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.