‘Yes, they have very legitimate gripes’

Henry Blodget says “Here’s What The Wall Street Protesters Are So Angry About …

The problem in a nutshell is this: Inequality in this country has hit a level that has been seen only once in the nation’s history, and unemployment has reached a level that has been seen only once since the Great Depression. And, at the same time, corporate profits are at a record high.

And he has charts. Lots of charts (courtesy of FRED — Federal Reserve Economic Data).

Let’s start with the obvious: Unemployment. Three years after the financial crisis, the unemployment rate is still at the highest level since the Great Depression (except for a brief blip in the early 1980s).

And then there’s this one:

While CEOs and shareholders have been cashing in, wages as a percent of the economy have dropped to an all-time low.

Go read the whole thing.

Related, Mark Thoma on “Why America Should Spread the Wealth“:

If those at the top of the income distribution receive far more than the value of what they create, and those at lower income levels receive less, then one way to correct this, at least in part, is to increase taxes at the upper end of the income distribution and use the proceeds to protect important social programs that benefit working-class households, programs that are currently threatened by budget deficits. This would help to rectify the mal-distribution of income that is preventing workers from realizing their share of the gains from economic growth. …

The claim that there is a tradeoff between equity and efficiency was a key part of the argument for tax cuts for the wealthy, but the tradeoff didn’t materialize. We sacrificed equity for the false promise of efficiency and growth, and society is now more unequal than at any time since the early part of the last century. It’s time to reverse that mistake.

  • Chloe Lewis

    We used to have a lot more two-newspaper or many-newspaper towns, and the newspapers didn’t all slant the same ways. Sometimes they competed on accuracy!

  • Anonymous

    “So, how many holes can you poke in this person’s argument?”

    For starters, I’d add near the end, “And if I ever need hospitalization, I am screwed.”

    No shit.  All of my financial difficulties have stemmed from medical problems.  It’s ever so much fun to come down with a chronic illness you’ve never heard of less than a year after becoming too old for your parents’ health insurance while going to college and working at a job that doesn’t offer health insurance.  It’s a gift that just keeps on giving.  I mean taking.

    That person has no idea how lucky they are.  They’re white.  They’re healthy.  They come from a background that allowed them to save up for college while living at home (I knew people in high school who worked, not to afford college, but to help pay the family bills).  They live in a state where the tuition isn’t too expensive – it’s a car a year to go to CU as a Coloradan, and $8,000 a year just for tuition at Colorado State.  They were able to get scholarships.  Nothing unexpected has gone wrong.

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    Australia has political problems too, right? I’m tempted to feel rather jelly of countries that don’t have to deal with this solid clump of pure, carefully refined stupid clogging up all the machinery of democracy.

     
    God, yes. I vastly, vastly prefer my political climate over yours, but there are still problems. It’s important to have perspective, but one of the things about being progressive is that it’s not good enough for any situation just to be “not the worst”.
     
    Check this out, my friends: This week the House of Representatives passed a set of bills implementing a carbon tax in Australia, in order to reduce our contribution to climate change, as well as a range of measures compensating low and middle income households and trade-exposed industries for the increased costs they will face. It did so by securing the majority of votes on the floor, comprising elected MPs from the Labour Party, the Greens, and two independents (one centrist, one conservative-leaning). All the MPs were chosen in one of the fairest, most free elections in the world. Support was secured through negotiation and compromise. No one was killed, there is no suggestion that anyone was bribed.
     
    The vote was met with screams from a small group of protesters: “Democracy is dead”. Apart from the sheer ignorance on display, that’s pretty fucking insulting to the people who have died this year hoping to see their country become even remotely as democratic as ours.
     
    The Opposition Leader vowed “in blood” (whatever the hell that means) to overturn the law when he becomes Prime Minister, the latter premise being frighteningly likely. Incidently, this guy has unabashedly taken ideas from the Republican playbook: oppose everything and pbe prepared to wreck the joint for power. Thanks for exporting another shitty idea, Republicans.

  • Emcee, cubed

    I am also trying to get my head around the math. We don’t have specifics, but they work 30+ hours at slightly above minimum wage. So if we assume an average of 35 hours at $10.00 and hour (which is more than slightly above, but makes the math easier), they make roughly $1400/month. Standard payroll deductions, figure take home of $1200/month. They live in a small apartment. No mention of roommates, or sharing, or renting a room in someone’s house. An actual apartment, even a small one, I don’t seeing going for under $600/month (if that seems high to anyone, feel free to correct me. Personally, I think it’s low.) They still need to pay 10% of their tuition. Using depizan’s figure of CO State at $8000/year, that’s $800/year, or $67/month. That leaves $533 for food, utilities (electric, gas, water, sewer, garbage collection – because none of that would be included at $600/month), phone (they say they don’t have a smart phone, but they must have a land line or basic cell phone), internet (hey, they uploaded a photo to the website somehow), books, other school supplies, transportation (either a car or public, both have costs), etc. And they say they live below their means to save for the future, so some of that $533 has to be saved. I know in PA, that would be extremely hard to do. Here in NV, it might be a bit easier, but still hard-pressed. So just the fact that they are in a place where they can get by on that is some major privilege going on.

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    I think (and hope) that ignorance is at the root of the “I worked hard to achieve my upper middle class lifestyle and so can everyone else” mindset. I suspect most young people who worked while they were at school to save for college/a car/holidays are utterly unaware that there exist people who work while they’re at school to pay for electricity or, in my case, a fridge to put the insulin in.

    Certainly most of my friends who grew up middle class had no idea how different things were for some of us. Time, imagination and exposure to different people chips away at ignorance but if you’re in a society that continues class separation through adulthood the last of these is diminished, and if you’re in an environment that pumps out the Just World fallacy all day long the second is stunted too.

  • Anonymous

    Heh.  I make just slightly more than your math, and more college is not likely to be in my future.  It might be possible if not for some medical debt from my last period of unemployment, but given that I’ve no idea how I’m going to pay them off, college isn’t bloody likely.

    You’re aiming high on the rent, though.  My apartment and utilities comes to roughly $550, but I have a studio apartment with a kitchen so small I can’t open the fridge all the way.  Not that that in any way detracts from your point.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Charity-Brighton/100002974813787 Charity Brighton

    Wait, you guys can pass legislation with only a majority of votes? Lucky! Over here we need at least 60 votes in the Senate, and it has to be on the third full moon of the year, and the President has to ritually sacrifice a unicorn on an altar consecrated with the blood of a red heifer…

  • Lori

    I’d add one thing to the objections that people have already raised about both the “I’m not the 99%” guy and the “”53%” guy—both of those people are acting as if their situations are somehow admirable or desirable and that everyone should do what they’re doing and that anyone who isn’t is a lazy whiner. 

    Working 30+/week while going to college is rarely a good thing. It can be a positive situation for some people who are working in their chosen field in some way, but that kind of work is not generally described as “slightly more than minimum wage”. For most people working those hours markedly degrades the learning experience and is a major factor in people never finishing their intended program of study whether it’s a 2 year associate’s degree or a 4 year BA or BS. The need to work that many hours while in school is sad, not admirable. Among other issues, presenting those work hours as a good thing strikes me as a sign of credentialism at it’s worse—the person is not in college to learn, either academically or socially, he’s just there to get his piece of paper. I understand the forces that drive that attitude, so I don’t want to be too hard on him about it, but it’s still a bad thing. 

    Same goes for the guy who expects a pat on the back for going 4 years without having more than 3 consecutive days off. It would be one thing if he was saying that his situation really sucks, but he’s pushing through because it’s what the lousy economy demands right not. Instead he’s presenting his lack of time off as proof of his work ethic and therefore worthiness. There are so many problems with that. For one thing, he seems to think that people exist to work. He’s also ignoring the fact that lack of time off degrades quality of work right along with quality of life. 

    He also seems to have missed the fact that his supposedly superior work ethic and drive have gotten him nothing but 2 jobs, neither of which pays enough to live on (hence him needing more than one of them) and no time off to rest either his body or his mind. That’s bad. Why exactly should other people want to follow his example when clearly The Great and Powerful Market is not rewarding his slavish devotion all that well? Part of me feels sorry for him, both because of his situation and his cluelessness about it. The rest of me wants to smack him for putting his warped crap off on other people. No matter how long or how hard he claws through that big old pile of manure he’s never going to get a pony. Pretending otherwise is not good for anyone. 

    The warped POV of both this people is really depressing to me. They have economic Stockholm Syndrome and that’s just sad. 

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    Majority in the House and the Senate, and Bob’s your uncle. No supermajority, no filibusters, no Presidential veto. Parliamentary democracy really is the way to go.
     
    Of course, when conservatives pass a bill anyone who opposes it is a political terrorist, whereas when the centre-left passes a bill it’s the death of democracy. So even our system has its subtleties.

  • http://brandiweed.livejournal.com/ Brandi

    There’s a lot of people who are born on third base and convinced they hit a triple.

  • cjmr

    Randy Owens said, “* I don’t actually have any firsthand idea whether he’s male, but I see
    previous commenters using male pronouns, so I’ll go with that. The hands
    certainly give away the whiteness, though”

    My guess, looking at the handwriting style and the hands was female, actually.

  • ako

    That is a very good point.  Do we want the kind of economy where the exceptionally lucky scholarship-winning students have to work nearly full-time in addition to attending classes?  Do we want the kind of economy where working a full-time job isn’t enough to support a person?  Do we want the kind of economy where ordinary workers can go years without a week of vacation?  In short, do we want to force everyone to work as hard as possible so that when they look back at their life they’ll be able to go “At least I spent plenty of time in the office!”?  Do we want an economy where the good result is a life of constantly grinding away as hard as you can just to get by and hoping you stay lucky enough not to lose your place?

    Or do we want an economy where people regularly go to work after breakfast and come home before dinner, where a week off in the summer to go camping with the kids isn’t an unthinkable luxury for the common man, where someone who’s working minimum wage can get by, where sick people can worry more about getting healthy than about paying for health care, where ordinary people aren’t one bit of bad luck away from homelessness, and where students can actually spend their time outside of class studying instead of serving burger thirty hours a week to make rent?

  • Anonymous

    cough Bush cough

  • hapax

    On a grim but historical note, here’s how Brad Hicks predicts the OWS movement can go.  He thinks the BEST possible outcome involves dead demonstrators.

    I have kind of a love / hate relationship with Hicks anyhow, but this is one of his nastier columns.  His barely disguised gleefulness at the idea of the death of a “decorated war hero” or a “child” — so long as it furthers Teh Cause — is on par with the worst of the Tea Partiers.  If he’s so hot for martyr blood, why doesn’t he take his own ass out to NYC and set himself on fire, instead of slavering for the slaughter of somebody else’s child?

    And his condescending dismissal of the allied protests — what he charmingly calls “Occupy Nowheresville” — is not only snotty, but STUPID.  I haven’t read the description of any of them that doesn’t include an emphasis on voter registration, which is a heck of a lot more likely to produce actual, useful results than any number of chants and signs in Zuccotti Park.

  • Anonymous

    “Of course, when conservatives pass a bill anyone who opposes it is a
    political terrorist, whereas when the centre-left passes a bill it’s the
    death of democracy. So even our system has its subtleties.”

    That sounds…no different from our Presidential system.

  • Anonymous

    I agree, Lori.  I had several scholarships when I was in college, and took out loans for the rest of my tuition, room and board.  I worked about 15 hours a week to pay for books, supplies, and spending mone.  There is no way I would have had the stamina to work 30 hours  a week while going to school full time.

    I wonder if this person is facing what I did: where her scholarships require her to attend school full-time or she must forfeit them.  That requirement made part-time education, while working to pay for the rest instead of loans, not an option for me, because the loss of the scholarships would have made college much more expensive to pay for.

  • Anonymous

    Someone asked if maybe some of those 53% posts were trolls.  For example, there is the young woman who talks about how her father immigrated from Croatia and works 6 days a week, 12 hours a day at his own business.  He’s now dying of cancer and his doctor told him to cut back on work, but he won’t, “because this is the American Dream.”

    In response, the person asked, “Seriously? Someone really thinks working 72 hours a week while dying of cancer is the American Dream? Or is this just a joke?

  • Anonymous

    It’s called “workaholism.”

  • http://mmycomments.blogspot.com/ mmy

     It just crossed my mind that the folks at slacktivist.typepad.com might appreciate a heads-up on the link change, if you’ve got an account there.

    Yup, we had a number of people contact us concerned about the pages “disappearing” as the redirects didn’t seem to catch everything.

    We will change the address on our sidebar.

  • http://guy-who-reads.blogspot.com/ Mike Timonin

    I have kind of a love / hate relationship with Hicks anyhow, but this is one of his nastier columns. 

    It had some other problems too, not least of which is the assertion that the Wobblies don’t exist anymore. I think, though, that the point we should be taking away from the whole Occupy Everywhere thing is that this is a lot bigger than Wall Street. With our social networking software, the Bonus Army doesn’t have to march on Washington to get noticed anymore. 

    The United States is a seriously big country. No, it’s not the biggest – it’s not even the 3rd biggest – but it’s a lot bigger than England, or France, or Greece. And this has always been a problem for protest movements. A protest which is big enough to have a serious effect in France, or Germany, or any of the nations of Europe barely registers in the United States – see the General Strike of 1886 (which culminated in the Haymarket Incident in Chicago). It may be, however, that we’ve finally found a way to make a lot of little protests into a great big protest. And that’s exciting.

  • Lori

     In response, the person asked, “Seriously? Someone really thinks working 72 hours a week while dying of cancer is the American Dream? Or is this just a joke? 

     It’s called “workaholism.”

    For the sake of argument I’m going to assume that it’s not a Poe. 

    Working 72 hours/week while dying of cancer is not the American Dream and I don’t think the issue is workaholism per se. (Workahioism is an effect, not a cause.) 

    The American Dream in this story is owning your own business. Working 72 hours a week while dying of cancer is simply what this man has to do i(or feels he must do) n order to have his own business. If you buy into that and believe that keeping the business running is the most important thing in your life you’ll become a workaholic. Once you’ve gone all in on it, that version of The Dream is relentless and grinding and incredibly hard to walk away from. 

  • Anonymous

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Workaholism And for the record, it is not a Poe: I actually don’t like workaholics.

  • WingedBeast

    It’s a little like what would happen if all the world’s plankton started coordinating and organizing.  We humans could decry their lack of cephalization and call them disorganized without an entirely unified ideology beyond expressing anger at our killing off major portions thereof.  But, that wouldn’t remove two basic facts.  We are screwing them over and we need them more than they need us.

    The wealthiest one percent as well as political leaders, even the conservative ones, have been screwing over the working populace (or the would-be-working if there were jobs available) populace and they need us more than we need them.

  • ako

    When people say they have to deal with stuff like that and say “But you don’t see me complaining about it!” I really want to go “Why not?”

  • Consumer Unit 5012

     And no high school kid makes the choice to be too depressed to get out of bed, or to have parents that raid their room for drug money.

    [conservative]
    Typical Liberal drivel.  There’s NOTHING more American than punishing children for an irresponsible choice of parents.
    [/sarcasm]

  • Illuminati Informer

    That is a very good point.  Do we want the kind of economy where the exceptionally lucky scholarship-winning students have to work nearly full-time in addition to attending classes?  Do we want the kind of economy where working a full-time job isn’t enough to support a person?  Do we want the kind of economy where ordinary workers can go years without a week of vacation?  In short, do we want to force everyone to work as hard as possible so that when they look back at their life they’ll be able to go “At least I spent plenty of time in the office!”?  Do we want an economy where the good result is a life of constantly grinding away as hard as you can just to get by and hoping you stay lucky enough not to lose your place?

    Apparently, _somebody_ does.  

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    The former Vice Chancellor at one of our most prestigious universities* was a big advocate of increasing living allowances paid to students (a government payment). He used to say that he hated being served by his students every time he ate out, because they should be studying and discussing things with each other and getting involved in the community, not making his coffee.

    *public – almost all unis are public, and the private ones are certainly not considered more prestigious

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

     It’s called “workaholism.”

    I’m addicted to workahol!

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    Y’know, that unemployment graph? I noticed something about it.

    Some economists love to crow that since the 1980s we’ve had fewer and fewer recessions than from the 1950s to the 1970s, but the other thing they conveniently miss is that we don’t bounce back from them as fast as we used to. Notice that in the 1950s and 1960s, unemployment always took a sharp nosedive back down (green circled area) – kind of like when you get an overshoot and then return to the norm. Even as late as 1984 you could still see this kind of effect happening, but the slope of the return to norm was starting to get less steep.

    Look at the red circled areas and instead of it taking about six months to a year, max, to get people back to work it takes years – two, three, sometimes even four for the curve to start working its way back down. And you can even see a portent of this in the post-1974 recovery.

    The conclusion is that companies really just don’t need as many people to do what they do as they used to, and the government is not eager to take up the reins in the private sector’s stead. It’s even more pronounced because the military is likely less attractive now than it was prior to 11 September 2001 (in the 1990s, it was widely a safe harbor employer of last resort for blacks and Hispanics who couldn’t get jobs any other way), and these statistics already omit the large prison population in the US.

    Fundamentally an exploration of the meaning and nature of work is vitally needed. People don’t have to work 8 hours a day, 40 hours a week. It is quoted in the linked PDF: “John Maynard Keynes once made the bold prediction that the three-hour work day would prevail for his grandchildren’s generation.”

    *snicker* that’s a laugh, we’re still working as much as we did after World War II ended. And those in charge of the state of affairs in Canada and the USA want to keep it that way, because people with too much free time on their hands have the time to question lots of things about society – including things the folks in charge would rather not open a debate about: the distribution of wealth and income being one of the cornerstones.

    http://preview.tinyurl.com/3lue6jq

    http://www1.picturepush.com/photo/a/6765439/img/6765439.png

  • ako

    Fundamentally an exploration of the meaning and nature of work is vitally needed. People don’t have to work 8 hours a day, 40 hours a week.
    It is quoted in the linked PDF: “John Maynard Keynes once made the bold
    prediction that the three-hour work day would prevail for his
    grandchildren’s generation.”

    Well, if the free market needs fewer employees, there are three possibilities.  You can have a lot of potential workers are kept perpetually unemployed, a lot of people working part-time jobs and making far less money, or get everyone working fewer hours for higher hourly wages so that their incomes remain good.

    Guess which one of those ideas isn’t going to be embraced by The Sacred Wisdom Of The Unregulated Market, because it maximizes human welfare but doesn’t increase corporate profits?

    Guess which one of those ideas is the only one currently not being tried?

  • http://guy-who-reads.blogspot.com/ Mike Timonin

    The former Vice Chancellor at one of our most prestigious universities* was a big advocate of increasing living allowances paid to students (a government payment). He used to say that he hated being served by his students every time he ate out, because they should be studying and discussing things with each other and getting involved in the community, not making his coffee.

    Damn straight! Further, professors should not feel that a poor grade in class has the potential to result in poor service at local restaurants and such.

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

    In the 50s and 60s, it was generally accepted that by now (heck, by 10 years ago), in many if not most fields, technology would have increased productivity by so much that a man could work only, say, three days a week, and be just as productive as a worker in their own time.

    This turned out to be entirely true. I am (let’s just slap a number on arbitrarily) three times as productive as someone doing the closest analog to my job fifty years ago.

    Logically, those futurists predicted, this meant that either we’d all have lots more time off, or we’d all be making several times as much money and all be fabulously rich.

    As it turns out, this is not the case. Which means, in a certain sense, I am not being compensated for some percentage of my productivity. Which is bad enough on its own, but, well, I make a good living, and I’m happy enough being a couple of eschelons below the top 1%. What I’d really like is to be middle-class and have that three-day-work-week. 

    Not an option. No one’s going to hire someone in a skilled professional field for a 24-hour week; they’d never make their productivity targets. 


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