Occupy Wall Street "Day of Action" hurts the 99 percent

Occupy Wall Street poster advertising a "day of action" on Thursday, Nov. 17, to mark the two-month anniversary of the movement. occupywallstreet.org

As I walked into the CBS Broadcast Center at 5:00am this morning, I passed a group of Occupy Wall Street protestors, as they were about to start their "Day of Action." I hollered over and said, 'What's your mission today?' and the response was the same mantra that the group has been espousing for weeks: 'We're taking action against the greed and corruption of the 1 percent.'"

In reviewing today's schedule, I'm not sure that the group will accomplish their goals. They plan to gather in Liberty Square on Wall Street at 7am, with whispers of "We're going to shut down the New York Stock Exchange!" Good luck with that goal -- the NYSE security is tight and my guess is that OWS folks won't get close to the Big Board.

The demonstrations will then spread to all five boroughs (I'm not exactly sure why the multi-cultural Jackson Heights neighborhood in Queens or Fordham Road in the Bronx, where household income averages about $33K, are areas of focus); attempt to wreak havoc on the New York subway system, which in my experience, is how the 99 percent navigate New York City; and culminate at Foley Square in lower Manhattan, the jumping off point for a stroll across the Brooklyn Bridge.

While I am not keen on a Day of Action that is likely to do little more than disrupt the city for 100 percent of us, I have previously tried to advocate for some of the core issues that underlie the OWS movement: The widening income gap and the real economic realities that many Occupy Wall Street protestors. The numbers tell much of the story (h/t Barry Ritholtz):

  • 1917-1981: bottom 90 percent, captured 69 percent of income gains

  • 1982-2000: bottom 90 percent, captured 23 percent of income gains

  • 2001-2008: bottom 90 percent had income losses

How did this happen? Technological advances and the opening of the global labor market changed the landscape for U.S. workers, but we also know that the money that companies have earned during the recovery has mostly stayed within corporate America and has not trickled down into higher wages, nor has it created enough jobs to put some of the 14 million unemployed Americans back to work. Economists at Northeastern University found that from the second quarter of 2009, when the recovery began to the fourth quarter of 2010, "corporate profits captured 88 percent of the growth in real national income while aggregate wages and salaries accounted for only slightly more than 1 percent."

One last note: I recently burst the bubble of OWS supporter, who is a university professor, married to an attorney. Paul seemed crestfallen when I told him what constitutes the top one percent. "I didn't realize that I am part of the one percent!" Don't worry, Paul--you are actually entitled to support OWS, even if you fall in the one percent. Here are the income breakdowns, via visualizingeconomics.com:

  • Top 1 percent = $368,238 (20.9 percent of total U.S. income)

  • Top 0.5 percent = $558,726 (16.8 percent of total U.S. income)

  • Top 0.1 percent = $1,695,136 (10.3 percent of total U.S. income)

  • Top .01 percent = $9,141,190 (5 percent of total U.S. income)

  • Top 10 percent = $109,062 (11.7 percent of total U.S. income)
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    Jill Schlesinger, CFP®, is the Editor-at-Large for CBS MoneyWatch. She covers the economy, markets, investing or anything else with a dollar sign. Prior to the launch of MoneyWatch in 2009, Jill was the chief investment officer for an independent investment advisory firm. In her infancy, she was an options trader on the Commodities Exchange of New York.

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