Reassessing Occupy Wall Street And The 99%’ers

Some on the right are giving Occupy Wall Street and The 99%'ers a second look.

An interesting phenomenon that developed at the end of last week in the form of several voices on the right seeming to move away from the dismissive attitude toward the “Occupy” movement and the sentiments represented by websites such as “We Are The 99%.” On some level it appears to be rooted in some of the same recognitions I noted yesterday about the seeming similarities between the message the groups seem to be coalescing around, and the initial anti-bailout mentality that motivated the Tea Party.

First off, the Wall Street Journal’s editors make a point that I’ve been making for two weeks or so now, that they protesters are directing their anger at the wrong group of people:

In the matter of Occupy Wall Street, the allegedly anticapitalist movement that’s been camped out in lower Manhattan for the past few weeks and has inspired copycat protests from Boston to Los Angeles, we have some sympathy. Really? Well, yeah.

OK, not for the half-naked demonstrators, the ranting anti-Semites, Kanye West or anyone else who has helped make Occupy Wall Street a target for easy ridicule. But to the extent that the mainly young demonstrators have a valid complaint, it’s that they are trying to bust their way into an economy where there is one job for every five job-seekers, and where youth unemployment runs north of 18%. That is a cause for frustration, if not outrage.

The question is, outrage at whom? On Wednesday, Occupy Wall Street marched on J.P. Morgan Chase’s headquarters, after having protested outside CEO Jamie Dimon’s home the previous day. That’s odd, seeing that J.P. Morgan didn’t take on excessive mortgage risk and didn’t need (although it was forced to take) TARP money. The demonstrators also picketed the home of hedge fund mogul John Paulson, who made much of his recent fortune betting against the housing bubble, not helping to inflate it.

As for Wall Street itself, on Tuesday New York state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli issued a report predicting that the financial industry will likely lose 10,000 jobs by the end of next year. That’s on top of the 4,100 jobs lost since April, and the 22,000 since the beginning of 2008. Overall New York-area employment in finance and insurance has declined by 8.9% since late 2006. Even Goldman Sachs is planning layoffs.

(…)

Still, if anyone in the Occupy Wall Street movement wants an intellectually honest explanation for why they can’t find a job, they might start by considering what happens to an economy when the White House decides to make pinatas out of the financial-services industry (roughly 6%, or $828 billion, of U.S. GDP), the energy industry (about 7.5% of GDP, or $1 trillion), and millionaires and billionaires (who paid 20.4% of all federal income taxes in 2009). And don’t forget the Administration’s rhetorical volleys against individual companies like Anthem Blue Cross, AIG and Bank of America, or against Chrysler’s bondholders, or various other alleged malefactors of wealth.

This probably won’t do much to persuade the Occupiers of Wall Street that their cause would be better served in Washington, D.C., where a sister sit-in this week seems to have fizzled. Then again, most of America’s jobless also won’t recognize their values or interests in the warmed-over anticapitalism being served up in lower Manhattan. Three years into the current Administration, most Americans are getting wise to the source of their economic woes. It’s a couple hundred miles south of Wall Street.

Rich Lowry makes a similar argument over at National Review:

Far from the street theater and lefty ravings of the Occupy Wall Street protest, ordinary people are posting dispatches about their economic struggles at the “We Are the 99 Percent” Web page.

If you put aside the political rants and the obnoxious construct of the 99 percent versus the 1 percent — which has the whiff of the guillotine about it — the stories are a stark pointillist portrayal of the grinding misery of the Great Recession.

And Bank of America has very little to do with it. The recession has added a layer of joblessness on top of punishingly dysfunctional and expensive health-care and higher-education systems. Despite themselves, the people posting at the 99 percent page aren’t really making an implicit case for burning down the financial system, but for blowing up how we handle health care and higher education.

College students and recent graduates are overrepresented. Their complaint comes down to too much debt, and too few job opportunities to get out from under it. There’s the guy with the master’s from Harvard who owes $60,000 and lives off temp jobs. There’s the woman who is paying her own $50,000 in debt plus $20,000 in debt for her 22-year-old daughter. There’s the graduate with a master’s from “a major U.S university” who is unemployed and $92,000 in hock. And on and on.

The representatives of these debt-burdened graduates shouldn’t be at Zuccotti Park, but at the American Association of University Professors or some other arm of the academic complex that gouges students. College tuition has been increasing at a rapid clip. Does anyone believe that higher ed is getting constantly better? It’s an inflationary spiral, partly driven by a federal student-loan program that feeds the maw of the beast regardless of quality or outcomes.

Even Erick Erickson, who is the co-creator of “We Are The 53%,” the purported response to the “Occupy” message, says that the right needs to take the concerns of the 99% seriously:

We on the right should not be as dismissive of what is happening in this movement the way the left, to their determine, wholly dismissed the tea party movement. There is, in fact, some shared ground even beyond the superficial ground I’ve already covered.

What’s the message?

First of all, the message is not punishment and retribution for success.

Most of us actually think the deck is stacked these days against entrepreneurs and that it was done so by bipartisan coalitions. Most of us do think the deck is stacked against the little guy. It is not, however, that the top 1% stacked the deck against the rest of us. It is that the government, in its expansion of the nanny-state, drove up costs to everyone and only the rich had the capital to overcome it. Only the wealthy and powerful can hire the lobbyists to write exemptions in big new taxes and regulations and the army of lawyers and accountants to comply with them.  Only the big guys can get a seat at the table where Washington hands out loans and grants and bailouts to its friends in Big Business and Big Labor.

The rich have kept getting richer and it is harder to break into the top ranks of salary. But that has very little to do with the rich blocking people from getting there. It has pretty much everything with the government. And that is the fundamental difference between the occupiers and the tea party movement.

Both are opposed to TARP. Both are opposed to bailouts. But the rabid occupiers want more government and the tea party wants less government. The occupiers think only the government can solve the problem and the tae party thinks a free market can solve the problem.

The occupiers think the government should pick the winners and losers and the tea party thinks the free market can.

“But wait,” they say, “the market is not free.” And they are right. But the solution should be to free up the market, not shackle it or nationalize it.

I’d like to think that this was some kind of recognition among pundits on the right that rejecting the message of the 99%’ers outright may not be the smartest move politically. At the very least, one has to recognize that we are in the middle of a long-term economic downturn that is causing real problems for countless numbers of people. Taking the position of a Herman Cain or Eric Cantor that tells these people that their lack of success is entirely their fault is absurd. There are plenty of well-meaning, capable people who are in economic distress through no fault of their own, telling them that it’s their fault strikes me as both incorrect and politically stupid.

It’s still unclear if the “Occupy” movement will ever develop into a coherent political movement. After reading this description of their efforts to come up with some kind of a platform of demands, my impression is that it probably won’t. However, that doesn’t mean that the social problem of long-term unemployment and slow economic growth shouldn’t be taken seriously. In reality, most of the “Occupy Wall Street” crowd is going to reject anything that a conservative or libertarian proposes because it’s become rather clear that most of the protest participants are drawn from left-wing and anarchist groups for whom arguments about less government are a complete non-starter. The fact that most of the problems they seems to be complaining about, such as the incestuous relationship between business and government, are due as much to the pervasive involvement of the Federal Government in more and more aspects of the economic and business life of the country doesn’t seem to occur to them. Despite this, though, it seems fairly clear that there’s a message of the 99%’ers and the motivates of the Occupiers, and that there’s a voting bloc out there looking for someone to address their concerns and not hearing it from either political party at the moment.

There’s a potential for agreement here, too, between true anti-government forces on the right and anti-big business forces on the left. I doubt that either side will ever see that, though, or that anything would come of it if they did. The Occupy movement is young, but one can already see the manner in which it’s being hijacked and exploited by the very political party responsible for some of the things they are protesting about right now. Once that happens, they will be co-opted as easily and as quickly as the Tea Party was, except perhaps for those New Left/anarchist fringes who will always find something to protest about. Meanwhile, the people in the middle will continue to be left out while one set of elites is replaced by another and things continues as they have been for far too long.

FILED UNDER: Economics and Business, US Politics,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020.

Comments

  1. WR says:

    Oh goodie. The usual righties see their message about “dirty hippies” wasn’t going anywhere, so now they’ve decided that the proper form has to be “we agree with the protestors and join them in demanding tax cuts for the rich and slashes to the safety network.” Of course they’ll fool no one but themselves, but they’ll get to think they’re clever for a while.

  2. michael reynolds says:

    It is not, however, that the top 1% stacked the deck against the rest of us. It is that the government, in its expansion of the nanny-state, drove up costs to everyone and only the rich had the capital to overcome it.

    That’s very funny.

    And the solution would of course be tax cuts for the rich and even less of a safety net for the poor and working class.

    I love right-wing comedy.

  3. Franklin says:

    You see, I can sort of sympathize with the guy in the middle of that photo. I’m not convinced that libertarians or conservatives have any ideas about how to address that. Nor do they have a solution for the fact that corporations are “persons” who are free to bribe the government, but yet are not “persons” who would ever go to jail for their corruption.

    But otherwise, the movement is about as interesting as the one I made in the toilet this morning. Worth nothing and easily dismissed.

  4. MBunge says:

    “First off, the Wall Street Journal’s editors make a point that I’ve been making for two weeks or so now”\

    Doug, if finding yourself on the same side as the WSJ editorial page isn’t enough to make you rethink your position, I fear you may be too far gone to help. The idea that big, bad government is the primary source of the ongoing crisis is bone stupid. An editorial castigating Obama for making a “pinata” out of the financial services industry when those were the people who nearly destroyed the global economy and their industry wouldn’t even exist today without a government bailout takes stupid past the bone and into some area of metaphysics.

    Mike

  5. Tlaloc says:

    Erickson’s screeching 180 from calling the OWS crowd mooching losers to “hey we should be talking to these guys” in the course of a week is pretty damn funny, really. Particularly in the way he talks about the dangers of others ignoring the OWS without bothering to mention him being the primary cheerleader for ignoring and antagonizing the 99%ers.

  6. Rick DeMent says:

    It is not, however, that the top 1% stacked the deck against the rest of us. It is that the government, in its expansion of the nanny-state, drove up costs to everyone and only the rich had the capital to overcome it.

    Michael already summed up my feelings about this bit of sophistry … but god … to borrow another phrase this notion that the somehow government is all the all powerful driver of job destroying legislation is in the “Weapons Grade” stupid category. The government passes exactly the laws that those who fund the campaigns want passed. Period … end of story.

  7. Rick DeMent says:

    oh and … The liquidity is too damn high !!!!!!!!!

  8. michael reynolds says:

    It’s really fun to see how OWS has gotten under the skin of the 1%. They tried ignoring it, they tried ridiculing it, now they’re clumsily trying to redirect it.

    Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain. It’s all government’s fault!

    And who owns government? Um . . . the 1% who you shouldn’t be paying attention to.

    They want to make sure we focus on the whores, not the pimps. The whores — Eric Cantor comes to mind — are disposable little people. Tells you everything you need to know about the true power dynamic between big money and government. Just watch who is throwing who under the bus.

  9. David M says:

    How can the GOP form any common ground here? Their platform is explicitly designed to work for the 1% while pretending not to.

    Repeal the death estate tax
    Lower / repeal the capital gains tax
    Kill political donation limits and transparency laws
    Oppose basically all financial regulations
    Continue to lower the top marginal rate
    Broaden the tax base raise taxes on the poor / middle class

    This doesn’t even address their latest pushes to make it harder to vote and make sure the unions (99%) have less political impact at the same time they are making sure the 1% gain even more influence. This may not be exactly what OWS is demonstrating about, but the GOP isn’t a political party working for the 99%.

  10. Stan says:

    This is the funniest post yet by Doug on Occupy Wall Street

  11. Burl says:

    Aren’t these people getting some help from the unions? Is that not a lobby group? If they are broke, how do they afford food, laptops, etc. while they are camping out? They should at least have to sign some kind of bond that legally holds them responsible for cleaning up, repairing any damages, and for any other costs incurred.

  12. Tsar Nicholas says:

    Well, it’s pretty clear around 99% of those kids will be living with their parents or living in squalor at least until their early to mid-30’s. That’s not entirely figurative. It’s pretty clear the left-wing media and the Democrat Party are latching on to these protests as a way of distracting Main Street from the failed Obamaeconomy. It’s also pretty clear that various established union groups (SEIU) and various fringe groups (Marxists, anarchists, neo-Nazis) have joined the party. That all said, it’s also quite clear — at least to any student of polical history — that these protests will have no bearing whatsoever on any election on the event horizon.

    We’re talking here about very tiny groups of people. For every stoned grad student in Lower Manhattan chanting slogans and carrying signs there are thousands of adult voters out there who neither know nor give a rat’s ass about it. There are over 175 million registered voters in this country. Around 99.9% of them are not protesting anything and around 95% of them are not even paying attention. Seriously. You have to step outside the cocoon to grasp the insignificance. Main Street is a different demographic. Hell, the Woodstock-era protests against the Vietnam War were 10-fold larger than this OWS nonsense. Nixon proceeded to win 49 out of 50 states. The protests against the Iraq war were far larger than these OWS protests. Bush easily won reelection. That Wisconsin free-for-all earlier this year was more focused and more intense. Then those recall elections happened and all of two people lost their seats, one of whom because he couldn’t keep his dick in his pants.

    Let’s not all chug the kool-aid. This is much ado about nothing. Literally.

  13. john personna says:

    protesters are directing their anger at the wrong group of people

    You have a system in place where politicians in Washington scratch the backs of financiers in New York, and the financiers in New York scratch the backs of politicians in Washington. The circle never ends.

    Was it ever sensible to claim that there was a “wrong place” to protest that? Does it matter if you are in New York, or Washington, or Miami?

    (not if the cameras show up)

    the White House decides to make pinatas out of the financial-services industry

    Very funny. It’s not like the financial services industry did anything bad in the last few years.

    Oh yeah, Wall Street firms have paid hundreds of millions of dollars in fines for creating the fraudulent securities that led to the crash:

    “Goldman Sachs has agreed to pay $550 million to settle federal claims that it misled investors in a subprime mortgage product as the housing market began to collapse, officials said Thursday.”

    Poor Goldman! Treated like a pinata, I tell you!

  14. john personna says:

    @Tsar Nicholas:

    Well, it’s pretty clear around 99% of those kids will be living with their parents or living in squalor at least until their early to mid-30′s. That’s not entirely figurative. It’s pretty clear the left-wing media and the Democrat Party are latching on to these protests as a way of distracting Main Street from the failed Obamaeconomy.

    No. Right wingers focus on the arts majors in order to ignore what has been developing in this economy for at least a decade.

    The “lost decade” did not start with Obama, you nitwit.

  15. Moosebreath says:

    Maybe Doug will see himself in this cartoon, but I doubt it.

  16. R. Dave says:

    @michael reynolds: Michael, pardon the direct request from a stranger, but would you be willing to lay out the basic case for (i) what ways the deck is stacked against the non-wealthy and (ii) how that unfairness was perpetrated intentionally?

    Full disclosure: I was the first in my family (other than a couple of distant cousins) to go to college, and I work as a very well paid but heavily indebted junior associate at a “Wall Street” law firm. I have no illusions about having made it here entirely on my own (middle class upbringing, relatively stable family, parents who valued education, federal loan programs, etc.), but on the other hand, I didn’t have any old boys’ network or silver spoon advantages that one might typically associate with the 1% meme. And honestly, while most of my peers do have upper-middle to upper class family backgrounds, most are, I would say, no more than 2 generations into the professional class and very, very few come from the trust fund set. I guess I’m just not seeing, in practice, much of a barrier to mobility here.

  17. Fiona says:

    This was a serious piece and not an article for the Onion?

    Weren’t all sorts of regulations on the financial industry relaxed during the Clinton and Bush administrations? Repeal of Glass-Steagle and all? Weren’t the banks essentially allowed to bet money like drunken Vegas gamblers in the hopes of hitting it big? Wasn’t big risk rewarded and then, when it all came crashing down, the government (and taxpayers) asked to bail out the banks so that the economy didn’t disintegrate completely? Or was I living on a different planet the last decade or so?

    Here’s a little reality check: Citigroup’s profits up 72 percent in the last quarter, while Wells Fargo’s profits rose by about 23 percent. And yet the financial industry is laying people off, although probably not anyone in the top few percent of earners. Funny how that works. Must be the fault of big government.

  18. Vast Variety says:

    The government didn’t create all these rules, regulations, and taxes on their own like the right would have you believe. More often than not many of the regulations and laws passed that are supposed to “reign in businesses and corporate greed” as well as “Protect the consumer from predatory businesses” are written by lobbyists bought and paid for by the very corporations that they are meant to reign in. Banks and Wall Street had a very large hand in creating the regulations and laws that affect them and have done so in a way to make it easier for the top to strip wealth away from the bottom.

  19. john personna says:

    @R. Dave:

    If you’ll forgive me for injecting my own brief answer … it is one that Wall Street is already schooled on: Survivorship Bias.

  20. Eric Florack says:

    The responses you’re getting here Doug, should be the lesson: The left will never give up the social democrat state, no matter how unsustainable and destructive it is.

    I will find the deafening silence to R. Dave interesting.

  21. ponce says:

    that they protesters are directing their anger at the wrong group of people:

    Well, Let’s start with the Koch brothers.

    The company they inherited from their crazy daddy currently manufactures these consumer products:

    Brawny paper towels
    Angel Soft toilet paper
    Quilted Northern toilet paper
    Dixie cups
    Stainmaster carpets

    Boycotting these products would be a good start for OWC.

  22. john personna says:

    @Eric Florack:

    I will find the deafening silence to R. Dave interesting.

    So you gave the world a whole 10 minutes, eh? lolz.

  23. john personna says:

    @Eric Florack:

    BTW, if the top 20% hold 85% of the wealth in the country and the bottom 80% only hold 15% of the wealth … that must be the “social democrat state” of which you speak … what exactly would a capitalist state look like?

  24. Ron Beasley says:

    @Eric Florack:
    The left right will never give up the social democrat plutocracy state, no matter how unsustainable and destructive it is.
    There, I fixed it for you!

  25. Ben Wolf says:

    @R. Dave: You could try reading the UNCTAD trade report:

    Wage income is the main driver of domestic demand in developed and emerging market economies. Therefore, wage growth is essential to recovery and sustainable growth. However, in most developed countries, the chances of wage growth contributing significantly to, or leading, the recovery are slim. Worse still, in addition to the risks inherent in premature fiscal consolidation, there is a heightened threat in many countries that downward pressure on wages may be accentuated, which would further dampen private consumption expenditure. In many developing and emerging market economies, particularly China, the recovery has been driven by rising wages and social transfers, with a concomitant expansion of domestic demand ….

    Wage growth that is falling short of productivity growth implies that domestic demand is growing at a slower rate than potential supply. The emerging gap can be temporarily filled by relying on external demand or by stimulating domestic demand through credit easing and raising of asset prices. The global crisis has shown that neither solution is sustainable. The simultaneous pursuit of export-led growth strategies by many countries implies a race to the bottom with regard to wages, and has a deflationary bias. Moreover, if one country succeeds in generating a trade surplus, this implies that there will be trade deficits in other countries, causing trade imbalances and foreign indebtedness. If, on the other hand, overspending is enticed by easy credit and higher asset prices, as in the United States before the crisis, the bubble will burst at some point, with serious consequences for both the financial and real economy. Therefore, it is important that measures be taken to halt and reverse the unsustainable trends in income distribution.

    http://www.unctad.org/en/docs/tdr2011_en.pdf

    This situation is the result of deliberate policy choices, not the invisible fist of the “free” market. In the late 1970’s we decided to redistribute national income from wages to profits and have been accelerating down that road ever since. This hurts the 99% of the country which has seen its wages decline while expenses soared. Now unless you think there’s room in high finance for everybody in the country, there are a hell of a lot of people who are trapped in ever-worsening economic circumstances and don’t have the capital to pursue alternatives.

  26. Scott F. says:

    @michael reynolds:

    They want to make sure we focus on the whores, not the pimps. The whores — Eric Cantor comes to mind — are disposable little people. Tells you everything you need to know about the true power dynamic between big money and government. Just watch who is throwing who under the bus.

    Thank you, michael, for this. Brilliant!

  27. Ben Wolf says:

    @john personna:

    BTW, if the top 20% hold 85% of the wealth in the country and the bottom 80% only hold 15% of the wealth … that must be the “social democrat state” of which you speak … what exactly would a capitalist state look like?

    An answer to this question will not be forthcoming from Eric. I suspect he won’t be satisfied until 100% of wealth and income go to one person only.

  28. Lit3Bolt says:

    @Franklin:

    What these people have done has impacted history more than you ever will. Unless you get a really bad case of explosive diarrhea that destroys your neighborhood, of course.

  29. Lit3Bolt says:

    Right-wing and libertarians on the 99%: Illegals and the underserving minorities poor are getting a free lunch from the government!!

    Right-wing and libertarians on the 1% : I’m OK with corporations, businessmen, and grifters getting a free lunch from the government because they worked hard to deserve it and are conspicuously white and Christian, and for some mysterious reason, are groups with which I identify.

  30. R. Dave says:

    @john personna:

    If you’ll forgive me for injecting my own brief answer … it is one that Wall Street is already schooled on: Survivorship Bias.

    Thanks for the reply, John. Yeah, I can see how that would skew the perception of things. I think, though, that most of the barriers to entry occur much earlier in the process than the policy arguments and political rhetoric underlying the “stacked deck” position suggest. For instance, my brother just finished a 2-year stint in Teach for America teaching junior high in Arkansas, and the sad fact is that 95% of those kids had their futures written long before they even got to his class. So, while I believe we need to invest more heavily in things like early childhood education to break the multi-gen cycle of poverty, I don’t see much of a direct link between the issues those kids in Arkansas face and things like Glass-Steagall and CEO salaries on Wall Street.

    I guess that’s why I’m trying to identify the specific mechanisms that OWS-supporters think link these kinds of issues such that the deck is stacked against the AR kid as a result of the favors being given to the Wall Street CEO. I mean, it certainly seems like the OWS view is that the problem is much bigger than the need for a few extra percentage points of taxes on the wealthy to pay for early childhood education programs!

  31. David M says:

    @R. Dave: Matt Taibbi had some good suggestions for OWS. Some are more workable than others, but that looks like a pretty good starting place.

  32. Franklin says:

    @Lit3Bolt: Maybe I haven’t been paying attention, but what exactly is it that they’ve accomplished? Please, be specific as to what legislation they’ve effected. And what do you know about my accomplishments?

    I mean, I understand many of their complaints when you sift through the cacophony, I think we all do, but they’re not the first or last to draw attention to them. And they haven’t provided any solutions. Telling a Wall St. guy that he’s greedy is like telling the ground it’s dirty. It doesn’t change anything. Until we figure out a way to get money out of politics, the 99% will always remain the 99%.

  33. Eric Florack says:

    For all that Obama... along with Communist China... and Iran... support the OWS morons, the voters don't. And by the way, remember I told you OWS was not a grass roots movement, but rather astroturf? Stone fact.

  34. R. Dave says:

    @Ben Wolf:

    In the late 1970′s we decided to redistribute national income from wages to profits and have been accelerating down that road ever since.

    Thanks for the link, Ben; I’ll give it a read (though it’ll take a while, given the length). As for the quote above, what policies led to that redistribution? Do you think it was a deliberate shift, or did it occur through a series of policy changes and market shifts that just kind of added up to a larger result than planned or expected?

  35. Mary says:

    Government regulation is killing business. The EPA has usurped it’s authority and started writing its own regulations putting all business in danger. Their new requirements for the energy sector is going to triple the cost of electricity for the individual and business. When fixed costs go up a business can’t afford to hire.

    The refusal of governement to let Oil companies drill in the US has increased the cost of gasoline. That is bad for business and the individual . Higher costs mean less likelihood of hiring anymore workers. Also drilling in the US would provide people with good paying jobs. Democrats are always talking about how they are for the poor yet they aren’t helping the poor when they have to pay $4 to $6 a gallon for gas.

    One of the creators of Home Depot said if they tried to start that business now it wouldn’t happen because of regulation at the federal, state, and local level. One must comply with the EPA, OSHA, IRS, etc…. The governments responsibility is to take care of the infrastructure and protect us. Every power you allow them to take is a freedom you have lost for yourself.
    Wake-up. Plus the debt they have created has made the value of our dollar low but the goods we buy including oil from other countries are increasing because those countries are still going to get their price so we must spend more. Quit being a government zombie or useful idiot.

  36. R. Dave says:

    Incidentally, sorry for all the questioning posts. I know I could just spend a bunch of time Googling most of this, but I figure it can’t hurt to ask for some initial summaries / pointers from folks already familiar with the issues.

  37. Ben Wolf says:

    @R. Dave:

    I don’t see much of a direct link between the issues those kids in Arkansas face and things like Glass-Steagall and CEO salaries on Wall Street.

    If you don’t see the link, you don’t know much about the banking system. Glass-Steagall made it possible for investment banks (which are by definition high-risk) to borrow through the Fed’s discount window, separating bank behavior entirely from bank responsibility. Total regulatory and political capture meant those same mega-banks were guaranteed financial backing from the Federal government. The result was increasingly risky loans and increasingly exotic financial instruments with no realistic attachment to productive capacity and the largest financial crash in history destroying 8 million jobs. As for CEO salaries, the data are fairly unambiguous: salaries have become completely divorced from performance and have created a criminogenic environment which incentivizes widespread financial fraud.

  38. David M says:

    @Mary: Domestic oil drilling / production has increased while Obama has been president. Care to rethink your post?

  39. sam says:

    @R. Dave:

    Michael, pardon the direct request from a stranger, but would you be willing to lay out the basic case for (i) what ways the deck is stacked against the non-wealthy and (ii) how that unfairness was perpetrated intentionally?

    I won’t speak for Michael, but let me try and answer your two questions in my own way.

    1) In what ways the is deck stacked against the non-wealthy? Well, all I can say to that is that when you have the top 10% garnering almost all of the economic benefits over the last 10 (if not more) years while the remaining 90% has its collective nose pressed against the window, I submit that’s prima facie evidence of the deck being stacked in some way. (See, Dave Schuler, I’m More Worried About the 90% for the rundown.) Now let me say upfront that neither I nor any of the other commenters (I think I can say) who believe that deck is stacked are opposed to the rich getting rich. We’d like to believe, and see evidence of, the proposition that the increasing wealth of the 10% at the top has a boat-lifting effect on the 90%. Alas, there is no such evidence. Quite the reverse. The very rich get richer and the rest of us just bump along.

    2) How that unfairness was perpetrated intentionally? Here’s where I may depart from some of my friends. I do not believe that the unfairness was perpetrated intentionally. That is to say, I don’t believe that the top 10% hatched some plan to on purpose beggar the rest of us (‘beggar’ is a little strong, but you know what I mean). The sad fact is that, like Topsy, the system just growed. It is true the moneyed used their political clout to successfully lobby for all the tax breaks, favorable legislation, and so on that allowed them to corner the wealth in this country — i.e., made rent-seeking into a science — but I’m sure they thought their increase in wealth would mean the rest of us would do very well, too. Unfortunately, that seems not to have been the case. But there was nothing intentionally malicious about it. So, your question is misplaced. But it would be a mistake for you to thus think we don’t have a potentially ugly, and very ugly at that, problem here.

  40. Eric Florack says:

    Doug… a difference between them you fail to note that John Hayward did:

    “The Tea Party looked at crony capitalism and denounced the cronies, while Occupy Wall Street denounces the capitalists.” — John Hayward

  41. Eric,

    Name me one piece of legislation the House has passed that actually involves combating crony capitalism.

  42. michael reynolds says:

    @R. Dave:

    Whoa, I run off for a couple hours to do my actual work (it’s sometimes unavoidable) and find that several people have answered your question better than I could.

    I would just add that I have a slightly more sinister view than sam. Not much more, just somewhat more. I believe that once it became clear that the very top was doing very well, and that the vast middle and lower ends were doing badly, it should have occurred to the top 1% that enough was enough. But their lobbyists and congressional errand boys are still pushing for more. More and more and always more.

    At some point that stops being automatic and becomes deliberate.

    I’m not sure if I’m in the top 1% because I don’t know whether that number derives from household or per capita income, but I’m certainly in the top 2 or 3%. I don’t want or need another tax cut. What I want and need is a stable, prosperous democracy where I get one vote. Just one. Because the fact that I make a good living (and I’m a company) does not give me a right to two votes or ten or ten thousand. I’m not more of an American citizen than some student or some short order cook or some guy on unemployment.

    Life has been very good to me. Better than I deserve. I can spare a little to help other Americans who didn’t get lucky.

  43. Burl says:

    @ponce: I simply cannot do without my Brawny towels! They make my day; absolutely the best! The other products, maybe.

  44. Ben Wolf says:

    @R. Dave: If you read anythingstart here:

    http://bilbo.economicoutlook.net/blog/?p=16325#more-16325

    Dr. Mtchell has spent decades studying these issues and has a very enlightening blog where he posts regularly. Anyone who wants an understanding of how the economy actually functions without reference to ideology, BillyBlog is the place to begin.

  45. Ben Wolf says:

    The Occupy movement is young, but one can already see the manner in which it’s being hijacked and exploited by the very political party responsible for some of the things they are protesting about right now.

    How does a political party hijack a decentralized movement with no hierarchy?

    Doug Mataconis: By talking about it! Democrats talking about OWS proves it’s stupid and will disappear just like the Tea Party!

    But the billionaires and their Republican lap-dogs literally took control of the Tea Party by stacking its upper levels with sycophants, giving them control of the entire apparatus. OWS has no upper levels to subvert, and nothing to control. There are also quite a few self-described libertarians among the protestors.

    Doug Mataconis: SHUT UP! OWS will be controlled by Democrats! Talking about the protests is exactly the same as flooding the Tea Party with money, stacking its organizing committees, booting out the founding members and folding it into FreedomWorks. There are no libertarians there, those people are liars and stupid and hippies and don’t respect authority. Both sides do it, so shut up!!

  46. Burl says:

    I think the best route now for this movement is to form a 3rd. party. They could easily influence the elections, especially since they are 99%.

  47. Hey Norm says:

    In poor old Eric’s world taking advice from Media proffesssionals on how to deal with the media is astroturfing. I don’t think he understands basic concepts. In addition he links to Breibart as fact. That by itself is ridiculous.

  48. john personna says:

    @R. Dave:

    I would step back and look at the statistics for the entire cohort.

    Unemployment:

    Forbes/AP — Young adults are the recession’s lost generation.

    In record numbers, they’re struggling to find work, shunning long-distance moves to live with mom and dad, delaying marriage and raising kids out of wedlock, if they’re becoming parents at all. The unemployment rate for them is the highest since World War II, and they risk living in poverty more than others – nearly 1 in 5.

    Falling income:

    WSJ — 9.6%: Decline from 2000 to 2010 in inflation-adjusted median earnings of people 25 to 34 years old with a bachelor’s degree and no graduate degree.

    Hard work is great, and it is certainly not a bad move for you personally to head for Wall Street .. but I’m not sure the whole cohort is slacking (or that there would be room for them where you are).

  49. JKB says:

    …and anarchist groups for whom arguments about less government are a complete non-starter

    You know, you have to incur a lot of student loan debt to become a government loving anarchist. Really, it take a lot of “education” to become that dumb.

    And, sadly, it appears to be a world-wide phenomenon.

  50. Burl says:

    It is getting time to “strike the tents” and move onward to another strategy. News media is tiring of it, people are bored with hearing about it, and there are other stories getting more attention ( Kansas kidnapping, race driver killed, US troops in Africa, NFL scores, new IPhone, and Halloween is getting close). How about this: form a non-profit corporation, or profit for that matter, go public, sell stock. Have a mission and statement of ethics. Be the example that they are demanding from other corporations. Show us how it is done. There is one company that has actually done this: Starbucks (read “Onward”), a company that makes money, treats its employees ethically, respects the environment, treats the customer as king, and many other ideals.

  51. john personna says:

    @Burl:

    It’s still number one at memeorandum. That’s the measure I use.

    (I say “still” but it hasn’t been at #1 the whole time. From what I’ve noticed it’s generally been on the front page for the last week.)

  52. Ben Wolf says:

    @JKB:

    . . . government loving anarchist.

    Well, we can add “anarchist” to the 3,748 pages of things JKB doesn’t understand.

  53. Stan says:

    @R. Dave: For a long time I felt that increasing inequality in the United States was a result of economic factors, and couldn’t be blamed on the conscious actions of the people at the top. I was wrong. Every wealthy industrial country has been affected by the increasing importance of information technology and by the outsourcing of manufacturing to China, India, and other poor countries, but none of them, not even Great Britain and Canada, have anything like our income inequality. Thirty years ago the bottom half of the US in terms of income collectively earned twice as much as the top 1%. Now they’re equal. Thirty years ago the CEO’s of major corporations earned forty times as much as the average worker in their companies. Now it’s 350 times as much. What will things be like thirty years from now?

    I think that at some point following Goldwater’s defeat in 1964 people at the top of our economic ladder decided they deserved a bigger slice of the pie. They got it by fighting unionization in their companies, by funding conservative think tanks, and, putting it crudely, by buying politicians in both parties. They’ve been stunningly effective. And that’s why we have an Occupy Wall Street movement.

  54. TheColourfield says:

    @Eric Florack:

    Breitbart?

    HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

    James O’Keefe is on a boat with some handcuffs for you

  55. TheColourfield says:

    @JKB:

    Or a Glibertarian

  56. john personna says:

    Interesting … I mention OWS topping memeorandum above, this was the top story itself:

    By a 67 – 23 percent margin, New York City voters agree with the views of the Wall Street protesters and say 87 – 10 percent that it is “okay that they are protesting,” according to a Quinnipiac University poll released today.

    I guess that’s “ineffective.”

    But there’s more …

    Agreeing with the protesters views are Democrats 81 – 11 percent and independent voters 58 – 30 percent, while Republicans disagree 58 – 35 percent, the independent Quinnipiac (KWIN-uh-pe-ack) University poll finds. Even Republicans, however, agree 73 – 23 percent with the protesters right to be there.

    Rest easy my OWS friends. Rest easy.

  57. michael reynolds says:

    @john personna:
    Plus it’s a poll of registered voters. Hah.

    On the other hand, Bloomberg is the 1%. Hmmm. Interesting.

  58. Ben Wolf says:

    @michael reynolds: The threshold for being in the top 1% in income is around $380,000 per year.

  59. jan says:

    @Mary:

    One of the creators of Home Depot said if they tried to start that business now it wouldn’t happen because of regulation at the federal, state, and local level. One must comply with the EPA, OSHA, IRS, etc….

    Very good points, one and all, in your post Mary. I remember earlier reading that interview in IBD of Bernie Marcus, where he talked about the problems facing businesses today. He was especially critical of Obama’s role in suffocating such growth and/or confidence by the tsunami of regulations regularly coming down the pike, counteracting any long term business calculations that normally are the mainstay of deepening one’s investment.

    Every day you see rules and regulations from a group of Washington bureaucrats who know nothing about running a business. And I mean every day. It’s become stifling.
    If you’re a small businessman, the only way to deal with it is to work harder, put in more hours, and let people go. When you consider that something like 70% of the American people work for small businesses, you are talking about a big economic impact.

    Now there are large corporations who have circumvented this recession’s economic impact, actually increasing their profit margins in 2010 over the previous year’s. But, they have done so by creating a new more efficient business model requiring a smaller work force. And, many social progressives have applauded such moves by loving the new automated check-outs, which have helped to reduce the size of many company employees. I continue to find this a fascinating marriage of belief to actions, totally contradicting each other.

    Regarding polls and stats of how people see the OWS protests, it all depends on where you gather your information. New York has garnered the greatest attention. But, then isn’t that always the case, being such a kinetic city? Elsewhere, the protests are less impressive. I know Michael gave a glowing report about the one in S.F, and I will be talking to a friend living on Market Street to see her take on it.

    In Venice CA (my metropolitan home), the Occupy Movement has moved from the old post office to a circle park, off Main Street. When I went by there today, intending on walking around the throngs of people, there were 8-9 people aimlessly congregated with signs ringing the park identifying their alliance with the 99% Occupy movement. It really surprised me. Maybe it will grow….but, I think the camera’s eye on the New York Wall Street is framing a bigger picture than what is happening sporadically around the country.

  60. Janis Gore says:

    Mr. Marcus doesn’t look too convincing to me. What new regulations is he dealing with, apart from from ACA? HGTV is still running. Houses are still falling apart.

  61. An Interested Party says:

    Really, it take a lot of “education” to become that dumb.

    But it doesn’t take much education at all to type that sentence…

  62. jan says:

    @R. Dave:

    I guess that’s why I’m trying to identify the specific mechanisms that OWS-supporters think link these kinds of issues such that the deck is stacked against the AR kid as a result of the favors being given to the Wall Street CEO.

    I enjoyed your honest input today R. Dave. Your questions are insightfully aimed. IMO, the real stacked deck lies in not creating quality early education, such as what you were inferring was the case in AR. If you don’t build strong reading, writing, critical analysis, research, and math skills in the K-12 grades, then where’s the foundation for college? And, what does any of that have to do with OWS.

    As for the students protesting their daunting loans, I still say those loans were a ‘choice,’ not a mandate, by the student and his/her parents. There are so many stories surfacing, now, from others, detailing how they received their education through more modest means and working outside of school. People seem to be reviewing their own situations, through this OWS scene, and the conclusions many are drawing is, “Why are they complaining. I did it, and am paying off my loans and simply dealing with it.”

    Consequently, I think this protest is going to create a greater comparison and contrast between groups, their beefs, and judgments on how much of this is really warranted or not. I also believe that it will harden positions, conjuring up even more blatant discord among the two ideologies of liberalism and conservatism, and at the end, it is debatable whether any of it will serve to help move this country forward or batter it backwards.

  63. michael reynolds says:

    @Ben Wolf:
    Household or individual?

  64. anjin-san says:

    Eric,

    Name me one piece of legislation the House has passed that actually involves combating crony capitalism.

    Eric?

  65. Ben Wolf says:

    @michael reynolds: That’s household income.

  66. john personna says:

    @jan:

    As for the students protesting their daunting loans, I still say those loans were a ‘choice,’ not a mandate, by the student and his/her parents. There are so many stories surfacing, now, from others, detailing how they received their education through more modest means and working outside of school. People seem to be reviewing their own situations, through this OWS scene, and the conclusions many are drawing is, “Why are they complaining. I did it, and am paying off my loans and simply dealing with it.”

    As I’ve shown a few times, the whole under-30 demographic is suffering. Can you show that they’ve ALL made bad choices?

    And that you just aren’t concentrating on bad choices to make your argument by hasty generalization?

  67. JKB says:

    @Ben Wolf:

    Are you irony deficient?

  68. michael reynolds says:

    @Ben Wolf:
    Thanks. It’s a minor point, but I wondered.

  69. Liberty60 says:

    @Tsar Nicholas:

    it’s also quite clear — at least to any student of polical history — that these protests will have no bearing whatsoever on any election on the event horizon.

    Sorry, but this statement from someone calling himself “Tsar Nicholas” really did make me laugh out loud when I read it.

    “I say, Tsarina, why are the servants ushering us down into the basement…?”

  70. jan says:

    @john personna:

    As I’ve shown a few times, the whole under-30 demographic is suffering. Can you show that they’ve ALL made bad choices?

    And that you just aren’t concentrating on bad choices to make your argument by hasty generalization?

    In that under-30 demographic there are many reasons why certain individuals are suffering more than others. Some is due to making bad, unreasonable personal choices. Other people’s travails have more to do with unfortunate happenstance. However, it becomes quite a burden for society to have to select then dissect groups, as a whole, as to their worthiness of receiving empathy or derision. And, that is what is being done currently, taking one demographic, wholesaling and tagging it without any differentiation as to the personal actions of each person within a given demographic.

    It’s similar to the rationale/scam used in the handling and selling of sub-prime loans, giving a bundle of loans, no matter how secure or unsecured individual ones were, the same rating. Only now, we are doing it with human beings lodged in certain demographics. If they are in one age group they all get judged this way. If they are in a certain economic group they all get judged another way. It goes on and on for any number of cultural/societal subsets, who are either attacked or pitied simply by where they stand on some kind of humanly pre-arranged social justice continuum, rather than simply who they are as individuals.

    This must be the by-product of collective thinking, which tends to diminish or denigrate personal stories of deeds and accomplishments, preferring instead to reduce everyone to a single demographic statistic on this earth, compartmentalizing them into ‘groups,’ and taking a mass temperature reading in order to determine their worth, needs, degrees of advantages/disadvantages they are supposed to collectively have. To me it dehumanizes people. But, to some of you it’s probably a neat way to use a subjective natural selection process in order to gauge and create a proper societal mean envisioned by you.

    As for your ‘hasty generalization’ reference….what is it with you and wikipedia? Do you ever discuss anything without some kind of imperious definition at hand, which I guess is supposed to drive a point home? A little bit of wikipedia is helpful. But, like Obama’s teleprompter usage, it can get to be overdone.

  71. john personna says:

    @jan:

    I love to link definitions of logical fallacies, it is true.

    And I think you said you like your fallacy, that we should generalize from bad people to all under-30s

  72. An Interested Party says:

    But, like Obama’s teleprompter usage jan’s rather shabby cheap shots and regurgitation of right-wing talking points, it can get to be overdone.

    Happy to be of help…

  73. Steve V says:

    @jan:
    Kevin Drum was curious about this “regulations are strangling the economy” trope that the right relies on so heavily, and investigated. He found that the Obama administration had issued far fewer regulations than the Bush administration had in a comparable period of time. We all know about the APA, but I have started to wonder, what are all these regulations of which the right so loudly complains? (And surely you know that the EPA and OSHA long predate the Obama administration.) In fact, I’d like to see some of the front pagers here make this a priority. It’s become an article of faith on the right — invoked heavily in all the GOP debates — and I fear there may be no basis for it.

  74. Eric Florack says:

    @Doug Mataconis: The problem with your question of course is that the tea party doesn’t control the house, as yet.

  75. Eric Florack says:

    How does a political party hijack a decentralized movement with no hierarchy?

    Doug Mataconis: By talking about it! Democrats talking about OWS proves it’s stupid and will disappear just like the Tea Party!

    Quote so, Ben… and there’s historical precedent.