The sides have been chosen. The political world has made their selections on Occupy Wall Street; Democrats are generally supportive though timid, and Republicans are claiming that it sows social unrest and class warfare. Wall Street, for its part, is either getting their friends in politics or the media to denounce the hippies, or claiming they share the frustrations of the protesters. They don’t want to be out in front of the parade, but Paul Krugman, in an excellent piece, ferrets them out anyway.
The way to understand all of this is to realize that it’s part of a broader syndrome, in which wealthy Americans who benefit hugely from a system rigged in their favor react with hysteria to anyone who points out just how rigged the system is [...]
What’s going on here? The answer, surely, is that Wall Street’s Masters of the Universe realize, deep down, how morally indefensible their position is. They’re not John Galt; they’re not even Steve Jobs. They’re people who got rich by peddling complex financial schemes that, far from delivering clear benefits to the American people, helped push us into a crisis whose aftereffects continue to blight the lives of tens of millions of their fellow citizens.
Yet they have paid no price. Their institutions were bailed out by taxpayers, with few strings attached. They continue to benefit from explicit and implicit federal guarantees — basically, they’re still in a game of heads they win, tails taxpayers lose. And they benefit from tax loopholes that in many cases have people with multimillion-dollar incomes paying lower rates than middle-class families.
This special treatment can’t bear close scrutiny — and therefore, as they see it, there must be no close scrutiny.
In fact, the game has become so rigged that close scrutiny is no longer needed. You need only be armed with the chart to your left, a depiction of profits in the financial sector, which experienced only a temporary hiccup after their industry crashed the economy, and compare that to what the New York Times reports happened to your own pay stub, if you’re fortunate enough to still have one.
In a grim sign of the enduring nature of the economic slump, household income declined more in the two years after the recession ended than it did during the recession itself, new research has found.
Between June 2009, when the recession officially ended, and June 2011, inflation-adjusted median household income fell 6.7 percent, to $49,909, according to a study by two former Census Bureau officials. During the recession — from December 2007 to June 2009 — household income fell 3.2 percent.
The finding helps explain why Americans’ attitudes toward the economy, the country’s direction and its political leaders have continued to sour even as the economy has been growing. Unhappiness and anger have come to dominate the political scene, including the early stages of the 2012 presidential campaign.
Basically, corporate interests have stolen the productivity of wage-earners, while the financial sector most responsible for the crisis that caused these lost wages soars without constraint. That’s really all you need to know.
And people know it. They are aware of the contents of their own wallets. They live in America and see what unregulated capitalism and an oligarchy of financial tycoons and the politicians they purchased have done to their lives. They see their personal debt multiplying and their job prospects narrowing, while a small portion of lower Manhattan might as well have been transported from the Roaring ’20s. That’s why so many of them have finally been radicalized. That’s why their numbers are outgrowing the public spaces they have chosen to occupy.
That’s why the malefactors of great wealth are trying to discredit a movement of 99%.