PORTLAND — Leaving no stoner unturned, the Calbuzz National Affairs Desk this week embarked to Portland, scene of what Leading Experts agree is the “9th Angriest” encampment of Occupy Whatever protestors in the nation.
Our uncanny right place/right time instinct fully intact, it was here that we saw the ever-growing movement’s defining event unfold, when a local elected official unexpectedly showed up to help a group of anarchists, who are fiercely opposed to the very idea of elected officials, figure out what the hell they are demonstrating for.
The Rose City Oregonian’s Beth Slovic was on the scene:
Commissioner Amanda Fritz presided over a question-and-answer session this afternoon with protesters from Occupy Portland, telling them she’s “really proud” of their peaceful demonstration.
But Fritz, speaking from a megaphone across the street from Portland City Hall, also suggested to the 50-plus gathered people that the protesters might want to think about their specific goals. And she wondered aloud how long occupying Chapman and Lownsdale squares would be helpful to those goals.
Whatever they are.
As “the 99 percent movement” protests have spread swiftly, from the foot of Wall Street to 900 cities around the world, it has become clear that the global flash mob has admirably succeeded in shifting the political establishment’s attention away from the long-range problem of deficit reduction, and towards the immediate one of unemployment and its crucial connection to the issue of wealth disparity (astonishingly, they’ve been more successful at this than Calbuzz itself, which has been spewing invective about the evils of plutocracy seemingly forever).
Any doubt about this accomplishment was erased by a terrific content analysis of MSM coverage of economic issues produced by Zaid Jilani at Think Progress.com (h/t Jason Linkins). And in a week when other first-rate blogospheric work also shed light on the demographics of the 99 percenters and identified the top 10 centers of Occupy enthusiasm, at least one multi-media, multi-platform, we-are-all-reporters-now type made a stab at answering the MSM’s eternal question – WTF Do These People Want? – by employing revolutionary techniques of Tumblr URL deconstruction. Or something.
While motivations may remain murky, the economic condition and context that ignited the spontaneous worldwide outbreak of non-violent outrage was both trenchantly and convincingly summed up by Henry Blodgett, proprietor of Business Insider, and winner of this week’s Little Pulitzer for Investigative Commentary.
Notwithstanding Blodget’s checkered past, and that whole securities fraud thing, he’s one smart fella’, and his splendid reductionist analysis of what is driving the protests – with visuals no less! — is nothing short of brilliant:
Here are the four key points:
1. Unemployment is at the highest level since the Great Depression (with the exception of a brief blip in the early 1980s).
2. At the same time, corporate profits are at an all-time high, both in absolute dollars and as a share of the economy.
3. Wages as a percent of the economy are at an all-time low. In other words, corporate profits are at an all-time high, in part, because corporations are paying less of their revenue to employees than they ever have. There are lots of reasons for this, many of which are not the fault of the corporations. (It’s a global economy now, and 2-3 billion new low-cost employees in China, India, et al, have recently entered the global workforce. This is putting pressure on wages the world over.)
4. Income and wealth inequality in the US economy is near an all-time high: The owners of the country’s assets (capital) are winning, everyone else (labor) is losing.
As we endlessly complain, the bottom line that Blodget points too with all his very cool and concise data is , um, right on the money:
Importantly, the inequality that has developed in the economy over the past couple of decades is not just a moral issue. It’s a practical one. It is, as sociologists might say, “destabilizing.” It leads directly to the sort of social unrest that we’re seeing right now.
Take it to the bank.
P.S. In the interests of entertainment, if not our world-renowned fairness and balance, we also recommend a read of this fabulous ill-tempered, head-exploding right-wing rant rant, from Roger Kimball over at The New Criterion.
“Ninety-nine percent of what?” you ask. Good question! The idea, which the President obviously likes, is that the anarchists, Sid the Nazi, and all the other placard-waving folks down in Zuccotti Park represent 99 percent of the population while “Wall Street,” the “corporations”—a.k.a. “Jewish financiers” (talk about déjà vu all over again, Adolf!)—represent the rapacious 1 percent which controls the economy, the military industrial complex, the Amazonian rain forest, Bambi’s birth place, and God knows what else.
Hitler and Bambi, together again.
P.S. Good riddance, Gaddafi.