Rich and powerful: Why won't they save themselves?

I spent a recent week at Occupy Miami and Occupy Fort Lauderdale. One question came up several times: What if the system responds– or pretends to respond– to our demands? What if the political class agrees to create more jobs, help the unemployed, let distressed homeowners keep their houses?

Then the Occupy movement (and American progressivism) would be out of business.
"President Obama could finish us off overnight," I said. "A speech would be enough. He wouldn't even have to do anything."

Obama could announce a big jobs bill, knowing full well that Congressional Republicans would kill it. It would probably increase his reelection prospects.

But don't worry. He won't. He can't.

America's corporate rulers and their pet politicians know that people are furious. They understand that their actions and policies are accelerating the pace of income inequality and creating a growing, permanently alienated underclass.

They know history. Sooner or later, the downtrodden rise up, overthrow and kill their oppressors.

It's not a nice way to rule. Nor is it smart. So– if all it would take for America's masters to save themselves from the raging mobs of the not-so-distant future are a few empty words, why not try?

There's no doubt about the nature or scale of the problem. Economists from left to right agree that the United States suffers from high structural inequality. "At least five large studies in recent years have found the United States to be less mobile than comparable nations," reported The New York Times on January 5th. According to a Swedish study 42 percent of American boys raised by parents whose incomes fall in the bottom 40 percent of wage earners remain in the bottom 40 percent as adults– a much higher rate than such nations as Denmark (25 percent) and England (30 percent), "a country famous for its class constraints."

To be poor in the United States is not unusual. Half of Americans live under two times the poverty line. But the depth and persistence of poverty in America is unique among developed industrialized nations. The gap between the poor and the rich is bigger. Mobility– access to the American Dream– is less.

Born rich? You'll more likely to die rich in the U.S. than in other countries. Born poor? You're likelier to die poor.

"Miles Corak, an economist at the University of Ottawa, found that just 16 percent of Canadian men raised in the bottom tenth of incomes stayed there as adults, compared with 22 percent of Americans. Similarly, 26 percent of American men raised at the top tenth stayed there, but just 18 percent of Canadians."

When family background determines your fate you look for other options. Like getting rid of the system that makes things that way for your kids and their kids. That's what happened in France in 1789 and Russia in 1917 and China in 1949.

There is no better predictor of revolution than an absence of economic mobility.

Right-wing extremists dismiss empirical data with anecdotal evidence. "If America is so poor in economic mobility, maybe someone should tell all these people who still want to come to the U.S.," Stuart Butler of the Heritage Foundation told the Times.

Someone should.

Most Americans are poor. They don't need to read these studies. They're living them. Which is why they want politicians to create big jobs programs, raise wages, establish permanent unemployment benefits (standard in Europe) and impose a moratorium on foreclosures. The polls are clear.

No one cares about Iran's supposed nuclear weapons program.

Yet here we are in the heat of a presidential election year, and no candidate– not "liberal" Obama, not the weird Republican, Ron Paul, no one– is talking about the issues Americans care about.

During the 1930s and 1960s, liberal leaders ended street protests by promising change. Why not now? Why isn't anyone promising to address income inequality? They could lie and break their promises later.

First, the rich are feeling squeezed. The global capitalist system no longer has much room to expand. Emerging markets have emerged. Globalization is not only nearly out of steam, it's allowing the weakest trading partners to drag down their healthier partners. Feeling squeezed, our rulers aren't in the mood to be generous. They'd rather loot the scraps of the pending collapse than expand the social safety net.

Second, the ruling classes have fooled themselves into believing that they no longer need to exploit workers in order extract surplus value. They make their profits without us in massive arbitrage transactions that collect spreads from borrowed money. To be sure, it's a bubble. It'll burst. But it feels good now.

There has always been a division within the elites between enlightened liberals and hardass thieves. The liberals don't like us; they fear us. So they try to keep us satisfied enough not to revolt. The thieves count on brute force– cops, pepper spray, camps– to keep the barbarians at bay. The balance of power has shifted decisively to the thieves– which is why figures like Obama can't even pretend to care about the issues most important to the great majority of people.
Finally, the rich think they can insulate themselves from the roiling masses of the dispossessed, safe behind high-tech alarm systems inside their gated communities.

Louis XVI had good security too.
Ted Rall's most recent book is "Wake Up, You're Liberal! How We Can Take America Back from the Right" (Soft Skull Press). This essay was distributed by Featurewell.


Too many of the poor and former middle class still take comfort from their futile situation.
Next month, when the Huguely's roll into town, we'll watch them and their kind
get away with murder.
Even if the weather's perfect, there won't be anyone in the streets WeLcOmInG them.
They should be made examples.

What Mr. Roll knows about poverty he could stuff into a coctail olive. Are these the same poverty stricken who loll around talkimng on their cell phones, tablets, ipads, blackberrys, etc., and drive up to the free food pickup points in their SUVs and other pricey vehicles. Or are they the ones who sit and stand around all day at the McDs on Ridge BSing with each other? Please explain what most of us see.

Save the country from you guys? Why bother? You feed and thrive on what you perceive as class separation.

You conveniently leave out all the information from the article that challenges the conclusion you make such as....

"The income compression in rival countries may also make them seem more mobile. Reihan Salam, a writer for The Daily and National Review Online, has calculated that a Danish family can move from the 10th percentile to the 90th percentile with $45,000 of additional earnings, while an American family would need an additional $93,000.

The causes of America’s mobility problem are a topic of dispute — starting with the debates over poverty. The United States maintains a thinner safety net than other rich countries, leaving more children vulnerable to debilitating hardships.

Poor Americans are also more likely than foreign peers to grow up with single mothers. That places them at an elevated risk of experiencing poverty and related problems

Mr. Salam recently wrote that relative mobility “is overrated as a social policy goal” compared with raising incomes across the board. Parents naturally try to help their children, and a completely mobile society would mean complete insecurity: anyone could tumble any time.

Most of the studies end with people born before 1970, while wage gaps, single motherhood and incarceration increased later. Until more recent data arrives, he said, “we don’t know the half of it.”

ALSO, I obviously can't verify the source, but I love that an actual person from Denmark immediately commented to debunk the story...

From the NY Times article page:
thomasdk Denmark "Education is everything. !!!.

Education is simply the one-way track to accomplish well paid jobs. Regardless of your parents income.

In Denmark it is possible to achieve the proper knowledge, you need. Without paying for participating in College, or in school.
This does NOT mean that you accomplish high grades without hard work. It does take a LOT of hard work, to obtain a university degree, or even to pass college, and regular school.
Our requirements to pass college are much tougher than in the US. Generally speaking.
It is also VERY important that we have a very flexible workforce in Denmark.
To whom it is natural to move from one company, and one part of the country, to another, on short notice.
It is VERY easy to fire an employee in Denmark on short notice, without any compensation. (Unlike in Germany, and the US)
That is why our social security net is rather effective. Though not perfect.
People are used to the fact that their income fluctuates. And try to compensate for this by having their spouse work long hours in non fluctuating jobs like Registered Nurses, (RN) etc., and in high profiled public jobs. As “officials”. Who cannot be laid off. And is ensured 3 years salary, IF, a government cuts in the number of such jobs, or their job function is seriously challenged. "

Back to me:
And I will add that Denmark also doesn't deal with 20 million illegal immigrants either. I'm sick and tired of the 99%ers saying we should have open borders, job preference based on race, and everyone is "entitled" to a job... what a total bunch of crap.

African American workers are concentrated in urban and southern rural areas of our country, it's a fact. And unemployment in their population is 15.5% compared to 8% US overall... yup, great plan to invite hordes of low skilled workers with no background check into the population.

I was laid off in January and spent 8 hrs. a day for six months looking for a job until I finally landed one here in Cville for 33% less than I used to make, and I'm moving my family 800 miles so I can work. I also know 2-3 people at home who were also laid off and still sit there on extended unemployment and welfare. They have been offered jobs but haven't taken any because "Why should I, they don't pay as much as my old job did..." It absolutely killed me to take that unemployment check and it made me feel like less of a man and provider for my family and I got off it as fast as possible. But some believe the world owes them something and have no shame.

Some people can deal with reality and make their way in the world and fight through the obstacles thrown their way... some people pout and camp out and ask for a handout...

You occupiers are so far out of touch with reality...

Danish mobility is a function of several factors that differ from the US:

- universal health care makes it easier for people to take risks (contrary to popular belief, Danish entrepreneurship thrives, in part for this reason);
- while education is paramount in the workplace, education is cheap or free (with a stipend on top for undergraduate education -- you get paid to go to college);
- most Danes buy into good unemployment insurance (I disagree that it's easier to fire someone in Denmark than the US);
- there's much greater emphasis on happiness -- for lack of a better word -- where people who don't like their jobs will quit, go back to school, and start a new career, often on the government's dime (er, krone). There isn't the sense of sticking with a job just to earn a paycheck like in the US.

On the flip side, around half of a typical Dane's salary goes to the gov't in one way or another. But to say that one can just educate themselves out of poverty ignores the fact that it is _much_ easier in Denmark to get a good education.

Say what? A lot of drivel going here. Comparing apples to oranges never makes a valid point and non has been expressed here. I don't know what was worse, reading the thread or the posts.

Ridiculous.............check the names and backgrounds of those in the Occupud "bowel movement" and you will find that many of the so called 99% are actually part of, or funded by, the so-called 1%.........isn't that right (left), Mr. Soros.......and that open society has really worked well, hasn't it.

We are so far past the tipping point on this, that writing/talking about it is a waste of time. The inevitable is the inevitable. We ignored history and we're doomed to repeat it. That's where we are now and there's no escape. It's going to be an ugly ride to the bottom. Mother Nature likes to restore balance and she always succeeds. Let us eat cake!

OWS might have acepted some money from Soros, but it hardly funded by eltie interests in the way that the Tea Party is a complete creation of folks like the Koch brothers.
@New Guy, I agree that it is most important that we create tides that raise all ships, but thats not whats been happening. Instead, teh incomes of everyone but the top 10% has been in decline, due to yes, the class war started by the wealthy, and their sense of entitlement. Greed is good, and if you have more money you are a 'good' person. When the wealthy stop being so greedy, and start focusing on actually doing things that create jobs in the US - instead of just swirling junk around Wall Street - things will change.

I encourage you to read about Krupp, and what true great industrialists and wealthy job creators do, instead of complaining that the common man has finally awakened to the very real class war being waged against him in the US.

Check the names and occupations of the Occupuds. You will be surprised.

Tea Party doesn't does not hide behind the fact that they work hard, road the trail to the top, in some cases, and have retired with a bundle of cash- for what it is worth these days.

Just not sure why the so-called 99%'ers are so envious of those who built this Countryand how they did that. It does take money to do so and employees to carry out the process.

It also takes seed money and some business accumen to pull it all together............


I'm more or less in the choir but this is shoddy preaching: "Right-wing extremists dismiss empirical data with anecdotal evidence."

I see no references here, just lots of conjecture and unsubstantiated claims (even though I spout all the same in private rants).

OK... my post was long winded... sorry this one is too...

Bottom line, you can choose to make your own way in life or you can sit and point at other people and complain that "they got a head start... life isn't fair... I would do better if it wasn't for "THEM"".... whoever them happens to be that day. And I find that the same people doing all the complaining now are the same kinds of people that just sat and whined and cried when they didn't do well in the kickball game or the quiz in second grade. They want to be the focus of the room and know better than others... but it should just be that way automatically and they don't want to work for it and it's never their own fault. So it's not because of their situation, it's because that's the kind of people they are. The arguments coming from OWS are child's arguments.

Guess what... when I got laid off I knew what I could have done better... My position was eliminated so the company could keep more money. I provided valuable expertise and efficiency, but if I was so incredibly valuable then they wouldn't have let me go. So I can blame "Corporate Greed" and piss and moan... or I can suck it up, learn something, and never quit.

My grandfather came over on a boat from a tenant farm in Europe and didn't have anything... he was a low level cop here the rest of his life and he lived in a crappy run down neighborhood in the city but he scrimped and saved and died with nothing more than knowing his kids would be better off than he was. Then my dad scrimped and saved some more and he got a small house in the suburbs and sent me to college. Now I'm looking for a modest middle class house in the suburbs and will hopefully send my kids to college. Now you want to call me and my kids priveleged and take it all away, and give it to people who have never started the process, and have half of it go to pay government bureaucrats to administer it. Well to hell with you. Passing down the fruits of your labor and helping your children is the only point of living in the first place and I will defend my right to do so at all costs. We all die some day and this is what makes your life valuable. Not everyone in the world can be Ghandi or Einstein for god's sake.

The corporate world owes you nothing

@New Guy: Think about it--the reason this is the US and not a Commonwealth country that still has Queen Elizabeth as its nominal head is that a bunch of people got pissed off at a bad deal and said "enough." Simplistic but that's why we didn't live under the whim of monarchs who inherited the title through birth.

And similarly your grandfather at some point said "Nuts to this" at the Old World conditions and came here, as did lots of others who saw a rigged game and no room for a change of lot. Your father hoped to have his children living a better life as a result of his hard work. Can you realistically say the same, given the statistically clear decline of the middle class?

The real complaint is not "Whaa life isn't fair". It's about the subversion of the democratic ideal that we believe in and our national charter. We are not supposed to be a place where inherited wealth and the privileged few run the country. Nor are young men (mostly) supposed to be sent off to fight and come back maimed or boxed in order to preserve a way of life for companies that offshore jobs, not out of a desperate need to survive, but rather for the purposes of supporting the lionized few that are benefiting in the same disproportionate manner that the feudal lords and kings that our ancestors thumbed their noses at and left. A flatter economic structure could support more jobs and a more contented populace, and a country worthy of believing in.

90% of the people are still working.. so if you can't find a job you just need to accept that you can't even break past the bottom ten percent to get a job.

Its may not be the job MARKET that sucks.

Hard to know where to start to respond to all the drivel in this, but here's one:
"Most Americans are poor."
Now where did you get that idea? Stop crying poor just because you have a 2 yr old economy car, a laptop with less than 2 gig, and are still using a flip phone. "Poor" is not "two times the poverty line"; "poor" IS the poverty line or below.
Take a trip to India, Africa, Malaysia, and maybe you will see what poor really is.
I grew up in rural poverty, without indoor plumbing, my parents both worked 40+ hrs at a factory plus farmed, but always encouraged us to get an education, which I did, and it has served me well. Don't tell me that there isn't a chance for upward mobility in this country; go to India if you want to experience that.
You even admit it when you wrote - ""Miles Corak, an economist at the University of Ottawa, found that just 16 percent of Canadian men raised in the bottom tenth of incomes stayed there as adults, compared with 22 percent of Americans." That means that 78% of American men raised in the bottom tenth of incomes were able to better themselves! maybe that isn't as good as Canada, but it still attests to the opportunities in this country.

"they [the poor] want politicians to create big jobs programs, raise wages, establish permanent unemployment benefits (standard in Europe) and impose a moratorium on foreclosures." There will always be a segment of society that demands a handout, or as you put it, the rulers to be "generous", but that is because it is much easier to sit and cry victim than it is to get busy and do something to improve your lot in life.

"During the 1930s and 1960s, liberal leaders ended street protests by promising change. Why not now?" Sorry, your man Obama promised change four years ago, or did you forget that inconvenient fact?

This is the type of crap that is being taught to our kids. Refer to the "Indoctrination" story on the main page of The Hook. Time for accountability.

Cville Mom I agree that the Ted Rall piece above is drivel. But you're argument is analogous to "You kids crying about me whuppin you with a belt...I'll take you over to Page Country where they use a 2x4 with nails in it!."

Ted Rall may be a hack, but Paul Krugman isn't, and his Op-ed in the NYT today is pertinent: "Americans are much more likely than citizens of other nations to believe that they live in a meritocracy. But this self-image is a fantasy: as a report in The Times last week pointed out, America actually stands out as the advanced country in which it matters most who your parents were, the country in which those born on one of society’s lower rungs have the least chance of climbing to the top or even to the middle. "

So have another bowl of bootstrap soup.

"your argument" for cryin' out loud. It's Monday.

A surprisingly superficial effort from Ted Rall.

In fact, there is enormous uncertainty about how much mobility there is in United States society compared to other developed nations. Just for starters, income distribution of European nations is more compressed, so moving from the bottom to the top quintile means something different. Also, measures of income in the US generally do not take into account health care benefits, an increasingly large component of compensation. Rall also fails to discuss the widening gap in marriage and divorce rates between well educated and less well educated women in the US.

Poverty and social mobility are important topics, and Hook readers deserve more careful analysis.

Several columns, studies, blogs, and editorials like the one above are popping up on mainstream news today.

I suppose the libs have issued their talking points for this years election.

"Tea Party doesn't does not hide behind the fact that they work hard, road the trail to the top, in some cases, and have retired with a bundle of cash- for what it is worth these days.

Um, except that that's not really who comprises the body of the Tea Party. Instead, its full of a lot of white guys on SS and Medicare who Municipal and Federal pensions complaining about those people down the street who also collect monies from the Treasury. Or they are on lifelong retirement beneifts much like union ones.

In short, they are a pack of hypocrites who think only they showed up for work. Many of those on OWS are far better educated, with a far better modern skillset, yet cannot find jobs that provide nearly half the nice benefiuts.

Basically the Tea PArty is full of a bunch of Republicans who benefited from progressive policies, but don't like to let others have the same shot.

@New Guy -"Bottom line, you can choose to make your own way in life or you can sit and point at other people and complain that "they got a head start... life isn't fair... I would do better if it wasn't for "THEM"".... "

By God, that's exactly what TJ, GW, Franklin, Munroe, and a whole lot of other men said back in 1775, and started a revolution. Not long after something called the Boston Tea Party, which was a protest against anti-competitive corporate power. Our FFs hated corporations, which is why they made it an Act of Congress for a company to get an incorporated, and why the organizing capital had to justify that what they were doing was for the common good of the country. 'Make kitchy things to sell for lots of money and get rich' didn't qualify.

Looks like our FFs were onto something, dontcha think?

I had a grandfather that scratched his way up too, and let me tell you, in spite of being a brilliant man with money and business - he started and sold two just in his retirement - he never liked the Greed is Good garbage, and strongly advocated things like, oh, cheap higher education? He was a Southerner and he was a Progressive all the way. Hmm, wanna bet that you didn't really much if any college debt when you graduated from college?

Why do people keep saying that "wages" have been stagnant for 40 years and that that is a crime against the worker?

Wages are buying power. Nothing more nothing less. So if we go back in time and look at what a school teacher with 5 years experience could buy in 1970 and what the same job could buy today their wages have not fallen. They have access to better health care, way better technology, safer more efficient cars, comparatively cheaper airline flights and travel cruises for their vacations. They have access to mortgage loans with very little down and thanks to wal mart costco and IKEA they have way more chiixces then their predesssors. And while the kids are way brattier and less respectful with all the automation the teachers of today have a lot easier day of it. no more spending hours making mimeographs and grading tests by hand.

In fact name ANY job that is essentially the same as 1975 and compare the standard of living to the same person today. We are better off except for the cost of College. The University of Md is building a 7.2 million dollar house for its President. and Maryland is one of the most liberal states in the nation.

A person is worth only what someone else will do their job for. So if you can be replaced for less than STFU and GTBW before you are replaced.

" They have access to better health care,"

As someone who's background is in economics, I want you to think long and hard about that statement. You are really not being very honest eggplant.

Perhaps you should ask yourself how many teachers went bankrupt or lost their home just because they had a single significant medical event 40 years ago. Healthcare is one of the things in this country that is not affordable to the general population, and, in fact, helping destroy our economy. In part due to folks like you, who spout off what you just did to avoid facing economical reality.

Widescreen TVs are great until you have cancer and lose your home and your health insurance.

There have been lots of increases in false economies, like clothes that fall apart after a few washings, made in slave wage countries. But find me a pair of shorts that lasts 10 years. I still have perfectly good sweaters from the 80's, made in the USA.

" They have access to better health care,"

As someone who's background is in economics, I want you to think long and hard about that statement. You are really not being very honest eggplant.

Well 40 years ago they simply DIED because the medical breakthroughs had not yet occurred.

At least with the rise in healthcare costs we are getting better healthcare... as opposed to colleges where tuitions have risen faster than healthcare but the graduates are certainly not more world ready.

If you get cancer it is bad luck, if you are uninsured then you will get the minimum care. You still get better care than 40 years ago and you still have the benefit of a bankruptsy court so you can start over.

So as much as people whine about stagnant wages a plumber, electrician, mechanic, accountant and the assistant manager at Radio Shack still have at least the same standard of living as their counterparts from 40 years ago.

Some of you people need to go to a nursing home and LISTEN to the old folks who grew up in middle class Chatlottsville and then compare what your "poor" self has that they NEVER did.

Most don't have a clue.


" Well 40 years ago they simply DIED because the medical breakthroughs had not yet occurred."

That's not necessarily true. And not everyone has access to all the new wonderful healthcare gadgets. You yourself said those without health insurance get the bare minimum. That's not really true, but I will hold you to it.

I didn't have an iPad 40 years ago and I don't have one today. I do have a 40+ year old Kitchenaid mixer that works fine. It was quite expensive when my mother bought it, but no more expensive than a high end one today. The one made today won't be around in 40 years. Its lucky if it makes it to 10.

So what is it that you were trying to say about how hard had it 40 years ago?

"Most Americans are poor." No they are not. Can you define poor? I am pretty sure everyone in this country has access to water, food, and shelter. As hackneyed as it is, there are literally people out there who do not have any of the three. Not only do they not have it but it is almost impossible for them to ever get it. True poverty. This is another cheesy, overdramatic article written by the Hook. Good job guys!!!! QUALITY!

wait!! I am wrong. It was not written by the Hook. Here is the source:
Ted Rall's most recent book is "Wake Up, You're Liberal! How We Can Take America Back from the Right" (Soft Skull Press). This essay was distributed by Featurewell.

Even better quality. Talk about fair and balanced...


The issue here is what is the definition of "impoverished" ?

Lets go back 62 years to make it easy. In 1960 what percentage of houses and cars were air conditioned? What percentage of the population of charlottesville even owned cars?

Lets look at the people that lived in the ghetto where Staples and McDonalds are now... They had OUTHOUSES and very few owned cars. Most people in the botttom half bought used cars their entire life.

Then we had some true progress.... houses and cars could be bought with 5% down. Technology broght down the price of A/c units for houses and cars. The city built Westhaven and people moved into homes with indoor plumbing heat and a/c. They had in house laundry facilities and they had security. There was the Graves bus service that went all through town and the city gave out tokens to the poor.

By 1970 the schools were air conditioned, the county offices were air conditioned. Cars became safer with seat belt requirements and crash tests. Agriculture took off and packaged food became less expensive. Microwaves became the norm. Color TV became the norm. organized sports became the norm,The city built public pools and parks.

People have no clue how good they have it. ask an older doctor what it was like to treat diabetes in the 1960s. People died, had legs amputated, had to go to the clinic for shots all the time.

If you want to have a career then go to a nursing home and find a retired person in that career and ask them not how much they got paid, but how they lived for the work they did. Ask them what their standard of living was when they were 25, 35, 45, 55, etc. The odds are overwhelming that not only has the job gotten easier but you can have a much higher standard of living the entire way...(unless you get cancer, hit by a bus or struck by lightning)

A job should not pay more" just in case" something bad happens to you. Your fellow taxpayers are not your mommy or Santa or the lottery.

As for your mothers blender, lowering the price brought blenders into households where they would never otyherwise be. If we have to pay americans 20 bucks an hour for a job that easily accomplished by a 9 year old boy then they are overcharging for thier lack of skillls and deserve to be unemployed. If you cannot find a SKILL then rent a basement and deal with the struggles of minimum wage..... and wear a condom....

Nice article you clueless leftist idiot. An income of 45K with a family of four qualifies you as poor? Hmm... what is the average yearly salary for inhabitants of the undeveloped countries of Africa and Asia.

Permanent unemployment benefits? Are you serious? Are you trying to create a welfare state. Do you not understand that all you are doing is redistributing wealth (taxing rich and giving to the poor) THIS DOES NOT CREATE WEALTH. If you want a good contrast of a society that you believe vs a society that works, look at USA and the USSR. You can even look at it through the scope of cities. Look at Hong Kong vs the rest of China. Did they redistribute wealth in these cities or create it?