Last night I heard a summary of a talk where the 1% was mentioned repeatedly.
First a couple of bass lines: my understanding is that in the United States to be in the 1% means that you earn $200,000 per year or more. Globally, you would earn $24,000 per year or more.
So, there have been years in my past where I was part of the 1%. And I really don't like the things that people have said about me. During that time I was working two full time jobs in an attempt to be able to buy land for what I called my cows and chickens plan.
At the same time, I have seen people on television like Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert. I am certain that they are part of the 1%. And I think that they have also not earned the awful things that are being said about the 1%.
What about Michael Pollan? I don't know his exact finances, but I feel very confident that he is in the 1%.
I think there are a lot of people doing lovely things that are currently earning, or have earned more than $200,000 in a year.
The only point I'm trying to make here is that when people rail against the 1%, I think they are throwing the baby out with the bathwater.
I remember being 18 years old, extremely broke, and very hungry. I remember the imbalance, some people had so much more than I did. And that is part of what inspired me to work harder and smarter.
I might be the only one who thinks that going after the 1% is a poor choice. I wish to see all of that effort being spent to go after the bad guys. People who are broken laws or are corrupt or are doing horrible things.
The phrase is so catchy, so much easier to shout at rallies, than the .3% or .01% or whatever. Most people don't bother with (or can't do) the math. The doctor making $200K might be sitting on $150K of med school debt. That isn't living the dream.
In a different thread today, I posted a link to this article that states how much money most people (don't) have. The table is worth summarizing:
$0 in savings 28%
no account 21%
$ min balance 9%
(this adds up, according to the headline to 62% with <$1000 in savings, although there must a rounding error in the chart because these numbers add to 61%)
I think about what the long-tail of that 14% must look like. It's a long long way from a GP or a local entrepreneur running a couple Subway franchises to get to people like the Koch Brothers, the dot.com billionaires, but they are all lumped together in that 1%. But if you don't have $1k to fix your car, someone with $10K in the bank looks rich. Kind of like our parents did when we were kids and saw bills in their wallets when the allowances were getting doled out.
What I really don't get is this: to win an election in the US, you need to get 50% + 1 vote. That's it. What is the appeal to those in the 62% bracket looking at the political landscape today to side with the ones who represent the top .01%? That side needs to peel off about 1 in 5 of those voters. Maybe the 62% don't vote proportionally, but they still have to get some of them. Or maybe both sides really represent the top .01% and we are being snookered.
Location: St Paul, MN/Tularosa, NM and now a gapper at Wheaton Labs
posted 2 years ago
While I do think all of the people you mentioned are indeed lovely people, I don't think you or they would qualify for the 1%. This is what Google says: "The latest numbers from the IRS—based on just-released data from 2013 tax returns—show what it takes to be among the top 1% of income earners: At least $428,713 of adjusted gross income." That is after many deductions, I'm sure, so their actual income could be much higher.
paul wheaton wrote: People who are broken laws or are corrupt or are doing horrible things.
This almost manages to say what I think people are actually upset about, Broken laws doing horrible things.
I have to wonder if this is another area where people are being paid to control the message. As long as people keep saying "the one percent" instead of "a tenth of a percent" it continues to divide people that are in the same boat. Money is power, and both the m oney and the power has clearly come out of the hands of the common 99.9% If .9% (plus all of use who respect the hard work it takes to make it that far in life) can be turned against the remaining 99% in these arguments, then we've been successfully distracted away from the actual issues.
I know people who do work at least 100 times harder than the laziest person I know. You would have a hard time convincing me that anyone is working 10,000 times harder than even the laziest person. Combine that with lobbying, legal rules that can't differentiate between people and businesses and a political system where people cannot gain power unless they accept massive donations of money and we've got a government that has little voice for the poor, or just average.
Still not entirely happy with this post, don't know if I should be saying more or less. I don't think I said anything I didn't mean to, so I'm going to stop at this point.
I think being angry at the 1% isn't going to work. Mostly because it is not a 100% issue. I'm poking holes in it, and this is an area I don't really know very much about.
I think the real problem is people that are breaking laws. Or even worse people that are pushing for evil laws: laws that give them a competitive advantage. And the lawmakers that are corrupt enough to facilitate it. Rather than directing anger to something so vague as the 1%, I think it would do a thousand times more good to laser focus on even just one bad guy doing these bad things.
As for somebody who is doing 10000 times more work then the laziest person. I would say that such a person might possibly be doing 100 times more work than the laziest person, and a hundred times smarter than the laziest person. I've seen people work 100 hours a week and accomplish almost nothing.
I do agree that there should be some kind of change. But I think that the request for change should be rather specific.
I I did not see very many of the Colbert shows - but I did see something where he took on super PACs very directly. He created a super PAC, then took in a whole lot of money. Was able to do crazy things with it that seemed utterly inappropriate, and then after the election he showed how you could take all the money and put it in his own pocket. This seemed very direct and it exposed a very serious problem. And made it very easy to understand how the problem worked.
I think it might be fair to say that this is a tool of the 1% that the people are concerned about.
I guess my concern is that going after the 1% is a bit of a red herring. People will expel a lot of energy and that energy ends up doing nothing. But if that same energy can be focused on real problems, then there can be real change.
First let me clarify that I have a long, clinically tested pattern of viewing things from a slightly different angle than most people (yes, usually than 99%) so I can't even begin to argue that most people involved in these issues are feeling angry. I feel more that we have pinpointed a problem. Our system is set up in a way that allows .1% of our population to exert massively disproportionate influence over the laws and lives of the other 99.9%. I'm not running around feeling they need to be punished, I just feel we need a system overhaul to prevent this kind of bottle neck.
And yes, this anger directed to a nameless percent is counterproductive. That's part of why I suspect it has been induced by exactly the people who making it problem. We woudn't even notice the bottle neck if they abuses weren't piling up.
I stopped following politics because when I did follow it, it was so completely full of obvious corruption, abuse, and frequently just stupidity that watching it was actually making me ill. I've italized a list below that are specific problems off the top of my head. You can probably save some stress by just skipping it.
Yes, super PAC's are one of the problems. So is the religious right making their religious doctrine law (in effect if not actual wording). So is a system that gives tax refunds to corporations, while they make record profits, remove jobs from the local communities and cause massive environmental catastrophe. So is the dumbing down of the education system, with a white washed history (Texas printed a whole lot of text books, that are being used, that refer to slavery as "forced immigration" just recently). So is overriding a citizen elected government to gain control of a city's assets. So is trying to make it illegal to document police abuse. So is having a system of litigation that is nearly impossible to provide recompense to victims while making it very easy to be abused by frivolous lawsuits (I have personally witnessed someone get a massive settlement which I know they had no grounds for) So is a criminal system that is run for profit.
I don't have all day, but I could go on all day if I did. I think there are too many problems to take on one at a time. I'm honestly afraid that I'm going to see a violent revolt in my lifetime. Things sometimes feel like they're falling down around me, and I'm seeing more and more violent responses to it. I still tackle the little bits that I can work on, and just try not to lose my mind angsting over the rest. I can only hope that it will turn out like I expect carbon sequestration to; by the time the our government actually tries a meaningful response, thousands of individuals will have already implemented their own effective solutions.
Even if we narrow it down to the 0.1%, now the evil entities are Oprah and JK Rowling. Granted, JK Rowling is not in the United States, but I think my point still valid. The subject line for the full thread could be changed from 1% to 0.1%.
Rather than the 1%, maybe we need a new label for the bad guys within the 1%. Or, probably more accurately, the bad guys within the 0.1%.
We don't need a label at all. I'm actually pretty sure we agree here. Debating about labeling is exactly the kind thing that diverts attention away from looking for solutions.
I'm fairly sure that almost all of our problems actually boil down to, we need safeguards against power accumulating in the hands of just a few people, regardless of who they are. I even think elections were supposed act as that kind of safeguard. Someone starts abusing power, don't give it to them. Doesn't work as well when money and power are synonymous.
Before I edit that last post... again. I'm not even saying that people shouldn't get as much money as they can, provided they're not exploiting people or common resources. I'm saying them having a lot of money shouldn't mean they can make personal decisions about my life. We've got a lot of laws (especially if you're female) that dig way too far into our personal business.
For me personally, I don't care what percentile you fall in, You can become a person whom I wanna punch in the teeth while being poorly paid.....
( I really don't wanna punch people in the teeth very much, but " I don't wanna be your friend" doesn't carry the same wieght)
The most evil thing for me is the corporate uncaring, treating people like numbers and non thinking profit banks, employees as replaceable scum.
The next most evil thing is the millions of non thinking profit banks, and replaceable employees, that prove them right everyday by showing up to buy trash and showing up for a job that is not what they believe in, and have no passion for.
I think one of the biggest problems is striving to become the 1%. People who work 80 hours a week doing something they hate, making the world a much worse place, helping a corporation do harm. There are literally millions of them. Do they want to work "only" 40 hours a week, doing work that helps the planet/society, spend time with their family, grow some food, join some fun exercise/adventure group and read a book? No, they want to work 90 or 100 hours a week trying to make $200, 000, then $300, 000. It is not good for them, for us, their families, or the planet. They need to take expensive anti-depressants which don't work to justify their horrible lives. Our culture (USA) is trying to trick people into thinking this is a good way to live. It is not. It helps no one. Then their children grow up to have even more problems than they do. And we all suffer for it. Now we are trying to infect the planet with this problem. In older healthier cultures, they aren't subject to this disease because their culture is a more established, more important part of their lives.
I think the "everyone in the 1%, (0.1%, 0.01%) is evil" claim is a strawman.
Furthermore, I think a focus on income inequality, per se, also misses the point. One can hold wealth attained from ill-gotten gains, and as long as that wealth isn't currently increasing, a focus on income doesn't necessarily address the injustice.
A more precise term might be economic inequality, but even the degree to which that is so severe is just a symptom of a deeper problem.
The root problem, of which widespread and severe economic inequality is but a branch, is the inequality of authority.
And by saying this I do not mean to imply that I am advocating mere legal equality, or equality under the law, whereby the rich as well as the poor are forbidden from sleeping under bridges, or that women as well as men be subject to the injustice of conscription to fight wars of aggression. A deeper and more meaningful equality would be equality with the lawmakers.
The inequality in authority of legislators, judges, policemen, and presidents over individuals who do not hold such offices is the more profound problem. That some individuals are perceived as having the right to subject other individuals to their wills by threat of force is the more radical problem.
It is through this inequality of authority that indigenous peoples and peasant farmers are forced from their land and rendered dependent wage laborers in sweatshops and factories. It is through this inequality of authority that the holders of patents and other intellectual property monopolies are able to forcibly exclude competitors from utilizing their own tools and knowledge to produce goods that would benefit humankind.
Inequality of authority is what enables a privileged few to externalize their costs onto society while privatizing the profits from their unsustainable actions.
Location: Federal Way, WA - Western Washington (Zone 8 - temperate maritime)
posted 2 years ago
I think the Occupy Wall Street effort did a priceless job of getting the "1% vs 99%" meme into the general population. It's not the minute accuracy that counts (except in programming ;)...it's the 'picture' of the actual reality that a very few people control an obscene amount of power (through all the various means accurately detailed in this thread).
That reality has been very deliberately obscured by a corporate media, rightwing thinktank propaganda (see the 'Lewis Powell Memo'), highlighting the few 'bad apples' in the 'clean barrel' not! ;), etc, even the twisted distorting of faux Christianity. When competition and amoral profit (i.e., more cancer equals higher GDP) drive the economy, versus cooperation and social welfare (see Gross National Happiness, etc.), we have a society that worships, truly worships, Mammon (thank heavens for Pope Francis ;)
Re: the nice zillionaires, even a sizable number of the 0.01 % (Nick Hanauer, Tom Steyer, et al - see Naders' 'Only the Super Rich Can Save Us' for more) campaign for a change in the 'System' that plutocracy has created out of 'our democracy'. But, zeroing on individual 'nasties' is a great way to distract from the 'system' ... the corrupt, fraudulent, rigged System.
I recommend respected economist Piketty's 'Capital in the 21st Century' for a detailed historic presentation, from around 1700, when modern capitalism was 'born', on how the the typical 0.01% has achieved such control, with inevitable eradication, of democracy. The facts don't lie (but Margaret Thatcher's TINA slogan did... There Is An Alternative!, in fact, many of them, including Permaculture, with it's sharing principle.)
Thom Hartmann interviewed folks in Denmark for his radio show once, and asked one of it's richest men if he resented the high taxes...his reply was, 'No, because I don't want to be a rich man in a poor country." Says it all for me ;) (but Nordic countries don't have the US scar of racism on their psyches.)
Which makes me wonder...does anyone else think there is the possibility that the plutocracy (thinking of the 0.01%, now) contains a higher-than-average % of sociopaths, because they have an advantage with their total inability to feel empathy ?
It's time to get positive about negative thinking -Art Donnelly
I think there have actually been studies on personality disorders of the extremely wealthy. Autism, asperger's, Sociopathic tendencies, etc. I can't cite them though. I went to high school with a high proportion of wealthy people and they have just as many problems as anyone else. Many are much lazier than poor people, because they can be. There is more cocaine addiction, for example. Chris Rock said that if poor people had any idea how rich the very rich are, they would start rioting in the streets immediately, and Chris Rock is one of the very rich.
Evan hit it pretty well with the power differential. In the US, they can do so much more than anyone else. It's like they get 100 votes for one of our votes. Some of the very rich are positive, but even the ones that are trying to do good, like Bono in Africa steering people toward glyphosate and GMO's and BIll Gates forcing schools to do EVEN MORE TESTING! They end up doing the wrong thing because they frankly have no idea what regular people's lives are about. There are probably 10 of them donating to make sure that there are marble and granite offices in their alma mater, or that there can be no limits on campaign contributions a la Citizen's United Supreme Court decision, for every one that actually does some good.
Location: Federal Way, WA - Western Washington (Zone 8 - temperate maritime)
BUT it's not the wealthy, nor those who live to get rich, nor the sociopaths, that are the problem, I don't think. It is that our political/economic/financial SYSTEM has been manipulated (even designed, going back to the Bank of England's establishment in 1694) to give them every advantage...at the expense of everyone else. I happen to think that any candidate who stands up and repeatedly says this out loud is a rare gift ;)
It's time to get positive about negative thinking -Art Donnelly
I'm not sure the 1/.1/.001/10% can control you unless you let them. There are many who have worked out how to control themselves, either through earning enough to drop out or earning so little that dropping out was a natural result. One way uses the system as built, the other ignores the system entirely. The trick is not to get caught in the middle. Many people cannot imagine anything other than working for their entire life.
Well, let's suppose that you eat food. I am going to suppose this about you. Let's suppose that you have a family and a job, because you weren't born rich. Let's suppose you don't have acreage, and that your parents (like mine) knew absolutely nothing about gardening. You have to figure out which cans have BPA in them. You have to figure out if you should eat fish that have mercury in them. You need to decide if you're going to eat CAFO feed lot meat. If you're not rich, pastured meat is very expensive and so is organic produce, if you haven't figured out CSA's and how to drive out to one and get back with your kids in tow and how to cook all sorts of bizarre vegetables that you will get. You have to make it reasonably appetizing so your family will learn to eat it. Most people don't hardly cook at all. In other words, probably 98% of the people haven't achieved that yet, even if they are aiming to, and most aren't, they don't even know about it. To say, that they won't control you unless you let them is a very theoretical construct that doesn't apply to the vast majority of actual people. I don't live in a theoretical world. I live in a real one with real people.
A group of people that would fit into a single bus (top 63 richest people of the World) own as much as 3 billion of the poorest. The real issue is not that they own so much, but that they influence everything on this planet. This needs to be addressed.
Quit playing their game. Plan your exit carefully, but start buying and growing locally. IT ISN'T THE INDIVIDUALS IT IS THE SYSTEM, SO QUIT FEEDING THE SYSTEM. By cutting out the middle men, growing your own food or buying from someone local who is, you cut into their profits.
Of course they've set up the system to favor them. They would have to saints not to. Lets quit that game and play a new one, permaculture! I regret to say, it's not going to change the world in a day or a year, maybe not in a decade, but we can change our little corners, and eventually the individual raindrops will have an effect and it WILL change the world!
Going back over this thread I realized that there is a tendency in our society to either castigate or consecrate the very rich. I guess the reason for that is because, as was noted, their potential influence either for good or bad is generally greater than some individual poor peon.
The statement in the US Declaration of Independance "... All men are created equal...." is a political, maybe a spiritual statement. It is not a statement of abilities or potential. A better description of our physical/mental abilities would have been "...All men are unequal, with differing abilties, talents and drives...". Some succeed because their greater abilities or drive. There are lazy or foolish people who insist on creating their own personal hells. Who am I to deny either group the fruits they have worked so hard to create?
There are three componants that it takes to become very rich.
1. LUCK (this may take the form of winning the ancestral lottery, with parents and/or grandparents who were very rich and you inherit)
2. GREAT ABILITY (not recognized, but inherent ability is also luck)
3. WORK YOUR ASS OFF
These three componants add up to 100% of why some people become very rich. Every rich person will tell you that they are rich because they worked their ass off. This may or may not be true. Lots of people are working two jobs, giving it all they have and barely squeeking by because they didn't have enough luck or ability. I read a while back that the percentage of people moving into or out of the top .1% is about what it was in 14th century England. Not sure if that's true, but the very rich tend to be born there, or move from just below that level into that level. The numbers who move from real poverty to great wealth are very small (yes, everyone can name a few, but only a few). For most it's a generational thing, dad or granddad pulls himself out of poverty to wealth, you go from just wealthy to very wealthy.
Once your immediate needs are met, rich and poor is strictly a comparison between what we have and what our neighbors have.
The top .1% (very rich people) have many of the same problems we have. Some of these people are very good, most are somewhere in the middle, some are very bad, many who try to do good are actually doing bad because their thinking is flawed. Often this is because they are being manipulated by others who are bleeding them for their own benefit. Most of us from the US, Europe, Australia or New Zealand would be seen as very rich by many people from some other parts of the world because we have clean water, access to sufficient calories to satisfy the hunger cravings, access to education and chances of potentially fatal confrontations with armed groups are vanishingly small. We even have what looks to them as a lot of folding money in our pockets.
All that said, I don't think anyone can argue that our system is not a rigged game. Those in power have actively tried to adjust the rules to their advantage and to their kids advantage. I don't really think that's too unusual, it's what most people would do. (I had a boss tell me once, "the system works fine! I'm your boss, that shows that the system works because I'm better than you and I should be your boss!") As I said in my last post, it's the system, not the people. The only problem is that the system, in most peoples eyes seems like the only game in town.
The answer is to shrink the system down to human scale. Try to bring control down to local levels. Bad things will still happen because people are still people. (anyone who thinks village life is always perfect is living in an unusually good village or hasn't lived in a village). Even so, a large part of the problem is simply scale. The bigger the system, and the more top down control the system has, the greater the tendency towards oppression, mismanagement, and great inequality. This is true whether you are dealing in capitalist USA, communist Russia or China, or the feudal Turkish empire (I am not trying to attack any of these groups, just using them as examples). If my neighbor, who I deal with daily (even if I don't particularly like him) is short on food, I'll make sure he and his family can eat. If it's someone on the other side of the world, I will say nice things, but I won't take much action.)
I have realized that I can trust individuals, but I can't trust an organization, because an organization is inherently soulless and is kind of like a very small, hungry baby. It is focused solely on it's own needs. Even if those in charge want to help, they are constrained by the demands, rules and needs of the organization.
Trying to take things down to local levels means buying and selling from individuals, permaculture, bartering, recycling, doing what we can to take care of our own while minimizing our dependance on, and contributions to, the larger system. Vote!!! If we can create a locat alternative to even part of the system, then people will see that there is a choice, otherwise they will do what people have generally done, which is follow their nose down the rabbit hole and hope it doesn't turn out to be a dead end. A network of small, village sized organizations might eventually be seen as part of the solution. I notice the government isn't going after the Amish or Mennonite communities, so it isn't as if there isn't a precident. The trick would seem to be "harmless as doves, but as wise as serpents" to avoid becoming seen as a threat.
It is a systemic issue. I have addressed a few of the things I see wrong in this thread. Basically, politics gets in the way of governance, which has less to do with this thread, but money controls politics, which is very much in this vein.
Basically, I propose getting the moneyed, and money, out of politics, setting hard, individual contribution caps, based on the financial ability of the poorest members of society, banning corporate donations of any kind, setting hard spending caps for candidates, and ensuring that, while those employed in governance are well-paid enough to counter corruption, that government and politics should be regarded with the same lust as jury duty.
I also suggest that decorum be forcibly returned to politics, with fines and eventual dismissal for conduct unbecoming elected officials.
This might enable us to fix broken systems.
I like what I'm hearing with regards to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's Green New Deal, including the 70% income tax over whatever amount earned in a year, and the wealth tax being discussed in Democratic circles. The former addresses the issues of ongoing accumulation of wealth, and the latter addresses the issue of hoarded wealth. Smaug won't be happy, but I bet 99.9% of us will, generally speaking.
A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.
-Robert A. Heinlein
I like what I'm hearing with regards to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's Green New Deal, including the 70% income tax over whatever amount earned in a year,
I'm not a great fan of Ms. Ocasio-Cortez, but in her defense, my dad has mentioned to me that her top bracket 70% income tax is actually lower than the top tax brackets they had in place in the 40's and 50's. He told me that one year Clark Gable (a big movie star and someone my dad really followed) made millions, but only ended up with $50,000 after paying his taxes. (Of course, back then, $50,000 was a hell of a lot more money than now, average income in the US in 1950 was $3,300 annually).
The real problem I see is that we are relying on the political class to fix the problem of corruption in the political class. That's a good example of asking the fox to watch the henhouse. They normally either exempt themselves from laws and create loopholes for themselves. For example, they have a govt. fund just for paying off sexual harrassment claims made against members of congress (they've had it for a couple of decades, it's paid out millions and is used every year, many times). They, of course, made sure that the govt paid for their health care cost increases from Obamacare. They are exempt from any insider trading laws. There are a lot more examples.
This is just a more visible example of what I was talking about. People tend to adjust the rules to favor their own interests. The more powerful and more entitled they are (as in they've been in positions of power for a long time) the more likely they are to feel it is just and proper behavior.
I can't beleive you just said that. Now I need to calm down with this tiny ad:
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