"It’s petty envy, pure and simple." That’s Elias Isquith’s assessment of what motivates the Tea Party—a simmering rage that someone, somewhere, has more than you do. As John Kramer says, the movement insists, “we must punish success; we must organize envy”—though the movement Kramer is referring to isn’t the Tea Party, but Occupy Wall Street.
It’s not a surprise that left and right are united in sneering at the envy of the other guy. Some vices have a patina of glamour. Hate has an appealing purity; lust the edgy excitement of forbidden pleasure; gluttony at least means you’re eating well. With each of these, to sin is to indulge and to take; you can revel in the strength of your iniquity.
Read more. [Image: Shannon Stapleton/Reuters]
The rich are different from you and me. They got a real recovery. Or one at all.
According to the latest figures from economist Emmanuel Saez, the top 1 percent received 95 percent of all real income gains between 2009 and 2012. In 2011, when real real income fell for the bottom 99 percent, the top percentile accounted for 121 percent of the year’s income gains.
In 2012, inflation-adjusted incomes rose for the rest of us, but only barely. Meanwhile, the richest percentile got a 19 percent raise. They now account for 22.5 percent of total U.S. income. That’s the fourth-highest share in at least 100 years (as far back as Saez keeps track). The only years with greater income inequality were the two years before the Great Recession, 2006 and 2007, and the year before the Great Depression, 1928.
Read more. [Image: Reuters]
Elites shouldn’t be forced to share ill-gotten gains — they should be prevented from ever getting them.
Read more. [Image: Quinn Anya/Flickr]
Occupy Wall Street may well have been the first global protest movement to rally around a statistic cribbed from an economics paper. So to mark its one year anniversary today, I thought I’d break out some of the latest numbers tracking U.S. inequality, courtesy of this month’s Census Bureau recent report on income, poverty, and health insurance coverage.
From 2010 to 2011, the top 5 percent of U.S. households upped their share of the country’s income by 5.3 percent. The top 20 percent got a 1.6 percent bump. And while the country’s poorest saw their piece of the pie grow by a smidgen, the middle classes lost ground.
Read more. [Image: Jordan Weissmann]
On May 1, students and activists are planning to revive the Occupy Wall Street movement with a general strike. One poster making the rounds on Facebook and other social media features a hamster nervously eyeing a treadmill, and above it the famous words, “I WOULD PREFER NOT TO.” The hamster’s wheel of course represents the drudgery of our modern routines; the phrase, many will recall, comes from Herman Melville’s 1853 story “Bartleby, the Scrivener.” Subtitled “A Tale of Wall Street,” this cryptic narrative traces the sad fate of a passive-aggressive writer who refuses to vacate the offices of a corporate lawyer. Bartleby was the first laid-off worker to occupy Wall Street.
It may seem odd to understand Occupy Wall Street through a story written 150 years before the tents went up in Zuccotti Park, when no one had heard of a human microphone and when Trinity Church was the tallest building in New York. But Bartleby literally does occupy Wall Street — specifically the offices of Melville’s narrator, a lawyer for the 19th century one-percenters who does “a snug business among rich men’s bonds and mortgages and title-deeds.” And the way that Melville represents Bartleby’s occupation can help us understand the power of the endlessly intriguing movement that is promising to return with renewed fervor this spring. What’s more, this staple of the English Literature curriculum can speak to the ways that Wall Street itself is coming to occupy the classroom itself.
If you are looking for something to read today, I highly recommend the “Reynoso Task Force Report,” with its accompanying “Kroll Report” appendix. These are the findings of the panel chaired by Cruz Reynoso, a well-known former Justice of the California Supreme Court, charged with looking into the causes and consequences of the pepper-spraying episode at UC Davis last November. […]
Campus police and others come in for their share of criticism, including specifically the police lieutenant who has become notorious from the picture above. Both he and the UC Davis police chief remain on paid administrative leave. But at face value its findings are also very damaging to the still-serving Chancellor of UC Davis, Linda Katehi. For instance, the Kroll report says about a letter asking the demonstrators to disperse:Read more. [Image: Brian Nguyen/The Aggie]
"Chancellor Katehi told Kroll investigators that Student Affairs wrote the letter and that she did not review it before it went out. The record contradicts both of these statements, as detailed below. Katehi did review the letter, provided an editorial change and approved it. Student Affairs did not write the letter…"
The stories of Daniel Murphy and Ben Zucker, two participants in Occupy Wall Street who are still looking to define what the movement is all about:
At 23, Zucker has the organizing gene. He’s a fresh graduate of Tulane University, where he studied public health to get a foot in the door of social justice work, and his family lives in Silver Spring, Maryland, just inside the Beltway. He once spent a semester running a health program in Senegal, and upon his return, he got involved with a protest by dining services workers. Zucker, who was hooked after first swinging by McPherson in early October, represents the liberal side of the movement. He wants universal health care and federal takeovers of big banks, and he thinks Occupy Wall Street is a good way to make it all happen.
That’s a sharp contrast with Murphy, a Long Beach native who earned his high school diploma in 2004 but never graduated. At 17, he was sentenced to more than two years in the California Youth Authority for stabbing three people at a coffee shop after his friend was punched.
— Ai Weiwei on Occupy Wall Street. Read more.
Over the years, I’ve heard a fair number of slurs shouted at campus cops. Seldom were they “pig” or “fascist.” Far more often, they diminished the power of the officer, using words like “fake cop” or “rent-a-cop”.
This is where the power and class dynamics get tricky.
They are real cops. Employed by California, they are agents of the state. They’ve got weapons. And the pay is not bad at all.
On the other hand, campus police at U.C. Berkeley, and to a lesser extent at U.C. Davis, patrol kids who’d call themselves failures if they grew up to be cops; kids who have more opportunities than the children of the campus cops; kids who will mostly be more successful than campus cops; kids who even enjoy the ultimate loyalty of U.C. faculty and most administrators. Just look at what happened after U.C. Berkeley administrators sent in cops with batons, and U.C. Davis administrators sent in cops with pepper spray. Predictable altercations occurred. Batons and pepper spray were used. Images leaked. And suddenly the administrators were launching investigations! And issuing statements about how deeply they cared for the students! Did they fail to anticipate that the weapons would be turned on passive protesters?
They’d do well to read “Shooting an Elephant,” George Orwell’s reflection on his time as a British imperial police officer in Burma, if so. To be clear, I don’t think imperialism is an apt analogy when police forcibly remove Occupy Cal or Davis protesters. But I do think Orwell helps us understand why officers who aren’t monsters might use wildly excessive force. Read more.
Eighty-four-year-old activist Dorli Rainey tells Keith about her experience getting pepper-sprayed by the police during an Occupy Seattle demonstration and the need to take action and spread the word of the Occupy movement. She cites the advice of the late Catholic nun and activist Jackie Hudson to “take one more step out of your comfort zone” as an inspiration, saying, “It would be so easy to say, ‘Well I’m going to retire, I’m going to sit around, watch television or eat bonbons,’ but somebody’s got to keep ’em awake and let ’em know what is really going on in this world.”