Saturday, November 12, 2011

Why "99%" is not about income

In a previous post, a comment suggested that I am trying to tell the Occupy movement (i.e. the 99%ers) what they care about. The 99% slogan is clearly about income/wealth inequality, yet I insist that the "real issue" is special privileges.

I'll briefly state why I don't think that I'm projecting my own values onto their action:

1) 99% is just a slogan. It cannot encompass the subtleties of the issue.
2) Many of them have explicitly stated that their main concern is that the 1% "give back" to the community that enabled their success. There is apparent tolerance for a large income disparity, as long as there is a social safety net and opportunity for upward mobility (e.g. education subsidies).
3) Many of them have distinguished between the worthy rich (e.g. Steve Jobs) and the unworthy rich (e.g. bailed-out bankers)
4) I'd bet that if you surveyed the group, almost everyone would say that there is a problem with special privilege and subtle corruption of public institutions. A lot of them (maybe a majority) may say that income disparity itself is a problem, but I'd bet that almost all of them would also say that privilege/corruption is a problem. So I think I'm safe if I treat "privilege/corruption" as a concern that I share with the Occupy crowd, and put income inequality (per se) on the back burner.
5) If you follow the campaign finance reform movement (which I think is a big part of the Occupy movement), the concern with wealth inequality is derived from a concern with unequal political influence.

At the end of the day, I also believe that much of the wealth inequality in our country arises from special privileges and corruption of public institutions. Maybe the Occupiers don't agree, but I don't think I'm projecting my opinions on them when I focus on the solution as I see it.

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