Why Small Business and Bloggers Can NOT Ignore Economic Decline and Occupy Wall Street

We’re all in this together.

This post is what I wish everyone could grasp about the status of the world we live in. Start by reading the post this sentence links to and really looking at the graphs that clearly show why we have a failing economy, what caused it, and how to fix it.

I can't afford a lobbyist so I made this sign

THIS is the bottom line – that the money of the wealthy and their corruption has bought and paid for our lives, our economies, and our governments ~ so now we must take them back.

WHO are the 1% and
How Much Do They Earn?

I finally have data on that thanks to Ron Bischof @rjbischof

The average income of the top 1% in 2009 was $1,324, 572 -
There is a HUGE difference between $1.3+ Million in earnings and the
$343,927 income split point many are using to define the 1%

What we need are additional breakdowns on the 1% for earnings,
net worth and income taxes paid including capital gains taxes.

If you look at the graphs Brian Rogel shares about the
Distribution of Wealth and how the Capital Gains Tax
changes
affect our economy and income distribution
you will see what the protests are about.

It should really be the .05% – not the 1%
If you believe you can get into the top .05%

you need to understand that like so many other things
in life you are in a conditioned state!

While you may believe the world revolves around you – it just doesn’t.

You are decidedly NOT one of the bankers and wealthy
elite who are destroying our economy.

(See part of their Table below and click the image to see the full table and many more stats from the Summary of Latest Federal Individual Income Tax Data at TaxFoundation.org.)

Top 1% AGI according to TaxFoundation.org

Image Credit TaxFoundation.org ~ Click image for more stats

We know from this table that this does NOT tell the whole story because it indicates the average tax rate paid by the 1% is 24.01% and the wealthiest pay nowhere near that much in taxes.

Clearly, not all of the 1% are part of the wealthy elite.
WHY 400 Richest Americans Only Pay An 18% Tax Rate
Who the 400 Wealthiest Americans Are
CNNMoney: How the Rich became the über Rich

Whether, as one blogger told me, you think the Occupy Movement is lame, or crazy, or brilliant – whether you think that only hippies, or only the right wing – or left, or only the lazy or unemployed – no matter WHAT you currently believe this movement is about, I ask you to please read this entire post.

The economic problems in the U.S. and around the
world are not because some people earn too much.

They are because some people use their influence and connections
to take what they do NOT earn and avoid paying a fair share of taxes.

Now the greedy, wealthy elite have taken so much that enormous numbers of people will go hungry, homeless and jobless with no hope of turning their lives around as the economy will continue to decline because printing money must inevitably lead to loss of buying power.

Those who can not see where this is going today because they are still living comfortably will be the most surprised when it affects them. Today they believe anyone no matter their circumstances can join the 1%. They are wrong.

And even if they weren’t, there are many people now
who realize they don’t need to be wealthy -
especially if it means others will suffer and die.

Who needs huge houses, new cars every year (or even every three years) or all that STUFF? I don’t. If you think you do, I pity you because for people like that there is never “enough” to make them happy.

This ABC News Interview of History Professor Mark Naison of Fordham University about Occupy Wall Street is a good primer for understanding this protest.

For myself, IMHO, this movement is THE most important thing to have every happened in my lifetime. While many do not realize it, the outcome of this movement will change all of our lives – either for the better – or worse.

A remarkable wealth distribution study (Norton & Ariely, 2010) reveals that Americans have no idea that the wealth distribution (defined for them in terms of “net worth”) is as concentrated as it is.

motherjones wealth distribution feb 2011

Don’t be mislead by attempts to claim wealthy are being over-taxed because the wealthiest pay very little tax.

Lowering tax rates on capital gains, which is how the rich receive a large portion of their income, has given the wealthiest Americans close to a free ride.

Monopolies and near monopolies have always been a source of economic power—from John D. Rockefeller at the beginning of the last century to Bill Gates at the end.

We need to find statistics showing who is paying and who is eluding taxes through offshore investments and other book-cooking strategies.

  • Top 10 Percent of Earners Paid 70 Percent of Federal Income Taxes – if they control most of the wealth shouldn’t they? Using percentages in this way is highly misleading. A huge percentage of the bottom who are paying few taxes today because they aren’t able to find a job or are underemployed and making little would pay more taxes if they could.


WORTH A LISTEN: Occupy Wall Street Song Official “Smile” By Jay Samel

WHY DO AMERICANS NOT WANT TO KNOW?

Many people aren’t interested in knowing what is going on, but we MUST know, and we MUST change what we’re doing while we still can.

David Nichols tweeted:

DavNic4 Tweets

The thing is, we can not separate what is happening in the economy from business because we are headed off a cliff and the only way to not go crashing into the ground is to realize what caused this economic downturn – and more importantly – what we can do to change things.

Occupy Wall Street
is the most important thing to happen in my lifetime.

No one would be happier to ignore politics and what everyone else is doing than me. I would gladly just focus on supporting small businesses and encouraging people to buy locally and share why it would benefit local businesses to SOURCE locally, too.

There have always been laws (permits, DBAs, inspections, ect.) whose primary purpose it to keep new businesses from competing with established businesses that make successfully starting and running a small business less likely for those with less money.

This is the final straw for many of us.
We are willing to be poor by American standards
because we have other priorities.

We don’t choose to make chasing money
and jumping through hoops what is important to us.

The trouble with the rat race is that even if you win, you’re still a rat.
~ Lily Tomlin ~

We want to raise our own food so we don’t go hungry.
No matter what happens to the value of the dollar.

But now lawmakers pushed by Big Ag and the
wealthy elite want to deny us even that?

The reason we can’t ignore those and many other laws any more is that the legal system will not allow us to simply live and let live. Here’s why:

LAWS TO MAKE US HUNGRY:

New laws impose outrageous penalties for sharing food you raise or grow or even consuming it yourself!

See my comprehensive post on threats to our Food Rights.

Many have finally figured out that we have been born into a system of illusion that sold us the fantasy “American Dream” – but that dream is unattainable for the larger percentage of all Americans. As George Carlin says,

“The game is rigged…It’s called The American Dream
because you have to be asleep to believe it.”

All the people born into poverty, or the wrong color, or who have no connections have known this for a long time. Many – like my Father who wanted so badly to believe we were middle class – learned the truth when first their benefits, and then their pensions, and then their careers went away.

Huge numbers of Americans want to claim they are middle class.

Even those like my Father who in spite of being an Air Force lifer with the second highest rank in his unit – qualified (but would not accept) food stamps.

I attended college on a scholarship “primarily intended
for underprivileged minorities”
even though I’m white.

I was the ONLY person from my high school to ever
come from a family that qualified for that particular
scholarship based on economic need AND SAT scores.

The SAT is a pretty accurate gauge of accumulated advantage.”

I managed to score higher than our low income predicted
Which I attribute to a love of reading and writing
And refusing to believe that “girls are no good at math”.

AND just as importantly – because I was born white,
to a literate Father whose American born 100% German parents
instilled in him and he passed to me: high moral standards,
a strong work ethic, and a love of continually learning.

I left home with a couple brown bags of clothes, my college scholarship, a part time job, and a boyfriend who loved me enough to marry me.  He won my heart in college by buying me lunch every day.

It was the first time I consistently had all I wanted to eat.
Before that I ate on $0.54 a day – a Jack in the Box burger and water.

It was the mid-70s and he was just back from Viet Nam. It took me seven years to find out what happened to him over there. They had low draft numbers, so he and his best friend joined the Army and volunteered for tank duty – because the tanks were all in Germany.

The next year they were shipped to the front lines. He was the gunner. His tank was destroyed and he was the sole survivor. The Army took out the shrapnel and put him on another tank. It was destroyed and again he was the sole survivor – twice.

The guilt ate at him all the time.
Why did HE survive and no one else?

Every time he almost graduated he changed his major. After he graduated with a Computer Science degree he declared he didn’t want a computer job. He got a job at Thrifty Drug as assistant manager. He got a glowing review and was about to be made manager. He claimed they were going to fire him so he quit.

He became a landscaping laborer making a fraction of what he had been making. That would have been fine with me if he was happy, but he wasn’t.

For seven years he was fine as long as we were struggling, but the minute things got a little better he would do something to make sure we were back in the hole again.

Then he went through a second childhood, hanging out with the youngest brother or his best friend. Drinking. Partying. Not talking to me any more.

I made the mistake of saying if he didn’t want to talk to me any more I might as well leave. He said, “ok, leave”.

I was shocked and didn’t know how to fix it. I gave him the house and everything in it because he could afford the payments. A young woman and her Mother – being poor – thought he was a catch because he had a house and a car.

She moved in, changed the locks and phone number, and cut off communications between us. I found out later she left him after only a few months when she realized he wasn’t as well off as she thought. Or perhaps she traded up.

I got a call from an IBM Manager at work about a year later telling me over the phone:

He had committed suicide by shotgun.

His Mother had found his body in the back yard of that house. Another guilt-ridden casualty of the Viet Nam “conflict”.

How long will we naively believe the reasons
we are given for attacking other countries?

Every one of us should watch War is a Racket by Smedley Butler.

War is ALWAYS about money: the military industrial complex making
piles of it – while the innocent on both sides are killed and maimed.

US military suicide rate EXCEEDS combat fatalities!

What does war have to do with our economy and small business and Veterans? THAT is where all the money is going that could feed not just America but the world! The exceptional video I originally shared was removed. This one is almost as compelling:

I know people of every class all over the world. I understand how different those who are upper middle class or upper class in the U.S. live from where I came from and how that differs from where those born into true poverty.

We Americans like to think there are no classes.
There are – we just don’t call them that or talk about them.

Those born into comfort to families who have family lawyers and family accountants and family business owners have no idea how much those connections benefit them – just the connections and knowledge – to say nothing of the money.

I know it isn’t that they are heartless – it is that they honestly don’t understand why other Americans lives can’t be like their own.

When Nicole Fende, who we know from the Small Business Finance Forum, published this post Debunking the Myths of Occupy Wall Street on fellow Social Media Marketer Marjorie Clayman’s blog I knew I had to help them see.

The text below is partly from my comment in that blog and partly edited. Here is what I want them and others who are currently less affected by the economic decline to know:

Oh, Nicole,

I am very disappointed in this post which clearly reflects the fact that those born into comfort have absolutely no idea how their lives differ from the lives of those born into the lower middle class or poverty.

Poor people who attend horrendous public schools are not taught anything about finance or banking or interest or debt and have no friends, relatives or co-workers who have taught them even basic things like how to write a check and how compound interest works. Still you blame them for not realizing that the payments on the mortgage they just took out may DOUBLE or there is a balloon payment – oh and by the way with their credit they will NEVER qualify to refinance.

As Almost60Really points out, many FORMERLY comfortable ALMOST middle class (they thought they were – but they were really only a paycheck or two from homeless) still own brand name clothes.

Even the actually poor have cell phones (cheaper than land lines now and needed to call to get a ride or find a job) and computers (many cost under $50 used and you can often get one free) and buy designer clothes at the local good will.

(The cheap clothes sold at places like dollar stores, Wal-mart and Target don’t last long enough to end up at second hand stores – the clothes there are donated primarily by people who buy the latest fashions each season and sell for a few dollars per shirt, dress, or slacks.)

This post proves you have no idea how the other more than half lives. I hope you read the comments, actually go out and MEET some ordinary Americans who weren’t born into the comfort you were, find some empathy and realize how inaccurate your judgments are.

I know many people from all walks of life in almost every country in the world and there is one thing that consistently jumps out at me.

People who are born into families who have connections and money just don’t get it.

When THEY say they have no money they mean they don’t have much in the way of LIQUID assets available without penalty of early withdrawal.

When regular people say they have no money they mean they literally have NO money:

  • Nothing in checking or savings
  • No investments
  • And not a penny in their pockets

And before you blame them and say they SHOULD have savings and investments put a pencil to paper:

Figure out how someone who makes minimum wage or earns less now from working two or even three jobs than they did when they had a career can possibly keep a roof over their head and eat and have ANYTHING left over to save.

Don’t forget out of their meager pay they have to have money to commute, maintain a vehicle (many places in America there is NO public transportation) and pay for MANDATORY liability insurance (that benefits the INSURANCE COMPANY – not them because it doesn’t even COVER their car!).

Most have lost their benefits and their REAL pensions thanks to CASH PENSIONS which – by the way – were ILLEGAL when over 200 corporations used them to steal retirements from their employees so their CEOs could earn increased incomes from cooking the books.

Here’s a little experiment for you:

Go somewhere where you know no one and have NOTHING and see how well YOU get on at figuring out where you can live and finding a job and saving money when you don’t have ANY RESOURCES to fall back on and NO CONNECTIONS who can help you out.

Before you respond that even poor people have friends, family, peers and co-workers remember that YES they do – but they’re all poor, too. They can’t help each other much when they can barely feed themselves.

Those in the upper classes do not realize
how their connections have created their success.

I know one Texan who is so clueless about the business he is in that back when I knew him he is on his FOURTH Thoroughbred Farm. The first three went bankrupt, but no problem because he has wealthy friends willing to invest in yet another one and buy horses from him.

Meanwhile, the most brilliant breeders can barely give horses away because they don’t move in the circles where people have that level of disposable income.
When everyone you know has money it is far easier to succeed in business than when no one you know has money.

The key to solving the economic challenges facing us all is to better understand the people who aren’t like you.

While the decline has already affected the poor and the formerly middle class, it IS going to affect those who are comfortable today.

They are going to be SHOCKED. It wasn’t poor people who jumped out of windows during the Wall Street Crash of 1929.

The comfortable are the least prepared to deal with surviving the crash – and I assure you there IS going to be a crash unless major changes are made.

We are ALL in this together. The solution is creating strong local economies. Search on Twitter for #BuyLocal #ShopLocal #EatLocal #SmallBusiness and for the various hashtags related to Occupy Wall Street especially #ows to learn more – or ask me.

I'm a Human Being Not A Commodity Sign at Occupy Wall Street

Click Image for Best 50 Signs from Occupy Wall Street on BuzzFeed.com

Occupy Wall Street Information:

OCCUPY WALL STREET VIDEOS:

There are tons of Occupy Wall Street videos on YouTube and elsewhere. These are some of the best I’ve seen. If you have particular favorites please leave a short description and a link in the comments of this post. I will move those links into the post for greater visibility.

Whenever I write a post like this the silence is deafening. This is so very important I hope people will ask questions and discuss what we can do.

The following two tabs change content below.

Gail Gardner

Small Businsss Strategist at GrowMap
Creator and owner of GrowMap.com, Gail is primarily known for mentoring small businesses and encouraging bloggers to join collaborations to share skills and support small business.