There's a diary atop the Rec List that makes some dubious claims that I feel must be refuted. There are some really good parts of that diary and I apologize to readers who found them moving or inspiring. But some of the claims made, and one in particular, are too damaging to let stand. So damaging that I was suspicious at once that this diary was clever propaganda. Reading through to the end I changed my mind.
But this diary was problematic from the very first sentence. Is the impetus behind the Occupy Wall Street movement really "a vague sense that the rich are getting ever richer while everyone else suffers?" This sounds strikingly similar to many of the criticisms thrown out by the oligarch media - that we are angry but don't at what or with whom we should be angry towards. Or that we don't have any demands because we don't really understand the problems.
But I assure you, there's nothing "vague" about understanding of the problems. And wealth inequality is only part of picture. There's also justice (legal) inequality, and political inequality(politicians bought and paid for), and a very tangible, specific sense we the people are being ripped off.
They call it austerity, but we know it's just a looting. Even the products we need every day to survive have been cheapened. My dish washing liquid has been watered down for Christ sakes. Call it the Great Quality Crash of 2008. Every since the 2008 crash, everything we buy has been increasingly made from cheaper crap. And it comes in less quantities for the same price. And that's just the private sector. The public sector is being systematically destroyed.
Our cat got stuck in a tree the other day. My young daughter suggested we call the Fire Dept. My wife and I just laughed. But it was a sad, longing sort of laugh.
Vague? I don't think so.
Moving on, we have the unlinked, un-cited assertion that a new report from the SS Admin shows that wages remain stagnant. That is a blatant lie. Wages are in rapid decline. And that's not even accounting for inflation which itself represents a serious loss of income for most Americans. There are many tricky ways to do the numbers. But real people see right through them. We are working at least twice as hard for less money and our money buys less. That's not stagnation in any sense. That is decline.
Then the diarist claimed that the Tea Party started a movement called the 53%. Really?
'Cause it looks to me like all they did was create a website and put fake people on it. That's not a movement.
Inflating the significance of PR front groups is a propaganda technique, whether it's done deliberately or not.
Perhaps the most comical claim that the diarist makes is that the 1% haven't had a voice in this "debate".
The one group rarely heard from in this rancorous debate is the 1%
Are you serious? Because as far as I see, the 1% are the only ones who have had a voice. They own all the TV networks and most of the local stations. They own all the newspapers and magazines. They own all the radio stations. And now, they are in the process of taking over what is supposed to be a decentralized, open internet.
So the assertion that the 1% haven't had a voice in the debate is beyond laughable. It is offensive.
Now, those were just some of the errors I found. In the first paragraph. I could continue line by line. Even through the good parts about the writer's rags to riches story and how we all depend on each other. I liked that part too.
Finally, there is one claim made in that diary that is so damaging, I believe the refutation requires a diary of its own. Making $380,354 won't put you in the "1%".
The threshold for inclusion in the top 1% of income earners in 2008, the most recent year for which published data is available form the IRS, was $380,354...
Wow, you mean to get into the 1%, you only have to earn $380,000 a year and not be a super duper billionaire? My doctor is in the 1% and he's not a sociopath at all. Maybe the Republicans are right. If I just work a little harder, maybe I can be in the 1% as well.
Nonsense. The term "1 percent" is not based on income. It's based on wealth. As in, "The top 1% has more wealth than the bottom 50%" or "We need to reduce wealth inequality".
This is important. The super-wealthy are notoriously skilled at hiding their income, or simply not having much at all. It is therefore not an accurate measure of wealth at all.
The 1%'s lackeys in the corporate media love to make it about income. Because that serves their interests, since they clearly do not want anyone focusing on their real wealth. Income can be manipulated. Wealth cannot. And the absolute last thing they want is to be taxed on wealth.
One of the foremost experts on wealth inequality is Edward Wolff. He is a professor of economics at New York University and his book, "Top Heavy: The Increasing Inequality of Wealth in America and What Can Be Done About It" went a long way towards putting the 1% on the map. This is from an interview in 2003 so the numbers are way low (but still shocking). It's a great read and demonstrates the significance of distinguishing between wealth and income.
MM: How do economists measure levels of equality and inequality?
Wolff:The most common measure used, and the most understandable is: what share of total wealth is owned by the richest households, typically the top 1 percent. In the United States, in the last survey year, 1998, the richest 1 percent of households owned 38 percent of all wealth.
This is the most easily understood measure.
MM: What portion of the wealth is owned by the upper groups?
Wolff: The top 5 percent own more than half of all wealth.
In 1998, they owned 59 percent of all wealth. Or to put it another way, the top 5 percent had more wealth than the remaining 95 percent of the population, collectively.
The top 20 percent owns over 80 percent of all wealth. In 1998, it owned 83 percent of all wealth.
This is a very concentrated distribution.
Again, these numbers are old and they are probably underestimated. One of the amazing and unreported consequences of the 2008 crash is, as a result, concentrations of wealth have increased. Dramatically. To the victors go the spoils.
So, getting back to the diary in question, it is very important to not get tricked into the income measure trap. We are talking about wealth, not income. And that is a whole different class of sociopath.
By making the 1% include the middle class, which, depending on the class model used, is what you're looking at $380k per year, Gaius is attempting to completely redivide the class war. Who does that benefit?
It benefits the real 1%. People making 380k are not the problem. And they're not the people we are targeting. But Gaius's diary is now attempting to include those people too. That's a fight we cannot win.
Lastly, when is someone going to point out to the morons on the right that 99% is not a poll number. It's based on how much wealth you own. So you can call yourself the 75% if you want, but you're still the 99% unless you're in the 1 percentile of wealth ownership.
My message to the Tea Party is we're going to fight for you, even if you don't think you need it. Because, whether you want to admit it or not, you are the 99% too.