Where Does the Real Problem Reside? Two Charts Showing the 0.01% vs. the 1%

While I always supported the overall message and energy that encompassed the Occupy Wall Street movement, I never backed the slogan of the 1% vs. the 99%. From my own personal experience, it is entirely clear that the actual problem is a far smaller group within the 1%, the 0.1% or the 0.01% (although I recognize “We Are the 99.9%” isn’t catchy).

This is why you’ll never hear me demonize “the 1%”, rather I always try to use the term oligarch, which refers a small handful of people who benefit most disproportionately from Federal Reserve handouts, D.C. corruption, tax code loopholes and the destructive trend of financialization generally.

This is is also why I became so disgusted by Sam Zell’s ignorant and destructive comments on Bloomberg television earlier this year that decided to pen an open letter to him.

Thanks to The Atlantic, we now have two charts that show what I have been writing about for many years now. It is not the 1% that is the problem, it’s actually a much smaller slice within that group that is thieving and pillaging at will from the rest of American society.

From The Atlantic:

I’ve written, over and over, that the most important divide in our wealth disparity was between the 1 percent and the 99 percent. For example, when I compared the evolution in investment income since the late 1970s, I often imagined a graph like this from the Economic Policy Institute, showing the 1 percent flying away from the rest of the country.

It turns out that that graph is somewhat misleading. It makes it look like the 1 percent is a group of similar households accelerating from the rest of the economy, holding hands, in unison. Nothing could be further from the truth.

A few weeks ago, I shared this graph (from the World Top Incomes Database) showing how the top 0.01 percent—that’s the one percent of the 1 percent—was leaving the rest of the top percentile behind.

Screen Shot 2014-03-29 at 9.23.25 PM

It’s even more egregious than that. An amazing chart from economist Amir Sufi, based on the work of Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucman, shows that when you look inside the 1 percent, you see clearly that most of them aren’t growing their share of wealth at all. In fact, the gain in wealth share is all about the top 0.1 percent of the country. While nine-tenths of the top percentile hasn’t seen much change at all since 1960, the 0.01 percent has essentially quadrupled its share of the country’s wealth in half a century.

houseofdebt_SaezZucman21

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A Thoughtful View on Boston: Empathize but Don’t be Terrorized

I have highlighted security expert Bruce Schneier’s writings in the past, including his recent excellent article: “The Internet is a Surveillance State.”  In his piece yesterday published in The Atlantic, he offers us some serious wisdom about how to think about the tragic event in Boston.  His key message is to “empathize, but not be terrorized.”  My favorite excerpts are below:

As the details about the bombings in Boston unfold, it’d be easy to be scared. It’d be easy to feel powerless and demand that our elected leaders do something — anything — to keep us safe. 
 
It’d be easy, but it’d be wrong. We need to be angry and empathize with the victims without being scared. Our fears would play right into the perpetrators’ hands — and magnify the power of their victory for whichever goals whatever group behind this, still to be uncovered, has. We don’t have to be scared, and we’re not powerless. We actually have all the power here, and there’s one thing we can do to render terrorism ineffective: Refuse to be terrorized. 
 
It’s hard to do, because terrorism is designed precisely to scare people — far out of proportion to its actual danger. A huge amount of research on fear and the brain teaches us that we exaggerate threats that are rare, spectacular, immediate, random — in this case involving an innocent child — senseless, horrific and graphic. Terrorism pushes all of our fear buttons, really hard, and we overreact.

There are things we can do to make us safer, mostly around investigation, intelligence, and emergency response, but we will never be 100-percent safe from terrorism; we need to accept that.
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New Study Shows 59% of “Tuna” Sold in the U.S. Isn’t Tuna

This is just the latest revelation in the stealth inflation and food fraud theme I have written about frequently in recent months.  The non-profit group Oceana took samples of 1,215 fish sold in the U.S. and genetic tests found that that 59% of those labeled tuna were mislabeled. It seems that “white tuna” should be avoided in particular as “84% of fish samples labeled “white tuna” were actually escolar, a fish that can cause prolonged, uncontrollable, oily anal leakage.”  Oh and if you live in my hometown of New York City, you should pay particular attention:

Big Apple has big problem with seafood fraud:  94 percent of tuna and more than three quarters of sushi samples in New York City mislabeled. 

Of the 142 fish samples collected in New York, 39 percent were mislabeled. New York City led the nation with the highest occurrence of mislabeled salmon as well as the highest amount of fraud among salmon collected from grocery stores and restaurants. 

National Seafood Fraud Testing Results FINAL by Oceania

 

Bon appétit!

In Liberty,
Mike

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Welcome to 2013: It Is Now a Crime to Unlock Your Smartphone

This is exactly the sort of arbitrary legislation that was used to punish Aaron Swartz and what ultimately led to his suicide.  I have many close friends whose parents fled the USSR in the second half of the 20th Century and all of them have told me that this is exactly what the Soviets did in order to make everyone a criminal by default. That way the government can then go after anyone they don’t like at any time.  This is also a great time to read up on the post I wrote recently titled A Broken Justice System: “Most Americans Commit About Three Felonies a Day”.

Our country is becoming more of a totalitarian state by the day.  From The Atlantic:

ADVISORY

BY DECREE OF THE LIBRARIAN OF CONGRESS

IT SHALL HENCEFORCE BE ORDERED THAT AMERICANS SHALL NOT UNLOCK THEIR OWN SMARTPHONES.

PENALTY: In some situations, first time offenders may be fined up to $500,000, imprisoned for five years, or both. For repeat offenders, the maximum penalty increases to a fine of $1,000,000, imprisonment for up to ten years, or both.*

That’s right, starting this weekend it is illegal to unlock new phones to make them available on other carriers.

It’s embarrassing and unacceptable that we are at the mercy of prosecutorial and judicial discretion** to avoid the implementation of draconian laws that could implicate average Americans in a crime subject to up to a $500,000 fine and up to five years in prison.

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New Gallup Poll Shows the Least-Trusted Job in America: Congress

If you wish to be a success in the world, promise everything, deliver nothing.
- Napoleon Bonaparte

Amusing poll put out by Gallup.  On the high/very high trustworthy scale, Congress actually comes in second to last, just ahead of car salespeople (Congress ranks worst on the low/very low scale).  Fittingly, members of Congress are very much like used car salespeople.  They tell you a story so that you spend money on something that doesn’t work.

Check out the full survey of trusted (or not trusted) jobs here.

Why I Refuse to Vote for Barack Obama by Conor Friedersdorf

This fantastic article made the rounds yesterday, but I didn’t have time to get to it until now.  It is an impassioned piece written by a former Obama supporter explaining why he can no longer support a man who as President has done more to damage The Constitution of the United States than even George W. Bush.  It is written in the mainstream magazine The Atlantic, and he even goes so far as to say that he will be likely voting for Gary Johnson in the election, a position very similar to my own.

Personally, I think that the best thing that could happen in the current election is for as many people as possible to vote third party.  I don’t care who you vote for, just don’t vote for either of these establishment cronies.  If a decent percentage vote away from the two party dictatorship, it will empower the people in a small way and set us up for some real political fireworks in 2016.  So my rallying cry from now until the election will be: Vote, but Vote 3rd Party.

Here is my favorite section of his article.

There is a candidate on the ballot in at least 47 states, and probably in all 50, who regularly speaks out against that post-9/11 trend, and all the individual policies that compose it. His name is Gary Johnson, and he won’t win. I am supporting him because he ought to. Liberals and progressives care so little about having critiques of the aforementioned policies aired that vanishingly few will even urge that he be included in the upcoming presidential debates. If I vote, it will be for Johnson. What about the assertion that Romney will be even worse than Obama has been on these issues? It is quite possible, though not nearly as inevitable as Democrats seem to think. It isn’t as though they accurately predicted the abysmal behavior of Obama during his first term, after all. And how do you get worse than having set a precedent for the extrajudicial assassination of American citizens? By actually carrying out such a killing? Obama did that too. Would Romney? I honestly don’t know. I can imagine he’d kill more Americans without trial and in secret, or that he wouldn’t kill any. I can imagine that he’d kill more innocent Pakistani kids or fewer. His rhetoric suggests he would be worse. I agree with that. Then again, Romney revels in bellicosity; Obama soothes with rhetoric and kills people in secret.

To hell with them both.

Read the full piece here.

In Liberty,
Mike

University of North Dakota Offers 4-Year Drone-Piloting Degree

The three P’s of America’s gulag economy at work: Ponzi schemes, Poverty and Police State.  The housing market may still be in the dumps, but the drone industry is booming.  USA! USA!

Key quote:
The University of North Dakota operates a fleet of seven different types of unmanned aircraft. In 2009, it became the first college in the country to offer a four-year degree in unmanned aircraft piloting. It now has 23 graduates and 84 students majoring in the program, which is open only to U.S. citizens.

Read the article here.