Wall Street has responded — predictably, I suppose — by whining and throwing temper tantrums. And it has, in a way, been funny to see how childish and thin-skinned the Masters of the Universe turn out to be. Remember when Stephen Schwarzman of the Blackstone Group compared a proposal to limit his tax breaks to Hitler’s invasion of Poland? Remember when Jamie Dimon of JPMorgan Chase characterized any discussion of income inequality as an attack on the very notion of success? But here’s the thing: If Wall Streeters are spoiled brats, they are spoiled brats with immense power and wealth at their disposal. And what they’re trying to do with that power and wealth right now is buy themselves not just policies that serve their interests, but immunity from criticism.
It is hard not to notice that the steady rise in inequality, starting in the late 1970s, has occurred in tandem with the decline in private-sector union membership, from 25 percent in the mid-’70s to a mere 7 percent today. It is also difficult to overlook that countries with stronger unions, such as Canada and Germany, show a far more equitable distribution of income across the working population. Harvard labor economist Richard Freeman says that organized labor diminishes income inequality mainly by forcing employers to give back more in compensation to workers that executives otherwise would claim for themselves. In a strong union environment, this dynamic even applies to nonunion firms, which must pay better wages to compete for workers. But there’s also a broader contribution to inequality in the decline of organized labor in America — the loss of the “countervailing force” that strong unions used to provide in debates with business groups over, say, financial deregulation.
Oh man this “We Are the 53%” movement . It is actually very sad! Basically, conservative pundit Erick Erickson has started a campaign called “We Are the 53%,” to counter the “ We Are the 99% ” and Occupy Wall Street movements. According to Erickson’s (very simplistic) math, 53% of Americans pay more in federal income taxes than they receive back in deductions or credits, and so 53% of people are subsidizing everyone else. Which is… where to even start? Even people who don’t pay federal income tax still often pay property taxes and payroll taxes; everyone pays sale taxes.
In the picture, you’re holding up a sheet of paper that says: I am a former Marine. I work two jobs. I don’t have health insurance. I worked 60-70 hours a week for 8 years to pay my way through college.