Alrighty, time to throw my hat in the ring. It’s time for me to put a different point of view out there maybe against, a tiny bit with the #OccupyWallSt movement.
Who are the 1%
According to the “demands” this is a movement against the top 1%. By definition, per IRS and census records that includes anybody making $516,633 as of 2010. Interestingly this does not only include those big ‘ol Wall Street execs or brokers, but also many more… here’s a little breakdown, brought to you by the wonderfully liberal blog Mother Jones.
31% This includes upper management (non-finance): this is not only within “big business”, but the other 95% of corporations around the US as well.
15.7% Medical: doctors who have spent 8-15 years on a single goal, spending as much if not more than the average American, simply to get educated in their field.
13.9% Financial professionals: who again, are not all those who took bailouts or bonuses.
8.4% Lawyers: though nobody likes lawyers :-P.
4.6% Computers/Technical/Engineering: again, a group of highly skilled focused employees or even employers, who have worked to get to where they were at as well.
4.3% Not working or Deceased (WTF?). I can only assume this includes estates and those who have retired and are living off their past investments.
4.2% Skilled Sales: though I have a disdain for salesmen, those that prove their worth are in the 1% as well.
3.8% Blue collar/service: since there was nothing describing what this meant, I can’t really comment.
3.2% Real Estate: ah, real estate, this can be split into a couple of different levels. First would be those who simply invest in real estate, which includes taking risks on investments in areas that just may not work out. The other in those who actually try to sell you the homes. The latter, if doing enough sales, can really pull in a hefty sum, but it is dependent on the location [location, location] as well as the current economic environment.
3.0% Business Operations (non-finance): Again little information was provided to go along with the chart; however I will assume that this includes Executive Assistants, Project Leads, etc. The income would also really be dependant on the company, and the area and field in which the company operates.
2.3% Entrepreneurs: This would include those taking risks in putting their faith in their product. A product that in most cases they created themselves, and have a personal connection with, as well as a personal investment with.
1.8% Professors and Scientists: These are some dang highly paid professors, but if they have proven themselves, then power to ’em. Again, Scientists also have to prove their worth before reaching this kind of income, unless there are shady deals in play.
1.6% Arts, Media, Sports: I assume this includes actors, professional sports teams, news casters on major networks, etc. This is an interesting bracket, as you do have to prove your worth for the position, there are also limited resources for these fields, at least to meet the standards required.
0.9% Unknown: Ok… not sure where that works out, but I guess there’s need for wiggle room.
0.8% Government, Teachers, Social Services: This, again, is an interesting bracket. Considering that they are not paid by private companies, but rather yours an my tax money. I won’t discount the worth of some of them, but the fact that they show up in the 1% intrigues me.
0.5% Farmers & Ranchers: Hard working bunch, and if you have been successful in managing your farm (be it produce, or livestock), then you have all the right to earn a wage equal to your success.
0.2% Pilots: I never realized these guys made that much money, but I can almost guarantee that you have to have skill and do your job well to make it into this level of pay, cause you really can’t just sneak into this field.
Who are the 1%. Well, an interesting couple of things show up in nearly ALL of the positions presented above. Risk and Skill. In order to be part of the “1%” you have to be able to prove your worth, or take risks to make the money required to be in this bracket. An interesting thing that is not shown, is what percentage of the income that the 1% makes is distributed among these different positions.
Where it all began.
Now, I’m not going to just blatantly defend all these groups. For example, several of the big banks out there took advantage of the TARP bill passed during the Bush administration. This basically bailed out “failing” banks with money from our pockets. Some of these “failures” were due to the increase in defaults on home loans that began to occur in 2007. However, this goes a bit further back as well. During the Clinton administration, there was a push that “owning a home is part of the American Dream, and we need to push to put every American in a home of their own.” This was flawed, as in order for every American to own a home, they would also have to be able to pay for it. Well, to do this there was a push by the Clinton administration, as well as the democratic Senate and House later in 2006, to provide these low interest loans to anybody who wanted them. This is where the blame goes to the banks for providing the subprime ARM loans, “betting” against money that was not yet there, and selling them as “safe” to any who would believe them. Now, the blame is not all theirs, though. I myself was not sold on these loans, in fact I was immediately skeptical, and this was outside of my hatred for ARMs (adjustable rate mortgages). However, not everybody did their research, nor did they pay attention to the fine print, and instead bought into it, hook-line-and-sinker.
I’m not going to say that people were just dumb… though some obviously made some terrible decisions. But the blame does not simply belong to the “money grubbing bankers,” but those who did not do the research needed for such a large and significant purchase decision. This leads us, though, to where we are now. We are currently in a financial crisis. Our country, has slowly grown into one of “credit”, and reliant on debt, to get what we want now, instead of when we can afford it. Not only has the populace become dependent on credit, but so have several companies. And since credit is scarce now, and demand is down, there has been a heavy drop in employment opportunities in simple fields, as well as an increase of overall unemployment.
Who is doing the “Occupying”
Now, the Occupy Wall Street crowd doesn’t seem to fit into this group entirely. (See Parsing the Date and Ideology) This site parsed all the images on the “wearethe99percent” tumblr blog. It grabbed ages and words, and numbers, and all and created some interesting graphs. What struck me the most is the fact that a majority of those posting images about their problems were, on average 29 years old. I got a bit of a chuckle. I myself am 29. I do not have a degree (yet, still working on it, but other priorities took precedence). I do have a job, one that I left a very comfortable job working for my dad right after high school to get. These individuals, however, had a heavy focus on “jobs”, “debt”, “work”, “college”, “pay”, and “student”, including just under 120 single instances pertaining to student loans. This really rings a bell to me. According to the parsed numbers, a large portion of those posting on the site are either fresh out of college, or a couple of years out of college. This also appears the case in most of the images from the protests themselves. This doesn’t truly represent the “99%.”
This is why it strikes me that these folks are not only in it for a change in how (1) government works in terms of corporate donations, and (2) how those few who screwed folks over to get to the top need to be brought into the light, but also that they want their “just desserts,” cause it’s just not “fair.” I agree that there needs to be some limitations on lobbying, and corporate donations towards campaigns.
[As an aside, I will agree that it was a mistake that the SCOTUS ruled that corporations can be considered “people.” This was done, however, for a couple of reasons. One reason was simply the fact that it prevented the government from having control over the corporations, yet almost on too much of an absolute scale. I agree that the government has no place in how a company is run outside of work environment regulations (OSHA), and the limited labor laws already in place. However, allowing them to be “people” this also opened up another door to allow corporations to provide increasing amounts of donations to candidates or parties (on both sides of the political line). This needs to be limited, if not removed completely.
However, removing lobbying completely is not the answer. An example of this that I like to use, is the concept of a company developing an awesome new product that could save the lives of thousands of soldiers. In order for that company to get their name noticed, and their product recognized, they have to have somebody present it to those in Congress and the Pentagon. This is where the lobbying should end though. Once you’ve got your product recognized, then that’s as far as the meetings go (until the product is actually chosen to be purchased, but that is not part of the lobbying realm anyway). This goes for social products as well.]
Anyway, back to the subject. These folks are not really protesting the 1% cause they have all the money (cause they do not, though they do have a large portion of the nations wealth), but instead because they did not get “what they were promised.” It is another point that really strikes me. Nothing is promised. The Declaration of Independance provides the “unalienable rights” of “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.” It is what the US is based on, the ability and “guarantee” that you can live life, have liberty, and pursuit what you feel will provide happiness. What it does not guarantee… the happiness itself. They are generalizing all of the 1% as those money grubbing sleazy bankers… though, yes they do exist, they are only a percentage of that 1% (a portion of the 13.9% in fact). They vilify the rich as hating the poor, and not wanting anybody to succeed, so that they can make more money. However, in reality, a majority of that 1% got there out of hard work, risk, sacrifice, and a grasp of how to have faith and appreciation in what they do.
There are those in the “We are the 99%” crowd at these protests, that are truly in trouble financially, out of no fault of their own; however, looking at the numbers, they are fairly scarce. But we can’t truly identify that, as there is nothing backing up the stories and anecdotes that the protesters claim, instead we have to take them at face value, and not question them… cause if we question them, we’re just awful people, and 1% sympathizers.
The Rest of the 99%
I am a strong proponent that in order to get ahead in life, you can’t simply float along, and expect things to show up on your doorstep. Here is a little bit of history on my part. I am 29, married, with 2 kids. I currently have a nice home, not too big, and not too small, and also paid for on a fixed rate mortgage. It is the second home that my wife and I have owned since we were married. We both grew up working for everything we have. I have not yet finished my degree, as family came first, but when I was in college those first few years, I also worked to pay for it. The first year was paid for by a scholarship that I had acquired from applying myself to my studies, and graduating with honors, and in turn being recognized for it. I can imagine some folks saying that I was lucky, yet I will rebute that by saying that I also applied for the scholarship; I recognized an opportunity, and took advantage of it, not expecting it to just be handed to me because I did good in school.
After school, I went to college, working the entire time. In fact my first 1 or 2 years consisted of me getting up and either going to class or going to work (depending on the day of the week), and then upon completing either class or work, going back to class for an evening course. It’s part of the sacrifice that I mentioned earlier. You can’t expect to move ahead without sacrificing something now, for something better later. I grew up with a love for computers (ever since I first played on my dad’s IBM 8088). So, after looking at the job field, and finding the niche that I wanted to specialize in, I went for a Computer Science degree. One problem though, computer science can only get you so far, so I began to learn some web programming on the side (on my own time), partially out of necessity, but also out of a growing enjoyment in it.
I won’t say that I didn’t have any fortunate opportunities though. I had several other options in work; however chose to help my dad out in his company (that he had created along with one of his fellow teachers). This did provide a very open area for growth; though, I still had to work hard, and meet deadlines, and follow the rules, I was also able to work on expanding my knowledge base. I did not work there forever though. In fact I gave up that very comfortable job, and took a risk in a new field, getting my foot in the door of an engineering company. I didn’t start part way up the ladder either. Instead I started on 3rd shift call center help desk. Not the most glamourous position, but it did get me in the door. I also didn’t simply do what my “job description” said I was to do, I also pushed outside of that comfort zone into other areas, eventually getting my name, and in turn my resume, noticed by some of the upper management. It then lead, after only 9 months, into me getting in to the web programming position I am in now.
This is where I am now. My wife and I had started our family, and instead of spending my time in class, I decided that it would be more beneficial to me and my family to work and “bring home the bacon,” than to finish classes that I simply could finish later, once we had settled in.
The rest of the 99% who are not at these protests do not necessarily all agree with the protest crowd. In fact a lot of us are at work trying to make ends meet, or trying to get ahead via hard work and determination.
Conclusion of Part 1
For now, this is going to be a bit open ended. I hope to get a bit further into the subject in Part 2, including where jobs come from , and starting at the bottom.
I’d like to leave you with this quote:
The U. S. Constitution doesn’t guarantee happiness, only the pursuit of it. You have to catch up with it yourself.
– Benjamin Franklin