Occupy Wall Street, the 99%, and All That

by Philip Brewer on 7 October 2011 56 comments
Photo: Paul Stein

The Occupy Wall Street movement does not lack a unified message. What they're saying is perfectly clear to me. (See also: Peak Debt and Income)

To understand Occupy Wall Street, start with the people who say "We are the 99 percent." (That link goes to a site with statements from people who aren't in the top 1% of wealth and income. Pretty much by definition, that's just about everybody.)

To understand the 99%, begin with recognizing that their incomes have been stagnant for 40 years — a period during which the income of the top 1% has soared. Also, recognize the reason this happened — the reason things changed from prior decades during which the middle class got their full share of economic growth — is a long list of changes to laws, regulations, common practices, policies, and procedures.

What the 99% want is economic justice. But they don't have a single "demand," because there's no single thing that produced this result. (See above: long list of changes.) Instead, they see a long list of things that are wrong:

  • An unfair foreclosure process
  • Government bailouts of big business (with the money ending up in the hands of the same executives that put the company at risk in the first place)
  • Unrelenting efforts to strip workers of the rights to organize and to have a safe workplace
  • A system of higher education that saddles students with a decade of debt
  • healthcare system that bankrupts people without insurance — and denies insurance to anyone who's sick

That's what the Occupy Wall Street movement is trying to fix — a political and economic system where the extremely wealthy (and the corporations they own) buy laws and regulations to ensure that future economic growth (like the economic growth of the past 40 years) continues to flow into the hands of the 1%.

All of my posts are aimed at helping people live large on a small budget. Some are about tactics (how to spend less, how to get more for what you spend), some are about strategy (how to design your life for living large), and some are about understanding the economy (to help you do your own strategic and tactical thinking). I'd like to think this post fits into that third category.

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Guest's picture

I think this post also fits into the first category. This is a sign of a great injustice. The demands may be unclear to some, but as you point out, it also points to the huge gathering of diverse voices. Great article.

Guest's picture
Anne

People are tired of getting the shaft.

Guest's picture
Von Berry

While your article is mildly interesting, I found your points as to why the protesters are occupying most dumb.

1. Unfair Foreclosure Process - A financing home-owner signed a contract that if violated gives the mortgager the collateral. What is wrong with this?
2. Government Bailouts - I agree with this point. They should have failed.
3. Organizing and safe work places have nothing in common. This is a fallacious argument.
4. Higher Education - The cost of higher ed is because of government being involved. As long as the government finances education the cost will continue to go up.
5. Health Care - This is also a casualty of government interference.

These protesters want more government interference. This will lead to disaster.

Philip Brewer's picture

Foreclosures are supposed to follow a process set by law, which requires (among other things) that the foreclosing bank show that it has the mortgage. The courts have been quite slipshod in actually following that process.

There are several ways to ensure workplace safety, one of which is for organized workers to demand it. I think that's probably at least as good as government regulations requiring it. (I think we agree on the problems of excess government regulation.)

There are a lot of issues with higher education, but I don't think saddling up 18-year-olds with more and more debt is the solution to any of them.

On health care, I think we're go to find that we disagree. As I said in the linked post (health care reform: good for people like me), I think our current system of health insurance is terrible. At least, it's terrible for people like me—people who want to making a living doing something other than working at a regular job.

Guest's picture
Guest

Protesters are not asking for more government involvement. They are asking for fairness which is impossible from scumbags pursuing profits. The role of government is as arbitrator between the various factions of society. Unfortunately, government has been bought off by the greediest 1%.

You imply government interference has caused problems in a number of industries. Morons like Greenspan assumed that self interest would prevent deregulated financial thieves from imploding the market and he was WRONG. The only self interest is for profits regardless of impact to the system. Capitalism died on the day that the GOVERNMENT bailed out wall street. Do you want to amend your opinion about what government should get involved in? I'm sure you would have hung yourself by now if they did not intervene.

Answers to your questions:
Both parties gamed the system. Bad faith on both sides. Buyer lied and financier knew it but did not care because they knew they were not going to keep the load. Justice would be served if the home owner lost the property AND the banker went to jail for money laundering. The took bad loans and passed them off as triple AAA rated loads. This is money laundering. If you punish the buyer you must punish the financier and as you know we are all still waiting for this.

Because government is the administrator of medicare and medicaid they are trying to reduce the cost of medicine. A simple solution is to compete with for profit insurance companies. They provide no value to society and should go out of business like the US mail.

I will always trust government over corporations. Corporations are in business to make money and as we have learned throughout our history are willing to work people 20 hours a day, 7 days a week, with little wages and no insurance.

Guest's picture
Wil

Not Wisebread's finest work---
Unfair Foreclosure process- Some firsthand examples of people losing their homes that weren't delinquent would strengthen your point here. I think I have heard of exactly one in the news, and it was overturned by the courts. While I know numerous people who have lost their home, I don't know a single one of them who was not woefully behind on their mortgage. Banks in our part of the country don't want your house. A couple of months ago, I had a friend who went to the bank to tell them he just couldn't pay and was bringing them the keys. They tried to talk him into staying in it.

Government Bailouts- The only purpose this serves is to calm public hysteria. It is rarely a good option.

Unrelenting efforts to strip workers of the right to organize- Again, some examples of this would be useful. Having lived in several places over the years, it is really nice to live in a state where I am not REQUIRED to pay union dues to work in my chosen profession. Unions certainly have done good work in this country, but membership should be voluntary. In many places here, it is not.

A system of higher education that saddles students with decades of debt- Give us a break. A good education may not be cheap, but you can do it and graduate debt free if you shop around and are willing to work along the way. Five in our family did it and we were not just in the 99% but in the lower 25%

Healthcare is not cheap. Neither is insurance, but you can get it. You can thank lawyers, freeloaders, deadbeats, and government interference for this. When my brother was born, the doctor came to the house and charged $25, which my dad paid off in six installments. That was a long time ago. When our youngest graduated, we found her an affordable catastrophic health insurance policy. It was more than she wanted to pay, but buying it was the responsible thing to do. Otherwise, she'd fit in the freeloader or deadbeat category, which would add to the problem.

I would like to thank you for writing this piece. While I disagree with much of what you say, it was at least useful in making me think through all the things that I felt like you got wrong.........

I read wisebread for personal financial and frugal living tips, not political insight. This one just missed the mark for me.

Philip Brewer's picture

Sorry this post didn't hit the mark with you.

I could say that I hope the post offered not so much political insight as economic insight. And that I'm not so much trying to convince you that the Occupy Wall Street folks are correct as simply to provide a more accurate report of what they're saying than I've seen in the main stream media. Both of those statements would be true, but they'd be kind of a cop out. The fact is, I do find myself much more in the camp of the 99% than in the camp of the 1%. From the Great Depression through the 1970s, the economic returns to economic growth were broadly shared with the middle class. Since then, the returns to growth have ended up in the hands of the top 1%. The result has been not only political problems, but also economic problems. (See the post I linked to right at the top Peak Debt and Income for details.)

Greg Go's picture
Greg Go

Philip -- I always appreciate your posts helping me understand economics and their social ramifications, so I'd love to hear more of your thoughts on the Occupy movement.

There seems to be a lot of steam behind this movement, in spite of its unclear goals; we seem to have crossed some threshold on the popular anger scale.

Can you help put the current events in perspective for us? Is this is the next French or Russian Revolution? Have we reached the end of the Capitalist Era? What would Marx say?

Easy questions, right? :) Thanks!

Guest's picture
Guest

If the 1% wants to know what the 99% wants, and what will happen if we don't get it, they only need to open a history book

Guest's picture
Delilah

If you're one who has always done the right thing, always paid the bills on time, got your driver's license renewed on time, went to the dr. and dentist every 6 months for "check ups," always paid the IRS first, and on and on.....and now you've come to realize....for what! Then you will understand....

Great job simplifying the "mystique" surrounding the Occupation. Fully support! (don't tell anyone in case Big Brother is gathering data on us all! :)

Guest's picture

The OWS group could benefit from electing leadership and creating an agenda. How that change come from a voiceless, directionless protest? I understand the frustration that stagnant economic growth has resulted in limited opportunities for a generation. The promise of a competitive job has been broken by high costs and no income that comes close to paying off mountains of student debt. I get that.

However, I feel their energy is misdirected when aimed at the top 1%. A better target is congress. Their inaction and weak compromise has resulted in no real progress. A second target would be to embrace the realities of this new economy. We have undrgone a fundamental shift where corporations have exploited labor where it is cheapest, eroding jobs, income, and the standard of living at home. Workers need to adapt exploit the internet for future prosperity. The factory down the street is not coming back.

Philip Brewer's picture

See, I don't think this is about being angry at the 1%. I think this is about being angry at a system where all the gains go to one tiny group and the rest of us get nothing. If the system gets changed so that everyone shares in the growth in the economy, we'll all be better off. (Even the 1%, actually.)

Guest's picture
chuck

Philip, you're wrong. It IS anger at the 1%. Hence the calls for the disgorging of wealth and the beheading of those who don't. I'm sorry, but this is pure greed. And the fact that Democrat politicians are starting to jump on the bandwagon and endorsing the protestors demonstrates the mendacity of the protests.

Guest's picture
GE Miller

The OWS movement is something that I'm very excited about b/c I am tired of only getting the perspective of the 1% rammed down our throats by conservative media. Finally, people have had enough. I worry about this movement fading into the abyss, however. Where does it go from here? The only way anything positive will get accomplished here is if our country completely abolished the present structure in Congress. So long as we are mired in a 2 party system that allows uncapped political ad money, change will not happen. And perhaps this is the real motivator behind the movement. People feel powerless to change any of the injustices they are seeing with the present political system in our country. I don't know, Phil - where do you think this could go?

Philip Brewer's picture

I don't know. But I agree that the underlying issue is the power of money in the political system. If we can't get that fixed, it's going to be tough to get anything else fixed.

Guest's picture
John ploghshar

I am poor. I don't own a house. I have a couple years of college that I paid for by working while in school. I have a family and work to keep us all fed, clothed and sheltered. I don't have time to protest like these 99% do. Most of all, while there are many problems with the way things work, People today still live like kings did a few hundred years ago. I am the 99% and these people do not speak for me!

Guest's picture
We deserve better

While I can sympathize with those who truly make the effort, and try their hardest to improve their lives, there are far too many who think everything should be given to them. Case in point, twp of the so-called demands was that all debt around the world be eliminated, and that all college education should be free. Yeah, that's realistic. There are far too many kids who are not getting the vocational training to get them a decent manufacturing or skilled labor job. Show me a jobs bill that would promote training without spending 200k on each one and I'll bet more people would consider that worthwhile. I do not make anything remotely close to a million dollars and I am perfectly content. I do not envy the rich or am angry about them. I think it would be a great thing to encourage these people to be more generous, however, to those in need.

Philip Brewer's picture

Looking at the statements of the people calling themselves the 99%, I don't see any from people who want something for nothing. Almost all the ones I see are from people who've been unlucky.

They got sick and their insurance didn't cover the full costs of treatment. Now they're deeply in debt, and they can't even get insurance.

They went to school and got degrees, but the best job they can get doesn't quite cover their student loan payments.

They bought a house and were making payments just fine until their job moved overseas. Now they're only working part time and waiting for their house to be foreclosed on.

A free college education doesn't seem unrealistic to me. Several northern European countries not only offer a free education, but pay a small stipend (enough to live on, if you live like a student) to anyone who's getting good grades. In fact, California used to offer a free education to California residents—and much of their success was due to their well-educated workforce.

Guest's picture
Guest

I just cancelled the RSS feed of this website to my home page because of this posting. Way to go Wise Bread.

Guest's picture
Pat

If you don't believe in the Occupy Wall Street merits, I just have two words for you: John Thain.

Guest's picture
Tony

I found this list on another discussion board, and I think it sums up what the 99% should demand from our govt.

#1 Reinstate the Glass Steagall Act that separates commercial
and investment banks, enacted during the Depression and repealed
in 2000, eight years before the crisis.
#2 Regulate the credit rating agencies.
#3 Reward and recognize companies that keep jobs in the US
#4 Don't allow mortgage backed securities to be resold with a different rating
#5 Use Anti-trust laws to break up companies and banks that are too big to fail
#6 Repeal the Commodities and Futures Modernization Act of 2000 that
de-regulates Derivatives.

Her Every Cent Counts's picture

It's an interesting movement. I'm not a political person, but I'm pretty pissed off that Wall Street has gotten away with what basically amounts to criminal activity, with the blessing of the government. Makes you realize you're in this on your own, and that it's not wise to trust anyone in politics. I would like to do some more research on this movement, as others point out this article has some holes in it. I think I probably align with this movement because it's less political and more about getting the "99%" to realize how much we've been f'd over by the super rich.

Guest's picture
Greg Longworth

There communist, socialists and marxists They hate capitalism. They want everything for free and want forgiven for all their debts so try and put a spin on that. Unions are now involved your not seeing the big picture. Half these people were paid to go and picket and the ones that were carrying signs written in English they couldn't even read it. Geroge Sorros has money invested in this. Your typical left wing spin won't work on me.

Guest's picture
Barbara

I think OWS message is pretty clear. We have been sold out by our leaders for the profits of corporations. It effects all ages and level of income negatively.. unless you are the 1% I am proud of the people showing up and support their efforts.

Guest's picture
Anne

I am as well. I support them.

Guest's picture
Guest

I would like to hear someone in the OWS movement stand up and tell us who these corporations are. I hear all the talk about corporate greed and the 1% who are getting rich off the 99%. I am squarely in the middle of the 99% and I for one are cheering on the evil corporations to increase their profits. The reason I am cheering is that myself, my wife, my kids teachers, my mother (by way of my Dad's Teamster pension), and I bet many of the OWS protesters are the evil corporations. Anyone who owns stock, mutual funds, or has a defined pension program has at least part of their money invested in these evil corporations. Corporations attempt to make profits to drive up their stock price. When corporations fail to make profits, their stock price decreases, and many people react by selling their stock. I would like to ask 1 of the OWS protesters if he/she had $1000 worth of XYZ stock, and XYZ company was poorly managed and there was no way for the company to make a profit, and the stock was heading to $0, would he/she sell the stock or hold it until it went to $0. If he/she is true to his/her principles, he/she would hold the stock, loose the money and celebrate the fact he/she was not in it to make a profit.

Just my 2 cents, which I would like to turn into 4 cents, that would be a profit.

Philip Brewer's picture

At this point I think we're reaching ground where the Occupy Wall Street folks do not speak with a single voice. Having said that, I think two points are worth making.

First, even though the 99% do share in the profits of corporations (through their 401(k)s, pensions, brokerage holdings, and so on), the vast majority of the gains end up in the hands of the 1%, simply because they own so much of the stock market wealth. (The top 1% own about 42% of the financial wealth.)

Second, current corporate governance practices enable a wealthy management class to skim off a large fraction of the profits. (In fact, even bankrupt corporations are often permitted to pay large bonuses in order to "retain key staff," as if the people who'd run the company into the ground were indispensable.)

I suspect those are the issues that the Occupy Wall Street folks are complaining about. They're not against profits. They're against a system that ensures that profits end up almost entirely in the hands of the already wealthy.

Guest's picture
Bill

You said in a comment "Looking at the statements of the people calling themselves the 99%, I don't see any from people who want something for nothing. Almost all the ones I see are from people who've been unlucky."

Call it what you will. People advocation forgiving all debt do want something for nothing. I fear that the US has become such a nanny state that people are now expecting the Federal Government to take care of their every want. I just want them to allow me to pursue happiness, not provide it.

Do you intend to turn this personal finance blog into an advocacy for left leaning causes? I'm more into capitalism, where my success or failure depends on my actions, not the feds.

Philip Brewer's picture

I'm a capitalist too (in my own "eking out a meager existence" kind of way). But I'm little bitter that the capitalists who made huge bets in the derivatives markets—and then lost—got bailed out by the government. I'm rather more bitter that we still don't have rules in place to prevent the exact same thing from happening again.

For example, we know which banks have exposure to the European debt crisis because they've lent money to the states that might default, because there are rules that require it. But we have no idea which banks have exposure because they've entered into a credit default swap and will owe money if there's a default.

If there's a major default, those banks will need to be bailed out again. (We can't let them fail—they're systemically important.) If there's no default, they'll make bags of money, much of which will go to big bonuses for the bankers, and what's left will go to the bank's shareholders. But where's the fee for the taxpayer's who're on the hook for all that unknown, unmeasurable risk? Where's the transparency that will let us at least have some insight into just how much we might owe?

Guest's picture
Guest

The stock market is the personal bank account of Wall Street. Based upon their behavior over the last few years, I've decided to pull all of my money out of the market and routinely root for failure of the market. It is corrupt and filled with inside traders. It used to be that fundamentals drove the price of stocks. Now it is fear and greed. The government has not done it's job to maintain fair markets. Nothing has changed to prevent this mess from happening again.

Most of the advice that brokers/money managers give make no sense. Why should an individual keep their money in the market as it implodes? This is good for the system but not good for the individual. All people giving investing advice should have all their holdings in the market visible to all clients at all times to validate their behavior is consistent with their advice.

I am tired of the thieves on Wall Street stealing my nest egg and will keep the money invested that I can afford to lose, $0.00. Investing in the market is the same as playing financial Russian Roulette. I would rather see inflation eat it rather than support such a corrupt system.

Guest's picture
James

It is interesting to see the "99%" out on wall street. Personally, I am all for owning to change yourself, rather than blaming others and trying to take it out on them, but that group does indeed have some valid points there.

Guest's picture
Edgar A.

Good one, Philip. Lots of interesting comments, including the huffy ones.

The single point I might quibble with is your characterization of the people harmed by events of the past five years or so as unlucky. No doubt some of the misfortunes people have suffered are just that, misfortunes. If my well water started delivering poison water as the result of natural processes eating into some ancient rock deposit, I'd say I had bad luck.

If a few dozen neighbors permitted a natural gas company to institute hydraulic fracking as the result of lax state regulations and following legislation that took oversight out of the EPA's hands, and then our wells began running poison water, my answer would be more complicated. We had bad luck but we had also been exploited, and that includes the neighbors that made some money out of the deal.

Guest's picture
Bruce

I appreciate what you are saying in the article, but it is really hard to take people seriously when they dress up as zombies and walk around like the walking dead, holding fists full of cash while trying to make a point. Looks like one big Frat party to me.

Guest's picture
Guest

I appreciate your statements, but would you rather have them weeping in the streets, pouring ashes on their heads and rending their garments? This is merely creative expression. A lot of it reflects current trends in literature and media: zombies, vampires, etc. I can't say I always understand (or even like), at first blush, the means of an individuals expression of protest, but that's not necessary. The point is that they are doing it - and I respect that. In closing, the "99 %" don't own major media outlets. They only have their bodies, hearts and minds with which to protest.

Let the dialogue continue...we all have a lot more in common than not.

Guest's picture
aaa

Lots of people who are working multiple jobs and still losing ground these days FEEL like the walking dead.

Guest's picture

This is not communism, if rich does not want to pay you more, so be it.
No revolution should allowed here, go to China for that.

There is no fairness - whether you get money, or student loan - this how the free economy works.

And the protesters are not 99%, they are absolute minority, who are draining our social benefits and staying out of work.

Guest's picture
Sandra Hawk

Phil this is a great summary with wonderful linked resources!

I just linked it to the Occupy Indianapolis FB page and the We are the 99 Percent - Indianapolis meetup group.

Guest's picture
The Baron

So now "Wise Bread" is branching out by publishing puerile political diatribes by "freelance writers" who can't get published anywhere else? Are we to think of this as an act of charity?

Philip Brewer's picture

If you like my writing, and want to see what else I have to say, there's info on my personal website:

http://www.philipbrewer.net/

Follow the "Fiction" and "Nonfiction" links at the top to see links to my other published work.

Thanks for taking an interest!

Guest's picture
Kristin

I support this movement. As a unemployed worker with a graduate degree, I feel as though the rules of the game that we were taught growing up have changed. Just because you do well in school and work hard, does not mean you will get a job and prosper.

Guest's picture
Kristin

I am part of the 99% and I don't want something for nothing. I've worked hard all of my life and I just want the chance to compete for a job. The problem is that the jobs aren't currently available and companies have no motivation to open positions and hire new workers.

The government wants consumers to spend money to drive the economy but our wages haven't increased (or in my case, have been cut to ZERO by being laid-off) so our necessities are taking a larger portion of our paycheck. The 1% is who they should ask to start spending their money, not us!

Guest's picture
Charles

Why not bring outsourced jobs back to America by penalizing companies that do it or offer incentives for those that do. I know the international community would not like it, but I care more about us than them at this point.

Maggie Wells's picture

Yay Phillip--kudos to you for your bravery! I find this season both saddening and amazing. I grew up reading The Nation, Z Magazine, Mother Jones, etc and was a founding member of the Green Party of California so in many ways none of this is surprising. I find it amazing that it took this long for people to wake up and smell the unfairness. I remember trying to organize people in the early 90s and in truth trying to live sustainably and reminding people that we went to war for oil just wasn't sexy enough in the late 80s and early 90s. No one cared. Oh, the old burned out sixties people cared, but my generation ? The Gen-Xers? No thanks.

And then you know there was that Wall that came down and a self congratulatory America. We won the Cold War! Communism bad! Capitalism good! We Americans were still here so we must have been doing it the right way...

But you know---if you subscribe to the idea (as I do) that everything is interconnected then of course everything is interconnected. You can't live a sustainable life in an unsustainable world. You can't continually blame people for being not as smart as you are and use that as justification for why they are suffering and you are not. This is what happens now.

Time and time again we know from our very first experience as a child with media and marketing that we live in a cultural that is trying to sell us the lives we are supposed to live. Every once in awhile and for some of us all the time, we buy into the ideals. So many of us bought into homeownership, and many of us bought into higher education, many of us bought into insurance plans and many of us bought into professions that were to take us great places. These illusions of grandeur didn't come out of thin air. The 99% did not invent these things---the 1% did. I see absolutely nothing wrong with the 99% exclaiming that the gig is up and that they are wise to this now.

It's disingenuous at least and criminal at best for the 1% of the wealthiest people in the nation (and the media outlets that they own) to pretend not to connect the dots.
It's entirely too simplistic to make this into a media talking point game of who is a communist and who loves America BS. A basic English 101 class would tell you that those are complete red herrings.

Our first step of recovery? Realizing that when the Berlin Wall fell and communism as we the West knew it , fell---we should have realized that that was also the beginning of our end too. The 21st century hopefully will bring us to a new place. The Greens used to have a saying: "We are neither left, nor right. We are in front." There is a truth to this. I think the 99% are fed up with the left or right rhetorical nonsense. For all intents and purposes we have just a right and a center anyhow. What the 99% are looking for is fairness and a new direction ---something that actually takes people --real live people with real lives to be lived--into account.

Guest's picture
Anne

Ms. Wells,

Thank you!

Guest's picture
kristine

Von Berry- 3. Triangle Shirtwaist Factory. Need I say more?

Guest's picture
kristine

PS- You can thank organized labor for the 40 hour work week, and weekends.

And let's not let the middle class be just an aberrant blip on the timeline.

Guest's picture
Guest

I thought we were the 1%....

if you're looking through your own computer now, you are the 1%

or am i missing something... is it the 1% of the 1% that we're having issues with?

==========

If the World was a Village of 100 People

If we could shrink the earth's population to a village of precisely 100 people, with all the existing human ratios remaining the same, it would look something like the following.

There would be:

57 Asians

21 Europeans

14 from the Western Hemisphere, both North and South America

8 Africans

52 would be female

48 would be male

70 would be non-white

30 would be white

70 would be non-Christian

30 would be Christian

89 would be heterosexual

11 would be homosexual

6 people would possess 59% of the entire world's wealth;
all 6 would be from the United States.

80 would live in substandard housing

70 would be unable to read

50 would suffer from malnutrition

1 would be near death; 1 would be near birth

1 (yes, only 1) would have a college education

1 would own a computer

Philip Brewer's picture

First of all, you're wrong about computers. Computer ownership is higher than 1% even in China and India, so it's much higher than 1% world-wide.

More to the point, I actually did some research on income levels, trying to see who the 1% would be if we were thinking globally rather than nationally. The data is a bit hard to pin down, but the article "True World Income Distribution, 1988 and 1993" by Branko Milanovic puts the 1% at $24,447 in 1993. That suggests that the current value would be around $40,000 (assuming inflation and a little growth.

Guest's picture
Glad I'm not in Ethiopia.

WINNER COMMENT FROM PHILIP BREWER- CHINA AND INDIA?! ARE YOU SERIOUS?!!!

the 2 countries named (China and India) aren't even considered third-world OR EVEN IN POVERTY- OR POOR AT ALL! (STAT: http://www.nationsonline.org/oneworld/least_developed_countries.htm)
(STAT:http://www.nationsonline.org/oneworld/third_world.htm) and shouldn't be your benchmark for what is considered poverty. (i.e. there's 52 [!!!!] countries in Africa alone that you conveniently overlooked would have made a better example of how many people have computers)

By mentioning China and India ( . . . ) you clearly proved this person's point - in some way. The 99% - isn't in America.

- side note: i know what you were going for when you said china and india, you think that everyone thinks that china and india are poor countries, the poorest - and even THEY are privileged enough to have computers (how lucky for them), but you're hoping that everyone who read that comment is uneducated.

All I have to say is .. Pooooor poooooor pooooOooooOooooo0000ooorrr Americans, and your first world problems.

If only we were in nations like China and India, where they are doing SOoOoooOOooO well that MORE than 1% of them own computers... (side note) probably because they MAKE our computers, because they are willing to work for LESS and for LONGER hours with no OVERPAY, in a dirty FACTORY that would probably be closed in America because Americans are ENTITLED to better conditions.

For the longest time, i thought this whole 99% thing was shedding light on the poverty around the world, or speaking out for the homeless. But no. I was SO wrong and clearly thought higher of humanity than what it really was.

I volunteered to feed the homeless, and it takes a while to get used to. You know what happens when you feed the homeless? No? Is it because you don't think you should be sharing your wealth to the needy (sounds familiar)? Because they should get a job instead of waiting for us to just COME ALONG and just GIVE them food?
Well, the homeless TELLS you that they don't like the food that was just handed out them, and asks for a steak, more meat, pasta - yeah, this attitude here for the OWS looks pretty similar to the ones at the homeless shelter.

Maybe I'm the only person who doesn't get the "clearly obvious, and unified message" of OWS, but that is how I see it. But maybe people don't understand that my parents, used to be the people in the factory making your crap, that you barely even keep for long. Look at your cell phone - it's probably not the same one as the people who are the top 1% in the world, but you have one, right? How old is that phone? when are you getting a new one? I wonder how many people in Somalia have that phone.... anyways... pretty disposable, right?

Looking at the first person's chart of 100 people, I'm the one percent. The one percent with a college education, (currently in masters), i'm the one percent with a computer, i'm the 30 percent that can read, and the 50 percent that is fully nourished.

Me, right here in america, i am the privileged one percent in terms of freedom and in money, and so are you.
I have better things to do than to sit on a street waiting for someone to just dish out money. I have better things to do than to post a picture of myself on a website about how poor I am with my webcam, and computer, and internet, in my house.

what i have to say to those on OWS? get over yourselves. OR perhaps, focus more on yourself than to be pissed off at the richest people. like, what the hell? There's always going to be richer people than you, are you going to protest every time you find one? Do you think about how many people in Ethiopia (a country, that's actually in poverty, and actually considered third-world) are pissed off at you for being born in a first-world country but still live their lives instead of bringing it to a complete halt to sit on a street and (most likely) smoke pot?

So - for those who made it to the end here, congrats. You are literate. You are alive. You clearly had nothing better to do other than reading my rant. If you still believe you are considered yourself to be so poor, that you are not at the top 1% of the world's wealthiest people (heaven forbid) then look in the help wanted section instead of sitting on a street. No job is below you. Maybe you can clean up the streets after each OWS event, those people leave a MESS behind. Or a cop, considering how much drugs was dealt at each OWS event.

lots to do if you really want to, but take advantage of the fact that you're not at the bottom of the 99% and do something positive with yourself instead of envy the people who are richer than you.

Philip Brewer's picture

My point about China and India had to do with the fact that they are the most populous countries. If more than 1% of their populations have computers (and clearly much, much more than 1% of the populations of the US and most European countries) have computers, then the idea that only 1% own a computer is wrong.

With that statistic obviously wrong, it makes me about dubious about some of the others as well.

Guest's picture
Guest

well, then.. i wish i knew sooner that you were going to disregard the entire point of that stat purely because you can prove that you aren't the top one percent of the world because you own a computer and so does some people in china and india. that would have saved me a lot of cathartic ranting. what is the percentage then, since it's such a big factor? i looked up. it's 5%. you're not the top 1%, but you are the top 5%, if it was 2001 and you owned a computer, you would have been top 1%.

sorry. so sorry.

be unhappy if you want. i just wanted to show people what they have, rather than what they don't. if you disagree and prefer to strive to be unhappy at the richest, be my guest. there's no argument. you think how you want, and i'm going to be grateful for what i have, because I know I live a life with freedom, and wealth and love. i may not be the richest, but i don't have much to complain about.

Philip Brewer's picture

Sorry if what I wrote wasn't responsive.

I think worrying about whether you're happy or not is kind of beside the point here. (Although it's actually pretty important. I reviewed a book on being happier: http://www.wisebread.com/book-review-happier that's worth reading.)

The point here is that we've taken a system in which the vast majority of people all participated in the gains from economic growth, and (over the course of just two or three decades) changed it into a system where almost all the gains of economic growth are captured by the top 1% of the people in the system.

Now, there are a lot of legitimate responses to that. You can look at your position relative to the whole world and say that you've got it pretty good—and that's fine.

One thing I do here on Wise Bread is suggest tactical moves for improving your standard of living, working within the system as it is now. That's fine too.

But another legitimate response is to look at the system as it is now and try to understand what has changed—and then, if you think it's best, advocate for new changes in the system: changes intended to (once again) create a system where the vast majority share in the gains due to economic growth.

I think that's what the Occupy Wall Street movement is all about.

Guest's picture
Jerry

I'm in the 99% and don't subscribe to forgiving debt, nor plotting the downfall of capitalism. I would be shocked to find that any five of the protesters agree on anything. The real downfall of America began in 1993 with NAFTA and the eventual loss of manufacturing jobs. Old Ross was right in the end. Many said we didn't need the manufacturing jobs, that type of labor would be a thing of the past, that high tech jobs are the solution...they didn't and won't. The truly sad thing is those millions of jobs will never come back, never.

It pains me that so many young people were sold a bill of goods to go to college with very little promise of getting a job in their field. I suspect most would have been far better served learning a trade or going to a community college or technical school. The number of students with graduate degrees that are unemployed is simply astonishing. No way would I progress to a graduate degree with no job offers in sight, hoping that an advanced degree would help (with zero job experience, it won't).

Other than perhaps a medical professional, a teacher, or a lawyer, I see no need to push a four year degree on a young person. Encouraging huge debt is a part of our new culture, buy now...never pay back. The ideal of home ownership for everyone was too much to resist....that's being treated fair, right?

The financial system played a huge part, and I don't excuse them. But I do place most of the blame on government. They would not have made those loans without the support of the congress and senate.

Politicians are politicians, no matter the stripe. Don't re-elect anyone, not even your mama....

Guest's picture
Nagwa

I'd like to tell you that all these acquisitions have been said before by the government in Egypt, reading that they have been repeated in USA makes me expect to hear Obama very soon saying that America is not Egypt or Tunisia. Please support the people defending your rights and don't leave them alone. You deserve a better economy not an economy of war as America used to for decades. Please stop your government from killing more people around the world and killing your solders in these wars for petrol or any other resource. Wishing you the real freedom an all the best of luck.
Sincerely
Nagwa
Cairo, Egypt

Guest's picture
Maryanne

Thanks for stimulating this conversation, and for answering people's comments in a calm and steady way.

As long as we hide from what is happening, nothing will change for the better.

The economic future of today's students does not look good. I asked my son, who will be graduating from college in 2013, why he wasn't at the OWS demonstrations....I suspect he isn't there because the reality of how bad the outlook is has not yet hit home with him. The people who are demonstrating are living that reality, and want positive steps to be taken to improve the situation.

Guest's picture
Ron

I guess you’re right Mr. Brewer. Anything that Iran’s chief mullah, Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei, the government of China, Hugo Chavez, the American Nazi Party, the Socialist Party USA and the Communist Party USA agree on as being a good idea must be good for everyday Americans.

What could possibly be wrong with that…..