The Arab Spring, which yesterday claimed its first brutal televized murder, confirming that the new regime is unfortunately in no way more civilized or humane than the old one, is slowly gaining ever more traction, and those in power who think they are immune from the basest of human emotions like Gadaffi thought, even in so-called civilized countries, may be surprised to discover otherwise. According to a new AP-GfK poll, 37% of respondents back "Occupy Wall Street" and its various offshoot variants. As can be expected, "A majority of those protest supporters are Democrats, but the anger about politics in general is much more widespread, the poll indicates." What is more disturbing is that nearly two thirds of respondents are openly expressing anger with everything that is wrong in America, even if they can't quite place their affiliation with either the Tea-Party of the #OWS movement. "58 percent say they are furious about America's politics. The number of angry people is growing as deep reservoirs of resentment grip the country." The number was 49% in January - in other words it is rising with meteoric speed. And with the topic of Marxism lately quite prevalent if for purely intellectual masturbation purposes, perhaps the practical implications of Marxist "discontent" should also be considered, and the defining question becomes what will be the tipping point beyond which silent protest and peaceful occupation morphs into something far worse.
As for the actual broad sentiment, we couldn't agree more with the following statement:
"They've got reasons to be upset, they've got reasons to protest, but they're protesting against the wrong people," Jan Jarrell, 54, a retired school custodian from Leesville, S.C., says of the New York demonstrators. "They need to go to Washington, to Congress and the White House. They're the ones coming up with all the rules."
The following will come as no surprise to those who have been following the two core discontentment movements over the past years:
While the troubled economy is at the root of anger at both government and business leaders, there's a key difference. Tea party activists generally argue that government is the problem, and they advocate for free markets. The Wall Street protesters generally say that government can provide some solutions and the free market has run amok.
Of the Americans who support the Wall Street protests, 64 percent in the poll are Democrats, while 22 percent are independents and just 14 percent are Republicans. The protest backers are more likely to approve of President Barack Obama and more likely to disapprove of Congress than are people who don't support the demonstrations.
More generally, many more Americans - 58 percent - say they are furious about the country's politics than did in January, when 49 percent said they felt that way. What's more, nearly nine in 10 say they are frustrated with politics and nearly the same say they are disappointed, findings that suggest people are deeply resentful of the political bickering over such basic government responsibilities as passing a federal budget and raising the nation's debt limit.
And as Ron Paul loosely paraphrased, at the last GOP debate, another democrat before him, "it's the economy, stupid"
The protesters cite the economic crisis as a key reason for their unhappiness. The unemployment rate hovers around 9 percent nationally. Many homeowners owe more than their homes are worth. Foreclosures are rampant. And many young people - the key demographic of the protesters - can't find jobs or live on their own.
"They all have college educations, and some have advanced degrees, and they're unemployed?" says Alice Dunlap, 63, a retired speech language pathologist from Alexandria, Va. She supports the protests because, she says, anger lingers at those who profited while the nation's economy tanked.
"We all got ripped off by Wall Street, and we continue to be ripped off by Wall Street," she says. "You can look at my portfolio, if you like."
The poll found that most protest supporters do not blame Obama for the economic crisis. Sixty-eight percent say former President George W. Bush deserves "almost all" or "a lot but not all" of the blame. Just 15 percent say Obama deserves that much blame. Nearly six in 10 protest supporters blame Republicans in Congress for the nation's economic problems, and 21 percent blame congressional Democrats.
Six in 10 protest supporters trust Democrats more than Republicans to create jobs.
Most people who support the protests - like most people who don't - actually report good financial situations in their own households.
So who is the "minority" that has been targeted by the 99%? Or is it really 99.999% as BusinessWeek analyzes some of the finer nuances in what is now a full blow "poor vs rich" class war.
A better way of thinking about the Occupy Wall Street Movement, though, is to look at what happens at the very top, in the rareified upper reaches of hedge fund land. In his investigation of investment bank bonus payments for 2008, New York attorney general (and now governor) Andrew Cuomo, found that 774 employees of the top 5 investment banks took home close to $4.2 billionin bonuses. That report prompted extensive bonus rage. But here’s a more stunning number to compare it with: for the same year, the top 25 hedge fund managers reaped $10.6 billion in gains, according to Insitutional Investor’s AR Magazine. Let’s set those numbers down again:
- 774 investment bankers: $4.2 billion
- 25 top hedge fund managers: $11.6 billion
There’s more: in 2009, the top 25 hedge fund managers made $25.3 billion, and in 2010 it was $22 billion.
Measured as a proportion of the people in the top 1%, financial types might not be the biggest part. Move up to the very top, and the the share of those finance is absolutely huge. Maybe “We Are The 99.999%” is a more accurate sign, but Wall Street is the right spot for the protests. We may not be sure of just who makes up the top 1%, but who’s at the pinnacle is clear.
Still, exactly which part of the financial world is pulling in the most money is something that’s worth thinking about closely. The focus of popular anger, and of proposals for reform, have been mainly banks and bankers. But if the most outsized compensation is not, ultimately, in the big investment banks but at the hedge funds, it’s not clear that reforming the bank reform will markedly change this distribution—or resolve the central complaint of the protests.
All very good observations... and all quite moot. When the tipping point is reached, we doubt the unleashed codex of vigilante mob justice will care much to look at whether occupant of XXX Crown Lane in Greenwich put down $999,999.00 on their 1040 or added a few extra zeroes.
Just ask the Bolsheviks... Or Gaddafi.