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When the Revolution Comes
A Message for the 1%
It is a most disconcerting feeling to those on their way to their place of employment, to be faced with parks, streets, even church yards filled with the occupying masses. These people, with seemingly nothing better to do than spend their days (and nights) creating foul sights, smells, and noises, are nuisances to no end for the hard-working few. But despite the frustration, despite the anger at seeing those occupying masses smoke their pot and bang on their drums while the 1% must selflessly continue to create wealth for the greater good, I suggest to you that now might be a good time to pay attention to these incoherent few. I say this not because it is the "fair" thing to do, nor because it is the "morally correct" thing to do; rather I say this because, simply put, it is in your best interest.
At the height of the civil rights movement in the 1960s, Bob Zellner- the first white southerner to serve as Field Secretary for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC)- pointed out to his colleagues that the cause would have greater force, build greater momentum, if it could bring poor whites into the fold. This person's point was that the system as it then existed, while focused on oppressing the black minority, was at the same time oppressing the poor white majority. The well-off whites had been able to get away with this for so long because they could tell these poor whites, "Sure, you're poor and uneducated, and your children will also be poor and uneducated, but hey, at least you aren't black."
After being taught to think in this manner for so many years, the civil rights leader knew the task of bringing poor whites on board would not be easy. One could not appeal to their sense of justice; their hatred was too ingrained. Rather, SNCC, and the movement, needed to appeal to poor whites' "selfish self-interest," for only then would they care enough to join the cause.
It is in this vein that I now appeal to you, the 1%. You captains of industry, you capitalist geniuses. You may not see it yet, but trust me when I say it is in your selfish self-interest to start heeding the demands of the 99% occupying the streets outside your window.
You see, I am on your side. Truth be told, and this must stay a secret between us, I too am in the 1%. I too enjoy full-time employment. I too enjoy the finer things in life that the fruit of my 80-hour workweeks pay for. And like you, I want to keep it! I certainly don't want to hand over all that I have worked for to those occupying masses that won't stop shouting and are making it hard to concentrate as I work.
But, and this is where we may disagree, I believe that to keep the vast majority of what I have earned by my own labor (no credit need be given to the system in which I was born and raised that enabled me to be so successful), it is time to throw a bone to those occupying masses before it is too late.
I know what you are saying now. "We are safe. My possessions are safe. Why should I be worried?" And admittedly, in many ways you are right. We still have the benefit of a good number of the 99% being willing to look down on their occupying brethren. Hell, we even have some who will go so far as to pepper spray them in the face as they occupy! What could make us more secure on our perch than that?
But these things in fact make us less secure, as it induces sympathy for those occupying and their cause. You don't have to think too far back to remember how the civil rights movement did not gain a great deal of traction until the power structure was caught turning fire hoses on school children and allowing German Shepherds to take a bite out of them.
The more these crackdowns are covered, no matter how justified they may be, the more trouble it is for us in the long run. And, unfairness of all unfairnesses, we have the added degree of difficulty of having to live in the age of Twitter. No longer do people have to wait for the nightly news to see who is pepper-spraying the occupiers--they are aware of it almost instantaneously.
And so I say to you, isn't it time to give up a bit in order to maintain a whole lot? I am not advocating something so drastic as to return to the socialistic times of President Ronald Reagan, when the top federal tax bracket got all the way up to 50%; that would be insanity. Rather, I am suggesting we give a little ground (maybe 40% instead of the current 35%?), more symbolic than anything, if only to keep these people quiet outside of my office.
Yes, it is true you have worked hard for this money. Why should a bloated federal government be entitled to take it from you just so that it can then go waste it on things like medical care for the young and the elderly, or free lunches for poor children? Don't those people have any sort of work ethic? Maybe they will soon take Newt's advice and work as janitors for their school lunches. No more free rides for those 5th graders! But again, I am not appealing to you on fairness. It is not fair for you to give away your hard-earned money, there we agree. I am appealing to your selfish self-interest.
It all comes down to math. Now, I was never as great as at math as the derivative traders on Wall Street, let alone the inventors of the credit default swap, so I will keep this pretty simple.
Say you have $5 million in savings, the result of 30 years of hard work and raising yourself up by your bootstraps. Say you also earn $500,000 a year from your continued labor. These are both paltry sums to a good many of you, I am well aware, but they are illustrative only. Don't worry. Yet.
Now say that in order to pacify these occupying masses we raise the top tax bracket from 35% to 40% (again, just illustrative, don't worry). That is an additional $25,000 out of your pocket each year. Again, I am not advocating the "nuclear option" of returning to Comrade Reagan's time when the proletariat would have demanded an additional $75,000 from your paycheck. Baby steps.
Now I realize $25,000 isn't exactly pocket change, but it's not going to force you to downgrade to a house with one tennis court, or make you drive something domestic rather than German--although you might want to consider waiting another year for the Lamborghini or the Gulfstream. Still, I contend it's a sacrifice well worth making. And this is where the math comes in. Though we would be surrendering that additional $25,000 each year, we would still be holding onto $300,000 (minus state taxes, etc.). On top of that, we have to remember that $5 million nest egg we have so diligently built. Because, and here is the rub, when the revolution comes, none of this will be guaranteed any longer. That $500,000 a year job may no longer exist. That $5 million nest egg can be inflated away to nothing in the blink of an eye (think of the recent experience in Zimbabwe or more historically, the Weimar Republic).
Sure, we are different from those societal "failures," but can we guarantee that will always be so? Can we guarantee that the 99% (and yes, it is an exaggeration, but even if their numbers swell to half the people they claim to represent, we could be in some serious trouble) won't eventually get fed up and take it all from us? Can we guarantee that an American Chavez will not come to power and nationalize all the institutions we have built, and extracted wealth from, with our own bare hands?
It was our own Founding Father Thomas Jefferson who called for a revolution every twenty years. In other words, we are overdue.
We may still have a chance to get out of this with a scratch rather than a mortal wound, but one recent statistic suggests we don't have long to heed what should be considered an incredibly modest proposal. Among the excitement over the numbers showing that consumer spending is back on the rise after a strong Black Friday this year, buyers also set the record for the most guns ever sold in a single day, nearly 130,000, a 32% jump from the previous record.
Whether this is a portent of things to come is at this point uncertain, but it would be prudent to protect our assets the best we can. And if that means giving up a little to protect the bulk of our fortunes to ensure that those occupying masses don't decide that the whole non-violent protest thing isn't getting them anywhere, then that, I would suggest to you, is a tradeoff well worth making.