Josh Barro on “the 99%”

Josh Barro on “the 99%”

Thoughts on OWS’s “99%” constituency (thanks to Josh Barro from The National Review Online):

The 99th percentile of Americans, by income, starts with households earning incomes of $593,000. The “We Are the 99 percent” branding puts somebody making $500,000 per year on the oppressed-and-downtrodden side of the wage divide. Indeed, “99 percent” is so expansive a designation that it includes most of the bankers working on Wall Street.

Now, even the far left seems to be endorsing the idea that we can pay for government without touching the poor, the middle class, or even people who are, quite frankly, rich—just not super-rich. If government does valuable and important things, and can’t afford to pay for them with our current tax code, why has it become a consensus view that the vast majority of Americans should get a pass on paying more?

I don’t mean to encourage the Occupy Wall Street protesters to shift their class-warfare target and aim lower. But I do think further reinforcement of the idea that we can make everything better by taking more money from a small elite of super-rich people is unhealthy regardless of where you stand on the political spectrum.

So is there validity to OWS’s 99% constituency? Is it ethical to shift the tax burden from 99% to the top 1%? Is OWS calling for a piggy-back ride from the rich? Feedback welcomed.



10 responses to “Josh Barro on “the 99%”

  1. Wow! I found this post very intriguing. I like how you gave the numbers of what some of the 99% actually make. Indeed, many of those included under the umbrella of the 99% should, by my opinion, be considered to be in the masses of the 1%. It makes me wonder how much the 1% makes in comparison!
    Considering what you’ve said, your inquiry about the OWS calling for a “piggy-back ride from the rich” does seem a lot more valid than when I’ve previously heard it, when referring to who I think are the true representation of the 99%.
    I know a lot of the people who end up with barely anything to survive on after taxes. These are hard-working people who spend almost all their waking hours working just to be able to break even with their living expenses. When I heard such accusations before, it made me angry that people would assume that the OWS is only made up of, say, bratty college dropouts who didn’t want to be burdened with school expenses.
    However, now that I know the full extent of who the 99% includes, it does make me wonder if the criticisms people have about the OWS and their members are valid for most of those represented at the protests.

  2. Well. Any way you look at it 99% of anything is going to be under quite a large umbrella. But you’re right, a piggy-back ride does seem a lot more enticing now. I think people should, however, take a bigger, harder look out there. People in America, even homeless people get way more food and money handed to them then so many people from all over the rest of the world. If I’m ever homeless I know I have shelters and charities and and future job as a street-musician. People in so many other places around the world (and so many more millions of people in general) die everyday because they physically have no food or clean water within their grasp. I personally think the OWS movement is a bit hyped. Life isn’t fair. Call me crazy.

    • Youre crazy. No, but you’re right. Even homeless people in America have a lot of options, which brings up a good point: if the option of a piggy-back ride is on the table, what incentive do poor people have to lift themselves out of poverty? If we use rich people’s money and give it to the poor, all we are doing is making it easier for poor people to stay poor. In fact, programs like welfare have been shown to exacerbate poverty (yes, Anderson, I’ll get some evidence on this and put it in a subsequent post). Oh, I get more money from the government if I have another kid and raise it in poverty? Sweet! (pop).

      • hahaha YES

      • ramblerofoccasionalbrilliance

        Depends on which population of homeless people in America we’re talking about. It’s estimated that 20-25% of the homeless in the united states have severe mental disorders (including severe mood disorders such as bipolar disorder and schizophrenia or schizoid traits).
        It’s easy to say that the homeless are lazy or have no incentive to lift themselves out of poverty because it is a sweeping generalization (just as the 99% can be viewed as a sweeping generalization) Many of the resources for those with mental disorders were eliminated in the late 80s and early 90s when state institutions were closed down as they were seen as inefficient, expensive and many times inhumane. Instead of reform, they were just cut and nowhere near enough funding went to private programs to take their place. (This issue was and is an issue in the UK as well) Often these programs are incredibly expensive, even with decent health insurance and family’s cannot care for them. The system is ignoring this population.

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