How To Get to Zuccotti Park

2/11/12 2:15 PM
Nothing like a good chart to show #IncomeInequality we haven’t seen since the Great #Depression (from @JoshHarkinson)
Mind-Blowing Charts From the Senate’s Income Inequality Hearing

How to Get to Zuccotti Park, In Five Easy Steps

Historical Background

Economists may hold different points of view as to the best economic system for a peaceful and productive society, but all are united in tracing the origins of our current economic woes to the period following the Great Depression.

After the crash the US government, facing enormous pressure from a jobless, hungry, and increasingly angry populace, was forced to act in order to prevent a full-scale revolution. Roosevelt stimulated the economy by creating jobs through the Works Progress Administration, as well as a safety net for the unemployed, which included unemployment insurance and social security.

At this time the government also introduced regulations and oversight agencies for the stock market and financial institutions. Needless to say, this was not received equally well among the corporate giants of the time. They pushed back then and keep pushing to this day, all in service to the holy bottom line.

Each item described below serves one, common goal: for corporations to maximize profit by any means necessary. But in chasing the bottom line, corporations have marched themselves right to Zuccotti Park. This is how they got there.

Employee wages have not been increased, along with the cost of living, for four decades, declining steadily since the early 1970’s.  However, worker productivity has steadily increased — along with corporate profits.

The mission to keep wages low is partly seen in employers’ efforts to systematically and consistently fight to weaken and dismantle employee unions.

(Visual: flat wages chart from Richard Wolff’s lecture, Capitalism Hits the Fan.

Lower wages inspire the consumer credit market. With lower wages, workers are perfectly positioned to use credit to replace income and lenders take full advantage of that fact.  Consumers go on a binge, borrowing much more than they can pay back, paying interest on their faux-income, and driving themselves deeper into debt.

Several things stem from the flattening of wages including the replacement of salary with benefits, such as employer pension and healthcare plans.

Employee pension fund money is used like cash by the employer, who use these funds to speculate in stocks, equities and currently, the commodities market, without express knowledge or consent from the employees contributing to the funds.

The 2008, near-collapse of the financial sector exposes these practices, as numerous employee-funded, employer-administrated pension funds are revealed to be entirely bankrupt.

When legal ways to make money fail, or don’t work quickly enough, there is always outright criminal activity. Ample evidence shows how fraudulent practices created the housing bubble of the early 00’s—and ultimately, caused it to burst.

Appraisers were instructed to over-value homes by mortgage providers or be blacklisted from the industry; mortgage brokers were encouraged to change stated incomes on mortgage applications after customers signed off on them. And financial firms bundled bad mortgages with worse, testified to their credit-worthiness and sold them like candy.

(Reporting from L. Randall Wray:

The job of the government is to balance the needs of the many against the needs of the few. But powerful industry lobbyists, the lack of campaign finance reform, and corporate cronyism (Wall Street to K Street) abounds. It’s clear, through laws like Citizens United and in the deregulation or lack of regulation in every sector — environmental, energy, financial, pharmaceutical — that our government chooses the best interests of corporations over citizens, again and again.

A major source of inequality in the tax code comes from how it treats investment income. Capital gains is only get taxed at 15 percent, versus the maximum of 35% for salary and income for those earning _______.

Though America’s wealthy are supposed to pay a higher tax rate than the poor (what’s known as a “progressive tax code”), they now benefit from so many loopholes that the tax code has, in practice, become increasingly regressive

To protect these unjust corporate alliances from citizen discovery or protest, the US government increasingly limits freedom of speech, as seen in The Patriot Act, the NDAA and most recently HR347. Catastrophic natural events, foreign terrorism, all are exploited to maximize restricting discovery and discussion.

And corporate America does it’s part to keep people quiet by buying up mainstream media. Keeping us all dumb and divided.

“It’s a complex problem but it’s not complicated. At the end of the day, it’s very simple. The rules have been changed — or removed — to favor corporations, not people. Not me, not you, not us. The majority of people now work to create tremendous wealth for the few and do so at their own expense.

As parents we have a responsibility to look after our kids and their future. If we can’t stand up to the corporate criminals, and to what they’ve done to our public wealth, health and resources for ourselves — then we should do it for them.”

The enemy of private profit is public monies.
If we accept the above, we understand why investments in education, socialized medicine, environmental conservancy and energy efficiency will never be supported and/or intentionally sabotaged. Any means to increase consumer independence and autonomy means lower and less profits for corporations. Any program or initiative that completes with the stated goal of preserving corporate wealth will be attacked, and often defeated.

The flat wage mentioned is not the result of a gradual deflation, like air escaped from a child’s birthday balloon. A flat wage is the conscious act of (corporations?) employers to keep wages low in order to maximize profit.

In the least it is an act of contempt for ones employees; in the worst it could be construed as a deliberate economic slavery: to pay a wage that is regularly eclipsed by the cost of living is to condemn your workers as indentured servants. The flat wage is a boot heel, resting on the neck of American workers.

Is correcting wage inequity the function of our government? Or is it the duty of working people to take to the streets in protest?

On whose neck does the boot rest?

Multi-national billionaire corporations are using and producing toxic products on a daily basis and poisoning our air, water & soil, but it’s the consumer’s sole responsibility to duck these chemical poison arrows, and keep them from hitting our kids?? Madness.

This article in Forbes unrealistically suggests just that. I’m tired of the buck being passed to the consumer, the end user who cannot possibly have the full knowledge of the damage our cheap food or products create — knowledge that these manufacturers, and our governing regulatory entities possess.

Yes, in an immediate but limited way the buck can stop here, in our pantries; we can make changes in what we put in our mouths, on our bodies and in our homes — but without governmental oversight aligned with the welfare of it’s citizens rather than these corporations, dedicated to policing and stopping this catastrophic environmental homicide, these poisons will continue to enter us and we will continue to die slowly, and now more quickly, of our individual good intentions.

Occupy Wall Street was about protesting the greed and profit that drives this short-sighted sacking and pillaging of the earth that sustains us and the people who labor in service of that obscene profit.

The piper has still not been paid. The greed continues. Will #OWS have a resurgence? Or will there be no one left to protest when the earth swallows us whole and craps us out, like the inconsequential krill we are.

( Article by Alice Walton in Forbes, which inspired this rant. It was based on In a study out 2/15/14 in The Lancet Neurology.