Sunday, October 9, 2011

The So-Called Bottom 99%

The protesters from Occupy Wall Street have adopted the slogan "We Are the 99%", sometimes expressed by other variations in phrasing. The idea being that "corporatism" and capitalism have resulted in the increase of the "wealth gap" so that the very rich (the 1%) have gotten even richer at the expense of everyone else (the 99%).

Where to begin?

The largest problem with this reasoning is the conception of wealth as some pre-existing thing that society must determine how to distribute. When in reality wealth is created, and primarily created by those who end up with the larger portion of the money. And it ignores the fact that while the gap may increase, the total amount of wealth available is often increasing at the same time, leaving everyone better off in the end. So the notion that an increasing wealth gap is necessarily indicative of some injustice is bogus from the start.

In addition to this, the top 1% is an arbitrary and meaningless distinction. The top 1% is not even the same group of persons year to year, so noting disparities between the top 1% and everyone else tells you nothing about what is happening to actual, individual human beings within those groups. 100 who were in the top 1% might fall out, while 100 others -- slightly richer -- displace them, while the bottom, say, 50% need not be adversely affected by this shuffling at all, yet the 'wealth gap' will have thereby increased. So this pet metric that Occupy Wall Street, and much of the media, spend so much time agonizing over is largely irrelevant.

None of which is to deny the financial troubles of the country today, or to deny the "increasing wealth gap"; it's only to deny that one has anything to do with the other, and therefore to reject the proposed solutions of Occupy Wall Street and the left generally.

Furthermore, even if you did want to admittedly, proudly and giddily engage in class warfare, as Occupy Wall Street seems to want to do, you should choose your arbitrary cut-offs, and your words, more carefully.

If Occupy Wall Street wants to pit the bottom 99% against the top 1%, does that mean that, for example, the top 2-5% of wage earners -- many of whom are millionaires -- are among those who have been neglected and downtrodden by our corrupt and predatory economic system? The suggestion is, of course, quite preposterous, but sometimes facts and logic have to be sacrificed in favor of desirable rhetoric. Ask any decent propagandist.

As for the specific slogan of "We Are the 99%", this would seem to imply that this small but vociferous clan of malcontents speaks for 307 million Americans, yet their numbers aren't yet approaching 50k nationwide. Nor do they even have a plurality of support from the populous at large, forget about the pipe dream of 99% agreeing with them. So, as a plain matter of fact, they are not, in any sense, "the 99%." Of anything.

Of course the greater trouble is not their ill-conceived, arrogant, and presumptuous rhetoric, but the ideology behind it. America has plenty of reasons to be justifiably upset at our current economic situation. But The Tea Party has already expressed these clearly and fully, and aimed those concerns at the actual culprits, while Occupy Wall Street seeks goals that would either exacerbate the problem, or which are already part of The Tea Party platform (such as ending corporate welfare where it actually exists.) Occupy Wall Street needs to fall in with the Tea Party or shut up and go home.

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