Eat the rich

Angry about inequality? Don’t blame the rich.

There is no doubt that incomes are unequal in the United States — far more so than in most European nations. This fact is part of the impulse behind the Occupy Wall Street movement, whose members claim to represent the 99 percent of us against the wealthiest 1 percent. It has also sparked a major debate in the Republican presidential race, where former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney has come under fire for his tax rates and his career as the head of a private-equity firm.

And economic disparity was the recurring theme of President Obama’s State of the Union address on Tuesday. “We can either settle for a country where a shrinking number of people do really well, while a growing number of Americans barely get by,” the president warned, “or we can restore an economy where everyone gets a fair shot and everyone does their fair share.”

But the mere existence of income inequality tells us little about what, if anything, should be done about it. First, we must answer some key questions. Who constitutes the prosperous and the poor? Why has inequality increased? Does an unequal income distribution deny poor people the chance to buy what they want? And perhaps most important: How do Americans feel about inequality?

One of the things that bothered me about OWS was the blanket demonization of the “1%.” First of all, who exactly are we talking about? Obviously they are the richest Americans, but does that count income or wealth? What is the threshold for entry into that category?

I’m pretty sure George Soros is a 1%er, as are the Koch brothers, Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, the late Steven Jobs, Larry Page, Sergey Brin, and Eric Schmidt. But so are Bill and Hillary Clinton, Oprah, Tom Brady, Eli Manning, Ben & Jerry, Michael Moore, Taylor Swift, Paris Hilton, the Olson Twins and lots of lottery winners. Definitely a mixed bag.

So besides being rich, what have all these people done to deserve society’s condemnation? Everyone hates a robber baron, but what about a philanthropist? Does it matter how they got rich? Do we care about what they do with their wealth? Or shall we impose strict liability – if you’re a member of the 1% you are bad, case closed?

This is important, because the underlying premise of OWS is fairness. It hardly seems fair to punish someone who was lucky enough to win the lottery or who earned their wealth through talent and hard work. “Equality of outcome” didn’t work out so good as an economic theory in the real world.

But let’s assume we can specifically identify a group of wealthy miscreants worthy of our anger. Let’s further assume there is a significant group that hasn’t broken any existing laws. They may have exploited workers and screwed investors, but they did so legally.

So now what do we do?

We could pass new laws.

But in order to pass new laws we need to figure out what new laws we want to pass. It’s one thing to pass laws to prevent something from happening again, but the Constitution prohibits ex post facto laws that retroactively make things illegal. So we can’t lock people up for conduct that wasn’t a crime when it was committed.

We need to figure out what conduct we want to criminalize, then draft narrowly tailored laws to prohibit the conduct. If you took high school civics you know that laws are passed by the legislature, so we need to get our elected representatives involved.

This is where it gets really messy. It won’t be enough for a few of us to go to Washington and make demands to Congress. We could try bribing them, but that’s one of the problems we want to fix. So we’ll have to find another way.

One thing that politicians listen to is public pressure – but it has to be strong and consistent. Some politicians will be on our side. Some will need a little persuasion before they see the light. Some politicians will never agree and will have to be replaced. It’s gonna take organization, mobilization and probably a few electoral cycles to get anything done.

But the more pressure we can apply the quicker things get done. If your agenda has an approval rating of 40% you’re gonna be busy for a while. On the other hand if polls show 80% of the voters are on your side and highly motivated you’re gonna see results in a hurry.

BTW – Some of you might remember a post I did way back in September about the importance of goals and their relationship to strategy and tactics. It was one of the first posts I ever did about OWS. It was posted about two weeks after OWS started and it was where I first began to express my concern over the lack of goals and leadership within the movement.

My earliest posts were along the lines of “You’re doing it wrong!” but I soon realized it was being done wrong ON PURPOSE.

If OWS had started with some modest, specific goals (like passing a specific bill, getting an investigation started and/or getting some people fired from the Obama administration) they might have accomplished something worthwhile. But they allowed (or planned for) the movement to degenerate into confrontations with the police over the “right” to camp-out in public spaces.

Now their momentum has dissipated and their credibility is gone.

I’m sure it’s all my fault somehow.

Zuccotti Park

This entry was posted in Occupy Wall Street, OWS and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

57 Responses to Eat the rich

  1. Pips says:

    Good post!

    Now I personally don’t “do” mass movements, but that doesn’t mean I can’t – and do – root for those who demonstrate for something I can agree on are righteous, worthy causes. And who clearly states their goals:

    Chilean students protesting the education policies and in extension the Government.

    Russians (even the elder and the workers which, according to people in the know, signifies that the protest has seriously caught on) protesting election fraud and Vladimir Putin.

    In Spain and Greece people take to the street in tens of thousands to protest the bad economy Government cuts and the Government …

    I seriously wanted to root for the OWS protesters too, but besides the far too many stupid, unexcuseably stupid, incidents attached to the movement I still don’t know their goal.

    Besides, with their affinity for iProducts, Twitter, FaceBook etc., aren’t they actually helping the ‘1 Persenters’ getting even richer?

    • blowme0bama says:

      “I still don’t know their goal” …

      They don’t know their goal. Their purpose was devised by shady organizers to detract from all the scandals going on with the Obama administration and to set up the appearance of a genuine grassroot opposition to wall street in anticipation of the DNC’s campaign against the “inevitable” GOP candidate, Romney.

    • DandyTiger says:

      Good point. The entire movement is designed by the real leaders to help Obama against Romney. (Well, first it was a big distraction from some controversies at the time and against any possible primary contenders.) Obama is of course as we know a puppet for wall street and the banksters and will continue to do their bidding. So for that, OWS is effectively working for the benefit of the 1%. But what’s interesting is the movement is to help Obama against Romney, so how is that against the 1%. Funnily enough, I’m starting to think that although wall street and the banks would be pretty happy with Romney because he’s very friendly towards them, he is actually less beholden to them (he’s one of them, but not owned by them). So in a funny way, Romney might be a slightly better choice if you are against the 1%. Now there’s some frick’in irony for you.

      • Three Wickets says:

        That’s easy enough to test. So far Romney has sided with the Private Equity industry on the ‘carried interest’ debate regarding tax rates for PE firms. That’s taking the side of Wall Street profits.

  2. DeniseVB says:

    This is a fast 9 minute video. Bill Whittle uses an Iowahawk column to demonstrate how we can Eat the Rich……then what? 😀

    • Three Wickets says:

      That’s fun. We’re running approx one trillion deficit per year mainly because of tax cuts (Bush tax cut extensions, payroll tax cuts, estate cuts, etc) to stimulate the economy. The borrowing costs for those deficits (real 10-year treasury yields) are below zero for now – as low as they’ve been in a 100 years. If and when the private sector stops sitting on their cash and begins investing again, some or most of these tax cuts will probably be allowed to expire. Big decisions for the lameduck Congress after Nov 4th.

  3. HELENK says:

    aside from not having a goal, they make this country a laughing stock. Look at the silly Americans, they shit in the streets and riot and destroy for nothing.
    Considering the fact that the democrats embraced them, what does that tell us about what the dems think of the American people.
    Many cities are having economic problems and these fools have added to the woes with the cost of police and cleaning up after them. How many small business have they ruined, and how many people have they cost a way to make a living?
    The American dream was to work hard, live well and have a good future.
    The owies dream, do nothing, get everything for nothing, blame everyone else for your own failures

    • DandyTiger says:

      Ouch. There’s a way to win hearts and minds. Makes me wonder about all the polls for president where Obama is doing better.

  4. HELENK says:

    Should we go and make a new life learning from the mistakes made here?
    Should we send the owies and see if they survive?

  5. Now their momentum has dissipated and their credibility is gone.

    Just wait.

  6. ytiik says:

    Something nobody ever wants to tale about is how income inequality is directly proportionate to the national debt. Wages on the lower tiers have not kept up with the cost of living. A loaf of bread used to cost 40 cents, now it’s close to four bucks. That is influenced by the national debt. You used to be able to get a 10 yr mortgage, now we have 45 yr mortgages.

    Credit has become like a band aid, as have places like wall mart and fast food. We’re trying to live as if our dollar still has the value it used to, as if our wages are still enough to provide for our lifestyles. The nat’l debt is like a hidden tax, it sits there like an invisible debt of approx 89 grand per person. The wealthy don’t feel it so much, but the working class is crippled by it. We don’t have enough disposable income to compensate for the increased cost of goods. So the more the government spends and borrows, the poorer the poor get.

    • Three Wickets says:

      Our national debt in the private sector is at least three times bigger than our national debt in the public sector. We are in a recession because private sector leverage blew up and began severely deleveraging. Public sector leverage has been extended to try and compensate. If we weren’t still in a serious private sector recession, real borrowing costs for public sector debt today would not be below zero. National public sector debt is different from household debt, is different from private sector debt, is different from Greece’s sovereign debt, is not our main economic problem today.

  7. votermom says:

    Nice. Now Komen says it will reverse it’s decision and restore Planned Parenthood funding.
    After donations (bec of the controversy) are UP for both organizations.
    Seems like a nice little fund-raising stunt for both orgs.

    If I had any money to give big charities (which I don’t, I only have enough for small local ones), neither of these tow would be on my list after this.

  8. foxyladi14 says:

    Good post! 🙂

  9. votermom says:

    Speaking of eating fat pigs…Love this!

    Breakfast like a king: Why a high fat bacon and eggs meal is healthiest start to the day (but only first thing)

    Read more:

    • catarina says:

      geez, i’m doing it all wrong.

      speaking of food, if the poster who told me about the SHIT-a-taki noodles is reading this-you didn’t mention they were made of tofu and smelled like month old fish-yeck!

  10. votermom says:

    Mitt is the proto Obama in so many ways

  11. votermom says:

  12. votermom says:

  13. HELENK says:

    kill the Iguanas and eat their meat?????

  14. HELENK says:

    Is she really that dense or does she have the most unqualified people on earth giving her advice????

      • mothy67 says:

        All over the local broadcast stations last night or the night before were screaming about sugar and a tease for “should sugar be regulated like tobacco”. I then tuned into nbc’s news and the has been there was given that some credence. Then they talked about a sugar tax. A mainstream American media outlet I knew it would be stupid but I watched the piece and was i was intrigued. Phd guy saying sugar can be toxic. Madness. Perverse distraction. Sugar can be toxic to anyone if you sit and eat 20lbs, but then again so can water

    • DeniseVB says:

      Keith Koffler reports…..More MO on the Mooove.

      …at taxpayer expense. Swing states ya’know 😉

    • r u reddy says:

      Now why didn’t Dr. Professor Murray mention The Olive Garden as one of his emblematic “outside the bubble” restaurant chains? I went to The Olive Garden once. I had a good time there.

  15. mothy67 says:

    Tuesday afternoon was a beautiful day so I decided to forgo a bus and walk 60 blocks to a supply company i needed to visit. I had a few drinks at various watering holes en route and was looking for another friendly establishment to relieve myself when I saw standing in front of me port-o-potties. On my way out I was asked if I was new. Couple of people hanging out playing cards. Place was very well kept. I just listened as it was too perfect of a day to let an argument kill my buzz. I couldn’t help but consider the vast differences today as to when I was the same age. I was with my friends all of the time when I was in college. If the wealthy young “tech geeks” wanted revenge on their peers who shunned them when they were aching to belong in high school how satisfied they must be to watch as their orchestrated hipness is by their design manipulating so many. The “geeks” are dictating culture, politics and now with the new facebook stuff limiting how you can even express yourself even in private(it will all be manipulated in a myriad of forms)
    Best case scenario facebook becomes myspace when someone else comes along with a better
    Worst case scenario facebook is pravda.

    • Three Wickets says:

      Disagree with you on facebook (for now at least), but “orchestrated hipness” is such an apt description of the hipster generation.

      • mothy67 says:

        facebook is the ultimate tool. Essentially no competition. Close to a billion subscribers and they have nearly complete access to your life if you have shared it on line. Even if you do not post once you have gone on facebook they track everything

        • Three Wickets says:

          I’ve always assumed the same about Google and the rest of the web, so no biggee. I assume zero privacy when I’m online.

  16. JeanLouise says:

    For me, the 99% vs. the 1% meme is about the tax, legal and political systems, not Hillary Clinton or Mark Zuckerberg. I suppose there may be some but I haven’t heard anyone suggest that people who have legitimately earned their money through book publishing or creating a product is Satanic.

  17. Three Wickets says:

    For me, the “creative class” as defined by Richard Florida covers wealth to a degree, but it’s a lot more about social and political attitudes and elitism perfectly embodied by the Obot bourgeoise.

    • Three Wickets says:

      All that said, Obot activists seem to be making a major pivot now to stand with the poor and the have-nots. Takes some nerve given how much Obama has done to bailout the rich. But if Romney’s your opponent, that’s the obvious way to run.

      • Three Wickets says:

        It’s amazing to me. If the Republicans wanted to beat Obama, they should have run a populist against Obama’s aloof elitism and bailouts of Wall Street. It’s a no brainer. Instead they’re running Romney, the one Republican that makes Obama look like a man of the people. What is Romney even running on.

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