America’s Wealth-Defined Society
Many of us wonder whether the Occupy Wall Street movement will continue to grow and establish roots, to offer some hope for change… or whether it will be stopped and smothered… not by the Fat-Cats represented in that odious One Percent, but by the Squires, that Nineteen Percent of enforcers, or bystanders, of predatory capitalism that has taken over America; what is now Corporate America. The Squires are the only middle-class left in the United States today, even if there are many others who illusorily think of themselves as middle-class, not wanting to be included in a bottom 80 percent, the place where they belong if only they would wake up to reality, set aside their pride.
For almost three generations most anyone in America considered themselves to be part of that mythical middle-class. Lower class was a term seldom mentioned; only people down on their luck and one-third or more of blacks and browns living in virtual poverty, belonged to that class swept under the rug. Be that as it may, the majority of Americans by most any standard were affluent enough not to worry about the many wealth rungs in the socio-economic ladder, or where they stood in it.
However, political economics during the past three decades have helped create greater inequality, much greater wealth differences between lower and higher rungs. And, what may be even worse, it also helped erase the upward economic mobility it once existed in the lower rungs, where 80 percent of the nation’s population resides. Such mobility has completely disappeared. Ronald Reagan made greed a top virtue for Americans, and much of the population was ready to live by that creed. But as it turned out, only a small percentage was successful at it – and not entrepreneurially but predatorily – most others still smarting from a real estate bubble, as acquisition of a home mortgage was dabbed part of the American dream… what should have been called the American nightmare.
The Occupy Wall Street movement, whether by art or by design, has been careful not to make their common cause one of a struggle between classes, and that has been, at least initially, a wise thing. Having said that, however, it would be wise and survivalist for them to realize that although they portray the wealthy top One Percent as the enemy, it is the power of the Nineteen Percent behind them that they need to worry about; and that appears as not much of an issue with the protesters. If so, it could easily become their downfall, a complete debacle for the movement.
For once, let’s be realistic and try not to live in ignorance or make-believe.
We should be challenging not only the meaning behind those statistics which are getting all the headlines, but also dig deeper for what other statistics may mean for a more just society. Such statistics are available but unfortunately not properly analyzed or, at the very least, not properly presented. There are very powerful implications to the well-being and justice for the bottom 80 percent of us… not just a majority, but a resounding and truly overwhelming majority… the EIGHTY PERCENT of POOR and POWERLESS in a nation we deem free and democratic, but which unfortunately is neither. Here is what we tend to focus on… how unequal we are relative to The Wealthiest One Percent with three examples cited time and time again:
- That the Top 1% owns 40% of the Nation’s Wealth; and,
- That the Top 1% end up receiving 24% of the National Income (Take Home Pay); and,
- That the Top 1% owns 50% of the nation’s stocks, bonds and mutual funds.
There is another truth, however, which gives a much greater condemnation of our capitalist system, a system which has gone array and makes a mockery of a just society, one which brings out the worst in our citizens, the predatory nature of man, not his compassion.
Shouldn’t that overwhelming part of the population, the bottom 80 percent, be just as angry or upset if told they are joining forces with the only true middle-class, a class which in relative terms is ALMOST THIRTY-TWO TIMES (32X) as wealthy as they are? [The 19% group that follows the top 1% possesses 53% of the Nation’s Wealth; while the bottom 80% only possesses 7% of the Nation’s Wealth.]
Isn’t about time we look at the distribution of wealth in this nation, and realize the iniquity in our system of taxation, for the unworkable and unfair system that it is?
Should it surprise us that the standard of living for most Americans has been declining for years? That more and more Americans lack access to basic necessities such as food and health care? That 19 percent of Americans lack the money to put enough food on the table… while that’s only true with 6 percent of Chinese?
It is the system… a system which unfortunately is endorsed by far more than 1 percent of the population. For America to set on a right course, the movement cannot be solely Occupy Wall Street… it should grow and become Occupy Main Street.
© 2011 Ben Tanosborn
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