Class War

Reason Writers Around Town: Shikha Dalmia on the Occupy Wall Street Protests and Income Inequality


Protests might be a ton of fun (at least until the police starts cracking skulls). Still, it might be time for Occupy Wall Street protesters to go home. That's because income inequality, their grand cause, might be closing instead of growing, thanks to natural market forces, notes Reason Foundation Senior Analyst Shikha Dalmia in her latest column at The Daily. She notes:

There is no doubt that the cupidity of Wall Street fat cats combined with the perverse incentives established by federal policy created a financial bubble from which the uber-wealthy reaped rich rewards….

But…new data from the University of Chicago's Steven Kaplan shows that, despite government bailouts, in 2008 and 2009 the adjusted gross income of the top 1 percent — a disproportionate number of whom work in the financial industry — fell to 1997 levels…

But if the wealthy are not as well off as they once were, the middle classes were never as poorly off as liberal pundits claim.

Read the whole thing here.

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  1. in 2008 and 2009 the adjusted gross income of the top 1 percent ? a disproportionate number of whom work in the financial industry ? fell to 1997 levels?

    But on Bloomberg, they keep saying their income has tripled since 1979.

    Don’t ask me why they picked 1979 as a start point; maybe they just worked their way back until they found a sufficiently scary multiple.

    1. 1979 was the next to last year that the goodness and truth reigned in the land.

      Two years later Ronnie Raygun reversed all of the progress that the New Deal had broght about.

      After that it was walking to work knee deep in dead minority babies.

    2. Some idiot was spewing the Bloomberg line in Morning Links too. The minions of NYC’s little Hitler are everywhere.

      1. Oh it wouldn’t be just some idiot.

  2. natural market forces…The Daily…

    Does not compute.

  3. Stay tuned for Part II of the MNG vs. John smackdown that was started in the Morning Links.

    1. John is still wasting time smacking down that fool? He needs to use a sneaker so he does not hurt his hand against that thick skull.

      1. John is still wasting time?

        Is that a rhetorical question?

    2. Oh boy!

    3. You really think John delivers a smackdown? As far as I can tell it’s all just a bitchfest between the two of them with neither really caring what the other has to say. My guess is they break at lunch for some hot sex (NTTAWWT).

      1. In the Morning Links, John (with a little help from his friends) did pretty much put Minge in his place.

        1. Is it really winning to give your opponent the only thing he wants?

          1. It’s a symbiotic relationship.

      2. As an emprical estimate, I’d say John wins 85-90% of the time. There may be a sampling bias though ….. I might find them more readable when I see or anticipate a John-win thread, and I can’t wade thru em all.

  4. But?new data from the University of Chicago’s Steven Kaplan shows that, despite government bailouts, in 2008 and 2009 the adjusted gross income of the top 1 percent ? a disproportionate number of whom work in the financial industry ? fell to 1997 levels?

    Predicted OWS response: “Socialism is Working We Need More!”

  5. I’m curious what the income disparity is between Madonna and her brother, who is living under a bridge with no freebies from his family.

    1. He is not asking for handouts from anybody. He is the 1%.

      1. I want free money. I am the 100%.

      2. Or did he outsource his begging to the media?

  6. “Tomorrow you’re homeless, tonight it’s a blast.”

  7. Odds are, anyone who makes basically sensible life choices such as going to college, getting and staying married (preferably to a working spouse), and working full-time will find themselves in the top income quintile in their peak earning years.

    Is billionaire Bill Gates forced to make “basically sensible life choices”? I don’t think so. That’s the equality gap. I am the 99%.

  8. Have the Government pay everyone a “living wage” for simply not violating any law. If you’re caught violating any law, you work for free at whatever the Government deems appropriate.

    1. Nice. “Modest,” huh?

      What you don’t get is they don’t want all those laws followed. That’s the point. Make everyone guilty and who’ll gather the courage to stand for what’s right?

      Not enough at once. Or that’s their bet, anyway.

    2. The last “living wage” demand I read was by some foreign protesters. They defined it as the median wage. It did not sound like any of them ever took basic math either.

    3. Nice.

      BTW, OPA and Suki, this is satire. “A Modest Proposal” was also the title of a brilliant satire by Jonathan Swift.

      1. What?!? He didn’t really want to eat Irish babies? Well I never.

        1. clearly if he wasn’t serious about it, he wasn’t libertarian enough! Swift was no *true* irishman..

    4. Damn near everything is illegal now, though. Your proposal leads immediately to complete socialism.

    5. Imagine the laws they would come up with so that they could get free labor.

      You picked your nose on a Wednesday when only Mondays are allowed? Off to the salt mines with you!

  9. I didn’t have numbers for the top 1%, but the top 10% took a big hit in income share starting about 1940, from around 45% down to around 33%. They didn’t climb out of this range until — you guessed it — 1979. (Interestingly, the numbers for 1970-1979 were damn near a straight, flat line.) They were back in the pre-1940 range by 1997, then took a minor hit in 2001 & 2002, the last years I had data for when I was looking at this.

  10. Ah yes, class warfare. The end result of which, taken to the final level, is The Killing Fields.

    They’ll never get the guy with 200 million dollars. He has enough money to just get out. So they settle for Mr. Smith down the street, who makes a bit more than they do and has the Audi and the swimming pool, but he’s a little overextended.

    Envy is a vile emotion, and those who indulge in it are viler still.

    1. Envy is a vile emotion, and those who indulge in it are viler still.

      Exterminate the parasites!

      1. Holy shit you’re boring, rectal. Don’t you have a depression to go stew in? Maybe a suicide attempt or two?

        1. The feeling is less innocent, if it amounts to: “I want this man’s car (or overcoat, or diamond shirt studs, or industrial establishment).” The result is a criminal.

          But these are still human beings, in various stages of immorality, compared to the inhuman object whose feeling is: “I hate this man because he is wealthy and I am not.”

          1. I am the arch-enemy of [initiated] physical force.

    2. Exactly. When the British tried this in the 60s and 70s, people just left. It was called tax exile. Jesus if a bunch of drugged 70s rock musicians could figure it out, I am thinking your average monocle wearing industrialist will be able to do the same.

      They will never get the “rich”. They will just totally fuck over anyone with a job. And then use the fact that everyone but the super rich are poor and an excuse to make people even poorer.

      1. Re: John,

        They will never get the “rich”. They will just totally fuck over anyone with a job.

        In an old satirical/political book written by a Mexican humorist in the 70’s, one of the recommendations he was making to the Mexican people was to hold on to their wallets whenever el honorable ciudadano senor Presidente talked about getting the rich – because the government never did, they just raised the taxes on the rest of us as the rich could perfectly move their money around. The book was written in 1976, just about when Mexico was changing presidents from someone not unlike Obama to someone far worse.

        1. OM I think that people like Obama are envious of the Mexican elites. If you are an elite in Mexico, you are untouchable and do whatever the hell you want. Much more so than the United States. For this reason they see Mexico as a model to be striven for not avoided.

    3. Envy is a vile emotion, and those who indulge in it are viler still

      Fortunately for the both of us, I have a huge penis, and you’re happily stoic.

  11. Of course all this discussion of income inequality is missing the point that many of the goods today are cheaper and much, much better quality than the comparable item 10, 20, 30 years ago. Anyone want to trade their iPad for an Apple II? How much money would you be willing to accept to stop using the internet? I’m guessing it’s more than three times whatever your salary was in 1979 even in real inflation adjusted terms. People may have less of the pie, but the pie itself has gotten much bigger. I’d rather have 3 slices of a 20″ pizza than 4 slices of a 6″ one.

    1. Both pizzas should be combined, and then the pieces distributed evenly. Each slice according to need.

      1. But is it deep dish or thin crust pizza? IT MATTERS.

        1. There is no such thing as deep dish pizza.

          1. Pizza snobbery is dumber than Jersey Shore

            1. You’re dumber than Jersey Shore!

              1. “Yeah, well…damn! You burned me. I got nothing…So back off my car and hold your roll.”

            2. Nothing is dumber than Jersey Shore.

            3. Pizza snobbery is dumber than Jersey Shore

              If you’ve ever spent significant time in the Boston – Philly corridor and then proceeded to have pizza outside of it, you’d understand. It’s my experience that the standard pizzeria in Jersey blows the doors off of gourmet places elsewhere.

              I’ve heard that Youngstown, of all places, has good pizza. Apparently the Mafiosi teamsters controlling the Cleveland – Pittsburgh trucking routes needed somewhere to launder their money and brought the talent to make them legit. Could just be boastful Ohio provincialism, though.

              1. It’s the NYC water that makes good pizza, bagels, and italian bread

                1. I went to a place in Coronado, CA that claims to have it shipped in from NYC. The pizza was merely adequate and definitely overpriced. The city water certainly helps, but there’s a lot of intangible capital there as well.

            4. The worst pizza I ever had was in NYC.

        2. The OWS cretins are definitely the thin-crust type.

          1% of the population controls 40% of the dough! No justice, no thick crust!

        3. I just had a horrific thought. With all of this government meddling in food, do you think that they’ll mandate a pizza compromise? No thin-crust or deep-dish pizza, only some abominable combination of the two?

          Help me. I’m shaking.

          1. Nah, they couldn’t afford to lose all the votes in the New York and Chicago metropolitan areas.

            1. You’d think, but senseless compromise is what politicians love.

              1. The only thing worse than something partisan is something bi-partisan.

                1. More like pie-partisan.

                2. Say, in multi-party systems, do they have tripartisanship and beyond? Weird I never thought of that.

      2. And Herman Cain should be chained to the oven. From each according to ability!

        1. Surely we can find someone better at making pizza.

          1. Or at making presidential candidates.

    2. Ah, yes… the whole “technology is cheaper” argument. I’m sure poor people who don’t even have wifi, let alone an iPad, give a shit that today’s tablet is cheaper when food, gas and energy prices (things that even poor people have to pay) are going up, up, up and inflation-adjusted wages are going down, down, down.

      1. Who the hell are you talking about? The poor people I see bought Xbox’s with their government checks.

        1. ^^^^^This.

          What passes for poor in this country is pretty astounding. I’ve got a few family members on various forms of government welfare.

          It’s interesting to see my cousin post on her Facebook that she “hates standing in line at the WIC office”, and then below her post it says “Posted with Facebook for iPhone.”

        2. i admire ur shameless ignorance about teh [POORZ].

          1. And we admire [YOURZ]

    3. It is also missing the point that bottom 20% saw their income go up 18% in the last 30 years.

      1. But would you work twice as much for that 1%? Because that’s what matters.

        1. STOP IT. Now.

  12. inflation-adjusted wages are going down, down, down.

    Citation needed.

    Given that technology permits vendors of food and gas to significantly lower costs, I would say “yes, the poor should give a shit that technology is getting better.” Do you think Wal*Mart could do what it does without computers?

  13. The 1%s will really be worse off if congress allows the doctor fix to lapse this year. That will result in a 29.4% drop in Medicare payments for physician services.

    That’ll show those 1% doctors!

    1. They will still make the same money. They will just stop taking medicare patients. And anyone over 65 won’t be able to find a doctor. That will show them.

  14. Am I the only one who notices the cognitive dissonance between these kinds of “the economy’s not so bad!” posts with respect to the Occupy movement and the “the economy’s fucked!” posts when it comes to Obama and/or the Fed?

    Unemployment is way up, inflation is up, wages are down. Sure, the super-rich have taken more of a hit than the lower and middle classes, but when somebody with a net worth of $500 million loses 20% of their assets, they don’t have to start shopping at Aldi and cutting their own hair. When somebody making $25k a year takes a 7% salary cut, they do.

    It seems to me to be a fool’s errand to try and tell the Occupy folks that there’s nothing to bitch about. There’s PLENTY to bitch about. Reason readers have been bitching about government bailouts for years. To me the proper response to the Occupy folks is, “You’re damn right to be pissed! But you’re missing the boat as to how we got here and how we get out.” Such an approach would seem far more effective to me than pointing out that some rich motherfucker had to sell one of his yachts that’s worth more than you’ll make in a lifetime.

    1. “You’re damn right to be pissed! But you’re missing the boat as to how we got here and how we get out.”

      They’ve been told that.

      The OWSers hate crony capitalism. They want to get rid of the capitalism and make themselves the cronies. Fuck them.

    2. But this article isn’t saying the economy’s not bad. It’s just saying the top 1% have been hit pretty damn hard too, and income inequality is decreasing. Which just goes to show, higher income inequality goes hand in hand with a strong economy.

    3. All this article does is expose their strawmen for what they are. Do you think they are going to stop blaming wall street and start blaming washington just because we say so?

  15. Protests might be a ton of fun[…]

    Except when the greedy bastards start shooing away bums and the homeless because these are eating their organic quiches and chicken wings.

    By the way, what better proof for these ‘anti-capitalist” boobs that incentives (and property) DO matter.

    1. These protests are a laugh riot. It is only going to get more fun as it gets colder.

      1. Not necessarily, since no one stays in their little tent Potemkin Obamavilles overnight. Thermal imagery shows that 90% of the tents are empty at night in London.

        1. Re: R C Dean,

          Potemkin Obamavilles

          You should register that phrase before the Plagiarist In Chief uses it on Leno.

        2. It is still awfully cold during the day.

      2. I’m waiting for the General Committees to begin blanket allocation. I will be joyous at the ensuing mayhem.

        1. Me too. I wonder if anyone whose blanket is “redistributed” will respond with, “…hey, man, that’s my blanket!”.

          (And then go back to saying that “private property” is a totally bogus concept, dude.)

          1. someone posted a link about this problem the other day. the “comfort committee” owns the sleeping bags

    2. It’s hilarious that they are protesting by serving “only” brown rice. Do you think a real homeless guy is really going to give a fuck about getting brown rice? It’s still better than half eaten cheeseburger out of a dumpster. The only people who will get pissed about this are the protestors for whom mere brown rice is beneath. Just goes to show how really “underprivileged” they truly are.

      1. I got a laugh out of the cooks protesting about working 18 hour days and not getting enough appreciation. Welcome to socialism, dudes! From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs!

      2. There was an article on yahoo news a couple weeks ago regarding the one in New York, where some princess was complaining because she and her boyfriend had to constantly worry if they were going to be forced to “eat rice and beans again.”

        I realize that selective reporting can make a difference, but goddammit–how spoiled do you have to be to consider eating basic food staples as being poor?

        1. I know a guy who eats red beans and brown rice every single day… not because he’s poor. He makes a decent living. But he’s from New Orleans and loves that stuff.

    3. in DC the homeless are teaching the protesters how to winterize their shelters. at least, the ones who aren’t pointing out the double standard that allows protesters to flout the no camping ordinance.

    4. That is fucking hilarious. “How dare the lowest 1% come and eat our free food!”

      WE ARE THE 98%!

      1. That is gold.

    5. LOL, I thought these progressive folk spoke for the homeless. So now they’re telling them, “Git outta here and git a job ya bum!”?

  16. the proper response to the Occupy folks is, “You’re damn right to be pissed! But you’re missing the boat as to how we got here and how we get out.”

    This applies to the “wealth disparity” meme, as well. Based on my imperfect recollection, the huge jump in compensation for corporate executives, stock options in particular, had to do with tax policy in addition to MBA wizardry.

    And, as for investment banking, the real problem (in my estimation) stems from the transition from partnership to corporation. It’s highly unlikely partners with their own money at stake would ever have allowed the sort of crazy leverage we saw at the end of the bubble run.

  17. I don’t recall there being anything in the Constitution that indicated it is any of the federal government’s business as to who has how much money or any authority to be deliberately trying to redistribute it.

    1. And your point is …?

    2. Sigh – the Commerce Clause allows the governemtn to regulate commerce, ‘regulate’ = ‘make rules about’ including mandating something. Therfore the government can mandate anything that has any effect on commerce, such as incomes and wealth.

      1. Time to play “Six Degrees of Commerce Clause”.

  18. The entire argument about “income equality” is bogus. My income and Bill Gates’ income are not related. If he makes more my salary doesn’t drop. Comparing my salary to somebody who does something completely different from what I do is nonsense.

    My salary is based on the trade I negotiate with my employer; if we both think we’re getting good value in the trade, then it’s fair. I don’t check to see what Donald Trump is making to see if I’m getting good value.

    1. Nor do you need compare value with the guy shaking his cup for change downtown.

      Oddly, redistributarians don’t tend to think their income should be adjusted with them in mond.

    2. You’d have a higher salary (because you’d have more bargaining strength) if unions still existed.

      The decimation of unions is part of the project to squeeze wage earners and funnel money upward. The relative pay of CEOs and workers isn’t at historic levels by accident.

      What I think is frightening is 9% unemployment gives employers an even better bargaining position. What possible reason would they have to reduce it?

      1. If unions still existed? They do still exist. Perhaps not at levels you would like. Has it occurred to you that not every worker wants to be in a union? And they may have a good reason for that?

        You really think that the decline in union membership is due to a vast monocle-wearing conspiracy? Based on what?

        Yeah, unionizing my profession, that would solve unemployment, because nothing increases employment like increasing the cost of labor.

  19. The “new data” that Shikha links to was issued in March 2009. How about some new data that are actually new?

    The downward pressure on prices due to WalMart et al., plus the improving quality of many consumer goods, are trends that have been going on for decades. What hasn’t been going on for decades: sustained 9% employment, inadvertantly engineered by Wall Street “titans” like Dick Fuld and Sandy Weil, who may be unemployed but are not yet shopping at WalMart.

    Shikha, this was a quickie column well below your usual standard.

    1. (rubs his monocle, snifs)

    2. Via Alan Vanneman: Sherlock Holmes and the 99 Percent of Sumatra

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