Inequality and the 1%

Funny thing how humans work.  And even funnier to hear about monkey’s behaving like humans.  I love this short video which explains the complaint of the Occupy Wall Street movement.  Apparently it’s not just human’s who are upset about not being paid fairly.Wealth Inequality in America The actual distributions of money in the US in a video infographic

It’s funny because I just heard about a TED Talk (first story) that explains in more detail the research on how monkey’s can understand the concept of money and the consequences of treating them unequally.  The rest of the show covers other talks about money which are just as fascinating.  Especially the third story, Does Money Make You Mean? which studies the effects that wealth has on changing people.  Really it just points out how self-centered we can be, and how ignorant of the factors contributing to our success we might be.  If you think for a moment this may not be true, then listed to the third story in this episode of the NPR Ted Radio Hour.  It’s fascinating, and it’s important to understand how money affects our perception, and our compassion.

I’m not in favor of handouts, but decent pay for decent work just makes sense to me.

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The Substance of the Occupy Wall Street Movement

The Occupy Movement has received a lot of support from people around the world, and a lot of criticism for not having a clear request or agenda.  To simply state a problem ” We are the 99%”, referencing the wealth gap between rich and middle class (I don’t think this is about or will become a movement the conditions of the working poor) is not enough to gain action from the political powers for change.

The list of complaints includes a variety of topics from the various participates in the movement.  The underlying theme of complaints that seem to be universal include:

  • The economic gap between rich and poor is widening.
  • The quality of living for the middle class is dropping.
  • Capitalism is out of control and has given all the power to the wealthy.

The middle class wants to be able to earn a certain standard of living.  They are doing everything requested of them to earn that lifestyle: gone to college, worked hard to move up the ladder, invest in home, and save for retirement and now the people demand the promised return: 1.  A secure retirement lifestyle with decent health care and 2. Similar opportunities for the younger generations.  They do not understand how those two concepts are now threatened after years of hard work that filled the coffers of the rich 1%.  And the ruling rich do not believe they are responsible for providing those entitlements, but the Occupiers believe  the rich have some responsibility because they have controlled the government spending and taxation which now threaten the promised entitlements.  The rich say: You are now taking more than you paid for these entitlement programs.  But if the middle class was paid more, or the rich didn’t get out of their tax obligation, or the government was forced to save, then the government may be able to support the entitlements, making the necessary revisions as the population ages.

Capitalism has allowed the wealthy to become the ruling class and overpower the majority.  Nothing is perfect, and capitalism certainly is not a perfect economic system.  So I think the real message from the Occupy Movement is that we need to revise our economics (demonstrated on their holiday card) and politics to support our values and responsibilities.

On Monday’s show, Charlie Rose subtly presented the issues and the solution at the root of the Occupy Movement discussion and the Congressional Super Committee deadlock.  His guests presented the two fundamental sides of the issue.   David Brooks discussed ideas relating to he conservative point of view “We need less Government involvement and cost”.   The Tea Party represents the extreme view: we don’t want to pay taxes to support programs with excessive waste and programs that support freeloaders.  Then Dov Seidman discusses his work to help companies develop Ethical Business Practices that are also prosperous because they resonate with the values of the public.

The solution is increase ethics and responsibility in business and politics.  This can’t be mandated, but has to be a cultural change from the ground up.  We have to change our behavior and practices in a way that creates the right incentives for businesses to change, and no longer look for ways to cheat the system.

One of the fantastic developments with this movement is the creation of “Participatory Democracy”.  I think this type of development in the political process is the next revolution, to find a modern political model that represents the wishes of the people and not the ruling class.