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Opinion: Rich Kid Wall Street Protester the Symbol of a Misguided Movement

Thursday, October 13, 2011 - 11:56 AM

A picture has started circling of a woman who is quickly becoming everyone's favorite Occupy Wall Street protester. She's pretty, which can immediately catapult any woman to a certain level of visibility, she's not defecating on a police car which is a welcome change from the last most-circulated OWS photo, and more than any of that she wants to give you her money. What's not to like?

In fact, though, she has become a symbol for me of the misguidedness of the protests in a way the car-defecator couldn't. She is an anomaly, a girl who's started a mini-following of fellow 1 percenters. She is exactly the lucky American girl I imagined all American girls to be as I grew up in a poor immigrant enclave in Brooklyn.

Here is a woman announcing her luck in life. She inherited money at 21, she has never gone without health or dental insurance, she is a self-proclaimed "rich kid." How marvelous for her. That she wants to be taxed more shows the kind of abundance she has had. Instead of donating her money to charity, or finding another way to help those truly in need, she is counting on the government to give her money away.

The government. The people who are running the US postal service into the ground despite having a monopoly on first class mail, the people who spend our money on a "Cowgirl of Hall of Fame" or a museum dedicated to teapots, and who try to build bridges to nowhere. Or, perhaps the girl in the photo is a staunch supporter of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, not to mention the not-a-war war in Libya, and just wants her money to go toward that.

The fact that she could send a check to the government, essentially taxing herself as much as she'd like to be taxed, is only a side point here. The bigger point here is that of course she didn't earn the money herself. Few people, excepting Warren Buffet, can be naive enough to want to hand over money they earned to an ineffective, wasteful government to spend on their behalf. And of course she has always lived in plenty. Few who were ever poor can be that silly.

The girl's sign has given her prominence. It's given people the ability to point at the protests and say that it's not just students and hippies and bored baby boomers wistful for the protest culture of the 1960's, it's people like this rich girl, standing with the 99 percent. But it's really not. The 53 percent of the country who pay 100 percent of federal income tax are already paying far more than their "fair share".

Most of them didn't have the luxury of inheriting this money, they had to get it the old-fashioned way -getting a job and earning it. Many of them didn't always have health insurance, I didn't for the majority of my 20's, and few could breezily afford to pay more and not have it affect their families.

This girl is so lucky, more than just in the 1 percent she's in the .01 percent of lucky people, and instead of being thankful for her accident of birth and using that luck to really be the change she wants to see in the world, she's protesting in a park and letting people pat her on the head for parroting the right words. Only in America, kids, only in America.

Born in the Soviet Union and raised in Brooklyn, Karol Markowicz is a public relations consultant in NYC and a veteran of Republican campaigns in four states. She blogs about politics at Alarming News and about life in the city with her husband and baby at 212 Baby. She can be followed on Twitter.

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Comments [47]

StringThemUp

Those they say she can donate her money to charity are missing the point. It's not about the money that one rich person has, it's about the massive wealth imbalance there is between the super rich (1% if you will) and the rest of us.

If it does not change it is going to lead to a revolution in this country. It is inevitable

Nov. 21 2013 04:36 PM
Marcello from Brooklyn

For a long time I 've been convinced (and I wrote so on this blog as well) that the difference between conservatives and liberals goes beyond diverging opinions about issues like taxes, abortion etc. and it is rather a difference in the way the two groups are psychologically hardwired: liberals tend to perceive reality inductively, in other words going from the particular to the universal; starting from the evidence of what is on the ground and then establishing connections among them to arrive to a general conclusion.
Conservatives instead think deductively: starting from “universal principles” that already exist in their mind and then trying to squeeze the evidence that constitutes reality into their preconceived mental molds. That's why the academic and scientific communities tend to lean on the liberal side of the ideological spectrum while other groups such as the military and religious groups count a lot of conservatives among their members.

“It's been long established that cultural factors play a MUCH larger role in living "a healthy lifestyle" than economic policies. You are taking one difference among a myriad and ascribing the difference to it when there is a host of evidence that attributes the difference to other differences”.

Yes!...You are right Bill. I don't know what got into me!... I actually dared to suggest the absurd notion that European societies enjoy the higher living and health standards shown by those statistics because they actually have universal health care!...Imagine that!... How crazy! I mean...what could having affordable universal access to health care have to do with longer life expectancy; lower infant mortality and lower incidence of disease?
You are right: European societies, which have completely different histories, traditions, diets, languages, ethnic origins and geographical environments, all show the same superior outcomes in their health metrics but that must have something to do with one of those cultural factors you refer to (but very carefully avoid to specify...) rather than to the one thing they have in common: universal health care.
Maybe is the fact that they all smoke heavily?....
Of course other nations that are very far away from Europe but have universal health care like New Zealand show the same results. On the the hand, Canadians who are culturally as close to the United States as one can be, also have better health outcomes AND universal health care.
It must be moose milk...
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Nov. 12 2011 09:31 AM
Marcello from Brooklyn

“Your only justification for doing so seems to be "I feel like it". Sorry, but I'll go with facts, evidence, reason and logic instead of how you feel”

Really?... And how did you get to this conclusion? Because actually, the basis of my opinions is not that “I feel like it” but direct experience. As I mentioned before, here we are discussing the virtues and merits of the European and American systems but, between the two of us, I am the only one who has had the actual experience of living for prolonged period of time on both sides of the ocean.

“Only individuals can have opportunities. Just as only individuals create wealth”.

False. Individuals can have opportunities and create wealth on the basis of their talents and initiative but also thanks to school systems and universities that give them the knowledge and education to do so; to a court system that create an environment of legality where entrepreneurship can flourish; of infrastructure that fosters growth and commerce etc. We are individuals who also share a “super-individual” dimension as demonstrated by the very fact that you are lamenting the “tyranny of the majority” meaning the effect that society as a whole has on your life through the decisions of its majority. Another example: if a group of individuals decide to buy gas-guzzling cars, they affect the demand, and therefore the price of gas for everybody.
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Nov. 12 2011 09:28 AM
Marcello from Brooklyn

“You cite a few examples of rip-off artists in the U.S. I guess we can assume that Parmalat, Learnout and Hauspie or Banco Ambrosiano never happened, right?”

Wrong! The cases you mention are examples of illegal, Enron-style corporate malfeasance for which people were prosecuted and convicted (at least in the cases I know about). I never said that there is no illegality in Europe. What I was talking about are examples of things that might happen LEGALLY here in the States but that are ILLEGAL in Europe. Again, as an example, if I am the owner of a power plant in the US, I might be able to increase my profits thanks to looser (but legal) environmental regulation. If I am the owner of a power plant in Europe, on the other hand, my overhead might be higher because I might be forced to install pollution control that prevent me from increasing my profits at the expense of everybody else. Hence, you could say that somebody who wants to be in the power generation business might have more opportunities in the US than in Europe but at cost to society. Therefore, your response has no connection whatsoever to the point I was trying to make.
PS. I wrote this reply last week but two days ago I happened to read this article. If you don't want to read the whole article, just check out the very first paragraph:

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/09/opinion/friedman-india-and-america-two-peas-in-a-pod.html?_r=1&partner=rssnyt&emc=rss

“If, for you, the rights of the individual are nothing more than a fiction to be mocked ("...a public intrusion into the magical realm of individual rights?"), then no, we don't have a lot more to say to each other.”
Wrong again Bill. I was not mocking the rights of individuals. I was mocking YOUR fundamentalist (and conveniently detail-free) interpretation of them.
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Nov. 12 2011 09:23 AM
Marcello from Brooklyn

“And by the way, I don't know if you've paid any attention, but your European social democracies are now imploding under the weight of their own bankruptcy. They haven't the wealth or production to afford to keep their charade alive.”

Are you actually trying to link the current European debt crisis to their welfare state?
And you work in finance??!...
Some European countries are experiencing a crashing debt crisis for different reasons: places like Iceland, Ireland and Spain have been feeling the effects of the bursting of a real estate bubble much like what we've had in the US. In the case of the first two, just like in the US, to bring the countries to their knees were over-leveraging banks that had to be bailed out by the state.
Greece and Italy are drowning in debt thanks to the irresponsibility (on the borrowing side) and the ineptitude (on the growth side) of their notoriously corrupt political class and by the actions of their (conservative) governments. Both should deserve to fend for themselves but, just like in the case of banks in the US, they are (or more specifically Italy is...) "too big to fail" in the context of a unified currency.
All of them, have been or are getting bailed out by the rest of Europe (Germany, France, the Netherlands etc.) who also have welfare states. So, if the ones in trouble are a sign of the "failed social democratic model" shouldn't that apply also to the ones who are saving them?
Moreover, the United States has experienced a similar devastating debt crisis and it is NOT a welfare state.
Finally, even my kids at this point understand that what is making these crisis so severe is not their welfare state but the fact that Europe has locked itself in the straitjacket of a common currency without the tools of a unified fiscal policy. Britain, Japan, the US all have similar or worse debt and deficits and yet they are able to borrow at low interest rate because investors know that they can devalue their currency on the spot and finance their sovereign debt. Something that the countries of the Eurozone, for statutory reasons, cannot do.
What you call a "charade" (the welfare state), in the last sixty years has allowed European countries to emerge from the devastation of the war and has propelled them in becoming among the most successful societies in the history of mankind (as the statistics I sent you show).
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Nov. 12 2011 09:19 AM
Marcello from Brooklyn


“If, for you, there's no limit to what a king, dictator, Party or majority can rightfully do to a man or woman, then no, we don't have a lot more to say to each other”.

But of course there is a limit: it is what the individuals agree that limit should be.
Just like in a market economy there is no external authority deciding what the prices of good and services are: they are decided by the dynamic relation between demand and supply, in other words by what people are willing to buy and sell for. Similarly the individuals that make up a society decide what the boundaries of their laws and regulations are by expressing their vote on those issues (abortion, taxes, murder, theft etc.).

I think I understand the reason you just cannot answer the specific questions I posed (“How is the enforcement of progressive taxation, if democratically agreed upon, be different from the enforcement of other agreed-upon laws like, say, those against theft or muder for example?”) . You are able to delineate your ideal system only in negative ( If, for you, there's no limit to what a king, dictator, Party or majority can rightfully do to a man or woman). Once you bundle together monarchy, right wing autocracy, left wing autocracy AND democracy you are still left with the task of explaining what your ideal world would look like and how it would function. How would legislative decisions be made? Would all individuals be involved in the decision making process or just few “chosen” ones?
These questions still go unanswered because your Randian fantasy works perfectly well for novels but not so much for the real world, unless of course you have the guts to call it with its real name.
Let's see...an undemocratic system where the majority is precluded from voting and the decision making process seems to come from a chosen, self-appointed minority with the gift of intepreting the prescriptions of an external, “universal” value authority.
I think that's called Fascism!

Nov. 12 2011 09:17 AM
Marcello from Brooklyn

This is something I find relevant to the original subject of this conversation.
More to come.

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/30/opinion/sunday/friedman-did-you-hear-the-one-about-the-bankers.html

Oct. 31 2011 08:33 AM
Bill Dalasio from Brooklyn

"I mentioned that, although far from perfect, Europe, with its more regulated form of capitalism, fares better than the US, with its un-bridled market culture, in many socio-economic metrics and I have provided some links to statistics of international organizations to corroborate my point....I believe Europeans live a healthier life (just to pick one of those metrics) because they have socialized medicine and universal coverage!"
And again, I don't know how much clearer I can be. It's been long established that cultural factors play a MUCH larger role in living "a healthy lifestyle" than economic policies. You are taking one difference among a myriad and ascribing the difference to it when there is a host of evidence that attributes the difference to other differences. Your only justification for doing so seems to be "I feel like it". Sorry, but I'll go with facts, evidence, reason and logic instead of how you feel.
"Maybe you are talking about the fact that opportunities FOR INDIVIDUALS to achieve really, really great wealth are higher here than in Europe?"
Only individuals can have opportunities. Just as only individuals create wealth. Any collective reference is nothing more than a linguistic convenience. You cite a few examples of rip-off artists in the U.S. I guess we can assume that Parmalat, Learnout and Hauspie or Banco Ambrosiano never happened, right? Of course, absent from your analysis is the notion of rip-off societies, where the bulk of society chooses to mooch or loot off of the wealth created by a small portion of that society.

Oct. 27 2011 07:49 AM
Bill Dalasio from Brooklyn

"The fact is that Europe has already experienced centuries of the undemocratic plutocracy that you seem to implicitly advocate, and they have moved on!"

And yet Europeans are still migrating to the U.S. to pursue opportunity?

And by the way, I don't know if you've paid any attention, but your European social democracies are now imploding under the weight of their own bankruptcy. They haven't the wealth or production to afford to keep their charade alive.

Oct. 27 2011 07:34 AM
Bill Dalasio from Brooklyn

"If, for you, a democratically elected government enforcing laws that were democratically agreed upon is the same than “pointing a gun” at somebody than I suspect we don't have a lot more to say to each other."
If, for you, there's no limit to what a king, dictator, Party or majority can rightfully do to a man or woman, then no, we don't have a lot more to say to each other.
If for you, there is no difference between a government acting to protect the rights of its citizens and acting as the predator from whom those rights need to be protected ("Why would the enforcement of progressive taxation...be different from the enforcement of other agreed-upon laws like, say, those against theft or muder for example?"), then no, we don't have a lot more to say to each other.
If, for you, the rights of the individual are nothing more than a fiction to be mocked ("...a public intrusion into the magical realm of individual rights?"), then no, we don't have a lot more to say to each other.
Governments are properly formed to protect the rights of the individual. Without that, there is no justification for government. If 50%+1 of my fellow citizens decide that my rights are irrelevant and that they are free to use the power of the state to infringe on my rights and liberties, that doesn't make their decision right, just or moral. It doesn't mean that I should view them with anything more than the contempt that I would view any other criminal. It merely means that I lack the power to stop them. It means I have only the options of complying with their injustice, breaking the law, or rendering their injustice irrelevant. And it means, when the consequences of their injustice bear fruit as they must, I owe them no more concern or consideration as I would to a rat that stepped into a trap.

Oct. 27 2011 07:29 AM
Marcello from Brooklyn

<b> </b>????.... What are you talking about???...

As often happens in situations like this, it looks to me like we are getting to the fork in the road where our logics diverge and I, for one, am having trouble following your reasoning process.
I mentioned that, although far from perfect, Europe, with its more regulated form of capitalism, fares better than the US, with its un-bridled market culture, in many socio-economic metrics and I have provided some links to statistics of international organizations to corroborate my point.
I am not sure what are you reading (or what you want to read...) in my comments but, in a last attempt to be as clear as possible, I believe Europeans live a healthier life (just to pick one of those metrics) because they have socialized medicine and universal coverage! That's it. That's the bottom-line!
You, however, continue to ignore this straightforward bottom-line and insist on trying to shift the focus on some “lack of opportunities” in Europe. So my question is: having already established that, as a society, they do better on things like health, education, crime rate, life expectancy, unemployment levels, income inequality etc. what is exactly that you are referring to?
Maybe you are talking about the fact that opportunities FOR INDIVIDUALS to achieve really, really great wealth are higher here than in Europe? Is that it?
Just as an example, a person working in the financial industry in America might be able to reap higher profits for his company and a larger bonus for himself thanks to the fact that here, he can exercise a form of predatory lending that might be allowed in this country but forbidden in Europe which has stronger consumers' protection laws.
Or the owner of a power company might be able to make more money here, by not having to provide anti-pollution systems to his plant than might be mandatory in Europe (thanks to its more stringent environmental regulation) but not in the States, thus poisoning, the water and air that everybody else drink and breathe.
So if you are saying that in the US people have more opportunities to get much richer by ripping other people off, than yes... You are 100% right on that.
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Oct. 23 2011 01:03 PM
Marcello from Brooklyn

But let's say that you are NOT referring to “morally murky” cases like these (which are, however, real...) but to some more ordinary and “uncontroversial” ways to become richer in America. And let's say that it is true (a lot of Medical doctors in the US for example are richer than their European counterpart).
So what?...
If I am not mistaken, it was the libertarians who came up with the slogan “There is no free lunch” right?
That might not be your case but a lot of people, prefer to live in a society where everybody has affordable health care at a lower cost managed by the Govt. rather than in one where 50 millions have no coverage but a dozen CEOs of insurance companies have more assets than a small country.
Europeans prefer to live in a society that, although capitalist, might be socially flatter but where everybody fares better.
Here is another example about the two models that might suit you.
Imagine two persons investing their money. The first one chooses a safer but lower return investment.
The second picks one that is riskier, but with potential higher return.
Which one is better? Well...it's hard to say since it depends on the individual needs, goals and circumstances of the two investors (age, existing assets, risk tolerance etc.). In the end though, the ultimate measure of which of the two investment is more successful depends by how much money they'll put in their banks.
European societies, however you want to put it, have more goods in the bank (Education, health, crime rates etc. etc.).
The fact is that Europe has already experienced centuries of the undemocratic plutocracy that you seem to implicitly advocate, and they have moved on!
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Oct. 23 2011 01:01 PM
Marcello from Brooklyn

If, for you, a democratically elected government enforcing laws that were democratically agreed upon is the same than “pointing a gun” at somebody than I suspect we don't have a lot more to say to each other.
Why would the enforcement of progressive taxation (again, if democratically agreed upon) be different from the enforcement of other agreed-upon laws like, say, those against theft or muder for example?
Is the state mandating car registration and exacting registration fees a public intrusion into the magical realm of individual rights? And what happens in your fantasy world if somebody smashes into your car and drives away without license plates?
And, finally, if you consider these examples inappropriate than, please tell us what are the laws that you would consider legitimate to enforce and which ones you don't?
Where do you draw the line?
And, after you do that, you do you realize of course that, no matter where you draw it, there will be thousands of people with completely different ideas about where that line should be drawn?
How do you make them live together peacefully?
I am assuming that your particular vew of “how things should be” will reveal its self-evidence by virtue of the radiance of universal truth??
How would you solve this conundrum?
How about by having them vote on things and go with the majority?...
If you have a better idea let's hear it.

Oct. 23 2011 01:00 PM
Bill Dalasio from Brooklyn

"I am not shrugging off “the lack of opportunity in Europe to cultural factors”. I am saying that, while American conservatives love to make the simplistic and convenient connection between higher taxes and lower GDP I feel, on the basis of my own experience, that reality is much more complicated than that and yes, it also includes cultural factors."
Except blaming cultural factors for Europe's dearth of economic opportunities is, by definition, shrugging off the matter to cultural factors. Evading a fact (the role of economic policy) by pinning something to a third cause (cultural factors) is what shrugging off means. Why do you feel that, if you deny the nature of a thing, that nature changes? It's also amply demonstrated in your treatment of the protester. That you identify her demand as taxation does not, in any way, change the fact that said taxation must ultimately be enforced at the point of a gun, whether you wish to acknowledge that or not.

Oct. 21 2011 05:59 AM
Bill Dalasio from Brooklyn

"Maybe you are not referring to these extreme conditions?"
No, I'm not. The net migration pattern, however, is still from Europe (including Western Europe) to the U.S. Most of our present day immigrants from Europe tend to be well educated professionals. Heck, I work with any number of them. They immigrate to the U.S. because the U.S. offers them much more opportunity to succeed. Now, maybe we're looking at some seismic shift in employment patterns since the 2008 crisis. But, the immigration numbers have yet to bear that out and frankly the turn in employment strikes me as temporary. At least the European debt crisis suggests as much.
"Finally, you ask by what standard I say that Democracy is the best system we've tried.
Well... by the only standard I can talk for: my own! "
So, basically as a idiosyncratic preference. Glad democracy has better justifications than <b>that</b>.
"Aside from the sheer absurdity of this statement, the reality is that is NOT an injustice. It is an injustice ACCORDING TO YOU. What is just, fair, good or bad it is a matter of individual points of views! "
No, that's why we have a notion of individual rights. They are objective standards by which one can judge the justice or injustice of policies. Your proposed standard is the complete abrogation of rights, whether you mean it to be or not. That, by definition, means you would live in a slave state, just as long as you're the b**tard holding the whip.

Oct. 21 2011 05:48 AM
Marcello from Brooklyn

Bill,

just as in the cases of the girl in the picture demanding redistribution “at gunpoint” and of your assumption about my coming to America to “make my fortune”, once again you are jumping to conclusions.
I am not shrugging off “the lack of opportunity in Europe to cultural factors”. I am saying that, while American conservatives love to make the simplistic and convenient connection between higher taxes and lower GDP I feel, on the basis of my own experience, that reality is much more complicated than that and yes, it also includes cultural factors. For example, all European women (regardless of social status) value spending time with their children after giving birth and their social system reflects this value. Therefore (with situations changing from state to state) they receive an amount of time off for maternity leave that is unimaginable for women in this country. That has an impact on productivity and on taxation. Is it right? Is it wrong? Well...It is simply what it is!...What they consider important.
Americans find it perfectly acceptable to live in a society where 50 million people (15-16% of the population!!) have no health coverage and yet health care costs, are approximately 20% higher than those in Western Europe. Europeans would not dream of putting up with such a disgrace but that is also due to the fact that, as I mentioned, Americans have been brought up to believe that health and education are things you have to be able to afford. Europeans, on the other hand, consider them fundamental rights just like the right to vote.
Why do Americans have higher violent crime rates? Because here there is a cultural factor unknown in many other countries: a fascination with firearms and a gun lobby that benefits financially from this status-quo and keeps politicians on a tight leash even if this translates in hundred of violent crimes every year.
As you see, cultural and economic factor are tightly bound together.
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Oct. 19 2011 01:31 PM
Marcello from Brooklyn

Do Europeans emigrate to the US to afford opportunities otherwise precluded to them?
Maybe one century ago! Now Western Europeans come to the States mostly because they WANT to, not because they HAVE TO in order to escape poverty, famine or violence.
Maybe you are not referring to these extreme conditions? But the current comparative levels of unemployment on the two sides of the Atlantic don't vouch for that either.
There is still a very strong cultural allure surrounding America which is also an extremely hospitable country for foreigners (much more than Europe) but I think that the motivations you are describing are more applicable to other ethnic groups.

Finally, you ask by what standard I say that Democracy is the best system we've tried.
Well... by the only standard I can talk for: my own!
Speaking of the redistributive function of a progressive taxation system, you say that “an injustice is an injustice whether imposed by a dictator or a majority”. Aside from the sheer absurdity of this statement, the reality is that is NOT an injustice. It is an injustice ACCORDING TO YOU. What is just, fair, good or bad it is a matter of individual points of views! There are no absolute reference points out there my friend! There are only a bunch of people with diametrically different ideas of what reality is and what it should be. While you might think that paying back some money according to you means into a system within which you were able to become successful is “injustice”, I happen to think that not only is the fairest possible one but it is also the most efficient for future economic prosperity that would further benefit you as well. And on this point I would suggest this great article from economist Nouriel Roubini who talks exactly about that. (http://www.economonitor.com/nouriel/2011/10/17/full-analysis-the-instability-of-inequality/)

So, you can call it Democracy, Constitutional Republicanism or chicken salad, I stand for allowing people to express their opinion through the electoral vote. Unless of course you have a better alternative...

Oct. 19 2011 01:29 PM

"Then why does she need the government to redistribute more of her money? Why can't she do it herself?"

Have you been to the protest and really checked things out? Much of what you "observe" in your post, fellow Russki, does not seem to be observation, but opinion likely based on what your parent, likely intensely polarized away from "communism" and fanatically seeking EXTREME alternatives, have instilled in you. I invite you to speak not only with the girl you objectify, but with the supremely diverse crowds that gather at Liberty Plaza. I also recommend participating in at least one General Assembly, before writing uninformed opinion blogs on the very issue you have seemingly failed to explore by setting yourself higher, mightier, and wiser. But good writing, and nice try. You've shown yourself to be quite a follower by not seeing for yourself before making your eloquent rant.

Oct. 18 2011 08:53 AM
Bill Dalasio from Brooklyn

"We can talk all night about the virtues and flaws of both systems but in the end, when it comes down to it, statistical data show that Europeans, in average have, among other things, a longer life expectations, higher levels of education, lower crime rates, better health coverage and lower levels of income inequality."
Hmmm...interesting...you shrug off the relative lack of opportunity in Europe to cultural factors, despite the fact that many Europeans do, in fact, emigrate here precisely to gain access to the opportunities afforded by American capitalism (to America's benefit as well as their own, so please don't take my assumption as an insult), yet things like life expectancy, crime rates, and education are assumed to be entirely a result of the economic system. That seems a rather novel interpretation of cultural indicators.

Oct. 18 2011 06:12 AM
Bill Dalasio from Brooklyn

"I don't know about you but I happen to be a firm believer in Democracy, which, even with all its shortcomings, still seems the best system we tried so far."

Best by what standard? Using your abortion example, should the lady forbidden that choice feel just honkey-dorey with that restriction because she was denied it by 50%+1? Sorry, but an injustice is an injustice whether imposed by a dictator or a majority. The standard I've always judged democracy (well, more accurately constitutional republicanism) superior has always been that it protects one's rights more consistently. Ancient Athens proved rightless democracy a failure.

Oct. 18 2011 06:06 AM
Marcello from Brooklyn

Bill,
On the contrary, I welcome the debate since I haven't found a lot of it worth its name on this particular blog. I just wish I had more time to engage in these interesting conversations.
I actually didn't come to the US “to make my fortune” but to pursue a relationship with the woman who is currently my wife.
I do sing the praises of the European welfare state because, having lived there for 26 years and here for 20 more, I have experienced the pros and cons of both socio-economic models and I find it odd to hear the arguments of critics who have no direct experience of what they are criticizing.
I also believe that there are good points and bad points in everything and the European model too, is far from perfect.
American conservatives love to point out the alleged link between the taxes needed to support the social welfare and the alleged “relative lack of opportunities” compared to the US.
But the reality is much more complicated than that and includes many cultural factors (that vary widely even within the EU), as well as economic ones.
On the basis of my personal experience, I can tell you that what Americans love to see as “shortcomings” are often the results of life-style choices also related to the fact that Europeans, unlike Americans, don't measure prosperity and personal happiness only and exclusively by the size of GDP. Moreover, while adhering to a capitalist economic model, they consider things like health care and access to education as basic human rights, not privileges that you can or cannot afford.
We can talk all night about the virtues and flaws of both systems but in the end, when it comes down to it, statistical data show that Europeans, in average have, among other things, a longer life expectations, higher levels of education, lower crime rates, better health coverage and lower levels of income inequality. As of lately, many European countries also have a lower levels of unemployment compared to the US which still maintains its leading status in statistics such as obesity rates and pro-capita possession of firearms.

http://www.prosperity.com/rankings.aspx

http://gamapserver.who.int/gho/interactive_charts/mbd/life_expectancy/atlas.html

http://hdrstats.undp.org/en/indicators/161.html

http://www.bls.gov/fls/intl_unemployment_rates_monthly.htm

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Oct. 17 2011 07:18 PM
Marcello from Brooklyn

About your second point, I have to confess that I am quite confused. The difference between legislative action enacted by a (unelected) tyrant and that enacted by a 50+1 majority (through the electoral process) is that the first is called “dictatorship” while the second is called “Democracy”.
I don't know about you but I happen to be a firm believer in Democracy, which, even with all its shortcomings, still seems the best system we tried so far.
In a democratic society, issues are proposed; the people vote on those issues and, if approved, they become laws meaning they become compulsory.
So if the majority of citizens decide to vote to abolish abortion, abortion would then become illegal and the state will enforce that law.
It would be different if somebody, unelected, would take it upon themselves to go around and, at gunpoint, prevent abortion, while still legal, from being performed. Unless of course, one is a conservative fanatic who kills people at abortion clinic...

About your third point. That is another interesting issue! Unfortunately I don't have the time (or the energy) right now to get into it since it would require a lot of both. But I would love to maybe come back to that sometimes in the near future and offer a different narrative from the one you proposed.

Oct. 17 2011 07:17 PM
Bill Dalasio from Brooklyn

Marcello,

Lest you think I'm being overly harsh with you, let me address the substance of your second posting.
You say that the OWS crowd's anger is focused on the failure of the bailouts to generate any significant economic growth. If that were true, I would have no problem with them. Heck, I might even support them. By most reasonable metrics, the bailouts (and ALL of the bailouts, not just of Wall Street, yet you don't see these folks picketing GM or Chrysler. Why is that?) were a mistake. A better solution in retrospect would have been to let the financial system clear and the winners survive and the losers be replaced in a process of Schumpeterian creative destruction.
But, the evidence doesn't support this claim. The protesters decided to target the home of David Koch and Rupert Murdoch. To my recollection, neither of these gentlemen received a brass farthing of bailout money. The Dodd-Frank law that you seem so favorable toward specifically restricts banks from making the loans that would be necessary to allow the bailout money to flow through the financial system into the real sector (through more restrictive treatment of collateral and through the restriction of risk intermediation). The problem so many of us in the financial sector have with this law is precisely that it sets up a no win situation. Banks are demonized for not lending, yet they are also demonized for taking too many risks. Notably absent from the protester's placard was any reference to the bailouts.
You say that one of the focuses of the OWS protests is that they don't feel justice has been meted out to those who got us into this mess. Why, then, aren't they protesting Fannie and Freddie? Why aren't they at odds with all of the politicians who insisted that the key to prosperity was to ensure that banks gave mortgages out to people who very well couldn't afford them, who actively opposed the Fed's attempts to curtail the creep down the credit spectrum in the mortgage market? Why are they targeting Goldman Sachs, a bit player in the sub-prime market, yet giving a pass to Citi, a firm whose CEO justified his presence in the market by saying "You don't want to be the first one to go home from the dance"?

Oct. 16 2011 06:45 AM
Bill Dalasio from Brooklyn

"Is she advocating “the state to point a gun and demanding others to pay” as Mr. Dalasio seems to believe? I don't see any evidence of that."

And how, pray tell, is it that you believe the government will enforce a policy of enacting her "change in a larger social context"? By telling everyone else pretty please? By holding their collective breaths until everyone agrees to go along with it?
A state has one resource at its disposal - a monopoly on the use of force. Every other governmental power is simply window dressing on that authority. That's why ethics and good sense call for the role of the government to be strictly limited. Whether one's life liberty and property are disposed of by a tyrant or 50%+1 of one's fellow citizens in an orgy of the unearned is entirely irrelevant to question of whether that taking is justified.

Oct. 16 2011 05:33 AM
Bill Dalasio from Brooklyn

I find it odd that someone would sing the praises of the European social welfare state model, like Marcello in Brooklyn, yet move to the U.S. to make their fortune. Do they think there's no connection between the relative lack of opportunity in the social welfare states and the taxes needed to pay for those states? Do they think the relative advantage of opportunity in the U.S. is due to sheer luck?

Oct. 16 2011 05:15 AM
Marcello from Brooklyn

Amy,
I’d be happy to explain to you the point of the last paragraph on my previous post.
I was sure it was pretty self-explanatory but apparently that is not the case.

Having grown up in a country where Govt. plays a wider role in society I was able to:

- Not to place the financial burden of my health care on my employer, unlike what happens here in America.
- I never had to fear losing my health coverage in case I found myself unemployed.
- Although I also worked very hard in school and that allowed me some additional perks, unlike you, I would have had affordable access to higher education even without a scholarship.
- Those who don’t get a scholarship and want to go to a university, can still get a degree without burying themselves into debt.

So I guess my larger point is that, unlike most Americans, I was able to enjoy continuous health coverage and access to education not by being rich or by being poor but for no other reason than being a citizen.

Oct. 15 2011 09:00 PM
Amy Keyishian from NYC

Marcello,

I am a 33 year old who grew up with health and dental insurance because my father's employers paid most of the premium, I received a public education until I was 17, and then on SCHOLARSHIP had a virtually free college education because I worked hard in school. I grew up in New York in the United States. What is your point???

Oct. 15 2011 01:50 PM
Marcello from Brooklyn

Conservatives and their sheer inability to understand reality. It is just flabbergasting!!...
So...here we go:

1) What we have here is a rich girl (or, according to Mr. Dalasio “a little girl”) who would like to be taxed more because, according to what she writes on her sign, she believes in living “in a world where we all have enough”. Now you can think whatever you want about that (I personally think it is a noble and commendable goal in principle; a lofty one in practical term) but the point is: should she just write a personal, unsolicited check to the IRS and be done with it? Obviously not, since by being the only one doing that, she would change absolutely nothing in the larger social context which seems to be what she aims for. What should she do then? Exactly what she is doing! Making her point of view known and, presumably, going to vote for people who share that goal at the next elections. Is she advocating “the state to point a gun and demanding others to pay” as Mr. Dalasio seems to believe? I don't see any evidence of that. What I see is democracy in action and democracy is nothing else than accepting views to prevail through the electoral process, even when they are different from yours.
(Continues Below)

Oct. 15 2011 01:18 PM
Marcello from Brooklyn

2) Both Karol Marcowicz and Bill Dalasio, not surprisingly, completely miss the point of the OWS protest.
Anybody who worked hard and made money through their work, as Mr. Dalasio, deserves to enjoy the fruit of their labor. So relax!... There are no Bolsheviks at the door with pitchforks trying to confiscate your hard-earned millions. That is not what is happening or will happen. What DID happen instead is that a small group of people in the financial industry, taking advantage of their disproportionate amount of money and power, changed the rules of the game and then acted in a way that was reckless and greedy enough to throw the economy at large in a catastrophic recession not seen since the 20s and causing millions of people to lose their job and their savings. At the end of this process, Wall Street institutions were bailed out with public money and went on to do business as usual. The public bailouts were given with the idea that lending would resume but it didn't. What resumed was the payment of super bonuses. So, that is what HAS happened and that is what people are rightly outraged about. The Dodd-Frank law tried to address the problem but is ostracized by conservatives like you who pretend to act in the name of some lofty principle of “freedom from Govt.” while the real reason is that the GOP’s masters, in Wall St. pay them to prevent any correction from happening. Frankly, it's is unbelievable that somebody has to sit here and explain it all to you.
(Continues Below)

Oct. 15 2011 01:16 PM
Marcello from Brooklyn

3) According to KM, the larger point is that we really shouldn't give money to an “ineffective and wasteful government” which is “running the postal service into the ground”. Unbelievable!... Government provides education to everybody, not only those who can afford it, both at the primary and secondary level. Public universities give people the qualifications to become an educated work force for the “job creators”. Government regulates public life through laws and a court system that fosters a climate of legality within which business can flourish. Police and Fire Depts. provide protection from crime and disasters. Government-sponsored scientific research, (the one that is not pursued buy the private sector because there is not an immediate profit to be made) has put, among other things, the man on the Moon! Governments creates infrastructure like highways, railway stations, sewage systems that improve our standard of life and foster commerce. Should I go on?
These things need to be paid for and the funds all this comes from a progressive taxation system. That's all! One day, Karol, I will explain to you why your example of the Postal Service (which you seem to like a lot) is ridiculous. In the meantime, I agree with the fact that govt. can do many stupid things as well (The Cowgirl Hall of Fame, the war in Iraq) and so can the private sector: the Wall St. disaster, Enron, WorldComm, Countrywide, Lehman Bros., Savings and Loans etc. Should we conclude that the private sector sucks? Obviously not...

Here is a little personal note: just like the girl in the picture, during the first 28 years of my life, I was fortunate enough to always have health insurance, dental and access to an education system that allowed me to obtain a graduate degree virtually for free. Yet, neither myself nor my family have ever been particularly rich. How did I do it? I was born and raised in Western Europe.

Oct. 15 2011 01:15 PM
bobkee from Haverstraw, NY

The young lady with the sign is a rare person, indeed.

Nietzsche saw through our human natures, our inability to grasp the absolute truth. We pick and choose the "truth" we wish to see, and mis-characterize, or ignore inconvenient facts, or those who espouse inconvenient facts. Self interest is the greatest culprit.

The Tea Party and the Occupy Wall Street movement share the same anger over the devolution of our political/social system. As the TP claims, the Federal bureaucracy is too swollen and costly, too intrusive, and too inefficient for the country's long term good. And as the OWS movement points-out, our governments have been co-opted by the mega-corporations that are bending them to their advantage against the general welfare of the nation as a whole.

I was a young man during the Sixties, and saw the same defensive mechanisms being brought to bear against the Occupy Wall Street movement, and in a more limited fashion the Tea Party, also used against the Anti-Vietnam War protesters, and the Civil Rights, and Women's Movements.

Ridicule and marginalization are the first line of defense; next is false alarm a la Glen Beck, then intimidation/provocation of the disagreeable others who become "them" - fools, dupes or the old fall back, "outside troublemakers/agitators." In the most extreme cases, if co-option fails, violence and murder, assassination, even of Presidents, are the last resort.

Capitalism is the most effective economic system for creating wealth. But Aristotle counseled the Golden Mean, moderation in all things. Balance. Big Money talks; great, accumulated wealth seeks to change market forces, eliminate competition, and use whatever means at its disposal to dominate, and control, and accumulate still greater wealth.

Capitalism has no internal mechanism, other than wages, to distribute the wealth it creates back into the society that provided the means for individual capitalists to succeed - efficient infrastructure, an educated/skilled workforce, an orderly, peaceful environment, transportation systems, disease control, waste disposal, etc. No capitalist is an island unto him/herself. That's why we have governments of, by and for the people.

The American economic/political system is out of balance, much as it was during the laissez faire decades of the Nineteenth Century and into the beginning of the Twentieth, when the Robber Barons controlled our Local, State and Federal governments. Their manipulation of the Market eventually lead to the Great Depression, much as the current Great Recession is a result of similar market manipulation.

Today's dropping standard of living and stagnant wages are no accident, but as in the old Robber Baron days the policy of those who control the centers of accumulated wealth in America, who have co-opted government of, by and for the people.

So many people blind themselves to history, to facts, to the causes of social upheaval.

The young lady with the sign is a rare person, indeed.

Oct. 15 2011 10:21 AM
Bill Dalasio from Brooklyn

Icestorm,

Bluntly, we have very different views on what is fair.

Let me ask you seriously, not playing legalistic games of what might be on some off chance. When she says, through her sign, "Tax me", do you think she's talking about herself alone or everyone in her particular wealth and income bracket. If it's the former, she has a simple option that Karol, Amy, and even I have noted - she can simply donate her money to charity. If she's talking about everyone in her income bracket, she's demanding the state point a gun and demand others pay. There's really no way around it. You can't tax people without coercion.
You talk about a people who "want to create a society that agrees through policy and systematic measures to share "wealth" given to those who don't have it made". But a society doesn't have policy or systematic measures. Governments have policies and systematic measures. And the only way they can implement those policies and systematic measures is by force.
You say you want to live in a society where "we're all in this together". I hear that quite often from those who distrust the free enterprise system. But, the funny thing is, I never hear that they want to be in it together with the investment banker sitting in his office pouring over a spreadsheet at 3:30 in the morning because he just can't get the damn numbers to work. I never hear that they want to be in it together with the resident who's just spent 48 hours on the hospital floor in hope that he can eventually start his own practice. I never hear that they want to be in it together with the entrepreneur who just put his career, all his free time and in a lot of cases his home on the line because he thinks he's got a great idea and can make a go of it. I never hear that they want to be in it together with any of these guys when they are taking difficult majors that mean they have to spend their college years in a grind, rather than playing the role of intellectual avant garde. I really just hear it when it comes time of the rewards to get distributed.
Now, maybe you're not like that. So, please don't take this as a personal indictment. I really don't know you from Adam and won't presume to judge you. But, the equality you and the protester seem to espouse strikes me as fundamentally unjust.

Oct. 14 2011 06:56 PM
Amy K from NYC

Karol, at many times I strongly disagree with you. This is not one of those times.

Well written (great flow), well said, and well noted.

I agree that if she wants to make a difference with that money, give it to a charity and in the direct hands of people who are truly struggling. City Harvest, Anti-Violence Project, American Cancer Society...the list is endless. WHY does she need the government as the middleman do to it for her? Truly, she is doing this for her 15 minute of fame, and at 21 years of age...I am skeptical that her emotional intellect is evolved anything past a 16-year-old's who needs constant attention.

As for the bigger picture, I support proactive actions here. Don't be beggers and don't be supplicants. If you want change, go right to the doors of your local representatives and demand it. As far as I remember, the corporations were not writing their own checks for the bailout.
There is absolutely no true goal or focus in any of this, and until there is something that is rational (shouting anti-Capitalism jingoism isnt winning any points here, even Gandhi said we need Capital), its just a big joke in my eyes.

Oct. 14 2011 03:43 PM

Karol and Bill,

I don't see how she is telling people what to do just by holding a sign; she's saying what SHE wants to do. For me It's nice to see people like her who have "made it" or have it "made" want to create a society that agrees through policy and systematic measures to share "wealth" given to those who don't have it made or are the first to lose their jobs because they have the lowest amount of education and skills, because they were born in poor neighborhoods where only the few want to teach, or they're middle class like me, so they couldn't get financial aid because their parents owned their own homes (which my parents paid for in full in cash in 1974) . I want to live in a society where we're all in this together--if I have tough times or a bad stroke of luck, there's a safety net, and in good times, I'm paying a system that provides a safety net for others, and not dreaming and hopin' that some charity will help me out if they can. Karol, in your other posting, you wrote in wonderful detail about growing up with the legacy of state oppression, so I'm just curious how that affects the way you experience events. From what I gather, the role of the State in the U.S. has never been that way since the British were here. Enjoyable to discourse with you, either way!

Oct. 14 2011 02:46 PM
Karol from NYC

Mary, the thing is that this girl is telling other people what they should be forced to do and worse, it's based on her super limited, extremely fortunate upbringing. If she wants to give her money away to the government, because she didn't work for it and feels guilty about that, she is free to do that. Why do others, who did work for it, do the same?

Oct. 14 2011 12:18 PM
Bill Dalasio from Brooklyn

With all due respect, Mary, I don't think Ms. Markowicz is telling the protester what to do based on her values. The protester expressed the value that she doesn't deserve to have more money than other people. That isn't Ms. Markowicz's value. It is the protester's. Logically, there's nothing stopping her from giving it away. That choice entails no coercion of anyone else. By trying to have the government mandate that everyone in her wealth/income bracket give money to what she believes is a good set of causes, it's the protester, not Ms. Markowicz, who is trying to tell everyone else what to do with their money based on her value system.

Oct. 14 2011 09:18 AM
Mary

Dear Ms. Markowicz,
You raise some interesting points, but it seems a little dictatorial to tell this girl what she "should" do with her money solely based on your value system and your upbringing, as if you know better, which to me reminds me of a Republican modus operandi, where conservatives tell other people what they can and cannot do with their bodies, who they can or cannot marry, and who squash public protest through any legal or illegal necessary because they are desperately hanging on to the status quo. Are all the poor and struggling able to pick themselves up by their bookstraps?, Maybe later in life they become functioning alcoholics or never see their children because they work 10 hours a day so that their kids can have an "education" but no nurturing.

Oct. 14 2011 08:16 AM
Bill Dalasio from Brooklyn

I am one of the people this little girl is protesting. I work in the financial services industry and make good (not excellent, good) money. I didn't have an inheritance or a trust fund. I struggled, pushed myself, and worked like a dog to build a career that affords me that opportunity. You'll have to forgive me if I can't muster much more than contempt for someone who has been kept all of their life (and will likely be kept further still after she's done playing trust fund revolutionary) presuming to lecture me on what part of my wealth or earnings I "deserve".

Oct. 14 2011 06:51 AM

Jake:

Thank you for introducing the term 'morality' into the discussion.

We 'moderns' too often pride ourselves upon our ability to 'scientifically' parse our lives into discrete, quantifiable functions.

[Sidebar: Have you noticed that not a single college catalog lists 'Wisdom 101' as a course? The word seems to have dropped out of our lexicography.]

Oct. 13 2011 07:53 PM
Jake from Pensacola, FL

"The emotions of man are stirred more quickly than man's intelligence; and, as I pointed out some time ago in an article on the function of criticism, it is much more easy to have sympathy with suffering than it is to have sympathy with thought. Accordingly, with admirable, though misdirected intentions, they very seriously and very sentimentally set themselves to the task of remedying the evils that they see. But their remedies do not cure the disease: they merely prolong it. Indeed, their remedies are part of the disease."~Oscar Wilde

Wilde was clearly in this passage saying that charity is a problem, and that it props up the disease cause by injustice in capitalism. People that disagree with this assessment usually take the complete inverse of this argument, saying that people who want to actively have a government that forces you to pay more money instead of just giving it charitably is 'misguided'.

There has to be a middle ground between these two ways of thinking, because neither of them are wrong. They are both pointing out a clear discrepancy in our process and it is immoral for us to continue doing this.

Oct. 13 2011 07:44 PM

Karol:

My concern, simply put, is with the use of a person -- a living, breathing person just as you or I -- as a symbol for a political statement without even attempting to contact that person.

True, you could say that she 'was asking for it by displaying that sign.'

That excuses you from many things, one of which is personal contact -- and the empathy that might obtain from such a face to face meeting.

This poor old country mouse believes that it is when we fail to accept each other as brothers and sisters that we become less than we can be. Empathy is one of the very few things which sets us apart from 'Nature, red in tooth and claw.'

We are all humans first, conservatives/liberals/independents a distant third.

Your friend,

Jim [alias Torus34]

Oct. 13 2011 06:32 PM
itsonlywords from Seattle, WA

Assuming, of course, that the sign isn't a complete fabrication.

Oct. 13 2011 06:07 PM
puffynugget from DC

Ms. Markowicz is totally right.... this woman is a sheep being used. RIght on, and well written!

Oct. 13 2011 05:34 PM
Karol from NYC

Torus, Then why does she need the government to redistribute more of her money? Why can't she do it herself?

Tsunami, excellent points re what her sign really implies.

And you know, Sherman, I think you really are opposed in principle to right-wing opinion. Pretty sure the only conservative opinion you'd accept was the kind that agreed with liberal opinion.

Oct. 13 2011 05:05 PM
Sherman from Manhattan

I'm not opposed in principle to reading right-wing opinion. In fact, I started reading this post (before abandoning it in disgust) because I hoped (foolishly, despite past experience) that Ms. Markowicz might make an interesting point. No such luck. Can't the editors at IAFC find a right-winger who's a little more thoughtful than Ms. Markowicz? I know it's hard, but you should try.

Oct. 13 2011 04:30 PM
Tsunami

Torus34:

I can see very clearly that the point you are making says nothing to the point Ms. Markowicz makes. This young rich girl has a certain amount of discretionary income. Could she have given it to charity? Certainly. Presumably she could even have started and endowed her own, if she REALLY cared about some particular situation of poverty; and if she did we would applaud her. Yet there she is in the park holding up a sign that essentially says "I accept that I am too stupid to distribute my own money to the needy. Moreover, this is not only the case for me, but for EVERYONE in my tax bracket. Because one is rich, there is a cause-effect relation to one being stupid. Rich = stupid." This flies in the face of what it often takes to become rich as an entrepreneur, in the first place. The only way it might SEEM justifiable is to claim that while she, as a private citizen, can only see a little bit of the picture, the government can see it all; and this goes against the evident notion that our problems are in large part because of government collusion.

Did she already begin with giving to charity? Perhaps. Does that matter with regard to the lack of sense in the idea she expresses? Not in the least. If anything, she cheapens the protest; there are a great many protesters protesting the GOVERNMENT activity.

Oct. 13 2011 03:59 PM

Dear Ms. Markowicz;

Re: "That she wants to be taxed more shows the kind of abundance she has had. Instead of donating her money to charity, or finding another way to help those truly in need, she is counting on the government to give her money away."

I'm sure that you, as an ethical journalist, have contacted this lady and checked to be sure that she does not indulge in "... donating her money to charity, or finding another way to help those truly in need ..." before making the quoted statement.

You have, haven't you?

Oct. 13 2011 02:15 PM

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