Saturday, November 12, 2011

The 80% and the 20%

After Graham's Tae Kwon Do, we met Mary at Crate and Barrel to look at some bar stools to go at the counter at our house, once it's done. There were lots of plenty affluent people there, looking to buy this that or the other. Most of them, it must be owned, belong to the 99%.

The fact of the matter is that, even if my real income has declined over the course of the crisis, even if I lost a job and moved from one region to another for somewhat if not entirely economic reasons, I am incredibly fortunate.  If I am not in the 1% by US standards, I probably am in global terms.  Not that I'm gonna go run down the numbers. I was born to the dominant ethnicity in a place that values education amongst all else, and grew up with great people.

A key problem with OWS as well as the Tea Party is that they frame the plight of the middle class as one of victimization. Ever since Rick Santelli started ranting on the floor of the Chicago Board of Trade about how he didn't want to be paying other people's mortgages, the white middle class -- no doubt sick of being guilt-tripped by every other sub-segment of the population -- has been trying to make itself out to be getting screwed. Santelli didn't want to be paying other people's mortgages although, in fact, owing to the Chinese government's reluctance to let the yuan float, his own labor was in fact being subsidized by some Chinese people working at, say, Foxconn, who themselves were getting hosed, and who later found another way to express their own discontent, a la Werther.

So, though my real wages have declined over the course of the crisis and have not appreciated dramatically since over the last decade, I'm really in no position to whine since I've benefited so incredibly from where I was born and raised, from the fact that I am white, male, a WASP, and even from the course that the economy has taken over the last couple of decades (technology and finance). And ever since I started working in the private sector and earning a real wage (April, 2000), I've been astounded by how low taxes have been.

I even worked at Goldman Sachs for a little while and, though I didn't think the people there were evil, I thought that the way they lived their lives verged on it.* They work too hard, take themselves too seriously, and focus too much on money. And all across Wall Street, Manhattan, and the upper echelons of the corporate world I see much of the same.  It's not that it's necessarily evil, it's just a little repulsive.

But at the end of the day more than 1% benefit, and taxes should be higher on more than just the very rich. Not that it's all about more tax revenue. It's good to have Republicans staying vigilant on government expenditures.  "Should the government be in that business?" is an evergreen question.

*As an aside, I must say that the technology groups within Goldman that I saw are very meritocratic and ethnically diverse, with particularly strong female leadership.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Do not forget the greatest of all thy blessings, swinging free and proud betwixt thy legs, undaunted by the slings and arrows of government bailouts and Wall Street crashes. But don't buy the Chinese enhancement cream, it's counterfeit. The Communist Party leaders insisted upon a full technology transfer prior to setting up their enhancement cream production facility but you proudly resisted. Some US government secrets are too vital to national security to sell. Bravo, I say!