Monday, October 10, 2011

Steve Jobs wasn't in the 99%

I became aware of a strange contradiction this past week while my Facebook news feed blew up with my 20-something friends posting about the recent death of Steve Jobs and their support of Occupy Wall Street, which I've already written about more times than I expected to.

The same people that saw their lives enriched by Steve Jobs and Apple computer products are claiming that the richest 1 percent of Americans got that way by taking things away from other people. This is the mistake of assuming that acquiring wealth is a zero-sum game.

Steve Jobs got rich by helping create wealth. He made others better off by helping focus a lot of ideas from other people into useful applications. His gains carried with them gains to other people by putting iPhones and MP3 players into their hands. Why isn't he being demonized at these protests?

I don't like when someone claims to speak for me, such as these protesters declaring they represent the bottom 99 percent of Americans. I've been poor the last three years, although I made a great comeback this spring, and I still share few of the values these groups express.

In addition, by claiming they speak for nearly everyone, they're lumping in a lot of rich people. As Ezra Klein put it in an otherwise sympathetic post:

Let’s be clear. This isn’t really the 99 percent. If you’re in the 85th percentile, for instance, your household is making more than $100,000, and you’re probably doing okay. If you’re in the 95th percentile, your household is making more than $150,000.
You can't claim the richest Americans got that way only by harming people, and then turn around and praise a members of that group for enriching your life. I'm willing to grant these protesters that there are some bad things coming out of Washington, like bailouts, agricultural subsidies and the war on drugs, but that doesn't mean the wealthy are refugees from a Thomas Nash cartoon.


  1. Your condescension to your "20-something friends" does not help your argument. This group is the one being hit the hardest, next to perhaps ethnic minorities, by the economy. This isn't the Boomerang generation because it's filled with lazy people; there are no good jobs.

    You're attempting to ascribe a black-and-white strawman to all these people. This isn't a protest against capitalism or the idea of wealth or liberty or little American babies wrapped in American flags at the county fair. This is about the fact that no one has been held accountable for ruining the economy over the past several years. It's about the fact that the wealthy have become wealthier and wealthier in a time when everyone else is becoming more. The income gap is a real problem, just as it was shortly before the Great Depression.

    So it isn't a contradiction to say a Steve Jobs or a Bill Gates or even an L.L. Bean is fine by these protestors. You've gotten the wrong message if that's what you think this is about.

  2. I fully agree with liberal Michael that the issue is that the people responsible for this disaster have not been held responsible, namely the government.

    It's too bad OWS and he can't see that they should be protesting at congress and at the white house, the real villains, rather than at wall street.

  3. Michael, you are forgetting that I'm part of that generation and was hit hard by the economy as well, harder than most people I know. And judging by your international hiking tour, I was hit a lot harder than you.

    I'm not blaming our generation for the economy or lack of jobs, nor did I say anything along those lines. I hold specific sections of the investment world responsible, along with Washington's bailouts and Fannie and Freddy.

    In the 1990s, banks were being threatened by the federal government for not giving housing loans to enough poor people, who are often minorities. In the 2000s, those same people got mad that banks were giving loans to poor people. Perhaps you can figure out if this was a factor.

    You are attempting to project your own views onto these protesters to make them sound more reasonable. There is a big anti-capitalist sm@sh-th3-st@te-d00d element, as well as a big reformation of laws element like you fall in, but its undeniable that there is plenty of contempt for the top 1 percent in these protests.

  4. I know you're generally part of the same generation, but the only reason for pointing out that many of the protestors are young is because it implies inexperience and ignorance.

    I'm familiar with the federal laws concerning loans from my days at a bank when I had to memorize a few key bullet points in case any inspectors came around. But the economic collapse has far more to do with the conflation between commercial banks and investment banks, a lack of capital amongst banks (including the one at which I used to work), and rampant, unregulated speculation on Wall Street. Besides that, as you point out, these laws concerning housing loans date back to the 90's. It wasn't until the early 2000's when banks began taking their own unjustified risks, uncoerced by the federal government, that we began to see a housing bubble. This mess is the fault of those who should have known better than to essentially give away their money.

    But yes, there is contempt for the top 1%. They messed up the economy more than anyone yet they've received billions in bailouts and become richer while everyone else has lost wealth. Where are all the jobs I keep hearing only they can create? Why aren't they spending any of the $1.9 trillion they have on hand? It's almost like trickle-down economics haven't worked since Reagan.

  5. Interesting comment on Steve Jobs. So many hailed him as great, but he pushed to send jobs overseas to sweatshops in China for cheaper labor. He was also all about his own personal wealth and is reported to have never given a single penny to charity.

    Funny how people (especially youth) can hail one person as being so great, yet protest against people who try to do the very same things.

  6. "It wasn't until the early 2000's when banks began taking their own unjustified risks, uncoerced by the federal government"

    That's not entirely true, Liberal Michael. Banks were near enough forced to give loans to "disadvantaged" groups, regardless of their ability to pay them back. Whats worse, to get the banks to do it, the government started buying the loans, encouraging even more bad behavior.

    While 100% of the blame isn't on Uncle Sam he definitely deserves the majority of it.

    It's pretty simple why businesses don't want to spend. Uncertainty over what their tax rates are going to be, how much healthcare is going to cost them or if it will and the general cost of hiring a person (businesses pay an additional portion of a number of payroll taxes, compensation isn't limited to what you paycheck says. If you had no idea what your taxes were going to be like next year, and you actually had to pay, you would hang on to some money too.

    One other thing, why would you expect businesses to hire people they don't need? The fact that they may have cash on hand is not what creates a job. Taxing it away and redistributing it somehow isn't going to do anything but hurt the economy. Sometime in the future businesses will begin to spend again, if the money is there, if the government doesn't boost the capital gains tax and discourage investment, etc.

  7. I don't expect businesses to hire people they don't need. That's why I don't support the trickle-down ideas you love.

  8. Like I said, government was to facilitate hiring, lower corporate taxes, ditch obamacare and give them some stability.

    Government is not the solution, your true love.