for everyone to be in hotels, have transportation (How about Obama’s new bus!).

Posted by Jennytalk | Report as abusive
 

America is not longer the Largest Democracy in the World. It’s the Largest Plutocracy the world has ever seen and that’s rather obscene…

Posted by marusik | Report as abusive
 

What is “Occupy Wall Street”……

Two great generations fought world wars and gave the next generation the opportunity to live peacefully and grow their families.

That generation gave their children the best education available.

My generation produced technological advances. Everything from cordless telephones to iphones to military drones.

This generation is highly educated and they have an endless supply of information available to them on the Internet. They can communicate openly with people in several different countries and share their experiences in videos. It all happens within minutes and it’s all free.

In the 60′s we had muscle cars and everyone wanted to drive 120 miles an hour. This generation has the power of communication and they deserve to travel at light speed.

Each generation goes through their “what do I want to be” phase. This generation is going through it together as a connected, world generation. They’re watching famine, war, corruption and all the other inequities that we heard about but were never allowed to see. They see it live, uncensored, unedited and without media commentary on Facebook and Youtube as it’s happening.

Some say there’s no clear message with “Occupy Wall Street” but if you listen carefully the message is as clear as any Facebook page… one day they’re sad, one day they’re angry, on Monday they comment about hunger in Africa, on Tuesday it’s the financial crisis, on Wednesday it’s nuclear weapons.

As the older generation, we need to listen to everything they have to say, let them ramble, let them scream, let them dress and act out in ways we don’t understand. We should be on the sidelines bringing them coffee and donuts, giving them blankets and letting them say what’s on their minds. We need to encourage them and we need to listen.

In the end, they will realize there are no easy answers but they can and will make a difference. We need to support them no matter how crazy it seems to us. The most important thing is they are trying to do something and they sincerely want to make a difference. We know they have the technology and the ability to do it.

The news media should go to these events and just listen. Don’t ask questions, let them say what’s on their minds, let them vent, let them express their opinions, let them jump up and down. Sure, there will be silly comments and unreasonable suggestions but in the end they will find their way… just like we did.

We should all be Watching with our Ears.

Posted by wiseoldman61 | Report as abusive
 

I think maybe something is happening that we do not see. I would not be surprised if the occupiers marched around Wall Street for 6 days and on the 7 th day they marched around and blew trumpets and maybe the walls would not collapse, but you could be assurred that the system would collapse. The system on Wall Street and in Washington DC is inherently unstable as is the move to free trade and the world government. I think we are in for a good shaking of the government.

Posted by fred5407 | Report as abusive
 

Very nice analysis but one very important comment.

If you know what Aristotle said, then you should also know that he said that voting for our rulers is an Oligarchy.

Making a draw in order to decide who will implement the decisions of the citizens, is a Democracy.

Representative democracy is an oxymoron. The “demos” cannot be cratein (governing) if they only send their representatives to do so.

The only form of true democracy is direct democracy.

Posted by Peripeton | Report as abusive
 

I don’t think this movement is going anywhere until this group can figure out what they want. Every great protest in the past has had a very easy-to-understand message–whether it was getting our troops out of Vietnam, or decreasing taxes and government (Tea Party). Right now, they are only “sharing ideas” and being angry together–at a variety of targets. This is similar to the pointless riots we saw in London a couple months ago.

If they want change, they need to agree on what needs to change. Until then, their message will be “inchoate.” We understand there is a problem–but “We are the 99″ implies no solution yet.

Posted by ajCallao | Report as abusive
 

I think that this article defines the movement well – exactly like liberals, these folks don’t have a message; they have feelings. They have no specific plan or requests. Noise is not information. I would welcome their input as to solutions, but so far they have provided nothing except complaint. This is about as far opposite of the Tea Party as I can think of.

I think it is important to note that had the Democratic party not forced the banks to make sub-standard loans, the economic collapse of 2008 would never had occurred. The CRA was started by President Carter, and then forced down the throats of the banks by President Clinton. It just took about 10 years for the inevitable crisis to come to a head. One simply cannot make loans to people who can’t afford to repay them without consequences. Nevertheless I do not support the TARP – the banks should have been made to stand, or fall, on their own.

Posted by stevedebi | Report as abusive
 

It is time for a third political party in this country, not one that is bought out by the 1% and controls it. Republicans and Democrats are too far to the left and right to represent the mass majority of middle folks.

Time to vote these self serving groups out the door. I hope a new class politics is born now in America, it is long over due.

Posted by cheeze | Report as abusive
 

Still hedging… It’s time to hand over the Keys to the Palace for a new generation. …don’t stand in the doorways, don’t block up the hall… get out of the way if you can’t lend a hand… for the times, they are a-changing.

Posted by nieldevi | Report as abusive
 

Corporations must DIE after a life span of 50 years

What would happen; with the life extending technology that is almost on us; if Warren Buffett lived for a couple HUNDRED years. He would own everything. Like never restarting a Monopoly game. New players don’t have a chance. Corporations must DIE; with 1% accruing to the People each year. At the end of that lifetime; sell it off lock stock and barrel; extinguishing copyrights and patents. Otherwise we will forever be enslaved by these mega monsters

The public would be better served if we never voted for the same candidate twice, EVER. That way only the exceptional would ever be re-elected..

Posted by bloggerswamp | Report as abusive
 

I enjoyed the article. I also enjoyed the comment, “The only form of true democracy is direct democracy.”

We need to use technology to control our government instead of letting the government use technology to control us.

Posted by M.C.McBride | Report as abusive
 

Hard work. Anyone aspiring to success needs to exert effort. Sitting under trees holding signs on beautiful Fall afternoons may appear important when others around our country are duped to the same, won’t work and nothing is accomplished. Wa wa wa. Waiting for winning lottery tickets to show up in the mailbox won’t work either. Sure, there are those who used our economic and polital system’s weaknesses to pilfer great wealth, so what. Obama is laughing at you.

Posted by mdblitz | Report as abusive
 

Don’t get me wrong, I admire and support what these people are doing. But here’s the part I don’t understand, and I’ve repeatedly seen similar statements from people that have been quoted in other news articles:

The protesters were “insistent that they needed work and that their elected leaders seemed not to care.”

Is it really the function of government to provide jobs? Short of a 21st Century New Deal the government can’t simply create jobs. It’s not like there’s a faucet they can turn on and off to create more jobs.

How would they even do it? Would prosecuting bankers and day traders create jobs? Would higher taxes on the rich create jobs? Would another giant stimulus package create jobs? No: jobs come from people buying goods and paying for services. If people aren’t doing that, there will be no jobs. As American companies have engaged in a race to the bottom in order to pander to the masses, the manufacturing base has evaporated. And over time that’s finally catching up with us.

I really do agree with the protester’s overall motive and I admire their ambition, I just wish they would put some of that ambition into creating startups or small business. Or just learning a basic trade that can’t be outsourced or made obsolete. You want the economy to be fixed, you have to fix it yourself – the government and the corporations are obviously incapable of fixing anything.

Posted by Nullcorp | Report as abusive
 

Hundreds, thousands? Not a critical mass- yet. Will take a few more million foreclosed families hitting the streets, with hundreds of thousands of marching protestors in cities across the nation to have an impact. Still too much complacency. Things have to get much worse before we see any change.

Posted by jade-d | Report as abusive
 

Mr. Johnson seems to be pointing out that quite a percentage of the population, are not happy with the present state of affairs.
The media seems to be dismissing the protests as a minor inconvenience and a little news worthy?
No one seems to be considering what has happened in the past when the ruling elite neglected the base of society.
Students of history will recall what occurred in France in the late 1700, Russia 1917 and Germany in the 1920 & 30’s.
All started off with minor demonstrations and the base of society considering it was left out of the decision making of society.

Posted by The1eyedman | Report as abusive
 

Well it stood to reason that those feeling the pinch of the economic circumstances while seeing government do anything effective would eventually begin rebelling. Right now it would appear this is nothing but a loosely organized Mob with no serious leadership, or is there. If there should be that leadership circumstance will not last for long. There will be someone who will claim leadership just as Adolf Hitler did in Germany when economic circumstances became untenable for many.

We have an emerging crisis on our hands as those who may assume leadership of such a movement may well be wanting to be another Hitler in the sense of wanting to be absolute dictator who will use the Constitution to get into a position to suspend the Constitution.

Posted by USMCPatriot | Report as abusive
 

Yes, the bankers are raping our country and
if you follow the money trail, it leads past Capitol Hill and the White House to the biggest bank of them all, the Federal Reserve Bank.

In 2009, Ron Paul rallied support to an audit the FRB. Not only did that die a quiet death, the FRB was granted more power.

Creditors are slaves to their debtors, Guess who holds the debt.

Posted by GSH10 | Report as abusive
 

Do you suppose that the tenor of the demonstrations will change a year from now when ABSOLUTELY NOTHING will have changed? When we will still have a totally paralyzed Congress in thrall to Wall Street and the big banks. When the economy will still be stuck in stagflation, when the CEO’s of the moneyed interests will still be taking home multi-million dollar bonuses while millions of people will still be out of work and losing their homes.

Until we figure out how to get the old-line entrenched, corrupted, incumbents OUT of Congress and some new, younger faces in there who are not owned by their campaign contributors, we will continue to spiral ever downward as a nation.

Posted by stanrich | Report as abusive
 

sorry, but I think there’s a lot of myth here.

THE RICH
it’s fair to point out that the top 1% currently pays about 40% of all income taxes, the top 10% pays 2/3rds. i for one don’t see a big problem with a wealth gap as long as those at the bottom aren’t losing ground. the truth is all income levels have grown over the long term. yes, the top income earners have grown faster than those at the bottom, but over the long term, all income groups are making more money. there are fewer households at the lower income grouping today than there was 40 years ago (check out the us census household income survey 1967 – 2009 if you doubt this)

MANUFACTURING
our manufacturing base has not evaporated; manufacturing output has grown almost every year for many, many years and, depending on whose data you believe, we’re either the number 1 or 2 manufacturer in the world, and we’re much more productive than the Chinese as they commit a lot more of their workforce to manufacturing than we do.

WALL STREET
the recent downturn has many culprits. i know it makes some people feel better to blame wall street exclusively, but didn’t the fed keep interest rates too low for too long fueling too much borrowing and too much speculation? didn’t the government put too many policies in place to encourage home ownership for too many people who couldn’t really afford to buy the homes they bought? didn’t too many mortgage brokers ‘coach’ too many home buyers through the mortgage application process? didn’t too many people buy homes and take on more debt than they really couldn’t afford? didn’t credit rating agencies give too many financial institutions holding questionable debt credit ratings that were too high? didn’t the government’s regulators whose mission is to help us navigate around these landmines miss the problem?

BANK BAILOUTS
i believe paulson and bernacke when they said they really didn’t want to bail out the banks in ’08 and ’09, but they feared what would happen if they didn’t act. there are obviously differences between 2008 and 1930, but the fed stood back and let what they thought would be a few bad banks fail in the 30′s. the situation got out of hand and something like 40% of the banks failed during the depression. the problem then and now is that the banks occupy a very unique role in he economy, and a liquidity crisis can jump the firewall from bad banks to sound banks and take the whole economy down in the process. i didn’t like baling out the banks, but we were getting close to the edge of the cliff.

GREED
some people (especially those doing the occupying) like to believe that greed is exclusive to big business, wall street, bankers, corporate cxo’s. the truth is, most people tend to buy goods and services guided by a ‘bang for the buck’ mentality. by their own greed (wanting to maximize their dollar) consumers are pushing companies to cut costs, outsource, automate, etc and then these same people blame corporate greed when a company outsources some back office function to poland. business is just reacting to the marketplace. this reminds me of the uproar that flairs when walmart opens a new store in a small town. you hear sad stories about the town’s longstanding family owned store going out of business after the walmart opens. who put the mom and pop store out of business—walmart or the townspeople who shopped there?

good night.

Posted by jambrytay | Report as abusive
 

Rome is burning and Nero is fiddling!

Our system is broken and most of our leadership is entranced with Humpty Dumpty. All the King’s horses and all the King’s men cannot put Humpty Dumpty together again. The economic theory that worked so well in the past no longer has relevance, yet all we hear is the same rhetoric.

Social Revolution, whether it be started by Arab Spring or other means, will bring forth change because the masses are being disenfranchised, freedom has eroded and the prospects for a return to stable times and prosperity are very dim. All mankind has a breaking point and it may have already been reached.

If this particular action at the park near Wall Street fades, there will be others that are louder and more focused…. soon the masses (99 percenters) will join. When the following grows to millions and many countries, a common theme will develop and then watch out. The people will prevail and a new order will emerge.

Good luck to the Occupy Wall Street group!

Posted by Legend624 | Report as abusive
 

OWS/99%ers are an American Style French Revolution. The 3rd Estate 99%ers are revolting against the 1st Estate Clergy (Wall Street who worships $$) and the 2nd Estate Royalty (the failed 3 branches of the US Government.) The cancer of Wall Street/$$$$ has entered the structure of our government and mastisized. We are no longer a democratic republic. President goes to the highest bidder, Congress represents corporations vs constituents, and the SCOTUS has legally declared corporations personhood. The experiment in a democratic republic has failed and the only question is: Will we become a $$$$ plutocracy, Colony of China, or will the 99%ers perservere and reclaim our democratic government.

Posted by NewsDebbie | Report as abusive
 

“Unite around a common theme: bankers are ripping off America.”

A bit baffling. To pay for our US spending programs, in 2011 alone the US borrowed 1.3 Trillion dollars, $1,300,000,000,000.00, much of that from banks. And the protesters are beating up on the banks. Why aren’t they camped out in DC ?

Posted by oregun | Report as abusive
 

The author should clarify what the $14.7 trillion dollar figure actually means. That number is more like the total exposure the gov’t took during the bailout, not the amount of committed cash. For example, the US gov’t guaranteed 3-4 trillion dollars in money market funds, but didn’t end up using any cash or taking any losses on the guarantees. On the other hand, the US gov’t actually made money on the $700 billion allocated to the TARP program.

To the uninformed reader, the graphic could suggests that the US gov’t diverted funds from welfare programs into the banking sector. While some money was wasted in bailout programs, nowhere close to 14.7 trillion was actually used.

Posted by Commenter12345 | Report as abusive
 

A must see Wall St. protester video.

youtube.com/watch?v=uZmPWcLQ1Mk&feature= player_embedded

Posted by gruven137 | Report as abusive
 

jambrytay,

Income, wealth and taxes:

Here’s a question for you, what was the top income tax bracket in the 50′s after WWII, when America took it’s war debt seriously, and entered the “Postwar Prosperity”?

Your “data” must be straight from Rupert Murdoch’s henchies. First, The top 20% currently pay about 64% of ALL taxes, But earn about 59% of ALL income and own 85% of ALL of the wealth in America. The top 1%, alone, earn at least 22% of ALL income and have 35% of all wealth. The bottom 40% earn about 11% of All income and pay about 7% of all taxes, and own NOTHING (0.3% of the total wealth). see Fg 6 and 7. http://sociology.ucsc.edu/whorulesameric a/power/wealth.html

In ’69 one could buy a brand new Mustang for around $3000. We must look at adjusted ’67 incomes in order to compare them to today’s as you are trying to do. http://www.census.gov/hhes/www/income/da ta/historical/household/2010/H03AR_2010. xls

scroll down to the section “2010 dollars” these are the inflation adjusted incomes by year (adjusted to 2010 dollars). None of the income brackets have raised enough to shift to the next quintile from ’69. Except maybe the top 5%, and them to some new super-rich bracket. Looking at all income data corrected to 2010 dollars, the bottom 20% (mean $11k today) had much of their (21%) improvement (from their 9k of ’67 adjusted to 2010 dollars) by 1973. Similarly, the next quintile made much of their whopping 13% improvement by ’79. Are they so much better off now?

The % increases in income compared to ’67 income corrected to 2010 dollars, for each quintile is by my calcs: 21%, 13%, 22%, 40%, and 67%. And the Top 5% = 80%. Now look at that 40% increase by the 4rth quintile, does that make them rich? It is not enough to make them as rich as the ’67 upper quintile was, as that would have taken an 80% increase. We have been making incomes even more disparate. If we were not then ALL quintiles would be making at least 67% more and ideally 80% more, like the upper 5%.

In order for the people of each quintile to have ‘moved’ to the next higher income quintile bracket they would have had to of had increases of 177% (1rst to 2nd), 60%(2nd to third), 40% (3rd to 4rth), and (4rth to 5th) 80%. None of the bottom 4, so at least 80% of people have NOT changed income brackets. Note also that your wonderful prosperity is now going in reverse, yes incomes are falling.

Further, there are not less poor by number, or percent, as you say. The rate of poverty in ’69 appears lower than today, Fig 4 page 14. http://www.census.gov/prod/2010pubs/p60- 238.pdf

Personal wealth, and personal financial security is transferring all to the rich. Insuring that the bottom 40% and even the bottom 60%+ have no savings or assets to care for their own welfare and futures.
http://sociology.ucsc.edu/whorulesameric a/power/wealth.html

Manufacturing:

In ’69 the US commanded about 30% of the worlds manufacturing. Now it is around 18%. In one decade China has nearly caught us, starting from 1/4 of our output. And what have the Rich Job creators been up to with all their new found wealth?

“In January 2004, the number of such jobs stood at 14.3 million, down by 3.0 million jobs, or 17.5 percent, since July 2000 and about 5.2 million since the historical peak in 1979. Employment in manufacturing was its lowest since July 1950″ from http://www.cbo.gov/doc.cfm?index=5078&ty pe=0

Posted by ConstFundie | Report as abusive
 

Businesses make money. They should and they must in order to continue to do business.

Giving mortgages to people who couldn’t afford them, then grouping high quality mortgages with poor quality mortgages, selling that new package as high quality, then taking out insurance on those mortgages should they fail… is not business.

It’s fraud – massive, widespread, carefully calculated and carefully perpetrated, carefully organized fraud, far beyond anything the Mafia ever imagined. The greatest fraud in all of human history!

Prosecute those criminals under RICO so they can they can be properly imprisoned and all of their ill-gotten assets can be stripped away!

Whatever happened to the concept of blind justice? Wall Street is not above the law!
We must prosecute them. Every MBA student in the country is studying what just happened.

Posted by breezinthru | Report as abusive
 

ConstFundie -

we can argue about tax data and sources (my source is actually the irs) but let’s just use your numbers for the sake of argument. your saying top 20% currently pay about 64% of all taxes, but earn about 59% of all income – they’re already paying out more than they earn. you’d like for them to pay an even more disproportionate share? as for your wealth stats, we pay income taxes in this country not wealth taxes (property taxes not withstanding), so i’m not seeing the point. there are wealthy people out there who are retired with small incomes but wealth that’s been accumulated through savings, real estate appreciation, etc. over their lives.

i’ve done a detailed study of long term incomes and the numbers of households in each income group over time and the data shows fewer lower and middle income households and more higher income households over the long haul i.e. families are becoming more prosperous. have a look at my posting for August 21, 2010 where i lay out the data from the us census household income survey http://unrepentantcapitalist.blogspot.co m/
your manufacturing comments sound a bit arrogant. are you suggesting the u,s. is doing poorly if we don’t have an overwhelming share of the world’s manufacturing output? i’ll assume your numbers are correct when you say we’ve gone from a 30% share of total manufacturing to 18% now. remember we represent 5% of the world’s population, so we’re way ahead in terms of manufacturing output per capita v. the chinese. china and india are developing economies. they’re like pre-teens with big feet and tall parents, they’re going to grow no matter what. the u.s. is a developed economy, so we’re structurally unable to grow as fast. our economy has also shifted towards services (and this isn’t exclusively food service, this includes lots of high paying jobs like engineers, software developers, consultants, etc.) so we’ve scaled back our share of workers in the manufacturing space over time and still sit at #1 or #2 in the world.

i think a lot of businesses and rich folks are hunkering down and not expanding (and creating new jobs) due to all the uncertainty around future gov’t plans towards solving our debt gap. there’s a lot of noise coming out of washington about future tax increases. i actually think there’s support for raising taxes among the wealthy IF there’s a serious and credible plan towards managing the spending side of the equation first leading to a sustainable balanced budget. if you look at the forward projects of taxes and expenditures, it’s very clear one of those curves is growing significantly faster than the other.

Posted by jambrytay | Report as abusive
 

to Jambrytay,

No , i gave you a link to the numbers from the IRS and converted for comparing income data by and on the US Census website. You give me a right wing opinion BLOG with “data”. Exactly as i thought, you spread data that is a figment of somebody’s imagination and refuse to look at or interpret the actual numbers yourself.

Assume i am correct!? Those are not my numbers. I gave you a link to the Congressional Budget Office Analysis on Manufacturing. Try looking up the actual data yourself instead of repeating BLOG derived opinion/data because you want to believe it.

And i asked you for one piece of data. What was the top income tax bracket in 1950? Make it easy for you, how about any year between ’44 and ’60?

Hunkering down. Yes, if doing everything possible to keep and take every cent possible with no return or care about the prosperity of the US is “hunkering down”

Posted by ConstFundie | Report as abusive
 

ConstFundie-

i’m not sure what you’re talking about. the data in my blog comes straight from the irs website, table H-17, and not someone’s imagination. i just plotted the data from the table, pretty straightforward.

with regards to my original comment on the state of u.s. manufacturing, i was simply responding to an earlier post that characterized u.s. manufacturing as having ‘evaporated’ which is clearly not the case.

a couple of clarifications. 1. the various studies on my blog are my work using data from reputable sources (usually from gov’t agencies like the irs, bls, treasury, etc.) 2. i’m not a rightwinger

signing-off…arkansas/auburn is kicking off in 5 minutes.

Posted by jambrytay | Report as abusive
 

Man, I’m surprised they let you write on a business/news site. They must want to cover their a$$ if the revolutionaries take over and start shooting people in a few years when peak oil hits and things really get bad.
If the ruling class (and that is what the top .5% has become in America with their ownership of Congress) makes the mistake of letting the police get out of control by trying to disperse the protesters using force, get ready for the start of terrorism which may lead to the establishment of a police state.
The only hope for the US now is to get money out of national politics. It won’t happen because the new class of super-rich that has emerged since Reagan began cutting taxes, won’t voluntarily relinquish their control of the Federal Government. The fact that the country is going broke, yet their puppets in Congress still demand no tax increases, is all the evidence anyone needs.

Posted by Discovery451 | Report as abusive
 

Great article. Keep them coming.

Posted by virgineon | Report as abusive
 

Dear Sir:
Fantastic article! I, especially enjoyed reading about the concerns for the sanitation needs of the public who are taking over the area.
I am in Europe now, and feel, we US citizens who do care for a change, must “unite” and give support to those who are not just protesting, but planning to do action for change. I am not one who thinks protests lead to much change in a republic state as ours, but I do feel USA is ready for a change that none of our past our future presidents can give us, only we can really be the ones to push for this change.
Looking forward to see how long these occupations last, and what sort of discussion the “leaders” of this occupation might be able to get from the major US politicians.

Posted by norabean | Report as abusive
 

I agree with doggydaddy that our electoral system is not going to result in significant change unless it changes.

Our system has fossilized our current ruling classes. When we have an election, it is not free, it is not fair and it does not reflect the will of the people at all. We only get to select which talking head will spout the garbage of the ruling classes.

Can the system change itself? Can it change itself without some kind of violent implosion? There is not indication whatsoever that it can. Our rulers are so deadlocked that they can change nothing. And as a result they will change everything.

When we are allowed real choices on the ballot, we will have elections. What we have now is so rigged that it is not worth voting.

Posted by txgadfly | Report as abusive
 

Why is it that protests on Wall Street and elsewhere — denouncing corporate greed and perverse distribution of wealth and the attendant corruption of our institutions — why don’t we recognize energy policies and energy’s absolute relevance to inequity? (Indeed, amassing capital essentially correlates to determining energy policy.)

But do you really think this is primarily about class struggle? When we toss the capitalists out, who exactly are we going to bring in to assist in managing our society? Some good old anti-capitalist professionals? Maybe even some good young ones?

Well, did you ever consider the inequity and degradation that necessarily result from a high-energy consumption economy? Forget capitalist or socialist. Think: Society gorging itself on energy actually deprives and frustrates the hell out of us.

Significantly, in this mostly unacknowledged aspect of quanta of energy as it correlates to inequity, the actual source of energy is irrelevant; whether it be petroleum, nuke plants, the “clean” energies of wind and solar, the hoped-for magnificent new battery; or even some other techno-splendorous future development — gushing cheap plentiful energy from used kitty litter.

This is about levels of energy (and by extension, technology).

Could it be? Could it be that beyond a certain threshold of energy consumption, that technical processes begin to dictate social relations? No way you say? And you’re going to put that on your Facebook friend wall — maybe even “dislike” it? Well, friend, you’re not alone in being sort of troubled by such a notion. The fact is that if you begin to accept this entirely rational line of reasoning, you’re probably going to run, more likely drive, into some other awakenings that just don’t sit well with that little gremlin that lives in your wilderness, as you hunt for legitimacy and authenticity as a good citizen trying your best.

So ya, greedy bastards, snarfing up all the resources of our planet is indeed part of what troubles us. However, it’d seem to be rather disingenuous to not observe that the high energy that is controlled and utilized by the affluent (that’d be us too) is what generates the inequities.

Beyond carrying a placard announcing “That 1% has too much money”, how in the world do we possibly go about tweaking this reality?

Consider the energy inputs, and the industrial complex-energy outputs, and the reality of their costs to our society. A fairly obvious, and now rightly considered absurd, illustration would be something like the supersonic Concorde jet of decades ago. As the price of acceleration for a small affluent group of travelers, the majority of the people paid the societal cost; in pollution and otherwise. Now what is often overlooked in such scenarios is the dis-utility — the disabling — of those unable or unwilling to adopt the apparent technological sophistication. This leads us to what has been termed “radical monopoly”, whereby an industrial consumer-value, say our system of motorized transportation, is adopted to the extent of the exclusion of self-powered transit — and other appropriate use-value oriented technologies. (Where I live, as I walk my sorry ass through the parking lot — to locate my motorized crutch: my car — I often feel as though perhaps I’m a confused terrorist in the war on pedestrians.)

To summarize, and in looking at possible alternative approaches to fixing some crappy aspects of crumbling empire, I’d suggest that communities, in the historical sense, find ways to engage in the political process; to assess from an enlightened local perspective; what levels of energy and technology are in their interests and where limits might be appropriate.

(For more information regarding this, read the sociologist Ivan Illich’s Energy and Equity.)

Posted by islandnotes | Report as abusive
 

…its obvious you don’t need any special set of skills to run the country INTO THE GROUND…” well said , railbended – you don’t.

Posted by Renox | Report as abusive
 

“our manufacturing base has not evaporated; manufacturing output has grown almost every year for many, many years and, depending on whose data you believe, we’re either the number 1 or 2 manufacturer in the world, and we’re much more productive than the Chinese as they commit a lot more of their workforce to manufacturing than we do.”

Mark Twain once said something like, “There are lies, damn lies, and statistics.” You’re talking stats, while I speak from personal experience, having watched both light industry (textiles) and heavy industry (machinery, automobiles, and electronics) leave my state over the past few decades and relocate to the Far East.

Posted by Nullcorp | Report as abusive
 

“First, The top 20% currently pay about 64% of ALL taxes, But earn about 59% of ALL income and own 85% of ALL of the wealth in America. The top 1%, alone, earn at least 22% of ALL income and have 35% of all wealth. The bottom 40% earn about 11% of All income and pay about 7% of all taxes, and own NOTHING (0.3% of the total wealth).”

“let’s just use your numbers for the sake of argument. your saying top 20% currently pay about 64% of all taxes, but earn about 59% of all income – they’re already paying out more than they earn. you’d like for them to pay an even more disproportionate share?”

ConstFundie argument makes perfect sence… they are only 20% of the population e even if they pay more % of the total of taxes, they still keep for themselves much more than the 80% of the population… and thats why they acumulate more money, faster…
they are not paying more than they earn, obviously…

Example of what happens… 10 people:
8 earn $1000 each, (total $8000), pay $200 taxes each (total $1600)(20% taxes is very conservative, hehehe);
2 earn $5750 each (total $11500), pay $1420 taxes each (total $2840);
Total income $19500 , total Taxes $4440
The 2 guys (20%) win 59% of all income and pay 64% of all taxes…
In this example, the 2 guys each win 5.75 times more (5750 vs 1000), pay 7.1 times more taxes (1420 vs 200)… and in the end they still get each 5.4 times more (4330 vs 800)…
They share only a small fraction of their large income with extra taxes… they may pay 20% more taxes in proportional values but the extra taxes only bleed about 9.3% more of their bigger income… and each wins 540% more than the others in the end…

Posted by VonHell | Report as abusive
 

Sorry I couldn’t go, but I have a wife and children to suport and a regular job. Maybe Mr. Obama will send me a stimulus check so I can take a month off to stand around and be in someone’s way, of course, being a flat taxer might just get me in trouble anyway!

Posted by zotdoc | Report as abusive
 

The OccuPee Wall Street movement is going to continue to struggle for credibility because of stark reports like this one:

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article- 2047168/Occupy-Wall-Street-protesters-ma ke-love-class-war-sex-drugs-tap.html

They’re either going to have to select some sane leaders who can define and articulate their position and demands, or else follow the lead of the Egyptian protest and just shut down an entire city.

Until they do, all that’s going to occur is sex and drugs and rock-and-roll and the harsh criticism it deserves.

Hence, my new name for the movement – OccuPee Wall Street.

Posted by NukerDoggie | Report as abusive
 

I think they are rightfully angry and frustrated with the high unemployment and the deteriorating standard of living of the middle class and I applaude them for their non-violent protests. However, to maximize their message, I would like to see them get better organized, and focus on selecting 8 or 10 of their most important objections. This demonstration could become a major force in politics if the right message(s) gets out. Most importantly, I think they are focused on Wall Street, which is the result, not the cause. Wall Street has only taken advantage of the playing rules (or lack of same) Congress gave them. The protesters’ focus should be on Congress and the lobbists, who have far more influence on our elected officials than we do. I don’t think protesters or Congress realizes how many American citizens back the protesters.

Posted by dbudro | Report as abusive
 

A petition has been posted to the “We The People” White House web page, asking the Administration to implement Voter Referendums on issues that the Washington political system is unable ( or unwilling ) to resolve.

Details can be seen at http://wh.gov/4rM and if you agree with the aims, please give it your support and sign the petition.

Posted by philpearl | Report as abusive
 

The Daily Mail is a British tabloid. You wouldn’t quote the Enquirer, a US sensational tabloid, would you?
All the photos taken by people I know or know through others are showing people doing art, protesting peacefully with senses of humor, collaborating, planning, cleaning, and helping each other.
Don’t buy into it! The defamation of the protestors is what the 1% wants. Think about it – it’s going to get cold in NYC really soon…those people care enough to be there. The least we can do is not spread gossipy magazine crud about them.

Posted by Camille82 | Report as abusive
 

What is needed is a 35 hour work week and a way that the wealth can be divided more justly.

Posted by Michael1984 | Report as abusive
 

Everyone has a different complaint… the heart or root of the problem is the structure of “corporations”. They allow the 1%, the board members etc. to decide who gets what. Thus, the members vote themselves a 3 million dollar salary, while deciding their janitor deserves only $30,000 a year. Thus one goes home to a mansion in a beautiful neighbor, while the other to a government project apartment in the Bronx, where he send s his children to failing schools. Where they are being educated to take their father’s place as future janitors when dad retires.

Posted by voxon123 | Report as abusive
 

The beast we seek has a thick hard skin but we can get to him from within. We can start with the corrupt Washington D.C.. The ones who make it possable for the beast to enslave us.

Posted by RAY1933 | Report as abusive
 

I agree that “Occupy Wall Street” needs to get organized. Do they want a flat tax? Do they want more regulation of Wall Street? They can also get more of the 99% of the country they believe they represent behind them if they could better articulate exactly what they want from their government. They can become a very powerful group during the 2012 election year.

Posted by PatG | Report as abusive
 

The board members are responsible for delivering value to their shareholders, employees and customers. They are likely graduates of good schools and universities where they likely studied hard to achieve their goals. They have probably spent a great deal of their time away from their families as they developed a career. The janitor is probably a high school dropout, who didn’t have the skill, knowledge or talent (perhaps opportunity, though with all the grants/aid available that’s hard to believe)to get out of the Bronx, to move somewhere to improve his children’s chances of success. There is no reason for someone who has been brought up to earn $30K should “have” to live in the Bronx if they don’t want to live there, and LOTS of people succeed who’s parents were janitors – I know I did. My dad worked as a union laborer for the garment workers union until they drove the manufacturers out of business with unreasonable demands. He ended up (at 55 years of age with 2 children at home/in school) working as a janitor for the Bd. of Ed, in a non-union job, to help his family, until he died.

Posted by Phula | Report as abusive
 

we need to change congress get the money out get the lobbists out. sign get the money out.com

Posted by roussellej | Report as abusive
 

Republicans have made an official announcement that The American Dream was actually intended to be called The American Fantasy. Everyone should adjust their thinking accordingly, get over themselves, and let the wealthy do what the hell they want because they are Job Creators.

Posted by Hodja1 | Report as abusive
 

The President,as leader of his party, once again expressed that every American should pay his fair share in taxes. One sizable loophole in the Federal Tax Code is TAX EXCLUSION INCOME. It is time to do something about this unfair tax revenue placed disproportionally on small business & especially the self-reliant. The President is correct we are all in this mess together. It is time to correct the inequity of Tax Exclusion income for some rather than for all workers earning income & paying taxes on all received income. There is no reason for this inequity especially after the President many request for equity.

Posted by buckaroo5 | Report as abusive
 

Post Your Comment

We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/
  •