On Wall Street this morning protests continue as a now-major force in the news cycle, making folks pay attention to one of the great scams of world history.
And today is for the future — Kids Speak Out Day — as the swelling demonstrations starts its 24th outing to put the spotlight on the horrors of modern finance, and the most-incredible income disparity amongst civilized peoples.
(Illustration found here).
These protests, which have now spread across the county — Occupy Denver, Occupy San Francisco, and points in between — started off just about in the dark as the media (lovers of high finance) decided to black the demonstrations out until they grew to such a size they were hard to cover up.
The movement’s motto: “We are the 99 percent that will no longer tolerate the greed and corruption of the 1 percent.”
A take on the enormous financial gulf between rich and poor and the arrogance it embraces.
Do the math:
In the United States, wealth is highly concentrated in a relatively few hands.
As of 2007, the top 1 percent of households (the upper class) owned 34.6 percent of all privately held wealth, and the next 19 percent (the managerial, professional, and small business stratum) had 50.5 percent, which means that just 20 percent of the people owned a remarkable 85 percent, leaving only 15 percent of the wealth for the bottom 80 percent (wage and salary workers).
In terms of financial wealth (total net worth minus the value of one’s home), the top 1 percent of households had an even greater share: 42.7 percent.
Edward Wolff, the economist we draw upon the most in this document, concludes that there has been an “astounding” 36.1 percent drop in the wealth (marketable assets) of the median household since the peak of the housing bubble in 2007.
By contrast, the wealth of the top 1 percent of households dropped by far less: just 11.1 percent.
So as of April 2010, it looks like the wealth distribution is even more unequal than it was in 2007.
And to make matters worse, US household incomes declined more in the two years after the recession ended than it did during the recession itself.
There’s no winning, so hence people are in the streets.
Anyone with any moral, financial sense knows the problem — even Federal Reserve Board Chairman Ben Bernanke, from the very bowels of one those protest points, does indeed have a clue.
Last week, during a congressional hearing, Bernanke let it slip out:
“Like everyone else, I’m dissatisfied with what the economy’s doing right now.
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.”
You know what level, Ben, don’t be shitting us.
After the crowds swelled, and some innocent-looking, pretty young girls were pepper sprayed by a nutcase New York cop, the movement gained the lede on network nightly news and people started commenting on the situation — Michael Moore, Mark Ruffalo, Tim Robbins, Susan Sarandon, Penn Badgley, among a host other big names threw in their support.
One such voice (via the modern mode of protests/revolutions): Yoko Ono voiced her support on Twitter: “I love #OccupyWallStreet. As John said, ‘One hero cannot do it. Each one of us have to be heroes.’ And you are. Thank you.”
The movement is moving right along.
Those with their nose up the ass of Wall Street have come out slinging nasty.
One of the great jerks/assholes of our time, Republican Rep. Peter King lashed out not only at those Wall Street protestors, but at US history, and in doing so, defined the fear of the rich:
“It’s really important for us not to give any legitimacy to these people in the streets,” said King on Laura Ingraham’s radio show Friday evening.
“I remember what happened in the 1960s when the left-wing took to the streets and somehow the media glorified them and it ended up shaping policy.
We can’t allow that to happen.”
And pure nit-twit Paul Ryan: “I think this divisive rhetoric is fairly–is divisive. I think it’s troubling. Sowing class envy and social unrest is not what we do in America.”
Paul, Paul, Paul — oh, such hypocrisy, such tripe from someone who has been doing that sort of thing for nearly three years now.
Paul Krugman in his column this morning in the New York Times takes to task all those clowns and discovers these people are scared shitless.
And this reaction tells you something important — namely, that the extremists threatening American values are what F.D.R. called “economic royalists,” not the people camping in Zuccotti Park.
Consider first how Republican politicians have portrayed the modest-sized if growing demonstrations, which have involved some confrontations with the police — confrontations that seem to have involved a lot of police overreaction — but nothing one could call a riot.
And there has in fact been nothing so far to match the behavior of Tea Party crowds in the summer of 2009.
Nonetheless, Eric Cantor, the House majority leader, has denounced “mobs” and “the pitting of Americans against Americans.”
The G.O.P. presidential candidates have weighed in, with Mitt Romney accusing the protesters of waging “class warfare,” while Herman Cain calls them “anti-American.”
My favorite, however, is Senator Rand Paul, who for some reason worries that the protesters will start seizing iPads, because they believe rich people don’t deserve to have them.
Michael Bloomberg, New York’s mayor and a financial-industry titan in his own right, was a bit more moderate, but still accused the protesters of trying to “take the jobs away from people working in this city,” a statement that bears no resemblance to the movement’s actual goals.
And if you were listening to talking heads on CNBC, you learned that the protesters “let their freak flags fly,” and are “aligned with Lenin.”
What’s going on here?
The answer, surely, is that Wall Street’s Masters of the Universe realize, deep down, how morally indefensible their position is.
They’re not John Galt; they’re not even Steve Jobs.
They’re people who got rich by peddling complex financial schemes that, far from delivering clear benefits to the American people, helped push us into a crisis whose aftereffects continue to blight the lives of tens of millions of their fellow citizens.
Yet they have paid no price…
This special treatment can’t bear close scrutiny — and therefore, as they see it, there must be no close scrutiny.
Anyone who points out the obvious, no matter how calmly and moderately, must be demonized and driven from the stage.
In fact, the more reasonable and moderate a critic sounds, the more urgently he or she must be demonized, hence the frantic sliming of Elizabeth Warren.
So who’s really being un-American here?
Not the protesters, who are simply trying to get their voices heard.
No, the real extremists here are America’s oligarchs, who want to suppress any criticism of the sources of their wealth.
Hear, hear — and as I’ve said it before, those 99 percenters are 100 percent correct.