‘Occupy’ stands up for middle class

October 26, 2011


I don’t eat tofu.

In college, I didn’t major in improvisational dance. I dislike the outdoors, and dislike outdoorsiness even more. I think science is the best means we have for understanding the world, and that capitalism is the greatest force for good in it.

Why am I telling you all this? So you’ll understand how strange it is that I’m about to praise the Occupy Wall Street protesters and their ragtag brethren in other cities. I want you to see that I’m practically the last person on Earth who’d normally approve of such a thing.

Well, maybe not the very last person. Jamie Dimon, the chief executive of JP Morgan Chase, might be the last person. But I’m high on the list. I defend Wal-Mart at dinner parties. I oppose the corporate income tax, since it falls haphazardly on the wrong people while encouraging wasteful contortions by business.

Yet here I am, defending the protesters. The reason is that I fear the political system has been largely hijacked by interests hostile to middle-class Americans, who’ve suffered for years while the top 1 percent of earners has enjoyed enormous gains.

That doesn’t mean the richest Americans are bad people. It just happens that the world has changed in ways that heap ever more rewards on the best educated workers, as well as those in certain select sectors, such as finance. Technology and globalization have been big drivers of this trend.

But not all these changes are the result of forces beyond anyone’s control. When Congress decided to tax earned income more harshly than capital gains, that was a political decision. The near-death of private-sector unions is partially suicide, but federal labor policies haven’t helped.

Middle-class Americans, meanwhile, have seen much of their home equity wiped out. Their retirement savings have been pounded in the stock market. Many lack jobs. The young are burdened by nearly $1 trillion in student debt.

These hard-pressed Americans have noticed that when banks were teetering, taxpayer funds rescued them. It was the right decision, and most of the money has been repaid. But after the bailout, the banks went right back to handing out huge bonuses and opposing regulations that might make a future meltdown less likely.

What does the government do? President Barack Obama proposes feeble jobs programs, and congressional Republicans block them. The real answer, they say, is lower taxes, cutting government and fewer regulations. Meanwhile, Jane and Joe Sixpack, tough luck.

While 50 million Americans lack health care, and medical expenses cause (according to one study) 60 percent of bankruptcies, Republican candidates outdo one another in their opposition to the president’s health care reforms. Florida has even turned down federal money that would have helped move elderly and disabled folks from nursing homes to their own homes.

Herman Cain, in his presidential bid, has proposed a massive shift of the tax burden to those who can least afford it.

People know what’s going on. But only some quixotic protesters in lower Manhattan seem willing to voice their outrage. And as long as they don’t block the roads or break the law, God bless them.

Did I mention that I have a special loathing for public disorder?

That I hate piercings, and sneer at Birkenstocks? That I’m a conscientious objector in the war on gluten? That nothing short of foreclosure could make me sleep on the ground?

Sadly, it may yet come to that, for many of us who think of ourselves as middle class. Meanwhile it’s nice to know Occupy Wall Street is sleeping on the ground for me.

— Daniel Akst, a columnist for Newsday, is the author of “We Have Met the Enemy: Self-Control in an Age of Excess” from Penguin Press.


toe 2 years, 5 months ago

The entire Occupy movement in Lawrence can move to the football field. There is nothing happening there of any importance and any delay of game will be welcome.


atiopatioo 2 years, 5 months ago

Conversly, what made this country rich is people like Obama, Michael Moore, and Elizabeth Warren who started OWS. Helicopter Ben needs to print more money for Obama's stash to enrich the country like it was before Bush ruined it.


tbaker 2 years, 5 months ago

So what does Mr. Akst propose? More government? Every time we deviate from Constitution’s republican framework of limited government, we lose. Every time we proceed on the assumption that that free men and women are not capable of governing themselves and running their own lives, we fail as a country. The liberal progressive idea that we need to put our faith in the rule of unelected benevolent experts and trust them to "care" for us with more regulations governing every aspect of our lives is tyranny. These occupy children need to grow up and care for themselves. If they want the government to "care" for them so that they don't have to navigate the impenetrable mysteries of daily life, then they can move to Cuba. Socialism doesn’t work. How many more examples of that fact do we need? Name one society on the planet that doesn’t run on the so-called “greed” these indolent FleaBaggers are whimpering about. Human beings - this entire world - runs on individual human beings pursuing their own separate self-interests. It’s human nature. Every one of us is a unique individual. All the great achievements of civilization did not come from some government bureaucrat. They came from individuals pursuing their dreams/self-interests. The ONLY cases in recorded history in which human beings have escaped the horrors of grinding, generational poverty and hopelessness have come from where they had capitalism and largely free markets. If Mr. Akst wants to know where the masses of common people are the worst off, it is exactly in the kinds of societies he proposes. History is crystal clear on this point: there is no recorded way to improve the lot of ordinary people that can hold a candle to the productive activates that are unleashed by a free enterprise system. If there is something wrong with Wall Street, it’s that the government won’t let the failures fail like they are supposed to. If the Fleabaggers want something to complain about, they should start with all the government bail outs.


deathpenaltyliberal 2 years, 5 months ago

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Flap Doodle 2 years, 5 months ago

Some freelance redistribution of wealth going on. "Organizers of Occupy Portland say they fear as much as $20,000 donated to the group through a PayPal account has disappeared. They also say the group's finance committee has hijacked the demonstration's Internet domain name and filed for incorporation against the wishes of the group's decision-making body. The demonstrator who filed the papers with the state said she did so to protect the protest, and she has received death threats as a result..."


FalseHopeNoChange 2 years, 5 months ago

This is the 21st century. People must breath deeply and feel the transformation of the Obamafest Destiny.

Obamafest Destiny is here. Live it. Love it. Or else.


pepper_bar 2 years, 5 months ago

Occupy Oakland is calling for a general strike on Wed. Nov. 2. Occupy Lawrence's facebook page suggests the local group is on board.


Flap Doodle 2 years, 5 months ago

Yes, trouble in the Democratic People's Republic of OWS. "The Occupy Wall Street volunteer kitchen staff launched a “counter” revolution yesterday -- because they’re angry about working 18-hour days to provide food for “professional homeless” people and ex-cons masquerading as protesters. For three days beginning tomorrow, the cooks will serve only brown rice and other spartan grub instead of the usual menu of organic chicken and vegetables, spaghetti bolognese, and roasted beet and sheep’s-milk-cheese salad. They will also provide directions to local soup kitchens for the vagrants, criminals and other freeloaders who have been descending on Zuccotti Park in increasing numbers every day..." Read more:


its_just_math 2 years, 5 months ago

Just when you thought the left could not one more iota loonier, the Fleabaggers are telling the homeless to take a hike and go eat at the soup kitchen if they're hungry. This from people claiming to be against Wall Street greed.


parrotuya 2 years, 5 months ago

So, stop tea-bagging and start protesting!

Fight the Power!

And more tax cuts for the wealthy!

DOWn, baby, DOWn!


Roland Gunslinger 2 years, 5 months ago

Here's the facts:

According to the CBO average household income for the nation's top 1% grew by 275% in the last 30 years. Over the same time middle class households saw a 40% increase. Those households in the bottom 1/5 saw an 18% increase.

America's corporate and political elites now form a regime of their own and they're privatizing democracy. All the benefits - the tax cuts, policies and rewards flow in one direction: up.


its_just_math 2 years, 5 months ago

‘Occupy’ stands up for middle class'

Whew, thank your lord we are not being represented by the blue tarp squatting Fleabaggers. Who represents the top 1%? Obama? lol!


jayhawklawrence 2 years, 5 months ago

I agree with the writer of this column.

However, there are a few differences between myself and most liberals. Therefore, I cannot trust liberals or conservatives, the right or the left. Both are not that interested in protecting the rights of the middle class or care about our future.

Gun Control: I am suspicious of gun control and whenever I have seen gun control advocates unleashed, they pass laws which are way over the top. Gun control advocates without their disguises are gun haters. I believe law abiding citizens should be allowed to carry concealed hand guns.

Religion: Oftentimes I hear liberals denouncing religion and in particular Christianity. They mock religion as a belief in "Sky Gods". I don't know where this comes from but this makes me mistrustful of liberals who disregard the role of Christianity in American and World history and emphasize the negatives.

Economics: It is scary to hear an economist promote ideas that call for huge increases in Government spending as the cure for an ailing economy. Many liberal economists have promoted the idea of spending and increased government control as a way to cure our economic problems. In most cases. they do not understand the role of private industry in creating jobs.

What we have today is a polarization of extremes and politicians who are poor leaders and even worse managers are trying to force the American people to take sides. They spend billions of dollars campaigning and paying consultants to write their speeches, issue statements and pay off journalists to write daily propaganda pieces. They rely on these experts to tell them what the American people are thinking.

I can tell you what the American people are thinking and I won't charge a dime.

Throw the bums out.


FalseHopeNoChange 2 years, 5 months ago

'Occupy’ stands up for middle class

Well duh.... Who else is going to pay for their luxury services from the government? Luxury services like student loans from high priced government education the arabic named one is going around congress to pay for.

Duh, 'Occupy' stands up for the middle class. Whom among them wouldn't stand up for the middle class?


its_just_math 2 years, 5 months ago

"UPDATE: Fed up with Occupy Wall Street-style encampments, police in cities around the country are increasingly cracking down on protesters who refuse to vacate public spaces.

More than 100 were arrested in Oakland on Tuesday, and 53, including a state senator, were rounded up in Atlanta. Those raids, along with others in smaller cities across the country this week, have brought the total number arrested in Occupy protests nationwide to between 1,500 and 2,000, the Los Angeles Times reports. About half of those arrests have been in New York, while the other half have been spread far and wide."

Many of our esteemed forum members can't accept that Fleabaggers are merely the fringe. These are who came out to answer our Class Warrior in Chief's call. They don't know what they want, aside from more handouts. This is the face of the far-left loons.


Armored_One 2 years, 5 months ago

So what would be so horrible with every citizen over the age of 17 paying the government 20 bucks per grand they make in a given month?

For a business, 10% and leave it at that.

I hear all this outcry over the "working class" and "middle class", but honestly, something like 47% of this nation pays nothing in taxes. Nothing.

Assuming, and I know this number is a bit low, that there are 300 million people in this country, 20 bucks a month would be 1.5 billion, and after 12 months, 18 billion. Lump in at least 10 times that from businesses, and before other sources of income for the government, the citizens have provided close to 200 billion dollars.

Yes, I know not everyone makes a grand a month. I also know that there are people that make 3 or 4 grand a month. It's fair because it's the same amount for everyone, which is supposed to be the goal, isn't?

Hell, if someone could go through and do the legwork to find out a rough headcount on how many people fall into each grand breakdown, I'd guarantee that number would probably be a lot closer to a trillion than not.

I mean, think about it. Some businesses are recording billions in profits. That isn't chump change, and using a flat number will make all businesses equal in the eyes of the law as well.

Only problem is simple answers are usually beyond the mental capacity of the simple minded people we end up voting into office.


esteshawk 2 years, 5 months ago

If conservatives had their way, we would still be part of England. Why do we think that "the patriots" are the only group allowed to create their own government? Why is it that so many wingnuts do not want to acknowledge the world is changing, and the people of the country have a right to create the government they want for the times they live in (not some mythical past that cons want us to "return to?" If this means mandating health coverage for all, why not? Obama ran on that platform, and was elected in a landslide.

This is the only remotely "socialist agenda" Obama has - if not wingnuts, please let me know others that you always rant about without providing any examples).


Elrond 2 years, 5 months ago

I suggest they pack up thier camps and occupy a job


Liberty275 2 years, 5 months ago

"I don’t eat tofu."

You probably do, but just don't know it.

As for anyone standing up for me, they shouldn't presume to have that authority. If I need their help, I'll ask.


Azure_Attitude 2 years, 5 months ago

Some people have no ability to comprehend what their reading and that app;lies to the majority of the posters here. Mr. Akst is obviously a capitalist, he says that pretty much, and I'd bet money he votes republican. He is stating he understands why the occupiers are doing what they do and believes they are correct. He's on the money. I find it refreshing that someone who is my polar opposite in many respects gets it. There is common ground to be had. It's too bad there are so many for which common ground and compromise is a foreign concept.


rockchalk1977 2 years, 5 months ago

ACORN is playing a key role in the self-proclaimed "leaderless" OWS movement, organizing guerrilla protest events and hiring door-to-door canvassers to collect money. The former director of NY ACORN, Jon Kest, and his top aides are busy working at protest events for NYCC. That organization was created in late 2009 when some ACORN offices disbanded and reorganized under new names after undercover video exposes prompted Congress to cut off federal funds.

It would appear America's very own Divider-in-Chief, Barack Hussein Obama, is behind the Flea Party movement. I guess it's not "leaderless" after all. How sad for our country.


cato_the_elder 2 years, 5 months ago

The runaway inflation that will result from Obama, Bernanke, and Geithner's having simply printed more money to create "stimulus" spending is what will ultimately hurt the middle class the most.


CountyResident 2 years, 5 months ago

There is an article in todays's USA Today how the middle class is shrinking. The article shows the decline by city. For Lawrence the decline since 2006 was 1.8 %. This has been going for sometime. Much longer than 2006. It could have been avoided with different governmnent policies. The longer we put it off the more difficult it will be to ifix.


Fossick 2 years, 5 months ago

"These hard-pressed Americans have noticed that when banks were teetering, taxpayer funds rescued them. It was the right decision..."

It was the wrong decision. The banks were teetering because they acted stupidly, and if you reward stupidity, you get more of it. There are no 'regulations' that make can make a meltdown less likely when the government is at the same time rewarding short-sightedness.

Of course, it's precisely the same stupidity that results in people with $50k in student loan debt sleeping on the ground for Daniel Akst. Government guarantees to not lend themselves to good long-term decision making. Not for banks, not for students, not for mortgages.


its_just_math 2 years, 5 months ago

Fleabaggers could go out and get a job doing something, maybe two jobs. I know many people who work two jobs. Yes they may be underpaying and off hours, but they do it---I did it years ago---my management trainee job 7-5pm @ $300/wk and as a security guard a few nights and every Saturday. Fleabaggers are not motivated to go make it on their own. They feel it's someone else's fault that they are where theyr'e at in life. The intellectually warped Obamamania media is trying very, very hard to not reveal what the biggest slice of Fleabagger is, but we all know who most of them are. They'd rather hang out in a park under a tarp and have drum circles and smoke some killer weed and wait for that handout to come.


BornAgainAmerican 2 years, 5 months ago

The Occu-Punks out in Oakland are begiining to escalate from civil disobedience to the chaos and violence that always happens when the far left, radical extremists get involved. No comparison whatsoever can be made between the Tea Party and the Flea Party. The Flea Baggers may represent you Daniel Akst - Newsday, but I choose not to be among the 99% they say they represent.


Flap Doodle 2 years, 5 months ago

All power to the soviets! (from a source)


its_just_math 2 years, 5 months ago

The folks who are getting the free stuff, don't like the folks who are paying for the free stuff, because the folks who are paying for the free stuff can no longer afford to pay for both the free stuff and their own stuff.

The folks who are paying for the free stuff want the free stuff to stop, and the folks who are getting the free stuff want even more free stuff on top of the free stuff they are already getting!

Now... The people who are forcing the people who pay for the free stuff have told the people who are RECEIVING the free stuff, that the people who are PAYING for the free stuff, are being mean, prejudiced, and racist.

So... The people who are GETTING the free stuff have been convinced they need to hate the people who are paying for the free stuff by the people who are forcing some people to pay for their free stuff, and giving them the free stuff in the first place.

We have let the free stuff giving go on for so long that there are now more people getting free stuff than paying for the free stuff.

Now understand this. All great democracies have committed financial suicide somewhere between 200 and 250 years after being founded. The reason? The voters figured out they could vote themselves money from the treasury by electing people who promised to give them money from the treasury in exchange for electing them.

The United States officially became a Republic in 1776, 235 years ago. The number of people now getting free stuff outnumbers the people paying for the free stuff. We have one chance to change that. In 2012. Failure to change that spells the end of the United States as we know it.

(from an unverified source)


FalseHopeNoChange 2 years, 5 months ago

"Herman Cain, in his presidential bid, has proposed a massive shift of the tax burden to those who can least afford it."

I can least 'afford' people like you Akst. I can no longer afford to give people in the government my money to pay for your luxury services.

If people cannot 'afford' to live in this country then move to Haiti. Or Mexico. Or Canada. Or China. Move someplace you can 'afford'

Like Obama said on Leno. "I'm going to wait for them to be voted off the Island"


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