Before you ever argue against a movement, it is best to understand what it is that movement stands for. It is also best to understand how that movement’s stance applies to you. A prime example of this is the “We Are the 99%” Movement and the backlash amongst some people.
First of all, people need to understand what the movement is about. Almost one month before the protests began on Wall Street, a blog on Tumblr began with people explaining how financial situations were impacting their lives. It was done in a very simple way, with an image of them holding up a note. Like many things on the internet, especially on Tumblr, it spread like wildfire and became a protest slogan.
The movement is not about being lazy. It is not about whining. It is not about being uneducated or being parasites. It is not about thinking that people deserve more than they get. It is simply about how people making up the movement are sick of being ignored by those who hold the power, aka the money, in the country.
The terminology regarding this movement is not new. It has been around quite a while. The wealthiest one percent became a catchphrase in the 2000 Presidential candidate debates. In 2006, Jamie Johnson, heir to the Johnson & Johnson fortune, made a documentary called “The One Percent” and showed the growing disparity in wealth amongst the citizens of America. It was also mentioned by Nobel a laureate and Columbia University economics Professor Joseph Stiglitz in a Vanity Fair article in May of 2011.
So if this disparity is nothing new, then maybe we should take a better look at what the disparity actually is. The richest one percent of Americans (aka those making over one million dollars) now take home around twenty-four percent of the income in this country, which is up drastically from the almost 9 percent that it was at in 1976. This means that the United States has more unequal distribution of wealth than countries like Nicaragua, Venezuela, China, and India; countries we seem to generally pretend like we are better than. The countries that we are closest to, when it comes to the disparity, are Russia and Iran. In 1986, the wealthiest Americans made up 12 percent of the population and thirty-three percent of the overall wealth of the country. Now, it is one percent with forty percent of the country’s wealth. In 1980, the C.E.O.’s of the largest American companies made 42 times more than the average worker. By 2001, the C.E.O.’s made 531 times as much. (In Europe, this difference is currently at 25:1.) The 299 CEOs of companies listed on the S&P 500 Index made a combined $3.4 billion per year. That amount alone could pay for incomes for 102,325 average American jobs. And between 1980 and 2005, more than four-fifths of the total increase in incomes in American went to the richest one percent. The current disparity of wealth rivals that of the Depression era.
Now, this change in income might have been more ignored if 9/11, and the subsequent Bush tax cuts, recession, and various economic recovery packages (bailouts) hadn’t come into play. The tax cuts didn’t just go to those in the lower income brackets, they also went to the most affluent Americans. The justification was that the lessened tax burden would create new jobs and stimulate the economy. We now have 9.6% unemployment, a number that is slowly getting better, and this is still the justification being used by many within the Republican and other fiscally conservative political parties and organizations. It seems that if the tax breaks on the wealthy stimulated job growth, then they would have done so already.
But this is not the belief shared by those promoting the taxes. Instead, some want to cancel programs, like Social Security and unemployment, that benefit the lower income brackets. Others, like Herman Cain, want to increase taxes on the lower income brackets, while decreasing taxes on the upper brackets. Putting more of the country’s financial burden on the poorer citizens is not right. These are people who cannot afford to pay more in taxes, which one might think would be obvious to those proposing the taxes, but is apparently not. Instead, if the argument is used, then the comments of how increased taxes on the upper echelon is somehow a punishment for being successful. Wouldn’t it counter that increased taxes on the poor is a punishment for not having enough success?
It has been suggested by Robert H. Frank of Cornell University, Adam Seth Levine of Vanderbilt University, and Oege Dijk of the European University Institute that inequality leads to more financial distress. The basis was census data, which showed that places where inequality increased the most also endured the greatest surges in bankruptcies. They compared it to the same kind of behavior that takes place after any windfall, where those with the money go and buy more to show off their wealth, while those right below try to catch up and end up going into too much debt.
Other scholars have found that there are more divorces in areas with rising inequality. It is believed that this is a byproduct of the financial distress. When the families fall apart, people are more likely to become depressed or to develop stress-related health issues. An increase in divorces can also impact the ability of a child. whose parents are divorcing, to succeed in school.
More studies show that there are even more issues for those who do not make the highest incomes in the country, including health problems of both the mental and physical varieties. People who have lost their job and have trouble finding work for a long period of time end up having lower self-esteem, which makes it even harder for them to get a job. These people then have a harder time with family members and friends, which can lead to their support system slowly (or quickly) disappearing. The less support they have, the harder it will be for them to ever get back on their feet.
Once upon a time, not so long ago, if we wanted to discuss the problems of improper distribution of wealth, we would look to Latin America. Unlike the United States, these countries like Brazil that have had such disparities in the past have worked hard to change their ways. Their work has paid off, while our social inaction has caused our country and our fellow citizens more strife. So while their economies strengthen, we see ours crumble more and more, but we don’t seem to understand that we are causing our own problems.
Increases of inequality is the flipside of something that we seem to forget: shrinking opportunity. The less opportunity a person has to achieve, the higher the inequality goes. This contributes to a monopoly of power and to special treatment being given to those in power. This keeps our young people from achieving in education and innovation, which causes our country to begin a dangerous path down the road of intellectual and economic stagnation. We become like tarnished silver that never gets polished. The neglect that we apply to our own people ends up causing our country to become less and less impressive and less and less significant of a contributor to the world.
But whenver anyone tries to change this new “norm” terms like “socialist”, “communist”, “Marxist”, or “lazy” get thrown around. People start making comparisons to Stalin and Hitler, but don’t understand that they are applying these terms to the wrong people. The activists become some kind of enemy to the nation, and we pretend that activists have never helped this country in any way. This ignores the fact that the country has reached some of its highest achievements from activism and from challenging the norms. It also ignores the fact that there are countries where being more fiscally equal has proven to be a benefit to a society rather than an impediment. And most importantly, it ignores that while we are denigrating the supporters of equality, we are allowing those who are oppressing so many Americans to continue their oppressive ways.
Most members of the House of Representatives and almost all United States Senators are already members of the one percent when they arrive in Congress. They are kept in power by money from the top one percent, and know that if they cater to their fellow one-percenters that they will be greatly rewarded when they leave office. Most policymakers within the trade and economic fields also come from the one percent. And with lobbying gifts and the newer deregulations on campaign donations from companies becoming the norm, it becomes harder and harder for those without enough of the Benjamins to even be heard. It also becomes harder and harder to ever expect a bill that taxes the wealthy fairly because they technically, for lack of a better term, own the country.
And all of this contributes to the dislike of the control from that top one percent by those within the ninety-nine percent movement. Within the movement, people have seen the glorification of the rich and the condemnation of the poor, and it has upset them. And then the disdain from fellow members of the ninety-nine percent has confused them. The members of the movement understand that, regardless of what a person might think, all members of that ninety-nine percent have been negatively impacted by this love fest with that one percent. Whether the impact is in the form of a job, an education, poor environmental controls on pollution,their personal health or the health of a family member, or just a pure lack of opportunity, all members of that 99 percent have been impacted.
Lessening the funding to public schools, for example, leads to teachers losing their jobs. That leads to increased class sizes, which keeps children from getting the individual time with the teacher that is so necessary to get a proper education. It also leads to less attention being paid to any possible learning or behavior problems that might impact a student. These things keep a child from succeeding in the ways that they might have been able to succeed if their school system had been properly funded. By impeding their education at such a young age, their future becomes more and more limited. Children who might have gone on to become doctors, instead might be kept from acheiving higher education or might be forced to drop out of high school. The lack of any degree would cause them to make less and would make it harder for them to get proper training in many fields, which would then impact the productivity of that person and the productivity of the society in general. It would also impact the productivity of future generations that might not be given adequate chances at success because of the failings of previous generations. This would perpetuate very dangerous economic and social cycles that could drastically damage the potential for success that this nation might otherwise have.
When the founders of this nation declared their independence from George III, they based that claim of independence on rights, fairness, and equality. And though there were some who didn’t support total equality and others who had to support less equality because of the social norms of the time, it is unlikely that any ever imagined that this country would become a basic den of iniquity. Our most sacred and basic freedoms and opportunities as Americans have been sold to the highest bidders, turning our country’s leaders into prostitutes. Our country that held such high hopes for so many who sought our shores because of the great “American dream” has become a country where daily it becomes more and more unlikely for a middle-class citizen to ever make it to the top. In fact, it is easier to do so in European countries than it is to do so here.
The same inequalities that triggered some of the protesting in the Arab Spring movements are being visited upon American families at increasing rates, with food prices and costs of living going up and likelihood of adequate employment (particularly among the youth) dwindling. One out of six Americans desiring a full-time job is unable to get one. One out of seven Americans is on food stamps. So few jobs and so little ability to adequately get food makes people angry. I would say ask Gadhafi what happens to societies where this inequality is continuously perpetuated and glorified, but I think we all know what happened there. And it isn’t just the recent Arab Spring stuff or the Occupy Wall Street protests that should wake people up to the possible future that lies before us if we do not change our ways.
Look at the history of this kind of behavior. Look at the French Revolution. Why did that happen? Look at the February Revolution of 1917. Why did the Bolsheviks hold so much of a following? People didn’t just have revolutions because revolting was fun. They did it because their pockets and their bellies were empty. And I am not advocating a violent revolution by saying this, but saying that the justification for a peaceful demonstration pointing out the disparity should not be seen as something unworthy of our attention or concern. I’m also saying that we should look at what we can do to make this country better before anymore families are forced to go hungry or go without heat during the winter or to lose their houses or to lose their jobs.
The protests, whether on the internet or in a public setting, are showing us that we need to change. We need to realize that the poor are not evil and deserving of disdain. We need to realize that allowing Americans to go without the basic necessities for life is not justice and is not the thing that a free nation does. We need to realize that the only way to make the world a better place is to realize that change is a true necessity. It is not simply a desire of the young and idealistic. It is an outright need for our country to survive. Without changing our ways, we repeat the sins of the past that led people and nations to destruction. That path of destruction is not the path that we should try to be on. We should be willing to make things better and to not just accept the status quo, because only then will be the country that we set out to be in the 18th century. Only then will we truly become the America that we were meant to be.
To those who are not in the top one percent of wealth-holders or income-earners but like to pretend that they’re more important than the poorest of the 99%, maybe you should look more closely at things. No matter how well prepared you think you are or how much better you think you are than those protesting or those going hungry, you should never overestimate your own position. You may have enough to make it a while if you lost your job. Most of the newly-impoverished did, too. You may have enough food to not go hungry for a while. Some of the impoverished even had that. But no one is truly prepared for the real burdens of the class warfare that is going on in this country. It isn’t something a person can prepare for. You just have to be aware of where you stand in it, and you have to be willing to side with what is right versus what you think is in your pocket’s best interest.
To those who are in the top 1%, but are who are, at the same time, dismissive of the bottom 99%, it might be important to remember that you did not gain fortune or power all on your own. It was earned on the backs of those who you seem to abhor. Pretending like they are somehow insignificant to this country is not only disrespectful of them, it rewrites your personal significance to the country. If these people had not been been your employees or somehow connected to however you made your income, then you probably wouldn’t be in your position right now.
To those who are in the top 1%, but realize just how lucky they are or how unfair the system is to those who have less, I think I speak on behalf of many of the 99% when I say that we thank you. We thank you for having the ability to realize that this is a world that does not just belong to the wealthy few, but belongs to all of us. We thank you for realizing that the inequality that exists is not helping but is hurting the chance for the American Dream to even be possible for people anymore.
Mirrored from fuzzypinkslippers.com.