This week’s post concerns the Occupy movement which erupted over our country and some other cities around the world last year due to discontent with the system of wealth. The instant it occurred, conservatives everywhere dismissed the movement as anti-American, or anti-capitalist, or added a number of other arguments. Either way, when the rich in America make common arguments, most of them are seriously flawed. I seek to debase these points in my post this week.
Moving on, there are many ways the rich and right-wing supporters can defend the so-called job creators. One major argument is that occupiers are too young or too uninformed to know how the system works, and therefore they should have no say in the debate. This is wrong. While there will always be stupid people crying out stupid things about government, the truth is that the stupid rarely are energetic enough to mount well-organized political protest. This is because the uninformed generally don’t even know enough about politics to get involved beyond voting occasionally. There were many young people in the protests, yes, but just as many were not young. Hell, there were stories about old people getting shot in the face with pepper spray (http://www.colbertnation.com/the-colbert-report-videos/402493/november-16-2011/elderly-occupier-pepper-sprayed). Just because young people take part doesn’t mean they are stupid. When you’re in college, chances are you’re not woefully stupid unless you’re in some unheard of community college. Beyond that, college kids are generally not dumb, and many are just as informed about politics and economics as politicians. Some are even more informed. So don’t rule out demographics just because you think they’re different than you.
As stated in the intro, many conservatives have dismissed the protests as anti-American or anti-capitalist, as though this was a communist terrorist protest of some sort. The Occupy movement is not this. While some protesters may have held signs that declared capitalism is the problem, the overwhelming majority were simply not communists or anti-capitalists. The protesters were however against corrupted plutocratic capitalism that our country has developed, in which the rich benefit significantly while the poor suffer and grow in numbers. They advocated a change within the system, not a wholesale change of government itself. At least, most of them did. And saying that the rich should pay a fair share does not constitute anti-Americanism. Shouting “death to America” certainly does, but unless a group of people are asking for the end of America itself or its government entirely then that people is not anti-American. And even if the Occupy movement was both of these, does that mean we should simply pay no heed to them? In America all voices are important and must be heard, whether we like it or not. That is the way our country is set up, and that is why Nazis can hold marches in our streets. Get used to it.
Another thing many rich folk say in their defense goes something like this: “500K a year may sound like a lot, but I’m hardly rich.” Representative John Flemming (http://www.youtube.com/watch?featurelayer_embedded&v=HW2VW-Z1M94) and Senator Chuck Schumer (http://www.politico.com/news/stories/1011/65272.html) have both made remarks like this. This is flawed due to the fact that while many rich may say they are near broke at the end of each month, this is due to the huge amounts of spending they do each month. Big houses, yachts, vacations, maids, and other things cost a lot of money, and when you spend your big bucks on all that chances are yes, you will have wasted up your monthly checks. Problem is that you didn’t have to spend all that money. You could save it by having a smaller house, no yacht, no vacation, and by cleaning your own damn house. The elite don’t notice this because we are biologically programmed not to. You don’t notice your advantages because that makes you want to keep getting more, which is therefore better for survival. So while all blame can’t be put on the rich here, we should still be able to get past our instincts with logic and learn to save some of those big gains you make each month.
Yet another point made by the rich is that they worked hard to get where they are. Wayne Allyn Root (http://www.newsmax.com/WayneAllynRoot/Small-Business-Owners-taxes/2011/11/28/id/419233) and Alec MacGillis (http://www.tnr.com/blog/the-stump/100946/the-gop-conundrum-in-two-great-quotes) have made arguments like this. While the rich often do put in lots of hours (like Bill Gates), the Occupiers aren’t saying they are lucky in that sense. First, society doesn’t truly reward people based on effort alone. If it did, then mine workers doing 80-hour weeks in horrible conditions would be rich as hell. So just because a rich person may or may not work harder, that does not justify making more than a poor person. This argument also implies that a person’s wealth is equal to his or her value to society, and that the poor must be lazy drags on everyone else. This coming from the people espousing family values. Do they not realize that stay-at-home parents who give their kids values make no money each day? Volunteering at a homeless shelter pays nothing. Bringing water to central Africa pays nothing. Yet these duties are of high value to society despite the lack of wealth involved. Occupiers are saying that the rich are lucky in the sense that they were born in a time and place where the work they were good at was valued over the hard work of other fields. Some rich would then say that they would use their smarts and determination to switch to another field and be equally as successful if they knew it would pay more. Unfortunately, this rarely works. If you want an example, simply look at how poorly Michael Jordan did as a baseball player. Turns out that just because you are good at one thing, doesn’t mean you can be just as good at other things.
Next, I’ve heard plenty of rich Americans or conservatives claim that because they can do it, so can we. This was exemplified by Governor Mitch Daniels (http://firstread.msnbc.msn.com/_news/2012/01/24/10228650-in-state-of-the-union-response-ind-gov-us-is-country-of-haves-and-soon-to-haves). But this is ridiculous. The rich barely have to leave their house to see their yard workers to prove themselves wrong on this one. Even if one worker is amazing at yard work and does 100 hours a week, he’ll never get rich doing that. Ever. Even if that yard worker had the skills for hedge fund investments, started his own firm and got rich, very few people would have that array of skills and the ability to pull that off. Just because it’s possible for people to attain the skills for well-paying jobs, it doesn’t mean that everyone can get those jobs. Just because anyone can do it, that doesn’t mean everyone can do it.
Many a rich man’s tirade against Occupiers boils down to the assertion that the poor are just jealous of the success of the rich. Candidate Mitt Romney (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ismksjp10q0&featurelayer_embedded-Mitt) and former candidate Herman Cain (http://www.cbsnews.com/2100-3460_162-20117827-2.html?pageNum=2&tag=contentMain;contentBody) made this part of their daily speeches at times. This is so wrong it makes me want to cry. Most of America’s heroes are rich. Batman is so rich he can afford a freaking batmobile with weaponry built in, along with an elaborate underground layer. Little kids put posters in their rooms of famous musicians and actors. When Christmas comes around, we look at Scrooge and realize that by the end of the story we always love him. Not because he gave up his wealth and became poor, but because he stopped acting like a total ass. The rich argue back that it is not our business to criticize what they do with their money. But in any society, social pressures on our decisions exist because we must keep each other in check. The reason people normally don’t murder each other is because there are both societal and criminal consequences for such actions. Because power and money eliminate many of the checks on how terrible a person you are, society turns up the heat in other ways. The fact that the rich don’t like this only proves that the pressure is working. This is why we hate dictators, bullies, etc. They do not acknowledge that with their wealth and/or power comes responsibility.
This next one is one of my favorites. The argument that Occupiers seek to punish success, the “job-creators” of our nation. So many have said this, including John E. Kramer (http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2011/nov/4/occupy-envy/), Bernard Goldberg (http://www.bernardgoldberg.com/success-should-be-encouraged-not-punished/), House Speaker John Boehner (http://www.upi.com/Top_News/US/2011/05/15/Boehner-warns-against-tax-hikes-for-rich/UPI-21271305480482/), and Sean Hannity (http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,423881,00.html). To Sean: lots of poor people listen to you, and your advertisers pay you with money they get from the poor people that buy their products. So that joke is false, in a sense. People get jobs not because of a few rich people, but rather because everyone works together at some level in society, in a cycle most often. As for the punishing success part, this is insane. You get asked to pitch in not because we are judging you, not because it is fairer that way, but rather because there is stuff that needs to get done. There are people that need help and buildings that need to be made. The rich simply have more resources to pitch in with. And while you may think you already give your fair share, so does everybody. In life, we all feel like we’re getting the short end of the stick. In reality, the rich are doing fine, so contributing a little more won’t kill them.
Lastly, many rich argue that Occupiers should stop asking for handouts because the rich believe that they never got help from anybody. Craig T. Nelson (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yTwpBLzxe4U) along with the guy in the photo here (http://persephonemagazine.com/2011/10/dont-even-get-me-started-mythical-bootstraps-college-student/) have tried this argument. The idea that the rich got to where they are completely by themselves is absolutely impossible. Were they hunting for food from birth, denying the handouts of breast milk? Did they not have parents that provided a home to live in and water to drink? Did they not go to schools paid for by people other than themselves? Were they not protected by police and others that were paid by other people? Did they not drive on roads built by other people, in cars made by other people, burning gas drilled by other people in countries whose borders were protected by other people? While we shouldn’t be waiting for help to come along, that also means that the rich aren’t living in a self-sufficient little space which is surrounded by dirty hobos asking for help. Let’s say a rich man builds up a little army and decides to march onto your property. You can’t defend yourself with your guns, because they have more. So you’ll call the cops, whom are other people risking their lives while being paid by other people’s taxes, who will try this army in court paid by other people’s taxes, under laws made by Congressmen and women paid by other people’s taxes. If none of that existed, that rich guy could take your stuff and kill you with his army easily. Without society to help you and protect you, your individual talents aren’t worth jack squat. The rich didn’t ask for help, because countless people had set up a lavish support system for them in the first place. We live in a society where ultimate success is the finish line, and most of us are placed about an inch from it to start with. So denying people help because you think you got none is one of the worst points you could bring up.
And that is all for this week, and I hope my extra long analysis is sufficient. If you have questions or comments of any kind, you can leave them here. My email is firstname.lastname@example.org, and my Facebook and Twitter are still open if necessary. And I am signing off.