I am the 53%

I feel sorry for the people who are suffering today. I hope there's a quick end to the misery. But the Occupy Wall Street group does not receive the same sympathy. The future is ahead, look for it.

Last night I wrote 1000 words for this space trying to explain who the 1% really is and why they are not all worthy of hate, but probably something else.  I’m gonna shelve that and take a bit of another tack.

Occupy Wall Street appears to be inhabited by people who apparently are angry at the current status quo. The 99% vs. 1% argument makes a fun slogan, but it’s really the poor vs. the rich. And the rich that are really under assault are not just the 1% but to some degree, people like me. I’m part of the 53%. I expected there would be a backlash and apparently there is.

The 53% of Americans who paid income tax last year are not nearly as likely to be marching in a public park. Mostly because they have jobs they are anxious not to lose, but also because they don’t agree that the system is totally broken. The backlash is people like me trying to explain ourselves.

I think if pollsters were able to do a good, complete demographic breakdown of the parties involved here, it would be more of the young vs. the old (sorta old in my case). The huge discrepancy between rich and middle-class and poor is almost
always a comparison of net wealth.

Well, guess what, net wealth includes the equity in your home and the value of your savings.  The young don’t have that yet, but they certainly have that opportunity. 

The older Americans who have been hard working and saving as they knew they should have somehow gotten ahead.  It’s a lot of luck, but it’s not favoritism.  A friend of mine was in Manhattan standing by a paper ticker-tape in October of 1987 when the value of his meager personal savings went down 23% in one day.  But what was left of his conservative stock portfolio has now increased close to 800% even without adding more new cash to the pile. 

And even with the recent collapse of housing prices, paying down a mortgage and trusting a long-term good housing market has resulted in an OK amount of home equity for this same friend.  Rest assured, he was not promised a positive investment return or an appreciating home market, but he got lucky and like most people his age, he now has something to show for it.

I’m afraid the folks at Occupy Wall Street are just jealous because they cannot see a path to wealth or even a middle class existence without paying their bills and getting a job. It’s not easy today. It’s not. But this is a difficult time and not the end of our country. I fear the media has convinced people that this is the worst of the worst. Therefore, the unemployed or underemployed presume there’s not a future for them. That’s just not the case. 

Personally, I was graduated from college in 1974 when the national unemployment rate was 9.1%.  I had to leave town to get a job, but that’s what a lot of us were willing to do. I found myself unemployed again in 1983 when the national rate was almost 11%.

The embryonic cable TV channels were railing about the poor job Reagan was doing making jobs. I had a wife and a baby on the way. I don’t remember marching or beating a drum, but I remember renting an IBM Selectric Typewriter for resumes and thank you letters and I also remember getting my ass out of bed and looking for a job.

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Count Raoul November 07, 2011 at 04:53 PM
I think this article today supports some of my original arguments. http://money.cnn.com/2011/11/07/news/economy/wealth_gap_age/index.htm?iid=HP_LN
Ryan Griffin November 07, 2011 at 11:41 PM
I don't think anyone would disagree that there is a wealth gap between the older people and the younger people. People who are older have naturally accumulated a lifetime of possessions and wealth after working hard. No one discredits the right for those who have worked hard and earned their life savings to enjoy the fruits of their labors. I also want to make it clear that I support working hard, getting educated, and making the most of all available opportunities. I have had some hard knocks through my adult life, but my attitude it, get up with a positive attitude and work hard if you have a job. In fact, put everything you have into it. If you don't have a job, spend every waking moment working on finding a job and making the most of the time you have. I have always found that there is work to be done. When I quit the afformentioned job that conflicted with my values, I moved furniture for college students for $20 an hour until I found a job a month later. No one disagrees that the unemployed should be looking dilegently for work. The younger generation has, however, become very disenchanted with the 0% tax rates of many large U.S. corporations. Not only that, but with so many U.S. companies moving manufacturing oversees, jobs for the uneducated have almost vanished. Any economist will agree that these are two of the root causes of a ruined American economy. We have become a service centered economy, but now there are fewer people who can afford our services.
Ryan Griffin November 07, 2011 at 11:43 PM
...and the people who can afford our services will hire us at a rate that is often below a living wage, without health benefits. In today's world, "salary" means you just don't get paid overtime for your extra 15-20 hours per week. Greed is evil, and if you make your fortune sucking the blood out of the common person, you should pay a healthy tax rate, not zero, because there are so many loopholes for the wealthiest of the wealthy.
Count Raoul November 07, 2011 at 11:59 PM
Ryan: One thing I strongly agree with you about is the need for all corporations to pay their fair share of taxes. How can PROTUS appoint the CEO of GE as jobs Czar an then GE pay no taxes? But some of your other arguments point to the sad irony of our society. If clothing manufacturers didn't send their mills overseas where the cheap labor is, many Americans could not afford the least expensive jeans made here. And if local business people were forced to pay what used to be called a starting salary and now is referred to as a 'living wage', they would just close their businesses and then no one has a job. Believe me, my spouse has retail stores where the cost of labor is eating them alive. What would you do? Pay more salaries and slowly go out of business? Pay more and tell the customers that the prices have gone up so the employees can get a better car? I don't claim to have the solution, I just know that hard work is rewarded. Still.
Ryan Griffin November 08, 2011 at 03:56 PM
I think you bring up valid points. I am one of a growing faction of people who are trying to live more consciously. We agree that if it takes 13 year olds working 12 hour days in hot factories to create a pair of jeans that costs $19, then maybe we should scrap the system. The jeans should be made in fair conditions with humans in mind, and we will have to pay what the jeans cost. In essence, if there were global regulations on fair treatment of workers, then people might not be able to afford 10 pairs of jeans a year, maybe they could only afford 2. I'm ok with that. Truthfully, I will expose my own conflict here, because I like Abercrombie and Fitch jeans. They are not American made, and they are not made with humanity in mind, in all likelihood. I combat this conflict by not buying the jeans new. I buy them used, on ebay, which is part of a recycle effort to reuse. I know I still support the brand by wearing the jeans, and I wish I didn't. We can't all function perfectly, but if we could work to raise our own, and corporate consciousness, then maybe we can work toward a better world where people are treated differently? Small businesses making less than $250,000 per year in profit should get huge tax breaks in order to promote job growth. Large businesses that profit more than $250,000 per year should bear a healthy tax rate that benefits our society as a whole.


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