The Occupy movement has occupied a lot of media attention—particularly in Oakland where the other one percent continue to clash with police. Earlier this week, the other one percent managed to trash the lobby of Oakland City Hall and burn an American flag. That’s pretty productive considering they kept janitors working and reduced flag inventory, which hopefully will increase manufacturing activity and American jobs. Unless the flag was made in China.
Of course, the other one percent has a good reason to stir things up. They represent the 99 percent. But who are the 99 percent?
Catherine Rampell in The New York Times (Oct. 11, 2011) provides some income numbers to help sort the wealthy one percent from right-thinking Americans. To make the cut, a household needs an annual income of $506,553. That’s pocket change for Bill Gates, George Soros, Warren Buffet and your average sports and Hollywood star but still not bad. And no question, the top one percent has a lock on assets—about one-third of American wealth.
So who then are the 99 percent? Make $450,000 a year and you’re just a regular lunch-pail Joe or Jane. Pull in a quarter-million? You’ve got a gripe against the system. Barely top $100,000? There isn’t an American flag within a mile of your home that’s safe.
And who’s in the middle? Americans’ median income in 2010 stood at $49,445 (politicalcalculations.blogspot.com). Half of Americans earned more, half less. The bottom third? According to mybudget360.com, 35 percent of U.S. households earned $35,000 or less in 2009. Could be good if you’re single, bad if you head a family of five.
Bottom line: the 99 percent are a diverse group. Many are making quite a go of it. Many others are struggling, even living on the margins. This morning’s employment figures were encouraging: nonfarm payrolls jumped by 243,000 in January and the unemployment rate dropped from 8.5 percent to 8.3 percent.
And what is Occupy Oakland telling us? When it focuses on the issues, a lot. This nation needs to take a long look at the pressures pushing the middle class down and keeping those at the low end from rising: inadequate job training, a Byzantine tax system, faulty regulation of the financial industry, outsized compensation packages for corporate CEOs (who when they’re fired often walk away with millions of stockholders’ dollars) and continually rising healthcare costs. Occupy has a gripe considering that Congress neglects solutions to these issues in favor of ideology and political posturing.
So I don‘t question that many Occupy Oakland followers want to make this nation better. But I do question why they allow themselves to be undercut by the clownish rhetoric and nasty behavior of the other one percent—the anarchists who’ve long taken over the movement. Just imagine what might happen this November if all those seeking responsible change left the streets, organized politically and occupied voting booths.
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