One of the core beliefs of the Occupy movement – the idea of the 99% vs. the 1% — is not only laughable on its face but has been picked up and expanded on by lauded liberals like economist and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman. There are a few different ways to judge the Occupy movement. You can look at the Who; the people in leadership positions for the “leaderless” movement like Lisa Fithian or Muhammed Malik. You could examine the What; as of this writing, the 350 or so incidents of violence, sexual assault, and property destruction.
Bring up either of these to an Occupy defender, however, and you’re sure to be met with the argument that these people and events are isolated incidents and not representative of the Occupy movement. It’s a desperate argument, the philosophical equivalent of the timeless epistemological question “How many facial hairs need to grow on a man before you can say he has a beard?” And just because no specific numeric answer is correct doesn’t mean there’s no such thing as a beard. Occupy passed the tipping point weeks ago, which is why even sympathetic mayors were forced to shut down the lawless tent cities nationwide. However, as easy as it is to criticize Occupy on the basis of its leadership and behavior, it’s more important to attack the “why” — the ideological foundation that the whole mess rests on. Occupy has a number of key ideas behind it that aren’t isolated, concepts that are clear and unique to the Occupy movement. One of those ideas is the “We Are The 99%” slogan and the corollary attack on “the 1%.”
It’s very telling about the Occupy movement that its adherents have this as a central concept, because on even the slightest examination, the 99% vs. 1% idea falls to dust as a completely childish oversimplification. The idea is that “Wall Street” and the wealthiest 1% of Americans are the core cause of all our troubles. Here are a few simple, obvious questions about this thesis that the chanting mobs apparently haven’t thought through: Why 1%? Why not 2% or 5% or .31415%? Is it only the 1% that are getting bailouts; has every single member of the 1% fleeced the system? Have none of the 99% ever taken advantage of the government? What about the liberals in the 1% like Arianna Huffington, Michael Moore, or Russell Simmons?
Ask an Occupy defender about any of these questions and you’ll quickly hear the “no true Scotsman” fallacy and learn that ANY 1%er or 99%er who doesn’t fit Occupy’s absurdly broad distinction will be magically and instantly categorized to fit the theory. Lest you think only a homeless substance abuser could boldly ignore such facts, let’s take a quick peek at the work of a Nobel prize winning New York Times writer, Paul Krugman. Here’s how Paul Krugman starts a recent piece:
“We are the 99 percent” is a great slogan. It correctly defines the issue as being the middle class versus the elite (as opposed to the middle class versus the poor).
By “the poor,” Krugman doesn’t mean “the poor.” The middle class and the poor don’t have any natural “issue” until someone comes along to take money from the middle class and give it to the poor via a ridiculous, unviable, or counterproductive program. In Krugspeak, “the poor” means “the elite in government who create these clunky redistributive programs that create a permanent poverty class.” Krugman is crafty, but he’s not dumb, and he knows where his liberal bread is buttered. He knows that “the 1%” is too broad a distinction, and he’s got a solution — a broad distinction that’s not quite as broad. He says:
If anything, however, the 99 percent slogan aims too low. A large fraction of the top 1 percent’s gains have actually gone to an even smaller group, the top 0.1 percent — the richest one-thousandth of the population.
You know that Krugman is going to call for higher taxes, and he doesn’t disappoint. But he also makes a startling statement about just who “the .1%” is.
For who are the 0.1 percent? Very few of them are Steve Jobs-type innovators; most of them are corporate bigwigs and financial wheeler-dealers. One recent analysis found that 43 percent of the super-elite are executives at nonfinancial companies, 18 percent are in finance and another 12 percent are lawyers or in real estate. And these are not, to put it mildly, professions in which there is a clear relationship between someone’s income and his economic contribution.
So nearly half of the .1 are executives at nonfinancial companies; that kind of shatters the idea that the 1% or .1% equal Wall Street or the financial sector. Krugman doesn’t tell us how many of those 43% also were founders of the companies who put in years of ‘sweat equity’ to get their companies to the point of success.
And wasn’t Steve Jobs “a corporate bigwig?” Oh wait, he’s not a true Scotsman! Krugman clearly depends on the ignorance of his audience who will nod along while he spews provable falsehoods like the notion that Steve Jobs is one of the few innovators or job creators among the very wealthy. Innovation isn’t just iPads; it takes many forms, from technical breakthroughs to management to supply chains to business models to seeing markets where none existed before.
Krugman assumes his left-wing readers know none of this and hopes they won’t glance at the Forbes 400 list that would immediately prove him wrong just by looking at the innovators among the top 25 names. The foolish notion that the 1% or .1% are the people primarily responsible for the country’s economic troubles needs to be fought every time it comes up. It’s designed to create a mob mentality, not deep thought, and the idea that any policy would be based on it would be a joke if the Democrats weren’t so obviously enamored with it.