Here's what’s wrong with the 1% [Most Commented]
What's so awful about the 1%, asks Bradley Schiller in a Sunday Op-Ed that points out several one-percenters who started out just like us. The professor of economics at the University of Nevada-Reno writes:
The Occupy Wall Street movement envisions the 1% as a monolithic cadre of entrenched billionaires who have a firm and self-serving grip on all the levers of the economy. But a closer look at that elite group reveals how untrue that perspective is.
Forbes magazine compiles a list of the richest 400 Americans every year. To get on that list, you must have at least $1 billion of wealth. They are the creme de la creme of the 1% -- indeed, the top 0.0000013% (!) of Americans. So who are these dastardly people?
The late Steve Jobs was in that elite club this year. In his earlier days, Jobs would have been camped out with the OWS crowd, probably passing around a joint. Should we count him as one of "us" or one of "them"? (And you can't use your iPhone or iPad to vote "them.")
He goes on to list several more success stories including Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg, Google developers Sergey Brin, Larry Page and Eric Schmidt, and Starbucks founder Howard Schultz.
Readers say Schiller is missing the point. While some have left comments saying they're glad to see the 1% reflected in a rare positive light, most have posted rebuttals and arguments. Here's a sampling from our discussion board:
The 1% needs to pay its fair share
The question is not that the 1% are wealthy or how much they have contributed to society. The problem is that the wealthy, through buying politicians, do not pay their fair share to support the very country that provides them with their largess. If the 1% controls 50% of the wealth they should pay 50% of the taxes and they do not. By the way, I don't think that Paris Hilton has done anything to deserve her inherited fortune on which she pays only 15% in taxes.
The Subway founder has enriched our country? Really?
I'd challenge the author's statement that Subway has "enriched the country in significant ways." Google yes, Facebook maybe, but a five-dollar footlong? come on.
Are we sure we should be grateful for Apple, Facebook and Google?
Apple/Facebook/Google they are all trying to gather and control data and dominate our cyber lives. When we wise up to their idealistic/Utopian dreams of one World Wide Web corporation caring for us all -- it will be too late.
WE don't need mega domination by one corporation or even by 10 corporations -- we need fractured cooperative human scale open source lives.
Another perspective on the 1%
Very easy to write this folksy article with well-known names like Steve Jobs and George Lucas. You're missing the point of the OWS movement. No one is angry at the wealthy, or the banks, or the self-made millionaires, it's the CORRUPTION of such that infuriates, that makes the 99% feel powerless in this America. Our nation and our uber-wealthy now only make money with money. Equity firms, Investment firms, banking firms, etc. These are the powerful that shape our nation now, that fight regulation in their skwed version of "capitalism". They trade and price-fix and speculate on every basic commodity, they acquire and flip companies in the span of days and weeks, laying off hundreds in the process. That's the one percent you need to write about. Steve Jobs, Schultz, Lucas, these guys create jobs and innovations for America. Goldman Sachs, CitiGroup and their ilk, they create wealth, wealth off of us, wealth that is funneled back into itself to create wealth for the wealthy, nothing more.
We need to stop enabling the rich to get richer
This author takes a narrow perspective. Apple products are made at a plant in China where 435,000 workers make small wages and work long hours. The very well-to-do pay for the campaigns of politicians who put forward legislation that serves the interests of these campaign donors. The playing field has been further tilted toward the wealthy campaign donor by capital gains tax,income tax, and estate tax "reform" that leaves more money in their pockets. "Usury" laws allow banks to charge 16% interest while the Fed loans the banks money at .05%. We must not forget that ZERO jobs were added to the private sector economy during 2000-2008. The playing field needs to be more level. No billionaire makes his fortune solely on his own hook and our society needs to protect workers, families, children and not just pass laws that help the rich get richer. After all if these billionaires created that many jobs we wouldn't have 9% unemployment!
We need to focus on social mobility for all Americans
To say that the 1% is "evil" is to willfully miss the point. OWS is protesting the social, political, and economic policies that have funnelled more wealth to the American "1%" than to the bottom 80% combined. This is a pattern of economic inequality that is more typical of the Third World than the rest of the First World.
The other rich advanced democracies ALL do a far better job of creating societies where wealth is not so completely concentrated among the top 1%, and where the bottom 25% do not live in the kind of precarious misery that America's poor do. America now has the LOWEST social mobility of any First World country; the "American Dream" of being born in a low-income family but working your way to the upper-income class is now far more likely in Denmark than it is in the USA.
So yeah, saying "but the 1% are good people" is just an irrelevant strawman argument.
*For clarity purposes, spelling errors in the above comments have been corrected.
Three inconvenient truths for Occupy Wall Street
--Alexandra Le Tellier
Photo: An Occupy Wall Street protester holds his sign against a police barricade as pedestrians pass outside Zuccotti Park on Dec. 3 in New York. Credit: John Minchillo / Associated Press