We’re Somewhere Between 90th and 99th Percentile. You, I Don’t Know.

Spurred by the imminent closure of the encampment in Boston’s Dewey Square we again debated Occupy Wall Street at coffee this morning. Some of my friends argue that the occupations have been essential to starting a national debate on the protesters’ message. My response–after making clear that I harbor no animosity towards the protests–, was that there is no unified message, other than that the economic system is unfair. And that’s not news. There’s certainly no agreement on the root of income inequality–protesters blame everything from Wall Street’s greed to capitalism’s essence. “We are the 99%” implies that the 99% have common economic social interests–a preposterous idea, as this Household Income Graph demonstrates:

Where Do You Fall on the Income Curve” states “the difference in incomes between a household at the 98th percentile and the 99th percentile is $146,118 ($360,435 jumps up to $506,553).” Mind you, that’s the difference between just the 98th and 99th percentile of household income: “the difference in income between a household at the 50th percentile and a household at the 51st percentile is $1,237 ($42,327 versus $43,564).” “We are the 99%” is short, catchy, and sounds relevant, while being useless as a platform to actually do anything.

Ghost Mall

I can’t walk outside because the streets and sidewalks are filled with ice and snow and there are only so many laps I can do around my house. Last night we went to the Chestnut Hill Mall so I could walk for an extended period and build up leg strength. We arrived at the Mall about 7:30 PM and left about 9:00. It was almost deserted. Even the Apple Store, normally bursting with shoppers and browsers, was subdued. Many stores were empty save for a few lonely cashiers and sales people one could glimpse through the Sale! signs. I’m not the best person to gauge the state of the retail economy–I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve been in this Mall in the past two years–but I found it depressingly quiet.

Equal time

A large part of John McCain’s media persona is his reputation for “Straight Talk.” This video shows McCain flatly contradicting and lying about his own prior statements: McCain’s YouTube Problem. As troubling as his dissembling is McCain’s palpable discomfort in dealing economic issues. He is scarily out of his depth.

A week ago Barack Obama pinch-hit for Ted Kennedy, delivering the commencement address at Wesleyan University after Kennedy backed out for health reasons. Obama’s speech, by all accounts stirring and well-delivered, called on graduates to enter public service. Obama failed to mention the military in his list of service options, a troubling omission for a presidential candidate and potential commander-in-chief and especially glaring on the day before Memorial Day.  Is military service only for people who cannot or do not attend schools like Wesleyan?

Trade Polls

A friend sent me a link to a compendium of polls an American views of the economy and foreign trade: http://www.pollingreport.com/trade.htm. There’s a lot of information but even a brief look reveals how we perceive our role in the world economy. Many Americans fear China, free trade, and global competition and would like to erect a wall, dig a moat, and raise the drawbridge on the rest of the world.