Occupy Wall Street – How to Redistribute Wealth

If it was easy to be wealthy, then more people would be.
– Author Unknown –

Occupy Wall Street – As protests go, this one is quite different from the ones of my youth. It does not have one simple, focused demand like ‘End the War’ or ‘Ban the Bomb’, although ‘Redistribute Wealth’ might come close. The protesters claim to represent the 99% of the population that is being denied a chance at upward mobility by the 1% of the population that is extremely wealthy.

So, just who are the Top 1% in America? According to the 2010 US Federal Tax Data, they are the taxpayers who earned over $380,354 a year. They include people  like the US President, cardiologists, lawyers, software engineers, college Presidents and football coaches, professional bloggers, journalists, TV personalities, company owners and executives, internet company founders, pro athletes, movie stars, etc. Apparently about 80% of these people weren’t born into rich families. They started out small, and worked their way up. (Here is an interesting story called How Do the Wealthy Get That Way, by Bert Whitehead)

How to Redistribute Wealth – The Car Guy and I are part of the 99%, but we aren’t protesting the wealth of the 1%. We know how hard it was to get where we are on the ladder, so can appreciate how much effort was required by that 80% of the 1% that are very wealthy .  Many of them got to where they are by convincing the 99% to spend money on their product, and in our case, it is a hard sell. We subscribe to the philosophy that the best way for us to increase our wealth is to ‘Not Spend Money on Things that Make Other People Wealthy.’  I call it our ‘Cunning Plan’ and after 40 plus years of using the strategy, we are retired and living comfortably.

Our Cunning Plan started with the purchase of our first house. It was the smallest (about 900 sq ft), cheapest house available that was still within commuting distance of the city where The Car Guy’s job was. The house was about 20 years old and was only insulated with a few layers of cardboard. The furnace was unpredictable. But this was 1972 – the average size of a home was a bit less than 1000 square feet and we paid about $7000 less than the average cost of a house at that time.  (Today, in both Canada and the US, the average size home is a bit over 2000 square feet. This might be part of the reason home costs have increased faster than income has!)

Of course, the housing market went through a few booms and busts, but we rode it out by buying cheaper homes, renovating and selling – 6 houses in all. Sweat equity  – The Car Guy runs the power tools, I am the drywall, paint and cleaning crew!

The Car Guy’s Dad always said that you should save a little bit out of every pay check, and that was also part of our Cunning Plan. We combined Savings with ‘Living withing our Means’. We had no ‘Lines of Credit’ and no loans other than our mortgage. We paid off the credit cards in time to avoid paying interest fees.  We also realized that the money we saved by not paying debt interest could be used for other things. (Did you know that in the US alone, Credit Card penalty fees and interest paid on unpaid balances amounts to $92 billion per year?  I guess that is one of the reasons bankers are wealthy…)

Delayed Gratification – it wasn’t  always easy, but it was how we made our plan work. That, and we didn’t spend much money on disposable items – the products that make millions for corporations, but don’t provide a return on personal investment. In the US, the annual expenditures for some of these products are:

1. Movies, Major League Sports, videos, music, TV, electronics: $228 billion a year
2. Fast Foods, coffee shops, weight loss products, alcohol, cigarettes, illegal drugs, addiction health care: $635 billion per year
3. Beauty Products: $98.1 billion per year
4. Lottery tickets: $58 billion
5. Soft drinks: $11.7 billion

Some inventive soul created the following poster, which points out that people don’t think about how they support the very thing they protest.

Perhaps ‘Occupy Wall Street’ will help the 99% to understand they are both the problem and the solution.

20 thoughts on “Occupy Wall Street – How to Redistribute Wealth

  1. Hi,
    We also have the protesters here in OZ, in most capitol cities. I always smile when I see them on the news. One guy that was interviewed asked why he had to pay his own way? Others said it wasn’t right for big company’s to be making so much money, all this while posting on facebook (which is a Billion dollar company) and as you pointed out, a lot with apple laptops, smart phones etc. What can you do but smile. 😀

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    • Hi Mags – Steve Jobs (Apple) was praised for being a ‘hard-driving executive’ and ‘one of the great innovators in the history of modern capitalism’ by the media. He was Mr. Corporation, yet his death sparked an outpouring of grief from a huge segment of the population all around the world. Why? Because I think many people could relate to how hard he worked to get to where he was, and were happy to contribute to his success by buying his remarkable dream. The same people don’t think about previous generations who built the companies that everyone loves to hate now.

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  2. I understand your “common sense” approach to living and you make a great point that the people protesting are using products from companies against which they are protesting.

    But try taking a stand anywhere (even on the internet) and not put your “foot in it” when “it” is the greed of capitalism gone crazy, I’m using a laptop that some company’s board of directors is getting more rich from and getting this message through because I’m paying for cable and high-speed internet access. How can I live in this nation as an “ordinary citizen” and not patronize the monopolies?

    “Ordinary citizens” have a right to free speech. You do. I do. They do. No one has to like it or listen to it. It’s a thing of beauty! 🙂

    While each protester may be out there for their own reason, they are all out there for a common cause: inequality in this nation has reached such an obscene level that many people aren’t willing to turn a blind eye to it any more. I think that’s brave, not foolish or disorganized.

    America is a place where we can agree to disagree openly and civilly. Not so in countries like China.

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    • Hi Lorna – If we can agree that greed means wanting more than we need, I’d say greed isn’t limited to the companies that deliver the products. Most of us in the United States and Canada are greedy in comparison to many other countries.
      While I agree that there is financial inequality between people, it isn’t something that bothers me. If the newspapers are to be believed, the super rich have as many, if not more, problems and unhappiness than I do.
      Yes, we are fortunate to have the right of Free Speech, and that is why it is important that Occupy Wall Street works hard at articulating not just their unhappiness, but how they think it should be fixed. Otherwise, they will just look like they are greedy too.

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  3. Strange as it might seem, I see a parallel between the Occupy Wall Street protestors and the Tea Party. Both groups are (rightfully) dissatisfied with the current state of affairs. However, the two groups differ when it comes to deciding, “Whose fault is it?” The Occupy crowd points to Wall Street while the Tea Party points to Washington, DC. Bill

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    • Hi Bill – The current state of affairs is unsustainable. We can point fingers at Wall Street and Washington (or Bay Street and Ottawa.) But we should also point fingers at ourselves for being greedy and gullible. We are the consumers. We are the voters. We are as much to blame for this mess as anyone is.

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  4. Amen. Thank you for putting into words how those of us who are “comfortable” have come to be that way! Working, saving and prioritizing. well said.
    Oh – and by the way, thanks for subscribing to my blog today!

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  5. As people might know in B.C., a woman living in one of the Occupy tents in Vancouver died from a drug overdose.

    3 days ago in our building we discovered a young man sleeping in an empty storage locker. He had to leave our building. He was trespassing and a stranger.

    Sobering…a young person without support and not having a roof over the head. He was clean, well-groomed with his sheets and iPod. hmmmmm.

    I know the thin line exists between myself and the homeless. After all, I was unemployed for 18 months….it is tougher to find a job after 50…

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    • Hi Jean – Occupy Wall Street, if it does noting else, will put a spotlight on some of the individuals who need help.

      Wouldn’t it be nice if your neighbourhood had been able to help the young person in your storage locker – listen to his story, direct him towards people who can help.

      You certainly must be a resourceful woman, having made it through unemployment and having secured employment again!

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  6. Abso-wickedly-wonderful. This is a brilliant post. I understand the inequitable trend that we are creating a tax system and culture that allows wealth accumulation by an elite group, but I have no idea how camping in the streets, reviling government (which paid for the streets), and demeaning corporations accomplishes anything other than putting a burden on police overtime. I nominate you as Queen of the Sane People.

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    • Hi Barb – I understand how unfair it seems when a few have so much when so many don’t. It would be great if the 99% had the same understanding of how to make money work for them as the 1% do!

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  7. Thanks for an interesting post. I read another post about the 99% by Naomi Wolfe, where she represents the 99% movement (the post is called “How I Was Arrested at Occupy Wall Street”).
    In the post she wrote: “several expressed sympathy for the movements’ aims.”
    this made me wonder, so I replied with a simple question:
    “Can someone please inform me what these aims are? The media here doesn’t cover these demonstrations.”
    This was on October 26th and I still haven’t got an answer. And not only that, but she didn’t even approve my comment! I mean, come on: if you’re writing about “the movements aims”, how come you can’t answer a simple question on what these aims are? I am a curious person and I would love to know 🙂

    This summer huge demonstrations were held all over the Israel, similar to what we now see in the United States. In Israel the demonstrators held press conferences and chose someone to represent them and bring forth their point of view to the press, the public & the politicians.
    The problem the demonstrators have/had is/was that even if they hold two jobs, they still can’t make ends meet and they have no chance to make it into real-estate (in the sense of owning their own apartment/house). Even for young couples with several jobs it’s very difficult (unless they have parents that can support them). So, the politicians promised to build more apartments – the only problem is that the more apartments Israel erects, the more the rest of the world hates them for building them!

    In Norway it’s also quite impossible to buy your own home. Maybe not for everyone, but it is for us (and many others) that doesn’t have parents to help out (with security when it comes to financing etc.)
    The prices are extremely high even for small apartments: you can always buy something at the countryside where there are no jobs, but without a job you won’t be able to pay your loan. All the young couples I know that have bought apartments they all have the same story:
    “How were you able to finance this?”
    “Our parents helped”

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    • Hi Cardinal Guzman – I can understand your frustration in understanding what Occupy Wall Street wants to achieve. Their demands are often quite unique to each country or city in the world. The city nearest us actually has two Occupy Wall Street groups, each camped out in a different part of the city. One group has multiple demands, the other is a group of homeless people, some of whom had decamped from the homeless shelters, in order to lend their voices to the demand for better housing for the homeless.

      It is interesting that you should point out a parents role in helping their children to buy a home. In the past, I believe parents and families played a larger role in helping one another than they do now. My parents loaned us some money for a few months when our first house became available before we had saved enough for the down payment. In turn, we have helped our children out financially. If our children ever needed to move home for a while, for whatever reason, we would make that work too. We are there for them, and they are there for us, because we are a family. For any number of reasons, lots of families have lost those ties.

      I understand that the economic situation for many people in the world is dire. My concern is that people expect government to fix it. As I see it, our demands for more and more government services has contributed to many of the problems we have now. The more services we demand, the more taxes the government takes which leaves less money in our pockets so we demand more services from the government. It is a never ending, upward spiral.

      Hopefully Occupy Wall Street will start to ask questions that result in more creative ways of fixing things than putting more tax dollars into government coffers. I personally don’t think that is the answer. More money needs to stay in each and every persons pocket – and that is what employees and employers have to figure out how to make happen.

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  8. I come here for the flowers. I come here for the bees. I come here for the moose and the spiderwebs and the dew on the grass and the frost on the windowpanes. I come here for the beauty of the sky and the lovely ambiance of the Red House.

    But with this particular post, I got a bonus: The Voice Of Sanity. Music to my ears, simply and beautifully expressed. It should be required reading, but of course that would trample on someone’s rights. Superb post, Margie, many thanks.

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    • Thanks Mark – Maybe it is a Voice of Sanity or maybe a Voice of Common Sense, but I don’t think my story is unique. It is just a story of how many of us got to where we are now.

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