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Forum Post: One Person’s View From His 1% Perch:

Posted 10 years ago on Nov. 10, 2011, 12:50 a.m. EST by AZDesertRat (7)
This content is user submitted and not an official statement

I’ve got it really easy (financially), and it’s been that way for many years. I recognize my fortunate circumstances, some due to nature’s gifts, some due to family upbringing, some of it due to dumb luck, and I’m proud to say that a good part of my situation is also due to what I’ve created and sacrificed for along the way.

I was not born wealthy, far from it. I come from an inner city, inter-racial family whose earnings never exceeded the poverty level by very much. I grew up in my older brothers’ clothes and didn’t get a new pair of pants for school until the 12th grade. My toy soldiers were toothpicks and I killed rats for fun. That kind of poverty.

I bring all of this up by way of background, just to say I know both sides of the 99%/1% divide as well as anyone might. I also bring the analytical talents of a top business school graduate to help make sense of what’s going on.

I earned my wealth between 1980 and 2010. But while I was moving up the economic ladder, for the average American family those 30 years have consisted of a disastrous backward movement across any measure of a modern society.

Here’s what I think’s been going on and why and what to do about it.

SYMPTOMS:

  1. Loss of income mobility (the Income gap per se is not the problem – its ok to be rich, as long as everyone else has had a fair chance as well) – trickle down is not working in America – giving money to “job creators” has only created low paying service jobs in America, real jobs abroad and more money in top management’s pocket.

  2. It’s a separate issue of taxation regarding the progressive income tax and inheritance tax under attack by Republicans– most people don’t know the history of these taxes. They were not imposed primarily to raise revenue. They were imposed for the specific purpose of lessening the impact of raw capitalism by keeping the very highest earners from becoming effectively a ruling class. Guess they want those royal purple robes.

  3. Poor education – our education system rates just above Kenya’s. I’m not kidding. This isn’t a racist point, with me having a fair amount of African blood in me. But Kenya? Really? Poor education = poor job prospects = limited upward mobility. My inner city education in the 1970’s was superior to public suburban schools today. WTF?

  4. Poor health - The US is the only advanced country without a comprehensive public health system. Our mixed public/private system is twice as expensive as the next most costly country. Enuf said.

  5. Economic stagnation, high deficits, high unemployment, high debt –economic growth in this country over the past 30 years has been more mirage than reality. No economic growth = no income growth = limited upward mobility. Much of the pseudo growth was driven by unsustainable levels of consumer debt – demand that disappeared when the reality of the debt load hit home. Debt driven demand is also the cause of large boom and bust cycles – cycles that have put homeowners under water on their mortgage and workers unable to retire on their 401k.

I've got some ideas about root causes but i'd like to hear from you

26 Comments

26 Comments


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[-] 3 points by cristinasupes (145) 10 years ago

Really excellent post. I have nothing personally against anyone rich. The system is broken. Your post clearly shows that.

[-] 2 points by JadedCitizen (4277) 10 years ago

GDP per capita is not a measurement of the standard of living in an economy. However, it is often used as such an indicator, on the rationale that all citizens would benefit from their country's increased economic production. Similarly, GDP per capita is not a measure of personal income. GDP may increase while real incomes for the majority decline.

The major advantage of GDP per capita as an indicator of standard of living is that it is measured frequently, widely, and consistently.

The major disadvantage is that it is not a measure of standard of living. GDP is intended to be a measure of total national economic activity—a separate concept.

GDP counts work that produces no net change or that results from repairing harm. For example, rebuilding after a natural disaster or war may produce a considerable amount of economic activity and thus boost GDP. The economic value of health care is another classic example—it may raise GDP if many people are sick and they are receiving expensive treatment, but it is not a desirable situation.

Should we be demanding alternatives to GDP?

5 Excellent Alternatives to the Archaic GDP Measuring Stick

Genuine Progress Indicator

Quality of Life Index

The Legatum Prosperity Index

The Happy Planet Index 2.0

Human Development Index

http://newsjunkiepost.com/2011/05/04/the-top-5-prosperity-measuring-sticks-more-accurate-than-gpd/

[-] 1 points by PandoraK (1678) 10 years ago

No argument here.

[-] 1 points by invient (360) 10 years ago

Great post!

I have to say, I agree with all your points...

The following is likely to attract some flame, and is completely unrelated to OWS and its message:

My view is that the current regulating bodies do not work because they can be bought, and influenced. How do you deal with this, one way is to expand the number of regulators to a point where buying them all would be expensive.

The question is how to expand the regulators, and have them still have a vested interest in say, a company not polluting or making a bad business decision and so on. I think democracy has shown itself to be a pretty good regulating body, by this I mean if a politician does not represent the interest of his constituents then he is voted out. So in this regard, I recommend putting democracy in the business model, if the company has stock, then stockholder votes are overruled by employee votes.

The ideaolgy that describes this is libertarian socialism... it would still allow CEOs to be rewarded with high paying salaries and so the same incentives of normal business is there, but it also adds a self-regulating body to the business, just in case the CEO gets too risky.

[-] 1 points by AZDesertRat (7) 10 years ago

thanks for all of you thoughts - i'm going to make a separate post for what i think are the root causes of these problems

[-] 1 points by shadz66 (19985) 10 years ago

Merry Xmas 2 U & yours & thanx again for this GR8 Post ;-) & 4 U :

a) http://documentarystorm.com/inside-job/ ;

b) http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/ &

c) http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/ !!!

pax, amor et lux ...

[-] 1 points by divineright (664) 10 years ago

Great post. Thank you. I wish more people could understand the concept you put forth in your second point. You can support change, support Occupy and not be against Capitalism. If you succeed in the systems of this country, give something back and support the system.

[-] 1 points by shadz66 (19985) 10 years ago

I appreciate your thoughtful post & engagement here 'DesertRat' as you already display an open mind & empathetic heart.

The way 'Democratic' Governments have been co-opted, infiltrated & usurped by The Banksters is The Tragedy of our Times & the levels of Larcenous Criminality prevalent in the 'High-Finance but Low Morals' world of Wall $t. (<1%) are simply beyond the appreciation, belief & credulity of the average ethically balanced person (99%).

What has been going on these last 30-40 years throughout 'Investment & Merchant Banking' is so outside the realms of rhyme or reason, that the word 'Greed' can NOT do it any justice. The layer-cake of avarice, corruption & kleptomaniacal theft is so breathtaking as to lead one to think that there must be some virulent vector to the extreme group-psychopathology that seems to pervade The Banksters, worldwide. That lunatic misanthrope Ayn Rand has so much to answer for, but alas the Monster lies a-mouldering in her grave though I still curse her through space & time !

Further, 'The Credit Rating Agencies' have proved to be a bunch of MOODY FITCHers whose STANDARDs are POOR ! Are these the same arsewipes (& private commercial businesses to boot + Extreme Conflicts of Interests, due to their business model !!) who just three short years ago facilitated the Larcenous Transfer of "money" (what ever THAT is, these days!) FROM the Public & their allegedly "democratic governments" TO Private Banksters ?!!

The self-evidently 'Poor Standards' of the CRA's were responsible for "AAA+ rating" : 'DOG-SH!T Derivatives' such as 'Mortgage Backed (in)Securities' ; 'Collateralised Debt Obligations' ; 'Credit Default Swaps' & other such 'Innovative Financial Products' - all of which turned out to be just new words & ways to sell, 'Compound Interest Bearing, Usurious Debt' (& boy, whAt a CONcept thAt is !!).

A relatively tiny but unconscionably greedy & power-hungry few have us entrapped in their Mesmeric Mythical-Money Matrix, as all righteously earned & received Profits, Salaries & Wages (ie Earned Incomes) are stringently & exorbitantly taxed, whereas Monies & Capital Gains in the form of Interest, Dividends, Rent, Debentures, Accruals, Commissions (ie Wealth & "Rentier" Returns) are taxed far less onerously & are much more easily "avoided or evaded".

The Privatising of Profit, Gain & Opportunity and the Simultaneous Socialisation & Nationalisation of Loss, Cost & Risk ; The Duplicity of Double-Entry Book-Keeping ; The Tyranny of Accountants & The Despotism of Private Bankers - should be beyond the endurance & tolerance of most fair minded & right thinking people.

I could go on & on but time & space would be more efficiently used by strongly recommending :

a) The very recent film 'The Flaw' ( http://theflawmovie.com/ ) which was broadcast in the UK on Tuesday 8th Nov. & which left me aghast and fascinated. The film is so recent that I'm unable to easily find a copy on the web, so 'DesertRat' - as you've got a pretty penny or two, you can pay to watch it. I give my word of honour (such as it can be from a stranger!) that you will be very interested by its thesis.

b) Re. The Documentary Film 'INSIDE JOB', please make time to see : http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article28189.htm . "It's a powerhouse of a documentary that will leave you both thunderstruck and boiling with rage." & it will excellently dovetail with 'The Flaw'.

c) Finally, for another excellent, 'Independent of MSM', Documentary Film, please also consider watching 'DEBTOCRACY' : http://topdocumentaryfilms.com/debtocracy/ as it too offers a great insight into The Predicament of Debt-Bondage that The 99% are in.

d) Self-Education re. Actual (as opposed to 'theoretical' or 'virtual) Economics is a must these days, for anybody who wishes to see behind the MSM veil & as such I offer http://topdocumentaryfilms.com/category/economics/ , http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/ & http://www.opensecrets.org/influence/index.php .

radix malorum est cupiditas ...

[-] 2 points by AZDesertRat (7) 10 years ago

Great points and links - and you hit my read of the situation almost perfectly - one of the root problems of our current situation is a culture of greed raised to a virtue as promoted by Ayn Rand. What I think you miss is that that greed extends throughout our society, at all income levels, and greed at the bottom is just as harmful as greed at the top.

[-] 1 points by shadz66 (19985) 10 years ago

"AZ-DR" : Re."INSIDE JOB", The Latest Working Link : http://documentarystorm.com/inside-job/ !!

[-] 1 points by shadz66 (19985) 10 years ago

@ 'DesertRat' : Thanx for your gracious, succinct & thought provoking reply.

The 'Trickle Down' of 'Randian Selfishness, Cupidity and Avarice' is something that really does deserve real reflection, especially when seen alongside notions of Excessive Materialism, 'The American Dream' & The Individualist 'Frontier Spirit' of 'The Old West', - all important themes & memes in The Official US National Language & Psyche. I'm in the UK so sometimes these nuances escape me, so I have to play catch-up.

Prosperity you have, so I wish Peace upon you and yours & Protection over your home & hearth. Hope that you managed to watch 'The Flaw' ( even the trailer is pretty good, http://theflawmovie.com/ ! ), as I can't recommend it highly enough.

pax et lux.

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[-] 1 points by gnomunny (6819) from St Louis, MO 10 years ago

Welcome to the forum, DR. It looks like you have some good insight into what has been going on. I encourage you to stay awhile, we need people that have a perspective of what it's like on both sides of the fence. A caveat: you'll hear a lot of b.s. about OWS wanting to establish a socialist government, outlaw all corporations, or wanting free handouts. None of that is true. There is also a lot on this forum that has nothing to do with OWS' core purpose. It's a minefield, and one can easily be discouraged. I would definitely check other OWS-related websites as well as this one to get a true feel of what's going on, 'occupyr.com' and 'themultitude.org' are two. That being said, those of us that are truly sincere about improving the present situation in this country welcome your opinions and suggestions.

[-] 1 points by TheScreamingHead (239) 10 years ago

Yeah, trickle down doesn't work because all those people that you THINK are the "job creators" ... AREN'T!

70% of the jobs are created in this country by businesses with 500 employees or less. So trickle down doesn't work, and especially not in an environment of increased productivity!

http://thepurpletruth.blogspot.com/2011/11/occupy-wall-street-hot-girl-page-best.html

[-] 1 points by gnomunny (6819) from St Louis, MO 10 years ago

I checked that link. You have good taste, I must say. In fact, I think I'll check that link one more time before I sign off. ;-)

[-] 1 points by Oneofmany (85) 10 years ago

Taxes - Not just at the federal level either. States and local governments just keep raising taxes and fees and that is tempering purchasing power for the lower and middle class just as much as low wages.

Consumer irresponsibility - two generations raised on the debt is okay principle. Also, a lack of incentive to save money which is very hard if you either don't have it to begin with or spent it all on luxury items you couldn't afford. There needs to be viable and stable options to promote real savings that earn a higher return than inflation. Most 401 k's offer zero flexibility other than a choice of funds.

Lobbying and campaign contributions - it has destroyed the core value of our political system and is at the heart of the corruption that is ingrained in the political machine. This is where it all starts. The Glass-Steagall act repealment, Corporate Personhood etc... can all trace their roots to lobbying.

I would go on but it's late...

[-] 1 points by AZDesertRat (7) 10 years ago

Ah, someone still in denial? Taxes are too high? Do some research before you spout right wing talking points to people at #ows who know the facts - we are at the lowest levels of taxation in the modern history of this country.

"consumer irresponsibility" is also a typical right wing dodge - you'd be right if we were talking about a few people, but when MILLIONS of people have been drawn into debt then you have a systemic problem of too much credit availability from the top. so stop blaming the victim - the banks and bank-lites were half the problem with consumer debt. However, having said that, i do think consumers ARE half the problem. As i say in part 2, individual greed is a root cause of our problems

[-] 1 points by Oneofmany (85) 10 years ago

Wow... did you post looking for honest opinions or to set a trap for mainstream partisan bickering?

Why don't you do a little more research yourself other than regurgitating the statistics we are fed by the government and talk to people who work and ask them if they feel their own tax rates are too high or if the reported tax rates are skewed because the top earners have been paying less since the Bush era tax cuts.

Most people cite their true tax rate as their combined state and federal income taxes. Those statistics don't account for property taxes, fuel taxes, license fees, permits, sales taxes, local utilities, document fees etc.. All of which have increased significantly in the past fifteen years and put the heaviest burden on the lowest income wage earners. I'm guessing you must not have noticed from your seat on the 1% perch.

[-] 1 points by AZDesertRat (7) 10 years ago

i'll try for a better tone - valid point. as for research, i've done a lot of over the years, and i have the skills and time to do it right. let's not go the paranoid route of saying the government is bending the statistics - they aren't - all of the ugliness is there to see, they'd hide it if they could.

and the total tax burden on americans is at the lowest levels in two generations. i'd argue that the argument against taxes is just a thinly veiled support for greed - something that's as unappealing to see in someone earning 50k as in someone earning 2 million.

below about 20k, the tax burden is also significantly less than in previous generations due primarily to the earned income credit.

that leaves a pretty slim slice of the population, income between 20k and 50k, that might have seen higher total tax burdens, but even then probably not.

[-] 0 points by DiogenesTruth (108) 10 years ago

we dont have a tax problem, we have a spending problem.

[-] 1 points by clarity (20) 10 years ago

I think the slogan "We are the 99%" or "99% against the 1%" is very catchy but must not be mistaken for only an economic class divide. I think it really means the 1% who have earned their money the corrupt way and on the backs of the honest.

It would be fair to say that many within the economic 99% belong to the corrupt 1%, proof lies within the representatives of the people within the Congress, the Senate and the Government.

Yes all your points are valid, but it lacks the key point of getting corruption out of public places and making policy makers personally accountable for their decisions, like, metaphorically, hitting them hard where it hurts when they willfully obstruct justice and make policy decisions that unjustly go against the majority.

[-] 1 points by AZDesertRat (7) 10 years ago

There are certainly corrupt people in the system, and they need to be found and prosecuted. But I think most of the behavior at the top is probably technically legal.

As for corrupt systems, the easiest way to change them is to not support them - don't buy from them, don't vote for them

[-] 1 points by shadz66 (19985) 10 years ago

@ AZD-Rat : I'm pretty sure that you'll accept that "Technically Legal" Does NOT Equal, 'Moral' or 'Ethical' and indeed, 'They' own The Lawmakers !!

fiat justitia ruat caelum ...

[-] 1 points by rondabandy (5) 10 years ago

Yes, welcome! I personally don't have a clue how to fix this. What we need is people with ideas though, I hope you'll elaborate and help us think of effective ways to bring about the change our country badly needs.

[-] 1 points by AZDesertRat (7) 10 years ago

baby steps. problems that took decades to develop won't be fixed overnight by less than a million powerless people. #ows is making a great start and i have high hopes for the future, long term.

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