Income Disparity Is Good. Seriously.

by Darwin on November 20, 2011

Is income disparity good?  I guess it depends who you ask.  I like it.  I mean, I always knew I wanted to make more than the next guy. That notion of wanting something better for myself and my family has always driven me to push myself to continue to excel, learn more, take risks, work harder, and ultimately, earn more money and forgo the easy route.  In highschool, the only conversation I ever had with my guidance counselor was about choosing a college and a major.  My parents were invited in for the discussion.  They looked at my strengths and weaknesses and highlighted math/sciences as strengths and English/History as not-so-good (ironic because now I’m drawn more toward blogging and business pursuits than technical endeavors).  Anyway, I asked which degree makes the most money and the reply was Chemical Engineering.  So, that was that. It was a hard major but I thought it was worth it for the future professional opportunities it would afford me.  Fast-forward a few years and I worked to get out of the workaholic manufacturing plant lifestyle I was growing unhappy with, completed an MBA, various professional certifications, started blogging, co-founded an outsourcing business and continued to push myself both professionally and outside of work from an entrepreneurial standpoint.

I spend a lot of my time and effort and take personal and financial risk in pursuing some of these endeavors.  Do you think I would be doing so if there were no reward?  If we all basically ended up with the same income at the end of the year?  Of course not!  People are motivated by incentives.  Risk-taking, hard work and education are rewarded with higher incomes – INCOME DISPARITY.  Isn’t this something that benefits society?

Is poverty good?  No, it sucks.  My mother grew up poor.  Her father died when she was young and back then the country didn’t have much of a public safety net.  Growing up poor still haunts her to this day.  It’s not just a financial issue; it’s a lifestyle, a state of mind, a sense of shame that always follows you.  Don’t get me wrong, extreme income disparity can also mean that many people live in conditions that are unthinkable for those of means.  But what country doesn’t have poverty?  Even socialist and the left-leaning old Europe economies that Michael Moore so admires have extreme poverty.  I mean, the immigrants in Paris?  The gypsies in Italy?  I saw with my own eyes the signs warning us about pickpockets and read the warnings about gypsy children swarming and robbing Americans on travel.  Europe has had their own set of riots where the poor are seeking to be heard.  So, those are economies with noticeably lower income disparity than the US and yet poverty and harsh living conditions exist.  This isn’t to say that I’m complacent about poverty, but to highlight that the two issues aren’t necessarily a zero-sum game.  I wonder if there’s very little correlation actually.  You can have high income inequality AND a strong public safety net.

Income Disparity should be Celebrated, not Maligned – I think our President has done a great disservice to the country in pitting American against American, the have-nots versus the haves.  This constant portrayal of the successful as somehow being guilty and responsible for every gripe the disgruntled Americans have is misguided, naive and dangerous.  The prospect of financial reward is what made America great.  All these disgruntled OWS participants with their smartphones, social media and ability to communicate their message?  This is all thanks to incentives from capitalism.  Steve Jobs was rich as hell.  So are the founders of Google, Facebook, Twitter and many other tools they are using to voice their discontent.  None of these wonderful developments would have been present in their current form were it not for the entrepreneurial spirit – at risk capital, hard work, innovation – all of which create income disparity when they hit paydirt.

I feel I’ve adequately qualified my stance on poverty, but of course, there will be some who will seek to pounce on the theme that celebration of income disparity is somehow mocking the poor.  No, I am simply trying to get people who may initially recoil at the notion of the positives of income disparity to use their heads, stop acting like lemmings and actually employ some critical thinking here.  When I was a kid growing up, Americans celebrated financial success.  Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous, remember that show?  Trying to emulate the success of others is what motivates us to become great and enriches our lives. Our current leaders now shame the rich and successful (while shamelessly fleecing the public retail investor with Insider Trading schemes and writing the rules that allow only them to participate legally).  They claim they serve the people, yet they enrich themselves during and after their terms in ludicrous fashion.  Hypocrisy at its finest.


What Are Your Views on Income Disparity?



{ 55 comments… read them below or add one }

Molly November 20, 2011 at 12:16 pm

I don’t think income disparity and the presence of poverty can be boiled down entirely to hard work, nor do I think incentives for hard work are wrong. But you missed the factor of opportunity, something you obviously had plenty of. You had the opportunity to access a guidance counselor, the opportunity for your parents to miss time at work to come to your school and be involved in your educational choices. There are many poor parents out there working 2 or 3 minimum wage jobs who simply do not have the opportunity to help their kids. And there are plenty of high school kids where money is so tight at home that they do not have the luxury to forgo a paycheck to go to college. Lack of opportunity does not make them work any less hard, but they do not have the luxury of taking risks, for fear of not being able to put a roof over their head or food on the table.

And just because there is some poverty in countries with less income disparity does not make great poverty here ok – that is a ridiculous argument. There may not be a perfect system for ensuring all citizens are cared for in an environment that allows for hard work to pay off, but being ok with a system such as ours is morally lacking.


Darwin November 20, 2011 at 2:24 pm

Well, I’d be the first to admit that I had decent opportunities in life. Sure, I had 2 parents, average public highschool, went to a state school and spent years paying back college debt that I felt was worthwhile. What you cite might be termed “opportunity disparity”, which I agree exists. However, that doesn’t take away from that fact that even within subsets of kids born with varying degrees of opportunity, there are wildly divergent outcomes. For instance, many of the kids I grew up with were certainly more well-off than we were, went to better colleges and well, either failed out or didn’t do much with their degrees. Likewise, within poor communities, outcomes are widely divergent – from finishing high school, to making it to college to ending up in trouble – what often differentiates the motives and the behaviors along the way WITHIN similar opportunity circles is the opportunity to get ahead.

On poverty, I thought the 2-3 qualifiers and explanations in there were adequate but apparently not. I did not condone or marginalize poverty. I stated that it exists everywhere and even if the income disparity in the US were lower, it would still exist. To say, “being ok with a system such as ours is morally lacking.”, what IS the system you suggest gets it right?


WS November 29, 2011 at 1:58 pm

Darwin, I know the point of the blog article to be edgy and get some strong feelings aroused in people, but perhaps a better title might have been: “Income disparity is good. Until it is too much”

Living in the Soviet Union would have sucked. For sure. But no one (serious) is advocating that.

But you know what else sucked just as bad? Living as a serf in pre-communist Russia, where the income disparity was outrageous!

We, as a society want something in between. In fact, it’s what we had for a long time. And now it is going away. The question we should be concerned with is “Is having a strong middle class something that we value as a society, or should we head more in the direction of a highly stratified society?”


Financial Samurai November 20, 2011 at 3:05 pm

So long as you are the one with greater income, and nobody knows, income disparity is fine.

Otherwise, bring out the pitch forks and eat the rich!


Darwin November 20, 2011 at 3:15 pm

Many in this country are hoping it comes to that. I’m seeing more and more giddy calls for violence in the forums and comments related to OWS.


Greg Colvin November 21, 2011 at 7:50 pm

So far as I know we Occupiers are overwhelmingly pacifist. But anyone can post crap on the internet. And, unfortunately, anyone can show up at a meeting, encampment, or demonstration and cause trouble. Years ago, when I helping to organize against nuclear weapons, we had an FBI agent who would try to talk us into illegal actions. We ignored and shunned him until he went elsewhere, where he had more luck.


Paula @ Afford Anything November 29, 2011 at 1:09 pm

@Greg Colvin — In the same way that most Occupiers are peaceful, most entrepreneurs and capitalists are also warm, fair people, not oppressive demons like we’re sometimes portrayed. I believe that the vast majority of people on both sides of the political and economic spectrum are good, kind and fair people, but a few “bad eggs” dominate the headlines and cause trouble.


Greg Colvin November 29, 2011 at 10:36 pm

And some of them are dishonest and heartless: I’ve dealt with them as an entrepreneur myself. They are the new management that the venture capitalists send in when they decide your startup isn’t going to make it, but they need to lie to the employees long enough to extract maximum value before they shut the doors. And then there were the Chicago Board of Trade folks who fluttered MacDonald’s applications onto the Occupiers. Nice guys those. But no doubt there are lots warm, fair people in the top echelons of business, I just think that most them have no clue how ordinary people live.

Luke Thomas December 10, 2011 at 7:34 pm

There is only one way to make a profit in a monetary system. Yes, there are various observable degrees of greed but, with the illusion of a threshold; due to a set of laws that address the observed patterns of instability. Naturally, those laws are influenced by those with the highest purchasing power; a buffer to stabilize the current social stratification. Because there is more debt than the actual supply of money, everyone must compete in a way to make a buck at the expense of others. Any notion, related to the benefit of society as a whole, must be dismissed in favor of market share and “wealth” protection. In a monetary system, the “cost efficient” strategies of wastefulness and anti-optimal standards are mechanisms for profit. Hoarding of trade secrets and compulsive possessions, inherently impose a disconnect between we and the society we all depend on for survival. Any service or product you provide must remain scarce, inefficient, and prepared for obsolescence; lest the “monetary value” for it will disappear. The forced creation of mundane jobs, unnecessarily puts the masses in the trap of debt for servitude. And as consumers, we all contribute to the perpetuation of our infinite growth paradigm with unprecedented waste on our finite planet.

There is an alternative, a resource based economy, which is the application of the scientific method for social concern. If we can all agree on the desired outcomes of access abundance and peace, the tested technological means, via infrastructure and global design, may be initiated. Let us rid ourselves of the primitive problems of war and poverty and graduate to a much more sustainable set of humane problems. The global group mind is symbiotic and emergent. And in the age of the internet, exponential progress is on the horizon.

PKamp3 November 20, 2011 at 3:51 pm

Income disparity is good motivation, for starters – gives you something to shoot at when you aren’t number 1. If a side effect of our system is income equality, another side effect is an huge number of people who would otherwise be in poverty aren’t, just because of America’s strengths.

It’s much better to be a poor American today than the King in the 1200s. You’ll live longer, you’ll have running water, you have cell phones, heating & cooling, electricity… progress helps everyone, not just the top of the human pecking order.

Okay, enough lofty tones – let’s talk Economics. If every profession paid the same college enrollment (and people in STEM fields) would drop as people flocked to professions which required less training. Doctors, Engineers and others have to be paid more to make their ridiculous training and course load worth it. An economy with no income disparity would be pretty inefficient.


Darwin November 21, 2011 at 7:38 pm

This pisses off the progressives, but actually the poor are better off than the wealthy probably just 100 years ago. Air conditioning, cell phones, cable television? These are amenities humans wouldn’t have dreamed of just a few generations ago. Not to say poverty doesn’t suck. But what constitutes poverty today isn’t what many people think.


Greg Colvin November 21, 2011 at 7:56 pm

Yeah, electronics are cheap. Especially used electronics, which you can often fetch free from dumpsters. What being poor means is pick any two: healthy food, adequate shelter, or health insurance. It sucks, believe me.


Terry January 20, 2012 at 2:49 am

Depends on how you define better off. I think that given a choice, some heterosexual men would prefer being wealthy 100 years ago to being poor today.

Wealthy men are sexy, influential, and highly desirable. Poor men are unsexy, inconsequential, and undesirable, they don’t get the girl.


JT November 20, 2011 at 4:45 pm

As Pkamp3 said, income disparity is a natural function of the marketplace.

I think the only problem with income disparity–if there is one–is that we tend to care more about the distance from top to bottom, rather than what top or bottom really means. If we solve the income gap by making the distance from top to bottom smaller, but making everyone poorer as a result, have we really made anything better?


Darwin November 21, 2011 at 7:40 pm

I don’t see how we reasonably limit “gross income” disparity in a free market. Taxation is one way to cut the spread in actual net income (wealth), but gross income? The robin hood approach doesn’t help anyone.


Greg Colvin November 21, 2011 at 8:01 pm

Net income suffices, I should think. That’s what you can actually spend, save or invest. And I’ve argued elsewhere on this thread that both the livability of the lowest levels and spread up to the highest are important.


Ash @ Sterling Effort November 20, 2011 at 9:11 pm

Actively celebrating disparity is a little too unsavoury for me, but I certainly agree that disparity is necessary. I grew up poor and so did my parents before me and like you, I’m sure, I wouldn’t wish that lifestyle for anyone. What I would celebrate is that I live in an environment where my hard work and smart decisions get rewarded. We would easily win our argument if it were as simple as that, but the problem is that our economies also reward corruption and psychopathic behaviour. This makes it hard to convince the OWS morons that there is a strong relationship between hard/smart work and financial success.


Darwin November 21, 2011 at 7:43 pm

Well, perhaps celebrating it is unsavory, but you seem to be OK defending it. Only Fox news would dare mentions support for the theory, something the rest of the MSM brushes under the rug. These ideals are under attack in the western world. It’s good to remind people of the benefits.


Greg Colvin November 21, 2011 at 1:34 am

We’ve always had inequality. That’s the not the problem. The problem is that over the last three decades the rewards for increasing productivity have gone overwhelmingly to the top of the distribution., so that our inequality now rivals any third-world country.

It doesn’t help that the very worst of that maldistribution has come about by what amounts to the outright bribery of Congress by the richest people and corporations, and the outright theft of people’s pensions and homes. This is not a “natural function of the market.” It’s a function of criminal greed.

Further, research shoes that inequality itself, beyond a point, causes sickness and unhappiness for rich and poor alike. It’s not pleasant to run a gauntlet of beggars just walking to work.

To make it worse, our safety net sucks. I used to be a world-class engineer and serial entrepreneur. Now, thanks to a decade of misdiagnosed illness, I am trying to survive on Social Security Disability, and find I cannot simultaneously afford food, medicine, and rent. I will soon be living in my truck, as without food and medicine I will die.

And of course, I am not alone. The real unemployment rate is 20% and rising. If it gets much over 30% we might just see a revolution, where the rich are forcibly divested of their assets. Such are rather common historically. I hope it doesn’t come to that. Alternatively, we could become a police state in order to maintain the inequality by forceful suppression of revolution. Or maybe, just maybe, we could get back to what America looked like 30 years ago, so far as unequal, but not radially unequal, distribution of income and wealth. And even less likely, we could make education and health care affordable for all, so that being poor wouldn’t be so bad.

Which future would you prefer?


Noah November 21, 2011 at 5:48 pm

The problem with things like pensions is that they are not feasible unless you make the eligibility 75 or 80. California is starting to reap its unwise pension decisions of the last 30 years and it’s not going to be pretty.

I agree that the inequality is ridiculous. What I would like to see is capital gains taxes match income taxes for those making over a certain amount. I wouldn’t want to screw the middle class of things their retirement investments, but for someone making over $1million, it only makes sense that they are taxed differently on their investments.

Also, universal, single payer healthcare is inevitable and will probably surface in the next few years. I’m also not entirely convinced it’s a bad thing since the insurance companies have been screwing people for years. A family of four shouldn’t have to fork over $15K/yearly for health insurance. As I get older, I’m not as upset about millionaires paying for this either.


Darwin November 21, 2011 at 10:12 pm

Well, I don’t really prefer any of the dire outcomes but I don’t think we can go back to America of 30 years ago either. The world has changed (and we had rampant inflation and plenty of issues back then too); globalization has changed everything. We need to continue to adapt and transform or we are left behind. Your particular predicament is regrettable. I’m not sure how someone in similar circumstances in another country would fare; I can only assume under Obama’s hc reform your situation would improve?


Greg Colvin November 21, 2011 at 10:40 pm

SSDI includes Medicare, after a 2 year, 5 month wait. I’m not sure why they make you wait. Perhaps they are hoping you will die first. And Medicare comes with premiums and deductibles high enough that I can no longer afford rent. Neither can I risk being uninsured. I don’t see that Obamacare would help me much. I can’t say it if helps in general, as it leaves the insurance companies in charge, and the government not allowed to negotiate prices. There are a large number of countries that provide universal single-payer health care. Most all of them would be a better place for me, except that I’m American, and want to live in America, with my family and friends.

Clearly we can’t just go back 30 years, but in principle we could adjust our tax policies to reduce the net disparity and discourage financial speculation (e.g. Tobin tax.) And it wouldn’t hurt to start prosecuting the criminals in the financial system, and restore the post-Great Depression laws whose repeal led directly to the current situation.


Chris November 21, 2011 at 10:50 am

I don’t think the problem is paying people more for certain jobs. If you created the product/idea, became a doctor, or even a chemical engineer then I believe you should most certainly be paid more. The bigger problem is with the amount more. CEO’s making, on average, something like 500 times more than their average employee. You mean to tell me that being paid just 100x more isn’t enough incentive? That if someone makes $30,000 and their CEO only make $3,000,000 that the CEO’s lifestyle will be hurting?
Overlooking that this 3,000,000$ CEO will not even pay much in taxes (there have been a few that have come forward and had the stones to joke that they pay almost nothing in taxes). If you make 3,000,000$ then you should pay your due taxes on that.
However, they aren’t making 3,000,000$. They are making hundred of millions, billions even. The disparity is how huge the gap is. There should always be incentives for progress. Doctors should definitely be paid more than a medical assistant. Lawyers should make more than their paralegals. CEO’s should make more than someone on the production line. But no one needs the ability to build 10 roller coasters while others can’t afford to eat because the CEO out sourced their job to a country with cheaper labor to reap more money for his company and his own pockets.


Noah November 21, 2011 at 5:11 pm

The salaries of CEOs are set by shareholders. If a CEO is successful and earn the company and shareholders money, they will obviously be paid a lot. I don’t see a problem with this. If the shareholders don’t like the CEO or think he’s overpaid, he’ll either be fired or paid less.

The reason they pay less than others (Warren Buffet vs his secretary is a good example) is because most of their income is from stocks vs a paycheck. Capital gains is 15%. I believe in the case of Warren Buffet, his secretary was making something like $125K/yearly, so her overall tax rate was larger (probably 38% or so). This DOESN’T mean that she paid more in taxes. Someone like Warren Buffet pays millions yearly in taxes. It simply means he pays a lower rate. This idea that CEOs are hardly paying anything in taxes is simply untrue.


Chris November 21, 2011 at 6:48 pm

If he is making millions a year, why should he be paying a lower rate?

Again, I am not saying that people who create the idea, make the right business decisions, or have a much harder education should not be paid more. However, there are a lot of problems created by the size of the disparity. Should someone busting their rear at 2 full time jobs not be able to afford himself a weeks vacation a year? Scratch that, shouldn’t he be able to feed and shelter himself? Should he lose his pension, have his benefits taken away/reduced, or be laid off all in the name of higher profit margins (which those share holders will undoubtedly set a higher salary for)?

You also have to consider political influence in this matter. Corporations and people with money have far too much influence. Meanwhile, average Joe has nothing but 80 hour work weeks (or unemployment).

Again, I am not saying they shouldn’t be paid their dues for working their way to the top. But do they have to do away with the middle class in the process? What happened to being able to work sensibly hard, get your degree, work your 40-50 hours a week, and be rewarded with a comfortable middle class life?


Noah November 21, 2011 at 7:49 pm

I agree that there should be additional taxes on anyone making more than $1million/year.

Anyone busting their rear at 2 full time jobs either didn’t choose to go to college and get a higher education, lives in a high-cost area like New York, chose to have too many children, or is spending way beyond their means.

It’s might seem unfair, but a successful CEO is MUCH more valuable than the average joe at a company. If a person is upset about losing his/her pension or paycheck, they should find another job.

We definitely need to keep the middle class. The problem is that the middle class keeps election political officials who aren’t willing to change anything. All of these OWS people aren’t going to change anything. They need to either elect new people or run themselves.


Greg Colvin November 21, 2011 at 8:10 pm

Noah, where I live the working-class people say it takes three jobs to make a living. And it’s not that chose not to go to college. Some aren’t smart enough for college, some just couldn’t afford it, and some are working their way through college.

And have you noticed that thanks to Wall Street there are now five seekers for ever job? It’s not so easy to just go get another one. And if your company raids the pension fund and later says it can’t afford to pay yours? How is that not theft?

Noah November 21, 2011 at 8:43 pm

Greg, where do you live? I live in Orange County, CA where the average wage is somewhere around $65-70K/yearly. While it may not be enough to afford a nice house, it’s more than enough to live comfortably on. This includes health care. These people aren’t rich and they would consider themselves working-class. When I think of “working class”, I think middle class. Most of these families are 2 income families, but the bottom line is they are doing just fine.

I think that it’s crooked to raid a promised pension to give to the current retirees. If you are getting any type of pension nowadays consider yourself very lucky. The majority of people my age (30) will never see a penny from a pension. I also don’t think that companies have a duty to provide a pension. It’s a perk that at one time was nice when you worked for the same company for 30 years, but those days are over. Pensions have the ability to bankrupt a company which is happening to the state of CA.

GregColvin November 21, 2011 at 9:28 pm

Noah, I can’t reply to your comment directly, (nested too deep?) so here I am in the wrong place. I live in Chaffee County Colorado. Not sure what statistic you meant by “average wage”, but Wikipedia says of my county:

“The median income for a household in the county was $34,368, and the median income for a family was $42,043. Males had a median income of $30,770 versus $22,219 for females. The per capita income for the county was $19,430. About 7.40% of families and 11.70% of the population were below the poverty line, including 17.30% of those under age 18 and 10.20% of those age 65 or over.”

For Orange County it says:

“The median income for a household in the county was $61,899, and the median income for a family was $75,700 (these figures had risen to $71,601 and $81,260 respectively as of a 2007 estimate[17]). Males had a median income of $45,059 versus $34,026 for females. The per capita income for the county was $25,826. About 7.0% of families and 10.3% of the population were below the poverty line, including 13.2% of those under age 18 and 6.2% of those age 65 or over.”

So Orange County is significantly richer. But these numbers are also out of date, (circa 2006) and I suspect the 2008 crash hit Chaffee County harder then Orange County.

There is no well-estabilished definition of “working class” vs. “middle class,” and no agreement as to whether “middle class” includes “working class.” I could perhaps more accurately describe my friends working multiple jobs as “lower class” but they work too damn hard for that. Three jobs is how we joke about it, but two is very common.

And yes, traditional pensions are over, along with job security and honest management. Portable pensions might be workable, but that amounts to a 401K, I guess. I financed my last run at starting a business by putting mine into the riskiest fund Fidelity had and letting it triple. Scary, but it bought me a year of R&D, and the software I wrote will be the starting point for my next run.

Noah November 21, 2011 at 9:53 pm

It sounds like your friends are hard-working individuals. It is never too hard to try and learn a new trade or skill that can bring in more income. I honestly don’t know how someone can conceivably work 3 jobs, unless you mean one in the morning, one at night and one part-time on the weekends.

On a side note, what type of software are you writing? I am also a software developer 🙂

Greg Colvin November 21, 2011 at 10:48 pm

As I said, “three jobs to make a living” is partly a joke. But not entirely, as two jobs might not be enough either. And yeah, a day job, a night job, a weekend job, and not much sleep.

As for my software: check the website. My current business plan is much less ambitious.

PKamp3 November 21, 2011 at 11:00 pm

I know you were joking, but I wanted to point out this little irony:

If they both make the same amount per hour, the guy working more hours (three job example) will pay more taxes than the guy working less (single job).

Greg Colvin November 21, 2011 at 11:10 pm

Noah: the website is broken, and the server won’t let me login to fix it. The kind of software I’m writing is information retrieval, similar to latent semantic indexing. The hard problems are doing it accurately enough to bother, and efficiently enough to scale to the Web. Those goals being in conflict, of course.

PKamp3: I don’t understand why working more jobs means more taxes.

PKamp3 November 21, 2011 at 11:30 pm

Note I said, they make the same amount per hour. So say, $10 an hour. Guy number 1 works 120 hours a week, brings home $62,400. Guy number 2 works 40 hours a week, brings home $20,800.

Pick your filing state – Guy number 1 will be paying more in tax strictly as a function of his higher salary. It doesn’t matter that they get paid the same amount per hour.

That’s what I think is ironic.

Greg Colvin November 21, 2011 at 11:35 pm

Oh. That’s not irony. That’s just progressive taxation.

Darwin November 21, 2011 at 10:17 pm

CEO pay can seem pretty outrageous; it comes down the competition and one-upmanship unfortunately. If a competing firm is willing to pay that same leader considerably more and he/she IS actually delivery, why would they stay? It’s tough to regulate US firms competing with foreign competing firms.

I think the CEO issue applies to so few Americans though, it’s way off the spectrum. I think within the normal distribution (10%-95% bracket of income), this notion of disparity is more natural. Agreed, people with access to politicians, cronyism, etc. bastardizes the whole system.


Greg Colvin November 21, 2011 at 11:23 pm

I’ve read that some companies are moving overseas because American CEOs demand so much pay that it’s a serious drag on profits. And while I’m at it, here are some charts that back up what I’ve been arguing:

CEOs make too much:

The rich really are rich:

The rich are getting richer faster:


Daniel November 21, 2011 at 4:58 pm

While people can move up in the world, it’s much harder when you start out as one of the poor. Just because a few people did it doesn’t mean anyone can. If there are people working 2-3 jobs (and working hard) to support their families and they still have to use food stamps just to get by, that’s no quality of life. And for some people, there’s no way to move up in the world.

When the rich increase income over 30 years and the poor stay at about the same place over the same time period, the system isn’t working for many of them. While I may not have the solution, it’s clear that there is a problem for many people. The system doesn’t work for them and that’s what OWS is trying to fight.


Greg Colvin November 21, 2011 at 8:25 pm

It’s not just the poor who have been stuck, it’s everybody except the rich. And the big reason this is unfair is that everybody’s productivity has been increasing, but the rewards for that increase are primarily captured by those at the top.


Darwin November 21, 2011 at 10:26 pm

Well, I would say that within that cohort, someone who has to work 2-3 jobs to support their family – it must stink. But kudos to them because for every one of them there are others in their same predicament who aren’t working and just living off public assistance. What differentiates those two individuals? Income disparity. One can only assume that with two jobs paying minimum wage AND collecting food stamps, that’s the equivalent of like $30-$40K per year. Perhaps not killing it in today’s America, but certainly better off them the equivalent of $12K on public assistance.

It stinks for a lot of people, there will always be a high and low end of the spectrum. There is a way out of this cycle of poor opportunities within segments of society:

How? A surefire way would be an improvement in the public schooling system. But unions fight meaningful change tooth and nail. Ya know, because it’s all about the kids.


Amateur Hour November 21, 2011 at 8:21 pm

I believe that you are missing the point. The current backlash against income disparity is not simply that some people make more than others. Americans have a long history of celebrating success and the majority of us believe that hard work should be rewarded.

Other than a few fringe Marxists, no one is saying that there shouldn’t be ANY income disparity. People are angry because they see a rapidly growing level of disparity in wealth, and they view that as coming from some individuals gaming and cheating the system. Rest assured, bloggers are not being targeted here, regardless of how successful they may become. No one is saying that you, Darwin, should not be successful if you work hard, live frugally and invest wisely.

There is a growing wealth gap between the absolute richest Americans and everybody else, and the sentiment is that these few individuals are not necessarily working harder, but cheating. If your income grows faster than everybody else because of lobbying, market manipulation, subsidies or other advantages, then your success should not be celebrated. The fact that we see more and more of this is absolutely not “good.”


Darwin November 21, 2011 at 10:21 pm

I agree that illegal, unethical behaviors, like the ones exhibited ironically, by our Congressmen and women in last week’s 60 minutes (Pelosi’s reaction to questioning her insider opportunity on the VISA IPO was just shameless) should have people pissed off. OK, but why is everyone pissed at corporations? How about our leaders? It’s odd, nobody’s protesting Congress, Obama. It’s because Obama started this class warfare rhetoric and he can’t really come out and blame crooked politicians, because his party and the other side are equally full of them. So, who to blame? Corporations, banks, rich people.


Chris November 22, 2011 at 1:16 pm

I blame them all. I fully support term limits for all public offices. There should also be a cap on how much money you can receive as campaign contributions. Many of congress’ powers should be put in check or abolished – such as their ability to vote for raises for themselves.

I also believe that politicians, in order to best represent their people’s needs, should have their income based on their constituents’ income. This way, they can best understand the needs of their people.

There are plenty of crooked people in business. They are certainly causing plenty of problems with the disparity. But make no mistake, crooked politicians bother just as much – if not more. They are the ones creating the laws that allow for the tax loop holes used by the rich, the laws that support out sourcing of jobs, and the ones too lazy to provide necessary social change. If you work 60 hours a week, you deserve some quality of life with the few hours of free time you might have.


Amateur Hour November 22, 2011 at 1:51 pm

I really don’t understand how you can think that people are not protesting the entire system. Polls show that American’s faith in all branches of Government are extremely low. When I visited Occupy LA, there was a tremendous amount of anger at President Obama, the Senate, the House, Corporations, Banks, etc. It really is a systemic problem that people are angry about. More than anything, the #1 complaint that everyone I have talked to can agree on is that money in politics is allowing corporations, especially in the finance industry, to game the system. That is why people are angry. It is not, as your post suggests, that they hate successful people.


Daniel November 22, 2011 at 2:06 pm

I agree, I think OWS is funny to be protesting on Wall St. where people are making money instead of on Capitol Hill. The people who can make the changes you want are in DC, not New York. But maybe this is a way of getting attention, there are a lot of problems with OWS, if they came up with a few good demands and points, maybe they’d be able to have the impact they want. But of some of their demands are just nutty.


Darwin November 22, 2011 at 6:33 pm

I still find it strange that everyone’s so angry at corporations, executives, the rich, whatever… but not the politicians on the take. If the claim is (in some cases true to some degree, other times not) that big biz is essentially bribing politicians, why not direct the anger at those TAKING the bribes as opposed to those giving? It’s just cliche and easy to attack capitalism, big business and faceless corporations.

Oh, and the funny part is, there’s all this “get the money out” of politics and anger, but I don’t see anyone at the occupy movements railing against unions. Unions comprise the largest PAC contributors compared to many of the corporations being maligned. Public sector unions hold the American taxpayer hostage and artificially inflate the price of the services we are provided. Where is the outrage?… If that doesn’t tell you something about the makeup of the movement, I don’t know what does…


Luke Thomas November 29, 2011 at 4:08 am

I’m angry at the monetary system (socialism, communism and capitalism) and I don’t support unions (they are corporations too). There is a large group of us that participate in the occupy movement that are ignored by the media (The zeitgeist movement). Money is a primitive mechanism since we have the technology to provide automated sustainable abundance for every human need. We just have to decide to do it.

Amateur Hour December 1, 2011 at 12:58 am

“I still find it strange that everyone’s so angry at corporations, executives, the rich, whatever… but not the politicians on the take.”

Again, I think you just must not be paying attention. That or you have already made your mind up and don’t want anything like facts to get in the way. Look at any recent poll showing the levels of support for any government entity. The House, the Presidency, the Senate, all have very low numbers. People ARE angry at politicians on the take.

I am truly surprised that you don’t understand that some of the anger should be at corporations, executives, etc. Being angry about Enron, AIG, Lehman Brothers, Goldman Sachs doesn’t mean that you are anti-capitalist or jealous of wealth, it is merely recognizing the obvious fact that large corporations will bend and break the rules when it makes financial sense to do so. You don’t understand how seeing these companies get bailed out for their excesses would cause a small amount of resentment? Really?

I’m right there with you that people should be angry at the politicians on the take, and here’s the thing, they are.

Jafaar November 29, 2011 at 1:52 pm

@Amateur Hour- Thanks for making the middle-case point. I see too often this kind of black and white thinking about issues, largely drawn by POLITICIANS to get us fighting with each other and ignore what they are up to so they can maintain the staus quo.

Look, I am a serial entrepreneur. I have benefited from our country greatly. But as a business owner I can tell you, I don’t want so much of the money in the hands of a few people who don’t spend it (no- I am not talking about anyone reading this, so don’t get all defensive). It creates a drag on the economy to have so much unproductive capital out there.

My argument against such a great wealth disparity is not that it is somehow “unfair.” Life is unfair, and everyone knows that. It’s that it is not a good economic plan.

This is coming from a business owner, so I don’t need to hear any OWS bashing re-hash.


Amateur Hour December 1, 2011 at 1:05 am

@Jafar – Thanks for the response. I have a similar background in that I am also a business owner. I completely support people like Darwin and others who have commented that are trying to become wealthy. After all, I am working on the same thing.

In my opinion, I feel that the Occupy movements are protesting real and significant problems that deserve more respect than off-hand comments like “income disparity is good.” That may be true, but it is not the point. I have my own issues with the Occupy groups, and often find myself in disagreement about the proposed solutions that they come up with. Dismissing their anger as simple jealousy is dishonest however, and they deserve a more thorough analysis.


Darwin December 2, 2011 at 12:40 am

I don’t think I’ve dismissed them, nor referred to them as jealous. I think their anger is misplaced.


Greg Colvin December 2, 2011 at 1:01 am

The fact is that most of Congress is nearly owned by their campaign contributors. And yes, a lot of that money comes organized labor and other liberal interests. But the largest amount comes from the finance/insurance/real estate sector. The main business of Wall Street.

So who should you get mad at most? The puppets? Or the puppeteers?

Neo November 23, 2011 at 10:16 am

Great post! I think the entire concept of a millionaires tax is garbage. I am not a millionaire (yet), but I am sure striving to be one soon and I think the worst thing you can do is tell someone that you are going to put them in the penalty box for being successful. As you pointed out, the great thing about America is that you can make something out of nothing with just your brain and pure sweat. You take that away and then what do you have? A place where you are better off being average and not stepping out of line and that is no place for me…


Luke Thomas November 29, 2011 at 3:43 am

Our needs are our incentives, NOT money! The rest is a distortion. It is extremely important to realize that our observations of human behavior today, differ from those in our history or future based on the relative zeitgeists (mass perspectives of the time). Congruently, behavior is a direct function of access to one’s needs. In a resource based economy, where pride and respect are no longer relevant (No money or superstitions), the frustrations and embarrassments that lead to vindictive behavior will be virtually nonexistent. Time and again, study after study show that children of deprived environments lead to aberrant behavioral motives. Targeting the cause of a problem is much more productive than exploiting the symptoms. And this goes for all the world’s problems that are currently being handled by the highest bidder; without any technical application.


Darwin December 4, 2011 at 5:13 pm

Using same source…I count 10 out of 20 of the top PAC contributors are unions, even when they disguise their names to pretend they’re not.


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