Join 3,438 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


"It may be possible to keep your entire cake while explaining to any nearby hungry people just how reasonable you are."
October 19, 2011 7:25 AM   Subscribe

Thirteen Observations made by Lemony Snicket while watching Occupy Wall Street from a Discreet Distance (scroll down)
posted by overglow (186 comments total) 78 users marked this as a favorite

 
11. Historically, a story about people inside impressive buildings ignoring or even taunting people standing outside shouting at them turns out to be a story with an unhappy ending.

Well, unhappy for some.
posted by enn at 7:28 AM on October 19, 2011 [33 favorites]


(scroll down)

Thanks for including instructions.
posted by odinsdream at 7:31 AM on October 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


Did he actually write this or did someone else and attribute it to him? That answer will go a long ways toward how funny I find this.

Lemony Snicket is a pen name and always space off for who, but the dude was also in the Magnetic Fields or something. I love barely remembered memories.

When I was a bookseller you'd see an occasional book "signed" by him. He had a crazy embossing and punch out tool like they used to use in libraries.

Anyway, I hope he did this and it isn't parody or something else. It's well written, so I hope it's him.
posted by cjorgensen at 7:32 AM on October 19, 2011 [3 favorites]


3. Money is like a child—rarely unaccompanied. When it disappears, look to those who were supposed to be keeping an eye on it while you were at the grocery store. You might also look for someone who has a lot of extra children sitting around, with long, suspicious explanations for how they got there.

Wow. He's good at this. I think OWS just found its muse...
posted by Slap*Happy at 7:33 AM on October 19, 2011 [37 favorites]


12. If you have a large crowd shouting outside your building, there might not be room for a safety net if you’re the one tumbling down when it collapses.

Yeah, but landing on those people outside the building serves nicely to cushion the impact.

There is a difference between people who have accumulated their wealth through diligence and honest hard work and those who accumulated their wealth through fraud, corruption, and deceit.

OWS would do well to focus on the latter - which is the real problem on Wall Street - and not continue to demonize the former. Lumping them all together as "the one percent" is not only wrong, it's unhelpful.
posted by three blind mice at 7:38 AM on October 19, 2011 [7 favorites]


So say we all.
posted by theredpen at 7:42 AM on October 19, 2011 [7 favorites]


three blind mice: do you have some reason to think that's not exactly what OWS is doing?
posted by odinsdream at 7:42 AM on October 19, 2011 [10 favorites]


I don't know, I found it to be a bit snarky and patronizing. He could just say what he means, without all the cake metaphors. Everyone can afford a piece of cake, mostly.
posted by newdaddy at 7:43 AM on October 19, 2011


Elizabeth Warren did a great job explaining why we are mad, even at people who accumulate their wealth through diligence and honest hard work (and a generous push up from the rest of us), if those same people turn around and refuse to give a hand up to those still struggling.

No one, as far as I can see, is mad at Warren Buffett, who acknowledges that no amount of hard work could have lifted him as high up if he had been born to a poor farmer in Omaha, rather than a congressman.
posted by muddgirl at 7:43 AM on October 19, 2011 [51 favorites]


Lemony Snicket is Daniel Handler.
posted by drezdn at 7:44 AM on October 19, 2011 [3 favorites]


I would argue, newdaddy, that when American citizens are stealing bridges for cash, cake metaphors are very much in order.
posted by Malor at 7:45 AM on October 19, 2011 [26 favorites]


...people who have accumulated their wealth through diligence and honest hard work...

Even people who have found success this way needed significant societal support to do so.

Also what Muddgirl said.
posted by VTX at 7:45 AM on October 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


He could just say what he means, without all the cake metaphors.

You obviously have not read much of his work. Whimsical metaphors are a big part of how he made his name.
posted by middleclasstool at 7:45 AM on October 19, 2011 [5 favorites]


I don't know who this person is supposed to be, but these words please me.
posted by Shutter at 7:46 AM on October 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


I read this last night and had made a mental note to post it to MeFi as soon as I was more awake...beaten to the punch!

I totally loved this. I had read the first book of the Series of Unfortunate Events and found it rather lacklustre, but this may just convince me to give them another shot.
posted by Phire at 7:47 AM on October 19, 2011


Lemony Snicket on Wikipedia, which hilariously enough is a different article from the Daniel Handler article.
posted by Phire at 7:48 AM on October 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


There is a difference between people who have accumulated their wealth through diligence and honest hard work and those who accumulated their wealth through fraud, corruption, and deceit.

This false dichotomy fails to illustrate the influence of privilege and luck on successful people, unsuccessful people, and fraudsters alike. People do not start on an even keel, especially in the US, where social mobility is far behind most other developed nations.

OWS would do well to focus on the latter - which is the real problem on Wall Street - and not continue to demonize the former. Lumping them all together as "the one percent" is not only wrong, it's unhelpful.

It's also interesting, the idea that fraud, etc. should be the main focus. The implication is that the only reason why wealth is so disparate, and why the quality of life for the middle class has plummeted so far, is because certain people aren't "playing by the rules". The other implication is that, if everyone were to play by the rules, then everything would be more or less fine. It's a reaffirmation of the status quo, to lay the problems only at the feet of the fraudsters. The problem is actually the system itself, including its deregulated markets, poorly written tax laws, poorly enforced tax laws, and literally insane health care regime.
posted by Sticherbeast at 7:48 AM on October 19, 2011 [135 favorites]


And don't forget that Mr Arthur Poe, the Baudelaire children's pathetically unaware guardian, is a banker!

Mr Poe:

His focus on his banking career seems to make him completely oblivious to the hardships and danger of the Baudelaires. Though the Baudelaires seem to be much more intelligent than Poe, he completely dismisses and ignores everything they say as "ramblings of little children".
posted by R. Mutt at 7:49 AM on October 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


For better or worse, this is pretty much the platonic form of preaching-to-the-choir as anything I have seen out of OWS yet.
posted by griphus at 7:49 AM on October 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


Everyone can afford a piece of cake, mostly.

Yeah, now let 'em eat it.
posted by shakespeherian at 7:49 AM on October 19, 2011 [6 favorites]


but the dude was also in the Magnetic Fields or something

My favorite musical project of is was a one-off, wildly amusing cover of "Hungry Like the Wolf" with Death Cab for Cutie and Mike Doughty (formerly of Soul Coughing) that I sadly cannot find a full-length live link for.

posted by EvaDestruction at 7:52 AM on October 19, 2011 [5 favorites]


Anyway, I hope he did this and it isn't parody or something else. It's well written, so I hope it's him.

Me too. If it isn't, it is a pretty good copy of his voice.
posted by R. Mutt at 7:53 AM on October 19, 2011


I came here to say what several people in this thread (starting with enn) had already said. I now need to add a Lemony Snicket book to my reading radar. And then Eva Destruction tells me about this cover of Hungry Like the Wolf and my day is off to a better start by knowing this exists.
posted by immlass at 7:55 AM on October 19, 2011


If you like Lemony Snicket in his epigrammatic mode, then check out his book Horseradish.
posted by Sticherbeast at 7:56 AM on October 19, 2011


three blind mice: do you have some reason to think that's not exactly what OWS is doing?

None of the "observations"of OWS in the FPP make this distinction.

Even people who have found success this way needed significant societal support to do so.

Class envy turns me off, but I can get firmly behind a campaign against corruption and ill-gotten gains.

It's ironic that the OWS and Tea Party seem to say a lot of the same things about government corruption, but throw in the class envy and they divide each other into separate warring camps and any common ground is turned into a battlefield.
posted by three blind mice at 7:56 AM on October 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


Class envy turns me off, but I can get firmly behind a campaign against corruption and ill-gotten gains.

Wanting to redistribute wealth isn't necessarily motivated by class envy. Drastic wealth inequality destroys democracy.

If we don't do something about it within a democratic, capitalist system, we're going to either have feudalism or communism, take your pick.
posted by empath at 7:58 AM on October 19, 2011 [55 favorites]


I enjoyed this, and further looking around the whole site.

What's with all that white space at the top of every page though? Just time to let our minds really absorb the writer's name?
posted by kingbenny at 8:00 AM on October 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


The really interesting thing to me is that Daniel Handler is very much part of the 1%:
Let’s start by saying I have a lot of money. I’ve acquired it by writing children’s books about terrible things happening to orphans, and this seems like such a crazy and possibly monstrous way of acquiring money that I give a lot of it away. I mean, I guess it’s a lot. Let me put it like this: My wife and I recently became obsessed with a Web site where you plug in the amount of money you made in a year and find out where you stand. If your salary equaled the amount of money my wife and I gave Planned Parenthood one year, you’d be in the richest 1 percent in the world, which is pretty great.

...“As you know,” I said to her, “we’re the 100-something-thousandth richest people in the world, according to that Web site. That’s the top .001 percent, which is crazy and possibly monstrous. Come the revolution, we will be guillotined, and our house will be torn apart by angry mobs..."
posted by overglow at 8:01 AM on October 19, 2011 [53 favorites]


“The sad truth is the truth is sad.”

― Lemony Snicket, The Hostile Hospital
posted by R. Mutt at 8:02 AM on October 19, 2011 [11 favorites]


The implication is that the only reason why wealth is so disparate, and why the quality of life for the middle class has plummeted so far, is because certain people aren't "playing by the rules".

Implication? I think it's pretty damned clear that the real estate bubble that distributed so much wealth to the top - and caused the current recession that has given all those OWS people time off from work - was a product of corruption.

The whole capitalist vs. socialist thing is another issue altogether. My point is that mixing the two (corruption and the socialist idea of justice) pretty much ensures the corruption continues because the 99% breaks down into the 56% who could be against corruption and the remainder who pine for the fjords.
posted by three blind mice at 8:04 AM on October 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


None of the "observations"of OWS in the FPP make this distinction.

I'm going to note that this is not even remotely an answer to my question.
posted by odinsdream at 8:05 AM on October 19, 2011


I'm going to note that this is not even remotely an answer to my question.

I think I did answer your question.

Can you reframe your question in a more specific manner I could give you an answer more to your liking?
posted by three blind mice at 8:08 AM on October 19, 2011


For better or worse, this is pretty much the platonic form of preaching-to-the-choir as anything I have seen out of OWS yet.

Well, if you don't occasionally preach to the choir, too, they tend not to show up to sing on Sundays.
posted by saulgoodman at 8:11 AM on October 19, 2011 [51 favorites]


three blind mice, is it your view that OWS is just about corruption on Wall Street? I, for one, hope that's not the case. There's corruption, which is an evil everyone would give at least some lip service to ending--but then there's greed and inequality, which can be completely distinct from corruption. I'd like to think OWS will do something to curtail both.

Personally, I don't think corruption is as big of a problem as it's made out to be. The problem is that bankers are greedy little shits. I work for bankers all day long, and, believe me, they're rapacious vermin.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 8:15 AM on October 19, 2011 [6 favorites]


Implication? I think it's pretty damned clear that the real estate bubble that distributed so much wealth to the top - and caused the current recession that has given all those OWS people time off from work - was a product of corruption.

I think the impetus behind the OWS protests is a lot more complicated than it appears on the face of it. There are two different issues at work here:

(1) Corrupt people be corrupt, but also
(2) Corrupt people be manipulating the system such that corruption is rewarded, instead of punished.

Now, fixing the second problem may tangentially "hurt" lots of "honest hard working rich people" (if such people exist - exploitation of tax loopholes, which is by design rampant among the rich, may be legal but it's not necessarily honest) but that doesn't mean that the goal of OWS is to punish all rich people.
posted by muddgirl at 8:15 AM on October 19, 2011 [4 favorites]


three blind mice: "There is a difference between people who have accumulated their wealth through diligence and honest hard work and those who accumulated their wealth through fraud, corruption, and deceit. "

I commend to you this article: An Investment Manager's View on the Top 1%
The Upper Half of the Top 1%:

Membership in this elite group is likely to come from being involved in some aspect of the financial services or banking industry, real estate development involved with those industries, or government contracting.
The financial-services sector in particular has been rigging the game for their own benefit for the past 30+ years, going beyond merely interposing themselves as rent-seekers on other transactions but inventing new and interesting ways to fleece their customers.
posted by adamrice at 8:16 AM on October 19, 2011 [15 favorites]


Implication? I think it's pretty damned clear that the real estate bubble that distributed so much wealth to the top - and caused the current recession that has given all those OWS people time off from work - was a product of corruption.

Check out this series of graphs about the failure of the American financial regime to protect the middle class and below. You'll note that almost all of the graphs have starting dates well before when the famed toxic assets began their Sorcerer's Apprentice-style march into people's portfolios.

In addition, the conditions which allowed for those toxic assets to have such far-reaching effects were results of deregulation, not simply outright fraud.

The whole capitalist vs. socialist thing is another issue altogether. My point is that mixing the two (corruption and the socialist idea of justice) pretty much ensures the corruption continues because the 99% breaks down into the 56% who could be against corruption and the remainder who pine for the fjords.

Wait wait wait wait wait. So if we were to reinstitute financial regulations which date from between the 30s and the 70s, that would be socialism, instead of capitalism? Is your position that America's current financial regime is capitalism as it is and as it can be, and that to introduce (or even reintroduce) regulations intended to prevent volatility, wealth consolidation, etc. is necessarily socialism? That's a startling, new definition of capitalism that you've created there.

Also: socialistic idea of justice? So, in your opinion, say, Eisenhower's America ran rife with the socialistic idea of justice? Why do you think Eisenhower was such a socialist? Why is your definition of "socialism" so at odds with that of dictionaries and other people?

Also, if introducing nationalized/socialized health care turns America into a socialist republic, then I'm at a loss for words. Is your opinion actually that the remainder of the developed world is socialist, the whole lot of them?
posted by Sticherbeast at 8:18 AM on October 19, 2011 [43 favorites]


This post was great, thanks.
posted by I am the Walrus at 8:20 AM on October 19, 2011 [3 favorites]


Personally, I don't think corruption is as big of a problem as it's made out to be. The problem is that bankers are greedy little shits. I work for bankers all day long, and, believe me, they're rapacious vermin.

Ricocheting from this metaphor, I'd also say that greedy, rapacious vermin aren't necessarily all bad, as long as they have leashes and runs and we have a headcount of them, etc.

Gratuitous deregulation led from one situation, where the vermin were basically well-controlled, to another situation, where we turned off the lights, agreed to go barefoot, and gave the vermin equal amounts of fertility drugs and M-80s.
posted by Sticherbeast at 8:22 AM on October 19, 2011 [7 favorites]


socialistic idea of justice?

That's what I call a banana split.
posted by Ice Cream Socialist at 8:26 AM on October 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


three blind mice, is it your view that OWS is just about corruption on Wall Street?

No, but it should be. "Yeah socialism" is what keeps those crowds from growing.

If we don't do something about it within a democratic, capitalist system, we're going to either have feudalism or communism, take your pick.

It is not a choice of one or the other empath and this sort of rhetoric isn't really helpful. I want to seek the common ground - I am sure there is common ground (which is how democracy works) - but arguing at the extremes isn't likely to reveal it.

The financial-services sector in particular has been rigging the game for their own benefit for the past 30+ years,

I believe this is true. So you make my point: it's corruption that is the core of the problem with Wall Street.

I'm just saying that I could really get behind this movement, but once it turns into a "yeah socialism" thing, I turn off and walk away.

(FYI I live in bloody socialist Sweden. By choice. I'm not against socialist solutions to some problems - but experience shows as a solution for all problems - it doesn't work. Also socialist countries don't tax the rich to give to the poor - they tax EVERYONE. Herman Cain's 9-9-9 that the Democrats bemoan as "regressive? In Sweden it's 28-28-25 - 28% income tax - 28% corporate tax - and here it comes 25% sales tax.)

odinsdream, I gotta jet. If you leave a question for me, I'll try to jump back into the thread later.
posted by three blind mice at 8:28 AM on October 19, 2011


The really interesting thing to me is that Daniel Handler is very much part of the 1%:

I doubt it. The top 1% are sitting on an average of something like $5 million in accumulated wealth, as was discussed in another thread recently (sorry--can't find the cite right now), and pull in roughly half a million a year. A relatively young writer--even a very successful one--probably isn't there yet.

Even so, who cares? Any systemic problem that threatens the 99% threatens the 1%, too, over the long run. This isn't about pitting everyone who makes a certain dollar amount against everyone else. It's about raising awareness that the current status quo is unsustainable and very quickly creating exactly the kind of generational divisions of haves and have-nots that we explicitly rejected as antithetical to our project at the founding of the nation.
posted by saulgoodman at 8:28 AM on October 19, 2011 [4 favorites]


I think I did answer your question.

Can you reframe your question in a more specific manner I could give you an answer more to your liking?


The observations linked are just that - observations. They're not statements from OWS as a whole, or from individual members.

Your first comment stated that OWS "continue to demonize...people who have accumulated their wealth through diligence and honest hard work..."

I'd like you to support that assertion. Nothing I've read from the OWS movement itself matches up with that assertion.
posted by odinsdream at 8:30 AM on October 19, 2011


I'm sorry, I'm supposed to be working, but this is like a dog whistle to me. Everybody is just so darn happy to define the root causes to be something they themselves are not involved in. "Oh, if it just weren't for the corrupt people, everything would be peachy!" That's bunk.

This goes back twenty or thirty years, at least. Look at the curve of productivity gains, paste it up right under the curve of median income? Who made all those gains, was it some clever CEO?

Whatever, just for instance, happened to profit sharing? Boy, my father worked maintenance for Fisher-Price when I was a kid, we waited every year for profit sharing to be announced, because that was our Christmas gifts and next year's vacation, right there. Whose ever even heard of it in the last fifteen years? Every place I've worked, it was stock options instead. Middle of the Internet bubble, everyone was going to get rich, just like Vegas. Well, I never made a dime on any of it. That's not strictly true, but close enough not to matter. You get my drift.

Even people who got rich by their own sweat and entirely legitimately, are still part of the problem. Noone wants to take their fortune and start a business, to hire a bunch of people, to make cool stuff in America (God bless you Steve). The way to manage wealth is to give it all to some smarty pants hedge fund guys in Greenwich, who are going to use it for currency speculation, or high speed trading, or 'swaps'.

All the various bubbles in asset classes are symptoms of this - remarkable amounts of wealth sloshing around in the system, but that no one wants to take the responsibility to invest in any enterprise that actually puts people to work. The real estate bubble is NOT the cause. It's just one smptom of many.
posted by newdaddy at 8:37 AM on October 19, 2011 [31 favorites]


This isn't about pitting everyone who makes a certain dollar amount against everyone else.

Yeah, I actually totally agree with you. I just think it's interesting and worth noting that Handler is rich. It gives his words a different kind of weight. One of the main points he's making, I think, is exactly what you said: that those in the wealthy elite who are so rigorously defending the busted status quo are actually working against their own long term interests.
posted by overglow at 8:37 AM on October 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


Symptom, I meant.
posted by newdaddy at 8:39 AM on October 19, 2011


I doubt it. The top 1% are sitting on an average of something like $5 million in accumulated wealth, as was discussed in another thread recently (sorry--can't find the cite right now), and pull in roughly half a million a year. A relatively young writer--even a very successful one--probably isn't there yet.

Daniel Handler makes about 50 cents to a dollar per book sale. The Unfortunate Events books have sold somewhere in the region of 50 million copies. That's not counting merch, personal appearances, film and game rights...

So, yeah, unless he's been profligate, has more than $5 million in wealth, although nowhere near as much wealth as a successful banker. As he said himself, he now has a Henry Darger instead of a Henry Darger print, but he isn't flying a private jet to a private island made of money.

However, per:

No one, as far as I can see, is mad at Warren Buffett, who acknowledges that no amount of hard work could have lifted him as high up if he had been born to a poor farmer in Omaha, rather than a congressman.

Likewise, I don't think anyone is mad at Daniel Handler.
posted by running order squabble fest at 8:41 AM on October 19, 2011 [4 favorites]


Elizabeth Warren did a great job explaining why we are mad

I don't think people are looking for more explainations of why people are mad. After all, we've been hearing from the similarly angry Tea Partiers on the right for quite some time now. What we need are more intelligent, rational people to explain some real, solid ideas for what we can do to fix the problems and lots and lots of other people to vote them into high elected office.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 8:41 AM on October 19, 2011 [7 favorites]


I've begun to rethink my contributions to metafilter. I am pretty certain Matt is one of the 1%. We do all the work around here, posting and commenting. What do we get, favorites?
posted by Ad hominem at 8:41 AM on October 19, 2011 [5 favorites]


13. 99 percent is a very large percentage. For instance, easily 99 percent of people want a roof over their heads, food on their tables, and the occasional slice of cake for dessert. Surely an arrangement can be made with that niggling 1 percent who disagree.

Yeah. Pay your fair share of taxes, you bastards.
posted by Splunge at 8:42 AM on October 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


The financial-services sector in particular has been rigging the game for their own benefit for the past 30+ years,

I believe this is true. So you make my point: it's corruption that is the core of the problem with Wall Street.


But that's not corruption. Corruption is Raj Rajaratnam and Bernie Madoff. The Street rigging the game is just the way the system works. I'm working on a deal now where the client would have had to pay a certain tax due to the effective date on some proposed legislation (which ultimately didn't pass, in any event), so they hired a lobbyist to go and get the effective date changed. Easy!
posted by Admiral Haddock at 8:42 AM on October 19, 2011 [16 favorites]


I'm not against socialist solutions to some problems - but experience shows as a solution for all problems - it doesn't work.

I think that part of the problem in the US is that any socialist solution to any problem is entirely unconscionable in mainstream political discussion. I find it amazing as an observer that it is impossible for US politicians to speak openly about even the barest merits of socialism. I'm not actually a socialist, but I could never imagine living in such a stunted political culture. If politics is about the tug–of–war between ideologies, then it is almost as if there is no team on the socialist side, and simply an argument among capitalists on how hard to pull.
posted by Jehan at 8:43 AM on October 19, 2011 [25 favorites]


Here's the problem with focusing on Wall Street fraud, greed, and corruption: It's not entirely clear to me that many on Wall Street broke the law, and "greed" is just a loaded description for what public companies are required by law to do, which is make money for their shareholders, within the limits set by government regulations. There are many terms being bandied about freely such as "corporate criminals," but just because you find something unethical or distasteful doesn't make it criminal.

That's why we need to be leaning on government to, yes, redistribute wealth a bit, and to reign in the activities of banks and big business. In line with the recent popular Elizabeth Warren quotation, it's not socialism to recognize that nobody is self-made, that every wealthy person in the country has built their fortune on the back of American infrastructure and on the stability of the American government. We need to demand that the wealthy, who won their gambles, make sure that those who had worse luck don't starve. We need to stop socializing losses and privatizing gains.

You can shout at Wall Street all you want, but unless and until the government tells them they have to give some money back, or have to go to jail, then they are going to keep on doing what they are doing — as is their right, frankly.
posted by dixiecupdrinking at 8:44 AM on October 19, 2011 [11 favorites]


Everyone can afford a piece of cake, mostly.

newdaddy, glad to hear child hunger has been solved in the US. About what time this morning did it occur?
posted by IAmBroom at 8:44 AM on October 19, 2011 [5 favorites]


dixiecupdrinking: They didn't break the law because they wrote the laws.
posted by pharm at 8:48 AM on October 19, 2011 [10 favorites]


No one, as far as I can see, is mad at Warren Buffett, who acknowledges that no amount of hard work could have lifted him as high up if he had been born to a poor farmer in Omaha, rather than a congressman.

I really don't understand why people have such a hard-on for Buffett. He had a really good streak at the dog-track and that's about it, oh and he isn't a drunk or a total asshole (like most of the other people at the dogtrack.) That's a pretty low standard for anything (not a drunk or an asshole.)

He hasn't done anything other than make money with money gambling speculating on stocks. He hasn't done anything other than take money from other gamblers speculators, money that they themselves took from someone else.
posted by ennui.bz at 8:50 AM on October 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


Okay, let's say you're right; so what? Do you think the solution to that problem is to yell at Wall Street about it or go hold Congress' feet to the fire for letting themselves be purchased so easily?
posted by dixiecupdrinking at 8:50 AM on October 19, 2011


TBM: Since you're not American, and don't really know the day-to-day specifics of what we're dealing with over here, I'd like to counsel some circumspection. You have no idea how far off the rails we've gone over here in the last few decades. Forget socialism--we're not even paying for basic services anymore. Our schools have to spend a significant amount of their time fundraising just to afford basic supplies. Cost-saving infrastructure maintenance is largely neglected. We're even starting to see outbreaks of dengue fever and malaria again in parts of my state due to cuts to local pest control programs.

I work privately in state government and have seen nothing but wave after wave of cost-cutting reorganization for the last ten years, to the point that many agencies in our state barely amount to anything more than a necessary technical formality for getting Federal dollars into the hands of the private sector--and then when the private sector fails to deliver year after year, the politicos point the finger back at governmental inefficiency and cut more. Meanwhile, on one recurring annual project I've worked on, we've had a completely new staff to work with on the state side every year for the past five years due largely to reorganizations and political shifts and its all but impossible to pursue a consistent mission over time.

Whatever, just for instance, happened to profit sharing?

Corporate CEOs have also been systematically and deliberately plunding workers' retirement systems for profit while preserving and often even strengthening their own.

There is just absolutely no sense among a substantial portion of the population in the US that they are members of a society that is part of a shared project and that they have directly benefited from the sacrifices of generations of others who preceded them.
posted by saulgoodman at 8:51 AM on October 19, 2011 [79 favorites]


Okay, let's say you're right; so what? Do you think the solution to that problem is to yell at Wall Street about it or go hold Congress' feet to the fire for letting themselves be purchased so easily?

They're Occupying DC too, you know.
posted by Sticherbeast at 8:53 AM on October 19, 2011


(Just to be clear, I have no beef with OWS; I think what they are doing is admirable, particularly in winning over a lot of the skeptics such as myself. I do think that there needs to be room under their tent for people who want to get beyond the "Wall Street is criminal" mindset and looking at a practical endgame, which has to involve electoral politics.)
posted by dixiecupdrinking at 8:53 AM on October 19, 2011 [3 favorites]


Yes I do know. This is all in response to the three blind mice school of thought that we need not to be talking about wealth redistribution. I think the most promising outcome of all this would be getting the government to start funding things that the 99% need.
posted by dixiecupdrinking at 8:55 AM on October 19, 2011


Everyone can afford a piece of cake, mostly.

Newdaddy, you forgot to add "Let them eat it!"
posted by longsleeves at 8:55 AM on October 19, 2011


Who is stating that there isn't room for people who still believe that working within the system is necessary?
posted by muddgirl at 8:56 AM on October 19, 2011


For the record, profit sharing or ESOP is alive and well. I just made a couple bucks because I owned .001 or some other paltry percent of a company that got sold.
posted by Ad hominem at 8:57 AM on October 19, 2011


Everyone can afford a piece of cake, mostly.

newdaddy, glad to hear child hunger has been solved in the US. About what time this morning did it occur?
posted by IAmBroom


It's not my argument that hunger has been eliminated. I mean that I would have felt the essay was more effective (and less patronizing) if he as a writer had put aside his cutesy shtick for a moment and and enunciated people's real concerns - health care, education, debt, a shot at a decent job and/or career, and yes, shelter, food and heat. Sorry I was not more clear - my impression was that by 'cake' he really meant 'the occasional small luxury".
posted by newdaddy at 8:59 AM on October 19, 2011


11. Historically, a story about people inside impressive buildings ignoring or even taunting people standing outside shouting at them turns out to be a story with an unhappy ending.

A Pict Song

Rome never looks where she treads,
Always her heavy hooves fall
On our stomachs, our hearts or our heads;
And Rome never heeds when we bawl.
Her sentries pass on – that is all,
And we gather behind them in hordes,
And plot to reconquer the Wall,
With only our tongues for our swords.

We are the Little Folk – we!
Too little to love or to hate.
Leave us alone and you'll see
How we can drag down the Great!
We are the worm in the wood!
We are the rot in the root!
We are the germ in the blood!
We are the thorn in the foot!

Mistletoe killing an oak –
Rats gnawing cables in two –
Moths making holes in a cloak –
How they must love what they do!
Yes – and we Little Folk too,
We are as busy as they –
Working our works out of view –
Watch, and you'll see it some day!

No indeed! We are not strong,
But we know Peoples that are.
Yes, and we'll guide them along,
To smash and destroy you in War!
We shall be slaves just the same?
Yes, we have always been slaves,
But you – you will die of the shame,
And then we shall dance on your graves!

We are the Little Folk – we!
Too little to love or to hate.
Leave us alone and you'll see
How we can drag down the Great!
We are the worm in the wood!
We are the rot in the root!
We are the germ in the blood!
We are the thorn in the foot!

– Rudyard Kipling
posted by the bricabrac man at 9:01 AM on October 19, 2011 [27 favorites]


They're Occupying DC too, you know.

K Street, actually. The Hill is left in peace.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 9:01 AM on October 19, 2011


Meanwhile out in the real world: -
The latest word from Athens is that Sytagma has been turned into a battle ground with bank, shop and hotel windows smashed
posted by adamvasco at 9:02 AM on October 19, 2011


Okay, let's say you're right; so what? Do you think the solution to that problem is to yell at Wall Street about it or go hold Congress' feet to the fire for letting themselves be purchased so easily?

The group isn't very centralized on purpose, but there are definitely plans for a coherent political action to get actual results.

The impression that OWS is primarily focused on "yelling at Wall Street" is a manufactured media narrative meant to dissuade people from learning more about the group's actions and process.
posted by odinsdream at 9:04 AM on October 19, 2011 [7 favorites]


@Sticherbeast re: level playing fields.

Exactly.

My favorite example of this is Bill Gates.

There's no denying that the man has a talent for making three dollars appear where once there was only one dollar. He a shrewd businessman no doubt.

But. And this is an important but, he started from a position of privilege. Bill's father, William H. Gates Sr, was wealthy. If Bill had been a complete idiot and had no clue about business he'd still have been a multimillionaire by the time his trust funds came due.

And that's essential to his success. Bill bought, for cash, a not so great UNIX clone and had the connections (thanks in large part due to his father's wealth) to even be considered as the vendor for IBM's new PC line.

If we wanted to put it in medieval terms, he didn't migrate from being a peasant to being a duke, he started as count and moved up to duke. Social mobility yes, but social mobility from one upper class to a higher upper class.

If Bill Gates had been born, with all his business acumen, as Joe Blow he never would have had the chance to make his pitch to IBM.
posted by sotonohito at 9:05 AM on October 19, 2011 [19 favorites]


My wife and I recently became obsessed with a Web site where you plug in the amount of money you made in a year and find out where you stand.

What is this website?
posted by desjardins at 9:08 AM on October 19, 2011


dixiecupdrinking: "It's not entirely clear to me that many on Wall Street broke the law, and "greed" is just a loaded description for what public companies are required by law to do, which is make money for their shareholders, within the limits set by government regulations. "

My beef is that the "limits set by government regulations" have not been strong enough to prevent the damage the financial services industry has wrought (I'm not just talking about dodgy mortgages and fraudulent securities. I'm talking about the day-to-day concentration of wealth that trading generates while producing little of value for the economy as a whole.)

The protests are about making this avaricious behaviour *appear criminal*, even if it is not presently, so that the political will is generated to enact the laws necessary to *make it criminal*.
posted by Popular Ethics at 9:09 AM on October 19, 2011 [5 favorites]


My wife and I recently became obsessed with a Web site where you plug in the amount of money you made in a year and find out where you stand.

What is this website?


This, I think.
posted by Vibrissa at 9:11 AM on October 19, 2011 [4 favorites]


Re: working within the system vs. outside the system.

35% of OWS polled say that their desired goal is to "influence the Democratic Party." Only 4% responded that they wanted "dissolution of our representative democracy/capitalist system" (which seems within the standard margin of wacko/out-there/joke responses that most polls will get).

Maybe there's not enough room in the tent for "inside the system" types because there's already a lot of them there?
posted by muddgirl at 9:11 AM on October 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


Class envy turns me off
Yes, and what's important here is you and how you feel!

Occupy Wallstreet isn't going to be for everyone. People need to stop saying "I think X and Occupy Wallstreet should agree with me!"
But. And this is an important but, he started from a position of privilege. Bill's father, William H. Gates Sr, was wealthy. If Bill had been a complete idiot and had no clue about business he'd still have been a multimillionaire by the time his trust funds came due.

And that's essential to his success. Bill bought, for cash, a not so great UNIX clone and had the connections (thanks in large part due to his father's wealth) to even be considered as the vendor for IBM's new PC line.
Another very important thing to understand about Bill Gates. You know how kids in the 80s got apple IIs and PCs and Ataris and a million programming careers were launched? Kids loved computers right away.

Well, Bill Gate's middle school had a PDP-11 for the kids to play on. So Bill Gates was essentially one of those kids, but a decade earlier.

You know how how many middle schools had PDP-11s for the kids to play on? only one in the entire world. So basically gates was like one of those kids from the 80s who grew up with computers, but he got to do it a decade earlier.

This is from an Anecdote that Malcolm Gladwell shared on the Colbert Report (he'd Interviewed Gates for one of his books)

So not just family privilege, but sort of arbitrary luck that Gates got super-early access to computers and a massive head start compared to other kids.
posted by delmoi at 9:15 AM on October 19, 2011 [19 favorites]


This, I think.

Huh. Anyone here not in the top 5% globally? Well, that's a rhetorical question, but I was surprised to be up that high. How about cutoffs for the US?
posted by desjardins at 9:16 AM on October 19, 2011


I have issues with the fiduciary responsibility companies have towards shareholders. I think corporations should have a responsibility to better the nation that made them possible, not just the select few that own stocks. As it stands, they use fiduciary responsibility as to pillage and destroy everything the touch, destroying the environment and peoples lives for gain. Make corporations fix the infrastructure they are using, and support the workers that give their lives to make the few rich.
posted by Ad hominem at 9:19 AM on October 19, 2011 [4 favorites]


Here's how to find your US income percentile. My household is far from the 1% but still shockingly high.
posted by desjardins at 9:19 AM on October 19, 2011 [6 favorites]


No one, as far as I can see, is mad at Warren Buffett

I'm a teensy bit pissed at that whole disowning-his-granddaughter-by-mail thing, but otherwise yeah.
posted by penduluum at 9:19 AM on October 19, 2011


Yeah, i should probably have been more specific. Of course people can be professionally awesome and personally kind of an asshole, or vice versa.
posted by muddgirl at 9:21 AM on October 19, 2011


Right, true.

Raising my hand for not in the top 5% globally, btw. Also not in the top 10% globally. Although my "household" is me, unmarried-no-dependents. US-wise I'm damn near exactly in the middle. I wouldn't have guessed that, exactly, but it kinda feels nice. Non-profit management what up!
posted by penduluum at 9:24 AM on October 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


desjardins: Anyone here not in the top 5% globally?

Ermm... top 11.5% here - "You are the 690,173,539 richest person in the world!"

I'll just slowly back out the servants' entrance round the back, then, I guess. Oddly enough, I would actually consider myself quite wealthy compared to when I was growing up.

posted by titus-g at 9:25 AM on October 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


I liked the post, thank you.

It's funny, but if I was in my twenties I'd totally be like yeah, camp out with the protestors. But then I would get annoyed at the guy who is shouting about how 9/11 is a conspiracy and here in Philly there are some unfortunate racial issues and I would be like that's fucked up I'm outta here.

Now I'm oldish. I'm still a fairly impatient bitch in crowd associations, so I know that my hanging out in City Hall in Philly won't help no one. I'm also a fairly poor impatient bitch, so I can't give much money to the cause.

But I am going to try to find (now there's an askme) ways in which I can contribute w/o much cash or hanging with the crowd.

I see students at my school, immigrants pursuing citizenship, and they are so full of the American Dream it hurts my heart. It really, really does. I know students who are absolutely brilliant at math, but they are not going into the sciences because they think the best way to support their families is to go into business. They are working themselves to death, and their relatives back in India believe -- I'm being literal here -- that the streets are paved with gold. When the students complain of anything here to their folks back home, their relatives are incredulous. How could they not be happy! They are in America!

I am so fucking cynical. Maybe I gave up on the American Dream a long time ago, to have it briefly re-established with the Obama campaign. I think it is a lie a lot of people are waking up from, like having a drug wear off and you look around and you realize that you're in a crack house.

But I didn't think that Americans had it in them to fight. I am worried about the upcoming time, but excited too, because if people are willing to fight -- and the OWS is -- then maybe there will be some real change.
posted by angrycat at 9:26 AM on October 19, 2011 [15 favorites]


Non-profit management what up!

You hiring?
posted by entropicamericana at 9:26 AM on October 19, 2011 [4 favorites]


I work as an editor at a publishing house in Toronto (and have not gotten a raise in two years) and I have some additional income from renting out the basement apartment of my house. And according to that "where do you stand web site", I am "in the TOP 1.78% richest people in the world!"

Not saying that's not accurate, but not assuming it is, either.
posted by orange swan at 9:27 AM on October 19, 2011


people who have accumulated their wealth through diligence and honest hard work and those who accumulated their wealth through fraud, corruption, and deceit.

I would estimate the proportion of those who accumulated the wealth that puts them in the top 1% solely through their own diligence and honest hard work to be less than .1% of that 1%.

I would estimate the proportion of those who accumulated the wealth that puts them in the top 1% through owning and controlling things of value via the dilligence, honest hard work, fraud, corruption, and deceit of others -- kept at a safe plausibly deniable distance -- to be asymptotically close to the remaining 99.9% of that 1%.
 
posted by Herodios at 9:27 AM on October 19, 2011 [4 favorites]


i'm in the top 1% globally, but that's only this year after a fairly significant raise after the company I work for was bought out and re-organized (and a lot of people laid off), and that was after having been entirely out of work for 6 months not very long ago, and due for another re-org here, is that the company that bought us got bought out again :(
posted by empath at 9:28 AM on October 19, 2011


three blind mice: No, but it should be. "Yeah socialism" is what keeps those crowds from growing.

Yeah and what the hell is wrong with that.

You keep dragging out the same tired cliches, or at least seem heavily inspired by them, about how some people really did earn their wealth and pulled themselves up by their own bootstraps and the American Dream and Horatio Alger and bleah.

A lot of people who supposedly did just this thing, I have found, it turns out had a leg up, either obviously once you look at them or secretly, and what they actually earned themselves is an insufferable self-righteousness, and inflated opinion of their own abilities. Introspection and self-examination seems to be almost mutually-exclusive qualities with financial success.

I recognize that this is probably not always the case. This could be confirmation bias, I suppose, since it's the loud ones who get noticed. I admit this is assertion; I am only reporting what I have noticed. If one wishes to attack my statements, by all means, attack it here.

But it is an uncomfortable fact that not everyone can be a winner in a financial system (if everyone has a lot of money, then it ceases to be a lot of money), and even if the system truly rewards merit, it will end up prioritizing certain kinds of ability more than others, and by awarding those folk money they will end up seeing their kind of contributions as more inherently worthwhile. Since one effect of money is as a kind of loudspeaker for one's opinions, it isn't surprising that opinions such as the ones three blind mice is espousing are pervasive. This is the only way I can explain that anyone could be interested in what Donald Trump would have to say about anything.

Capitalism seems to be a system by which rich people can justify, to themselves and to others, their own success.
posted by JHarris at 9:32 AM on October 19, 2011 [26 favorites]


You hiring?

Not at the moment. You want to get married and raise our household average? I could also get you on my health insurance!
posted by penduluum at 9:34 AM on October 19, 2011


Sorry I was not more clear - my impression was that by 'cake' he really meant 'the occasional small luxury".

newdaddy, now that criticism is a lot clearer. However, if he'd abandoned his cutesy shtick, he would have had to abandon his persona/narrator voice.
posted by IAmBroom at 9:34 AM on October 19, 2011


.53% not counting bonuses but I've dedicated my life to buying cake so it is all good.
posted by Ad hominem at 9:36 AM on October 19, 2011


8. Don’t ask yourself if something is fair. Ask someone else—a stranger in the street, for example.

I did like this one.
posted by auto-correct at 9:38 AM on October 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


Non-profit management what up!

You hiring?


Take it to MeTa MeJobs!*

*I kid because I love.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 9:38 AM on October 19, 2011


Huh. Anyone here not in the top 5% globally? Well, that's a rhetorical question, but I was surprised to be up that high. How about cutoffs for the US?

Top 14.21%! Do I win a prize? I hope it's income–in–kind, because word knows that's the only way I survive.
posted by Jehan at 9:39 AM on October 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


Confidence Games by Mark C. Taylor is a very interesting book which discusses the intersection of religion, culture, and economics. The American obsession with Horatio Alger stories is intertwined with America's religious heritage, and not merely through the famous Protestant work ethic. In a similar vein, I recommend The Myth of the Meritocracy.

I've also been doing some research on the Disciples of Christ movement in the US, and there's a bunch of very interesting material in there about DoC members and their attitudes towards work, wealth, and finance. It's actually very reminiscent of the Tea Party's attitudes, antimonies and all. There's a great respect for work in and of itself, and a belief that wealth is a sign of divine providence, but also with a belief that flashiness and overt consumption is distasteful. Working for a good living, and succeeding in this, is to be commended, but "the wealthy" as a collective entity are sharply distrusted.
posted by Sticherbeast at 9:40 AM on October 19, 2011 [3 favorites]


I would estimate the proportion of those who accumulated the wealth that puts them in the top 1% solely through their own diligence and honest hard work to be less than .1% of that 1%.

I would confidently estimate it to be zero. Surely these people attended K-12 schools that someone else paid for (either taxpayers or their parents). Surely they at some point lived in a house, ate food, wore clothes that someone else paid for. They use roads and many other things that all of us pay for. NO ONE gets anywhere solely through their own diligence and honest hard work.
posted by desjardins at 9:50 AM on October 19, 2011 [21 favorites]


I work as an editor at a publishing house in Toronto (and have not gotten a raise in two years) and I have some additional income from renting out the basement apartment of my house. And according to that "where do you stand web site", I am "in the TOP 1.78% richest people in the world!"

Not saying that's not accurate, but not assuming it is, either.


Yeah, we talked about that website in AskMe the other day, and came to the conclusion that it's at least very out-of-date and maybe fundamentally flawed beyond that. For instance, it uses data from before the fall of the East Block and the rise of China.
posted by mr_roboto at 9:53 AM on October 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


It also ignores the fact that income doesn't equal wealth or "rich". I got a lot of non-rich-person expenses, most of which are directly supporting other people.
posted by seanmpuckett at 10:06 AM on October 19, 2011


This, I think.

It might be the living wage calculator instead. Or if it isn't, maybe it should be.

I'm not particularly fond of the global rich list myself, because it doesn't seem to properly account for relative local costs of living and the relative differences in buying power across the world, which makes it misleading. It seems to me its real purpose is, perversely, to fuel arguments on behalf of the socioeconomic status quo worldwide since much of the radical income inequality between the West and elsewhere is ultimately merely just another bi-product of the same systemic problems at the root of our growing economic woes here at home: the same global corporations that are screwing us are screwing those poor, too, and they're doing it using the same mechanisms of power. Hell, the global corporations are already starting to decide that India has become too prosperous to continue to serve as its cheap labor pool, and so, have already started shifting their call center operations to even cheaper markets. So that gives a glimpse of the pattern: exploit one developing country's labor in the name of improving local economic conditions, then abandon it for another as soon as conditions actually improve to the point the labor starts getting uppity and expecting better wages.

Poverty levels are defined in different absolute dollar terms in different parts of the world for a reason: the global rich list seems to ignore those kinds of deeper considerations. The American poor may look rich compared to someone in a developing country when you make the comparison based on absolute dollar amounts, but that's a misleading comparison that confuses the actual situation. Poor people in America do actually go hungry and die due to inadequate medical care like the poor anywhere else--but the global rich list makes it look like they're living the life of Reilly in comparison.
posted by saulgoodman at 10:18 AM on October 19, 2011 [5 favorites]


Hank Paulson's A Series of Unfortunate Events
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 10:22 AM on October 19, 2011 [11 favorites]


I really don't understand why people have such a hard-on for Buffett. He had a really good streak at the dog-track and that's about it, oh and he isn't a drunk or a total asshole (like most of the other people at the dogtrack.) That's a pretty low standard for anything (not a drunk or an asshole.)

Isn't a telling state of affairs, then, that "he isn't a drunk or a total asshole (like most of the other people at the dogtrack)" is in itself sufficient reason for people to hold someone up as a hero?

The reason people have such a fetish for Buffett is that he is the ONE guy who's acting with integrity in a field full of people without it.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:33 AM on October 19, 2011 [7 favorites]


Over 100 comments, and nobody has yet pointed out that the cake is a lie.
posted by Xoebe at 10:36 AM on October 19, 2011 [6 favorites]


The impression that OWS is primarily focused on "yelling at Wall Street" is a manufactured media narrative meant to dissuade people from learning more about the group's actions and process.

To be fair, the fact that the group is called "Occupy Wall Street" supports that narrative to those who haven't spent any time looking into what people in the movement are actually saying. That's why a lot of people who would otherwise probably support this feel a bit wary of it. It makes the focus look very narrow. We Are The 99% is much more appealing on a broader level, because a lot of bankers are the 99% too. They are also seeing their health insurance costs skyrocket and are dealing with the same issues the rest of the non-super-rich are, even if they do generally have higher paying jobs than most people.

I am not comfortable demonizing the entire industry. I am not comfortable seeing bankers portrayed as stodgy old men in top hats smoking cigars and wearing a monocle or as zombies eating money, because that's absurd and only goes to support the idea that this is class warfare. Since the movement began, I have learned enough about it to know that's not really what it's about, but a lot of people aren't going to know that simply because of the name.
posted by wondermouse at 10:37 AM on October 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


> Here's how to find your US income percentile. My household is far from the 1% but still shockingly high.

Shockingly? Really? Come on. The problem is us. You and I. To fix this requires you and I making real tangible sacrifices and while we try and figure out how to do this Goldman and those fuckers can manufacture hostility between the two of us.

That is the mechanism by which the Tea Party operates. They aren't evil. They are afraid of European tax rates and twenty dollar loaves of bread.
posted by bukvich at 10:39 AM on October 19, 2011


"Do you think the solution to that problem is to yell at Wall Street about it or go hold Congress' feet to the fire for letting themselves be purchased so easily?"

You realize that yelling at Wall Street is a way to mobilize people, and that mobilizing people does hold Congress's feet to the fire.

By having a mass economically liberal movement, it helps move the Overton window. Just by having people out there and upset, and by keeping the focus on that discontent in the media, it makes things like the Obama jobs bill (itself only a mediocre solution, but generally discussed in the media as if it were all kulaks and gulags) more popular by default.
posted by klangklangston at 10:40 AM on October 19, 2011 [17 favorites]


wondermouse: I don't know how to help people who want to jump to a conclusion based solely on the name. That concept is entirely foreign to me.
posted by odinsdream at 10:40 AM on October 19, 2011


I would like to point out that there is absolutely no common ground between OWS and the Tea Party. Yes, they are both like chickens who have figured out what Colonel Sanders is up to, but the Tea Party chickens think that if they suck up to the Colonel and show how loyal they are they will get a better outcome. The OWS chickens know this is crazy and are trying something else.
posted by localroger at 10:51 AM on October 19, 2011 [15 favorites]


twenty dollar loaves of bread.

*whistles appreciatively, places hands on hips*

That sounds like some mighty fine bread
posted by Greg Nog at 10:52 AM on October 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


Shockingly? Really? Come on. The problem is us. You and I.

Can you elaborate? I am fine with higher taxes as long as the money is going to help people and not to useless wars. I am also aware that I'm very privileged. I've never been concerned that I would lack food or shelter, I went to a private high school, I have a master's from a public college, etc. I am certainly not anywhere near top-hat-and-monocle rich (we don't own a home, we have significant student and credit card debt), but I recognize that I have been fortunate. I'm also white, a native speaker of English, a US citizen, more-or-less able bodied, etc, all by accident of birth.

I am absolutely open to considering that I'm "part of the problem" but I need to know which part before I can address it.
posted by desjardins at 10:53 AM on October 19, 2011 [3 favorites]


odinsdream, a lot of people don't look into current events beyond what they see on the surface or what is presented to them by the media. I do think the name is what turns some off from seeing that this movement may actually appeal to them, especially when the media as well as politicians will always twist things to work in their own favor from a ratings/vote/money standpoint. OWS's name makes that very easy to do.
posted by wondermouse at 10:57 AM on October 19, 2011


Here's how to find your US income percentile. My household is far from the 1% but still shockingly high.

Your Income Percentile 7.12
Approximate Number of Americans Who Earn Your Income or Less 15,038,012
Approximate Number of Americans Who Earn More Than You 196,215,988

I think I am in the bottom 1%
posted by ennui.bz at 11:01 AM on October 19, 2011


oh... sorry bottom 10%
posted by ennui.bz at 11:02 AM on October 19, 2011


They are afraid of European tax rates and twenty dollar loaves of bread.

This is ridiculous. My mom was German. I visited my mom and my sisters in Germany frequently for years after graduating high school, before my mom died.

Most food is much higher quality and much cheaper in Europe, in relative terms. Bread especially--and it's good quality bread like you wouldn't believe! American/British style white bread tends to cost a bit more than the ubiquitous fresh baked stuff, but it's not anywhere near $20! That's crazy nonsense.

In fact, my experiences visiting my family in Germany really helped open up my eyes to some of the myriad large and small ways we seem to get screwed by big business interests back here in the US. My mom and her family were at the bottom of the barrel economically speaking. And yet, they ate better, enjoyed better (and free!) health care, and in countless others ways seemed much better off than I was with an ostensibly middle class income. I was shocked.
posted by saulgoodman at 11:10 AM on October 19, 2011 [9 favorites]


Here's how to find your US income percentile. My household is far from the 1% but still shockingly high.

Is the input here supposed to be gross or net income?
posted by saulgoodman at 11:14 AM on October 19, 2011


odinsdream, a lot of people don't look into current events beyond what they see on the surface or what is presented to them by the media.

I'm well aware of that; it's a serious problem in our society. I don't blame OWS for it, though.
posted by odinsdream at 11:17 AM on October 19, 2011


I don't think people are looking for more explainations of why people are mad. After all, we've been hearing from the similarly angry Tea Partiers on the right for quite some time now. What we need are more intelligent, rational people to explain some real, solid ideas for what we can do to fix the problems and lots and lots of other people to vote them into high elected office.

I'm hoping for explanations for why we should be all mad in the same direction, instead of at each other.
posted by ZeusHumms at 11:17 AM on October 19, 2011


I am certainly not anywhere near top-hat-and-monocle rich

I have to come clean. I actually DO have a top hat and monocle, and occasionally wear them out. I tell people that I'm a steel baron, made my dollars in the western expansion. If they're insistent in their disbelief, I let them know that I'm actually part of a very exclusive Liar's Club, and our charter involves lying to people at bars. If they ask me if I'm serious at that point, I have to admit that I don't even know any more.
posted by FatherDagon at 11:21 AM on October 19, 2011 [16 favorites]


> I am absolutely open to considering that I'm "part of the problem" but I need to know which part before I can address it.

That didn't come out so crystal clear on the page of text as in my brain; I did not mean to imply that you, desjardins, are as much a part of the problem as one of our relatives who thinks it's all the fault of the bums on welfare.

I guess my misgiving about the issue and the way most of my friends discuss it is that the narrative of Greenspan and Geitner and Blankfein and their few dozen co-conspirators have defrauded us and we can perform a clawback and all will be well again is just horribly oversimplified. I am far from qualified to sit down with my calculator and a spreadsheet and figure out that this percentile has to kick up this quantity to fill in the hole which the people and the consumers and the workers and the bankers and everybody have dug all of us so deeply into; but I am sure it's going to cost me more money personally than I feel is fair. And it's going to be that way for, I would guess, 90% of us at least.

This is going to be very complex and painful for a long time and I don't think guys like Taibbi contribute much of anything constructive, although I do find him entertaining.

(Now having crawfished, I am still surprised that you use "shock" to describe your new information about how miserably poor most of the billions we are sharing the planet with are, and how (not quite so miserably) poor most of the millions we are sharing the country with are.)
posted by bukvich at 11:22 AM on October 19, 2011


saulgoodman: looks like gross income. They got their figures from the Census Bureau, so I'm assuming they're using the Census definitions. From page 9-4 of this PDF:
Data on consumer income collected in the CPS by the Census Bureau cover money income received (exclusive of certain money receipts such as capital gains) before payments for personal income taxes, Social Security, union dues, Medicare deductions, etc. Also, money income does not reflect the fact that some households receive part of their income in the form of nonmoney transfers such as food stamps, health benefits, subsidized housing, and energy assistance; that many farm households receive nonmoney income in the form of rent free housing and goods produced and consumed on the farm; or that nonmoney income is received by some nonfarm residents that often takes the form of the use of business transportation and facilities, or full or partial contributions for retirement programs, medical and educational expenses, etc.
posted by desjardins at 11:26 AM on October 19, 2011


Huh, putting in my household's gross income shifts me to a much lower percentile.
posted by desjardins at 11:28 AM on October 19, 2011


I am still surprised that you use "shock" to describe your new information about how miserably poor most of the billions we are sharing the planet with are, and how (not quite so miserably) poor most of the millions we are sharing the country with are.

I shouldn't be shocked at world poverty, no. I guess I am shocked at my relative wealth in this country, but that's probably because I don't have that much left over after rent, utilities, and debt payments. I don't have even one month's expenses in savings, no retirement account, etc. I am not complaining at all; most of my situation is due to my own choices and failings, and I certainly don't want for much, but I just don't feel richer than X% of Americans. However, my perspective is almost certainly skewed by the people I know in my age group/SES cohort, who mostly do own their own homes, have less debt, more savings, etc.
posted by desjardins at 11:34 AM on October 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


A lot of people who supposedly did just this thing, I have found, it turns out had a leg up, either obviously once you look at them or secretly, and what they actually earned themselves is an insufferable self-righteousness, and inflated opinion of their own abilities. Introspection and self-examination seems to be almost mutually-exclusive qualities with financial success.

I can only think of one couple I know who might someday work their way into the 1%. They had a leg up, not being born into poverty, but their advantages were pretty similar to my own. First gen college grads, needed student loans, had to work through school, etc.. I know that I will never be as wealthy as they are today. But I'm not envious as I know what it takes to get and hold their jobs (or at least one of them: they're a doctor/lawyer combo) -- they work all the time. I mean, they're an extreme case. Conversations tend to falter when we hit pop culture items. They seriously schedule their 2-hour once-a-week "date" because every other evening and weekend it's actual work or "work" (reading cases, etc.). I don't want that life, but this is what they did with Bronzefist-level advantages. What it gets me is a rented apartment and hopes for a house someday. It might be pleasant to think that the main difference between us is luck, but I'm not that delusional.

Granted that obviously, the main difference between them and a Kenyan farmer is luck. The main difference between them and me is (near-obsessive) drive. Oh, and they're brilliant. When I worked 104 hours a week it was because I had to. As soon as I stopped having to, I sure as hell did not. I don't know how many with their advantages would work that hard, but if they hit the 1%, that will be the difference.

I'm sure there were rich boys/girls in my cohort who got cushy jobs through family influence, but we didn't hang out.

Just another anecdote, I know.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 11:40 AM on October 19, 2011 [4 favorites]


I guess I don't get your point, Durn Bronzefist. Is anyone arguing that hard work and sacrifice never lead to positive economic benefits?
posted by muddgirl at 11:45 AM on October 19, 2011


It was a specific response to this:

You keep dragging out the same tired cliches, or at least seem heavily inspired by them, about how some people really did earn their wealth and pulled themselves up by their own bootstraps and the American Dream and Horatio Alger and bleah.

A lot of people who supposedly did just this thing, I have found, it turns out had a leg up, either obviously once you look at them or secretly, and what they actually earned themselves is an insufferable self-righteousness, and inflated opinion of their own abilities. Introspection and self-examination seems to be almost mutually-exclusive qualities with financial success.

I recognize that this is probably not always the case. This could be confirmation bias, I suppose, since it's the loud ones who get noticed. I admit this is assertion; I am only reporting what I have noticed. If one wishes to attack my statements, by all means, attack it here.

posted by Durn Bronzefist at 11:47 AM on October 19, 2011


Not an attack, obviously. You can't "attack" anecdotes with other anecdotes. Just the other side of the story, for one (exceptional) couple. For now, I suspect they're part of the 99%, and one more reason you're going to find it difficult to build a cohesive narrative, especially if "luck" keeps being dragged out as the reason for inequality.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 11:52 AM on October 19, 2011


If you counted my income I'd be around the 60% mark in the US. If you counted my net worth after student debt... whoo boy. I'm not even worth one red cent.

There is, frankly, no way i will be able to pay my student debt off in my life time. i am not adverse to hard work, I am pretty smart over all, fairly creative, but I did come from an exceedingly poor family background and thought education would help.. and it did... but it was way overpriced.
posted by edgeways at 11:56 AM on October 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


For now, I suspect they're part of the 99%

This confuses me even more, because if they're not truly top-out-of-sight wealthy, then when we say "The top-out-of-sight wealthy got a lot of help getting there", we're not talking about your friends.

You seem to think that what we're saying is "Hard work gets you nowhere." Of course that's false. What we ARE saying is that Warren Buffett's hard work gets him to be one of the richest men in the world, while your friend's hard work gets them to be perhaps the richest people in their graduating class, while my (working class) parent's hard work gets them a tiny house and a broken-ass car (but at least they're not taking the bus like their brothers and sisters). That's not an equitable system.
posted by muddgirl at 11:56 AM on October 19, 2011 [3 favorites]


This confuses me even more, because if they're not truly top-out-of-sight wealthy, then when we say "The top-out-of-sight wealthy got a lot of help getting there", we're not talking about your friends.

Pardon, the calculations keep shifting. $5mil and $500k/year income? They'll have it for sure. I don't think they have it today.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 11:58 AM on October 19, 2011


I would estimate the proportion of those who accumulated the wealth that puts them in the top 1% solely through their own diligence and honest hard work to be less than .1% of that 1%. -- Herodios
I would confidently estimate it to be zero -- desjardins
Oh yeah? Well I'm changing my estimate to √-1, so there!
posted by Herodios at 12:04 PM on October 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


They'll have it for sure.

Your friend will someday be as rich as Warren Buffett?
posted by muddgirl at 12:05 PM on October 19, 2011


whenever the subject of income inequality comes up, it's always spun as "attacking rich people" or class envy, or some other such nonsense, when the real root of the frustration is not wealthy people. The real frustration is at the systems that favor them above the interests of everyone else.

If someone becomes wealthy through diligence and hard work, if they really are such exemplary examples of financial acumen, why do they need the rules bent to their favor at every turn?
posted by billyfleetwood at 12:06 PM on October 19, 2011 [9 favorites]


One thing for sure. OWS can mean a whole lot of things to anybody.

#OWS is fighting back against the corrosive power of major banks and multinational corporations over the democratic process, and the role of Wall Street in creating an economic collapse that has caused the greatest recession in generations. The movement is inspired by popular uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia, and aims to expose how the richest 1% of people are writing the rules of an unfair global economy that is foreclosing on our future.

That covers a lot of territory. And of course, the devil is in the details. Frankly, a good amount of details spouted by individuals are just stupid. I have my own reasons to be angry at Wall St, and at the system. So does everyone else. But it's not enough to be angry, and counterproductive if it creates dumb, unworkable solutions.
posted by 2N2222 at 12:08 PM on October 19, 2011


Your friend will someday be as rich as Warren Buffett?

One day we all will be, but inflation will be so bad that a couple of million bucks won't get you a cup of coffee!
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 12:08 PM on October 19, 2011


Your friend will someday be as rich as Warren Buffett?

Eigo o hanashimasu ka? What?
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 12:10 PM on October 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


the real root of the frustration is not wealthy people. The real frustration is at the systems that favor them above the interests of everyone else.

It's not like the wealthy just blindly stumbled across these vastly favorable systems and said 'Well golly, might as well take advantage of this, since it's here!' They deliberately and systematically applied their power and wealth to warp the system to their favor.
posted by FatherDagon at 12:10 PM on October 19, 2011 [9 favorites]


I'm curious about the people here who just don't like how this was written, and insist on saying so. That's a matter of taste, and isn't really germane to the points he's making. Don't like his writing style? All I can say is you might want to steer clear of the Series of Unfortunate Events books, which is nobody's loss except perhaps your own.

But how he says something is his prerogative, and it doesn't matter to me, or probably anybody who is not you, one jot or tittle what you think about it. I don't especially care to hear your tastes in wallpaper when my house is being bulldozed.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 12:14 PM on October 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


I was actually a big fan of how this was written, but I'd hardly say it's not germane to discuss his points AS WELL AS the style they were made in. In fact, I'd say his actual points aren't so novel, so if we can't discuss the way he presented them, maybe this thread doesn't need to exist.
posted by kingbenny at 12:32 PM on October 19, 2011


I especially like:

Someone feeling wronged is like someone feeling thirsty. Don’t tell them they aren’t. Sit with them and have a drink.
posted by saulgoodman at 12:40 PM on October 19, 2011 [4 favorites]


Thanks, Metafilter. I now know that I make $3000 below the living wage in my state/county and factor as the lowest 30% of income in the US. At least I'm on the top 12.23% in the world, I guess. Too bad I don't qualify for government help (read: food stamps) because I have the poor judgment to have a savings account, in which I have the mandatory $5 to keep it in the futile hope that one day I can put more money in it and earn interest. After I pay off the credit card. And the student loans.

I was already pretty frustrated about our financial system and definitely more than sympathetic with OWS, but now I am also sad. In part because I already know this year is going to suck trying to make up for unexpected expenses that cropped up last year and this summer, but also because compared to many people even just in the US I am 'well off'. I have an apartment that I will manage to keep paying for, and I get one good meal a day. Other people living with less than that... well. That's depressing as hell.
posted by six-or-six-thirty at 12:47 PM on October 19, 2011 [4 favorites]


Parsing the Data and Ideology of the We Are 99% Tumblr
The overwhelming majority of these statements are actionable demands in the form of (i) free us from the bondage of these debts and (ii) give us a bare minimum to survive on in order to lead decent lives (or, in pre-Industrial terms, give us some land). In Finley’s terms, these are the demands of a peasantry, not a working class.

The actual ideology of modernity, broadly speaking, is absent. There isn’t the affluenza of Freddie’s worries, no demands for cheap gas, cheaper credit, giant houses, bigger electronics all under the cynical ”Ownership Society” banner. The demands are broadly health care, education and not to feel exploited at the high-level, and the desire to not live month-to-month on bills, food and rent and under less of the burden of debt at the practical level.




Upon reflection, it is very obvious where the problems are. There’s no universal health care to handle the randomness of poor health. There’s no free higher education to allow people to develop their skills outside the logic and relations of indentured servitude. Our bankruptcy code has been rewritten by the top 1% when instead, it needs to be a defense against their need to shove inequality-driven debt at populations. And finally, there’s no basic income guaranteed to each citizen to keep poverty and poor circumstances at bay.
posted by wemayfreeze at 12:52 PM on October 19, 2011 [4 favorites]


In fact, I'd say his actual points aren't so novel, so if we can't discuss the way he presented them, maybe this thread doesn't need to exist.

So, for you, the value of a point is novelty, and, failing that, all that is required is to discuss style? Failing that, no discussion is required?

I do not share your opinion.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 12:54 PM on October 19, 2011


"Too bad I don't qualify for government help (read: food stamps) because I have the poor judgment to have a savings account, in which I have the mandatory $5 to keep it in the futile hope that one day I can put more money in it and earn interest. After I pay off the credit card. And the student loans."

Which came first, the student loans or credit card debt? Did the government say go to school, earn a secondary degree, and run up your credit card and afterward they will support you?
posted by amazingstill at 1:03 PM on October 19, 2011


This confuses me even more, because if they're not truly top-out-of-sight wealthy, then when we say "The top-out-of-sight wealthy got a lot of help getting there", we're not talking about your friends.

I think the disconnect here is that the 1% isn't Warren Buffett; the top 1% is ... 5 mil in assets and 500k per year household income? That's what Durn is saying his friends are on their way to. So saying OWS's problem is really only with the truly top-out-of-sight wealthy doesn't mesh with the "We are the 99%."
posted by Amanojaku at 1:09 PM on October 19, 2011


Which came first, the student loans or credit card debt? Did the government say go to school, earn a secondary degree, and run up your credit card and afterward they will support you?

Your bootstraps are showing.
posted by odinsdream at 1:10 PM on October 19, 2011 [3 favorites]


So, for you, the value of a point is novelty, and, failing that, all that is required is to discuss style? Failing that, no discussion is required?

Not at all. It's just that there has been and still is plenty of ongoing discussion about these precise points - the addition here was that they were written by Lemony Snicket in his own unique voice. So if we can't discuss the fact that they were written by Lemony Snicket in his own unique voice, then I guess we would continue discussing them in the existing thread(s), devoid of the voice.
posted by kingbenny at 1:11 PM on October 19, 2011


all that is required is to discuss style?

And to be clear, I mentioned my belief that I think there is room to discuss the points AND the style with which they are presented.
posted by kingbenny at 1:13 PM on October 19, 2011


Which came first, the student loans or credit card debt? Did the government say go to school, earn a secondary degree, and run up your credit card and afterward they will support you?

Hey, Judgy McJudgerson, do you know why he/she has credit card debt? The majority of mine was incurred during periods of unemployment, along with some bad decisions on my part. I am not food-insecure, but if I were, your attitude is basically, oh well, sucks to be you?
posted by desjardins at 1:13 PM on October 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


The point of we are the 99%, amonojaku, is that that's the threshold at which people benefit disproportionately from our more recent tax and economic policies.

Everyone above the 1%, whether we like them personally or not, has seen steady income growth since the 80s. Everybody below them has seen their share of the pie declining year after year. That's the central point of the 99%, as I understand it--the numbers more or less just break out that way.
posted by saulgoodman at 1:13 PM on October 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


The expectation of middle-class Americans is that they could go to college and own a house. I never cared about the house, but I was very much encouraged to go to law school.
posted by angrycat at 1:14 PM on October 19, 2011


Which came first, the student loans or credit card debt? Did the government say go to school, earn a secondary degree, and run up your credit card and afterward they will support you?

Give me an effin break. From the time we're old enough to go to a public (read: government-run) school we're told how we can be anything we want as long as we study hard enough and go to college. Our teachers tell us that higher education will be our ticket to security as adults. So yes, the government said go to school and earn a secondary degree. For a lot of us the credit card debt was incurred to pay for things like books, rent, and automobile repair. Sure, maybe we didn't go about things as intelligently as we should have, but we were guided by a faith in the eventual justice of the educational system--a faith that was very deliberately instilled in our young, developing minds.
posted by jwhite1979 at 1:15 PM on October 19, 2011 [19 favorites]


Okay--let me clarify a bit. Obviously not everybody in the 1% has seen growth. But that's the threshold of annual income at which there's still been steady income and wealth growth over the last several decades. All the rest of us, demographically, have seen declining conditions over the same period.
posted by saulgoodman at 1:15 PM on October 19, 2011


the addition here was that they were written by Lemony Snicket in his own unique voice.

I suppose matters of taste are always up for discussion. But they are irresolvable -- people are entitled to like or dislike whatever they like or dislike, for whatever reason. Lemony Snicket's style here might strike one person as ingenious and another as patronizing, and both are right to find it that way for themselves.

That boils down to a "I like it / I don't like it discussion," or starts turning into a tone discussion. And tone discussions may be worthwhile, but also can be a distraction from the points being made. Daniel Handler, if he is the author, did not write this to encourage a literary discussion about his particular voice. He had specific points he was making. This is not a literary exercise. And it can be treated as one, and responded to as one, but I think that takes it out of being a discussion of real complaints by real people in a real world and turns it into a more personal discussion of one individual's aesthetics verses another.

He is not making an aesthetic argument, but a political one, and by discussing aesthetics we overlook the point of the piece in favor of a discussion of taste.

To put it another way, there is likely to be value in looking at the literary merits of the "I Have A Dream" speech, but if that's what you have boiled the speech down to, you have missed its point.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 1:21 PM on October 19, 2011


I believe part of the 99% message is that those below the top one percent have more in common in terms of political power than those in the top one percent. When your vote only changes whose name will be attached to the legislation written by lobbyists you have more in common with someone in sub-Saharan Africa than with the wealthiest living in your own city.
posted by JackarypQQ at 1:45 PM on October 19, 2011 [4 favorites]


That's the central point of the 99%, as I understand it--the numbers more or less just break out that way.

Sure, I get that.

I believe part of the 99% message is that those below the top one percent have more in common in terms of political power than those in the top one percent.

And that. And both are absolutely true. But the dividing line in both cases is still between the 99% and the 1%. So when Durn, above, talks about his friends who are on their way to being in the 1%, and muddgirl tells him if they're not truly top-out-of-sight wealthy, then when we say "The top-out-of-sight wealthy got a lot of help getting there", we're not talking about your friends, that really isn't true. OWS is protesting more than just the top-out-of-sight wealthy, as epitomized by Warren Buffett. I support them, but you can't play the "Oh, nobody's actually saying that" card when the slogan of the movement actually says exactly that.
posted by Amanojaku at 2:02 PM on October 19, 2011


6. Nobody wants to fall into a safety net, because it means the structure in which they’ve been living is in a state of collapse and they have no choice but to tumble downwards. However, it beats the alternative."

Anyone here not in the top 5% globally? Well, that's a rhetorical question... ~desjardins

Not so rhetorical. "You're in the TOP 44.1%" I'm a US born citizen. I worked hard, I got a college education. I was paying my college debt, donated to charity, paid my taxes. Then I got sick, permanently, and lost everything. Now I'll never be out of debt in my lifetime. Because I cannot afford enough food or medical treatments, I'm too sick to be re-trained. I was just able to buy groceries for the first time in six weeks; I ate one small meal a day for the past two weeks just to make the food last. The safety net has been crumbling for a long time. Public welfare strained by the economic downturn, food banks tapped out by people who used to have jobs and homes. Medicaid has been drastically cut in my state over the past six or so years I've been on disability.

My friends have been gathering downtown, "Occupy Phoenix". I've been too poor to go; no money, no food, no transportation. I can't even buy posterboard.

Can any of you afford to become life-alteringly ill or experience a crippling accident, permanently disabled? What would you do without your income?
posted by _paegan_ at 2:25 PM on October 19, 2011 [10 favorites]


Frankly, a good amount of details spouted by individuals are just stupid. I have my own reasons to be angry at Wall St, and at the system. So does everyone else. But it's not enough to be angry, and counterproductive if it creates dumb, unworkable solutions.

Part of the issue is that the people invested with authority to judge and implement solutions as non-dumb and workable have been exactly the people who have been building up the corrupt system we've arrived at. The American Enterprise Institute, for example, is going to label any solution coming from OWS as dumb and unworkable, no matter what. They've been shaping policy forever, and making the system what it is, and have massive financial stake in seeing that business continues as usual.

What we're saying is that the current system has become dumb and unworkable for the vast majority of people, and that a major course-correction is therefore necessary.
posted by kaibutsu at 2:36 PM on October 19, 2011 [4 favorites]


(Also, here's the 'Scream and Run Away' music video, clearly dylan influenced!)
posted by kaibutsu at 2:36 PM on October 19, 2011


...people who have accumulated their wealth through diligence and honest hard work...

From TFA: If you work hard, and become successful, it does not necessarily mean you are successful because you worked hard.

Or in the words of XKCD:

"I used to think correlation implied causation. Then I took a statistics class. Now I don't."

"Sounds like the class helped."

"Well, maybe."


Unless you've got a machine that allows you to examine alternate universes, there is no way to prove that someone "accumulated their wealth through diligence and honest hard work" as opposed to (allegedly) working hard and getting really lucky. (I'd say not having your career interrupted by illness or other disaster counts as "really lucky.") Or working hard and getting lots of advantages handed to you by your family, your school, your neighborhood, etc.
posted by straight at 2:40 PM on October 19, 2011 [3 favorites]


What would you do without your income?

Spend my last penny on flying back to Australia.
posted by Talez at 2:48 PM on October 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


I wrote today about one reason why *everyone* should want less inequality, regardless of their current social class. Countries with less inequality—not the richest countries among the developed world, but the most equal— have higher happiness, academic achievement, and longevity and lower crime, addictions, heart disease, (most) types of cancer, infectious disease, stroke, and obesity. And this is true across the economic scale, the greater the gradient between rich and poor, the worse the health of a nation.
posted by Maias at 2:56 PM on October 19, 2011 [7 favorites]


Hmm, link didn't appear. Article is here.
posted by Maias at 2:57 PM on October 19, 2011


The American Enterprise Institute, for example, is going to label any solution coming from OWS as dumb and unworkable

I just got back from DC and literally the first building I recognized after stepping off the Metro and looking for my hotel was the American Enterprise Institute. Wherupon I tapped my wife and said "Look honey, a building full of evil motherfuckers."

And she shot back "This town is full of those."
posted by localroger at 3:50 PM on October 19, 2011 [3 favorites]


Which came first, the student loans or credit card debt? Did the government say go to school, earn a secondary degree, and run up your credit card and afterward they will support you?
posted by amazingstill


For background, I'm currently a PhD student in a field where I am required to travel. I have to front expenses and then get reimbursed for most of them later, often not all. I could go into my beefs with how graduate school works, but there are other things at hand, and it all ties into the same system anyway.

Since you're asking (and I'm sure you genuinely want to know out of concern for my well-being and aren't merely intent on judging my poor decision making), student loans came first, and mine are low compared to others in my age group. The credit card debt came only in the past two years, when I had to have some testing done in order to ensure I hadn't inherited a genetic disease essentially guaranteeing that you get cancer. I had to do this because I am now at the age that screening would absolutely have to begin to be sure we caught it early (since I know you're concerned, I lucked out--I don't have it). I managed just fine with all of my other pre-existing conditions and their treatment, but this in combination with other unexpected events (laptop dying, bad timing with credit bills and field season expenses) started to slowly put me under. I don't know if you were aware of this, but debt has a tendency to build.

So yes, I 'ran up my credit card' in order to, you know, not potentially die or be up at night worrying about my health. I still get no dental or optical care and still drop a minimum of $1500/year for just general health issues. If I broke anything I would be largely screwed.

I stayed in graduate school for the PhD partly because there were no jobs when I finished my MS in 2009, when things went to shit, and partly because I either want to end up in academia or an industry where I'll need that PhD. If that decision somehow offends you, well, sorry. But in the real world a lot of jobs require people with PhDs, and I know a damn lot of students in the same position as me, none of whom are living the high life. If you're mad about ridiculous job requirements not necessarily couched in reality, by all means do something to fix that issue rather than take it out on the people stuck in the game.

Even with all of this I'm still better off than a significant number of people. Far better off. I was born into a family that could support me and even offer me some luxuries growing up. I had educational opportunities a lot of other kids didn't have. I worked in high school, I worked in undergrad, and I worked in my semester 'off' and yet here I am. I would have moved out of this shitty, bedbug-infested apartment building a long while ago if I could afford it and I wouldn't be living off of frozen pizzas, ramen, and mac 'n cheese. I'm not eating caviar and drinking champagne as I rack up those bills, is all I'm saying.

And I'm living well. Do you seriously think nothing is wrong with this?
posted by six-or-six-thirty at 6:21 PM on October 19, 2011 [8 favorites]


Oh my god, I love Lemony Snicket so much. This is hilarious and almost makes up for my continuing frustration about not knowing what is in that darn sugar bowl.

Folks put off by the "cutesy" style: the guy is a children's writer, fyi.
posted by naoko at 7:00 PM on October 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


It is probably worth mentioning, if we are talking about our income rank in the world, that in most of the Third World you can live a pretty comfortable life on an income which would barely cover the Boone's Farm and cardboard box in the United States. This is the reason you can find vibrant expat US retirement communities in places like Costa Rica.
posted by localroger at 7:02 PM on October 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


If you're curious about the Beaudelaire kids, and are into audio books, Tim Curry does a molto gusto reading that I enjoyed.
posted by Trochanter at 9:11 PM on October 19, 2011


You know, I would pay a lot more attention to the OWS crowd if I thought they had even a single snot of understanding about the real problems in the system. The big hint that they Don't Get It is that they still talk about the highest income earners. "Look at that fat-cat CEO, makin' all that money…" No, wrong. "Look at those bankers, trading pieces of paper!" Nope, you Don't Get It, either. Lawyers? Politicians? Financiers? No, no, and no. The real bastards don't have jobs. They don't have income, at least not in the traditional "paycheck" sense. Anybody working for a living is not part of the discussion. That includes CEOs and CFOs and Wall Streeters and really anybody that has to "go" to work.

So-and-so has a million dollars? Who gives a fuck when there are people with billions of dollars? A millionaire is one Bugatti Veyron away from poverty. I don't give a flying fuck about millionaires. Millionaires can't do shit. A billionaire, on the other hand…
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 12:34 AM on October 20, 2011


C.D., I'm pretty sure that you won't find many people at OWS who aren't aware that billionaires have much more wealth and power than millionaires. But feel free to show up at your local Occupation to share your fantastic insight
posted by moorooka at 1:11 AM on October 20, 2011 [6 favorites]


Spend my last penny on flying back to Australia.

You know we're the richest people in the world now, right?

So when that calculator tells me I'm in the top 0.23% on the rich list, just remember that I live with a lot of other rich people, so I'm actually poor. Or something.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 2:04 AM on October 20, 2011


And that's essential to his success. Bill bought, for cash, a not so great UNIX clone and had the connections (thanks in large part due to his father's wealth) to even be considered as the vendor for IBM's new PC line.

Given that QDOS was a CP/M clone, calling it a "not-so-great UNIX clone" is somewhat of an understatement, no?
posted by acb at 4:13 AM on October 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Did the government say go to school, earn a secondary degree, and run up your credit card and afterward they will support you?

Well, fuck, the government's supporting the banks for running up debts they couldn't pay, why not the citizens?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:48 AM on October 20, 2011 [4 favorites]


Anybody working for a living is not part of the discussion. That includes CEOs and CFOs and Wall Streeters and really anybody that has to "go" to work.

I see what you're saying, but I think you're oversimplifying a complex machine.

Of the ten richest people in the US, eight are currently employed in a leadership position - CEO or Chairman or both. The other two are relatives by birth or marriage of the founder of Wal-Mart.

None of these eight people work for a living - none of them need to work at this point, and about half of them probably never needed to work in any meaningful sense. However, lots of people who destabilised the economy in the first place did not have to go to work in the banking sector.

As far as I can tell, anger with lawyers, politicians or financiers is aimed primarily at their role supporting or defending a system structured to favour the very rich, who are indeed in most cases a lot richer than they are. The top of the 99% and the bottom of the 1% are pretty close to each other, naturally - it's an arbitrary distinction which looks good on posters. However, one of the best ways to get properly rich remains to become a senior partner in a large financial institution, or failing that to obtain a large number of shares in a successful company which you obtained for far less than their face value, usually by founding or being early-appointed CEO.

This analysis by an investment manager of earnings breakdowns within the top 1% of earners is an interesting if at times anecdotal read.
posted by running order squabble fest at 5:01 AM on October 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


Civil_Disobedient: The big hint that they Don't Get It is that they still talk about the highest income earners.

I think that's an uncharitable assessment of the situation. There are certainly plenty of angry people who are also poorly informed, but I think if you pay closer attention, you'll find that there are plenty of very well informed people who are also angry.

And I also think that your identification of the billionaires as 'the problem' also errs on the simplistic side.

One of the biggest problems, as I see it, is the role that money plays in politics, whether that money comes from millionaire doctors or lawyers who donate to medical or legal industry lobbying groups, public and private corporations that set up PACs, think-tanks and professional lobbying groups and donate HUGELY to political campaigns, or billionaires who do the same, the fact that money plays such an important role in our political process practically guarantees that those interests who have a great deal of money will exert undue influence on the political process in whatever way they think best serves their interests.

This is not democracy, and it needs to be stopped.
posted by syzygy at 6:01 AM on October 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


odinsdream: The group isn't very centralized on purpose, but there are definitely plans for a coherent political action to get actual results.

Anecdotal, but here's a link to a short Campaign Financing Reform proposal that I shared from afar with the OWS team back on October 6. I'm pumped to see that Grievance #1 in section IV at the working declaration closely mirrors my proposal.

I doubt that my proposal played any role in the drafting of the working declaration. On the other hand, I have spent a considerable amount of time over the past few weeks pushing that exact issue in various OWS forums as one that the OWS should be focusing on.

Either way, it's a great feeling to know that my #1 issue is theirs, as well. It's actually (as I've said elsewhere) an issue that I think close to 99% of the voters can get behind, no matter which side of things they're on.
posted by syzygy at 6:31 AM on October 20, 2011


Bill bought, for cash, a not so great UNIX clone...

sotonohito, why on earth do you think DOS is a UNIX clone? Granted, a few features were based on UNIX ideas - subdirectories and pipes, for instance - but to say DOS is a UNIX clone... that stretches credulity.
posted by IAmBroom at 6:53 AM on October 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


(Sorry, derail.)
posted by IAmBroom at 6:54 AM on October 20, 2011


Meanwhile in Greece:

Protesters turn on each other with petrol bombs, stones in Athens
Communist party supporters taking part in the Thursday’s rally set up a cordon in front of parliament to prevent hard-liners from starting fights with police.

But they came under repeated attacks by hundreds of masked protesters in motorcycle helmets who threw gasoline bombs and chunks of marble into the crowd.
posted by Anything at 7:57 AM on October 20, 2011


I should add that the above protest is about Greek austerity measures and not OWS related, at least directly, AFAIK.
posted by Anything at 8:01 AM on October 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


So... what's the connection? I'm not sure how it relates to Occupy Wall Street, or to Daniel Handler. Are you saying that running battles in the streets is what happens if the concerns of the OWS people are not heard and acted on?
posted by running order squabble fest at 2:41 PM on October 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


running order squabble fest:

That's certainly a possibility. If the poor continue to get poorer and feel that they have no other choice, running battles in the street may indeed take place.

However, I think the connection has more to do with the fact that, over the past couple of weeks, the various protest movement all around the world have networked up in a very interesting way. The Greeks are talking to OWS. London is talking to Berlin. Sao Paulo is talking to Seattle. There is a sense of growing connection and solidarity between disparate protest movements around the globe.
posted by syzygy at 2:48 PM on October 20, 2011


You know we're the richest people in the world now, right?

Wait a minute--you Australians are now the richest people in the world?

So that's what Murdoch's really been up to all this time! The American citizenship thing was just a smoke-screen for his real loyalties.
posted by saulgoodman at 5:55 PM on October 20, 2011


The top of the 99% and the bottom of the 1% are pretty close to each other, naturally

No--you're still not getting it either, because that's not true. There's a massive income distribution gap now that's been increasing ever since the 80s. It doesn't follow a smooth distribution curve anymore.

There's a massive growing gap between the top 1% and the bottom 99% in America and its the largest gap since the 1920s. Below that threshold incomes/wealth are shrinking, while above it, incomes/wealth are still increasing.
posted by saulgoodman at 6:03 PM on October 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


That's literally the whole point of the 99% thing: not that the top 1% are to blame, but that the system itself is now dividing us more and more economically.
posted by saulgoodman at 6:04 PM on October 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Wait a minute--you Australians are now the richest people in the world?

*drinks beer from solid gold gumboot*

K'n'oaf wiya.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 8:29 PM on October 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Rich People Create Jobs, and five other myths that must die for our economy to live.
posted by Sticherbeast at 5:20 AM on October 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


saulgoodman: It's great that you're passionate, but you might want to pull up a bit. The fact that you linked to an article I had already linked to suggests that you didn't read my post very well. As does the fact that you actually quoted me saying:
The top of the 99% and the bottom of the 1% are pretty close to each other, naturally
And then corrected a statement I had not made, that there was a smooth distribution curve of wealth.

If and when you read the article you linked to, you'll find this:
This document focuses on the "Top 1%" as a whole because that's been the traditional cut-off point for "the top" in academic studies, and because it's easy for us to keep in mind that we are talking about one in a hundred. But it is also important to realize that the lower half of that top 1% has far less than those in the top half; in fact, both wealth and income are super-concentrated in the top 0.1%, which is just one in a thousand.
So, yes. The top 1% of the population has a disproportionately huge share of wealth and income, even relative to the huge share held by the next 19%. However, the people at the very bottom of the 1% are not much richer than the people at the very top of the 99%. This doesn't make life in the bottom 80% any better, but it was what I said, and it might be an idea to read the post you think you're disagreeing with and the source you are citing before charging into battle.
posted by running order squabble fest at 12:11 PM on October 24, 2011


« Older "Radiography is more than a technique. It is rathe...  |  Inspiring story of the day: Le... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments