Monday, October 31, 2011
I think its very dangerous, and quite frankly unfair, for the Occupy movement's "99%" to vilify the "1%" as if everyone who falls into that elite income group is (a) corrupt (b) greedy (c) selfish and (d) insensitive and indifferent to the needs and struggles of the poor and middles classes.
Let's get something straight: America is a capitalist nation. Our economic structure is such that there are going to be extremely wealthy people and a helluva lot more who aren't. Those who don't like this system are free to move to another country like North Korea where everyone is piss poor and living under a brutal dictatorship. America's problems aren't about rich vs. poor per se, but about those who care vs those who don't.
The Occupy protesters, in summarily indicting as evil everyone in the 1%, are doing a major disservice to the movement and their long-term cause. At the risk of sounding like a conservative, this broad stroke demonizing of everyone who's rich is class warfare and it needs to stop. There are plenty of kind, decent, generous, very wealthy people who also happen to care about the poor, the sick, the needy, the less fortunate. People who donate millions from their incomes annually to fund all sorts of social, health, education, environmental and child welfare programs, and whose money also goes to political organizations to fight for the little guy. People who've spent a lifetime in public service trying to make things better for those who need help. People who could've financially enriched themselves in the private sector but instead chose meager government salaries. George Soros is in the 1%. The Kennedys are in the 1%. Nancy Pelosi is in the 1% as is Alec Baldwin, Susan Sarandon, Sean Penn, George Clooney and all the notorious "Hollywood liberals" who are as bleeding-heart as you can get. Their wealth has not stopped them from giving a shit. To the contrary, it's provided valuable resources and a greater platform through which to help. These people are among the best friends and benefactors the poor and middle class will ever have. So it's terribly misguided and counter-intuitive to lump them in the same bucket as the self-serving cads who only care about lower taxes, less regulation and protecting corporate largess.
To be sure, there are many gross inequities in America's economic system which have justifiably been the focus of the Occupy protests. The income gap between the rich and poor is the highest in 80 years. The wealthiest 1% have seen their incomes increase 281% since 1979 while the poor and middle class have earned just 16-25% more. The CEO-to-worker pay ratio is around 350-1. Corporate America has been rewarded with astounding tax breaks while shipping millions of jobs overseas. And no one on Wall Street has yet to be penalized for creating the worst financial crisis in 85 years.
But that does not justify an across-the-board vilification of everyone in the 1%. There's nothing inherently wrong with being rich in America. What's wrong is when you use this wealth to disenfranchise and subjugate those who aren't. There are certainly plenty of legitimate gripes the Occupy protesters can and should be angry about. But it would be very wise not to alienate the very rich, connected and influential people who are among its biggest supporters and who it will need in the weeks and months to come.