About Wanderings

Each week I will post my current syndicated newspaper column that focuses upon social issues, the media, pop culture and whatever might be interesting that week. During the week, I'll also post comments (a few words to a few paragraphs) about issues in the news. These are informal postings. Check out http://www.facebook.com/walterbrasch And, please go to http://www.greeleyandstone.com/ to learn about my latest book.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Eliminating the ‘99%’ Can Lead to a Better Message for Social Justice

by Walter Brasch

            It’s time to retire the 99 percent.
            Not the people, but the slogan that identifies the Occupy Movement.
            “We’re the 99 percent” slogan focused upon two completely different groups of people. The 99 percent are the masses, the impoverished, the disenfranchised, the middle class; the 1 percent refers to the concentration of wealth in the top one percent of the population and in the dominance of large corporate and global financial systems.  
The Movement, following the Arab Spring, began in the late summer of 2011 with the Occupy Wall Street protest. Central to the Movement, which quickly expanded into more than 500 American cities and 82 countries, was a call for social and economic justice.
During the 2007 Great Recession, the accumulated wealth of the 1 percent decreased significantly less than the wealth of the 99 percent, large numbers of whom first became unemployed and then homeless because of the tactics of greed led by the financial empires.
            Within the 1 percent are CEOs and executives of the banking industry that willingly took government bailout funds, and then used some of that money to give six and seven figure bonuses.
            The 1 percent includes Ina R. Drew, chief investment officer for JPMorgan Chase, which lost $2 billion in funds through misguided investment policies. Drew, one of Wall Street’s power players—and widely recognized as one of the more brilliant financial managers—earned about $14 million in salary. Jamie Dimon, in a stockholder meeting this past week, humbled by the huge loss, told stockholders, “This should never have happened. I can’t justify it. Unfortunately, these mistakes were self-inflicted.” But, Dimon, both the chief executive officer and the chairman of the board, kept his job and its $23 million salary.
             The 1 percent also includes Mitt Romney, who earned about $21 million in 2010, and has a net worth of about $230 million, according to Forbes, but hasn’t filed his 2011 taxes. Somehow, he wants the people to believe he will bring the nation out of the depths of the Great Recession, but needs an extension to file his own taxes.
            The 1 percent also includes right-wing celebrity mouth Rush Limbaugh, who is in the middle of an eight year $400 million contract that allows him to spew lies, hate, and venom at anyone who doesn’t agree with his ultra-conservative philosophy, which includes Occupiers and just about anyone with a social, environmental, and economic conscience.
            The 1 percent includes Sarah Palin, once an obscure politician who now has a net worth of about $14 million, most of it the result of her participation in the mainstream media, which she claims she despises. 
            The 1 percent includes the Kardashian Sisters whose souls are wrapped in self-adulation, and who are worshipped by millions who have enhanced their importance by watching reality shows and reading vapid celebrity “tell-all” newspapers and magazines.
But the 1 percent also includes billionaire Warren Buffet, who is leading a movement to reduce tax loopholes and increase taxes on the rich, while improving the tax structure for the 99 percent.
            The 1 percent includes Bill and Melissa Gates who are spending most of their fortune to improve the education and health of people throughout the world.
            The 1 percent includes George Clooney, who has been at the forefront of the fight for justice in Darfur, whose citizens have been the victims of genocide by the Sudanese government.
            The 1 percent includes Angelina Jolie who is Special Envoy for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, and who has put her money and time into helping the world’s children.
            The 1 percent includes Ed Asner, Bono, Mike Farrell, Bette Midler, Sean Penn, Rob Reiner, Tim Robbins, Susan Sarandon, Barbra Streisand, and thousands of other millionaire celebrities who have willingly put their reputations and money on the line to fight for the important social, economic, and political causes that should be the ones that define America as a land of freedom and opportunity, and which would be supported by most of the nation’s Founding Fathers. 
            In contrast, the 99 percent isn’t composed solely of the victims of the 1 percent. Millions are as uncaring, as greedy, as self-centered as some of those in the 1 percent. Millions are racist, sexist, homophobic, and anti-Semitic. Millions follow Tea Party philosophies that selfishly place the health and welfare of the people secondary to a belief that cutting spending, except for the military, will solve all problems. It is a philosophy that, if left unchallenged, would force even greater misery to the American Middle Class and underclass, and lead to destroying the balance of nature and the environment.
            “We are the 99 percent” slogan, coupled with non-violent protest in the face of several violent police incidents, had served the Movement well, but its time is over. The Movement can no longer be an “us versus them” philosophy that has become divisive. It must now migrate to one that includes all people who are willing to fight for social, political, and economic justice in the Army of Conscience.
            [Walter Brasch—as writer and activist—has been a part of the movement for social, political, and economic justice for more than four decades. His current book is the critically-acclaimed novel, Before the First Snow, the story of an activist and her relationship with a journalist over a 25 year period from 1964 to 1991, the eve of the Persian Gulf War.]


  1. Walt's weekley wandering - much to love here - a very tactful destabilizing of a cliche - the 99 and the 1

  2. Wow, Walter, this is the first time I've seen anyone point out this very important fact, that it isn't all black and white with the 99% and 1%. I'm so glad you noted these many fine exceptions to the assumed 'rule' of us vs. them.

    Mainstream media likes to keep things dumb, as you know, preferring to distract us peasants out here with simplistic models and catchy sound bites, that, sadly, too many fall for. So it's most helpful that you give credit to the thoughtful and idealistic "haves" and remind people that plenty (an awful lot, I fear) of the "have nots" are far from shining examples of self sacrifice and noble purpose.

    I agree "The 99%" was helpful to focus the issue for a while, but it is time to try a new tactic. I like your "Army of Conscience" with its ability to embrace people of any socio-economic class and get us to fight for all sorts of justice together. I ask my fellow Brasch-o-philes to spread this idea, write to editors, call gov't. reps, and generally talk up this constructive notion.

  3. Walt this is a great way to drive your readers to your blog where they can partake of so many other things you have to offer. Having said that, it's an extra click. In today's hurried world, that worries me. I've done polls with my own newsletter and people always vote for the old, unpolished look, ease and feel of my old letter. I even mention in my Frugal Book Promoter (www.budurl.com/FrugalBkPromo) how this approach worked well for a PA politician who chose old-fashioned marketing (No slick. No color. No flag waving!) for his campaign.

    So, though I see this distinct advantage, plus the looks of both the e-mail and this page are outstanding, I would like to be on your other list. I know I'll get to partake of your humor and wisdom far more often.

    Carolyn Howard-Johnson
    Excited about the new edition (expanded! updated! even more helpful for writers!) of The Frugal Book Promoter, now a USA Book News award-winner in its own right (www.budurl.com/FrugalBkPromo)