An Introduction

            Three years ago, the dirty secret we all suspected was laid bare. For decades, we had been told that this winner-take-all economy was the only way forward, that government had to get out of the way, that the champions of capitalism not only deserved every penny of their increasingly outsized wealth, but also, through this same brilliance, they would invest their spoils in a way that benefited us all. Good job, you captains of industry, you. In the collapse of 2008, we learned that our vaunted financial system, the symbol and the mouthpiece of that message, was little more than the world’s highest stakes craps table. Wall Street firms put our money, our jobs, and our futures on the line while our regulators, our politicians, and our financial journalists smiled and blew on the dice.

            Three years ago their roll came up snake eyes, and who paid? It wasn’t the banks that our tax dollars rescued from a self-inflicted death. It wasn’t the CEOs who floated off in golden parachutes. It wasn’t the Wall Street traders who swim in bonuses that are still, on average, two-and-a-half times the size of the median family’s annual income.

            No. It was you. It was me. It was the bottom 99%.

            But we didn’t become the 99% overnight. The Reagan era kicked off a craze of deregulation and lowering taxes (especially for the wealthy), all in the name of greater efficiency. At first the story was one of increasing total wealth for the greater good, but it didn’t take long for market efficiency to become the goal itself, for any form of increased profits (no matter the costs it imposed on others) to become an act of virtue. Over thirty years, the average CEO went from earning 30 times what his workers made to 350 times. In 2010, the top 25 hedge fund managers collectively out-earned all the Fortune 500 CEOs put together. From 1980 to 2005, more than 80% of income gains in America went to the top 1%. With that much power, you get to write the rules.

            The narrative they thrust on us was one in which efficiency was all that mattered, that government couldn’t and shouldn’t try to interfere with the natural and wondrous ways of the market. Broader social well-being, let alone basic human decency, fell out of the conversation. We’re left with an environment in which a wealthy nation has arguments about whether food stamps make people lazy before deciding to address hunger, and the battle over giving sick people medicine is waged entirely on the grounds of its impact on the deficit. This is the environment in which the public interest is ignored, normal people’s incomes and society’s educational gains stagnate, and infrastructure deteriorates, all while people like Goldman CEO Lloyd Blankfein not only absolve themselves of moral responsibility but even claim they are “doing God’s work.”

            This is the environment in which the powerful can lobby for a drastically uneven playing field, enrich themselves with complete disregard for the destruction left in their wake, demand interventions to prop up their self-serving notion of a “free” market, and then scream bloody murder at the slightest hint of policies that would restrain them or help us.

            That’s not what markets are, and that’s not how they work. Morality and a collective sense of social well-being provide both the purpose behind and rules for markets. We use markets as a way to obtain what we desire as a society, and wealth only matters so far as it makes our lives better. When somebody who works hard receives only a pittance of the wealth she creates, that’s not just an unfair market; it reveals a fundamentally broken system. When a market produces socially destructive things like loans designed to be unaffordable and investments designed to lose money, it is because society removed the moral structure that says this kind of behavior is unacceptable. When our economy ceases to actively achieve our values and goals, questioning the governing mindsets and ideologies isn’t heresy; it’s a moral imperative.

            Three years after our economy imploded, precious little has been done to repair the damage that we sustained. To have a discussion about shoring up the backbone of our economy, we first had to let them shatter it. And after three years of pain and three decades of living inside of a false narrative, we the people are calling bullshit.

            We claimed Zuccotti Park as a space for dissent in the heart of the Financial District, and people across the country and around the world are gathering together to express our outrage. This anger is a powerful tool; it shines the interrogation light on injustice and spurs us off of our couches and into the streets. But anger alone is not enough. We need to create a pathway to a better tomorrow, and to create it together.

            To the radicals who might see policy solutions as mere painkillers, alleviating symptoms without addressing the underlying disease, we say, take heart. The authors of this booklet share the same goal as all of you: change. Whoever we are, whatever the reasons we’re here, we all agree the status quo has become intolerable. What matters more than individual policy ideas is the way we talk about them. “The 99%’s Guide” doesn’t offer a rigid ideological program. It seeks to participate in the discussion that all of us are now a part of. No amount of meaningful change, whether incremental or systemic, is going to come unless human decency and social purpose are restored to their rightful place in our discourse. Already, Occupy Wall Street has begun to have that effect, and it will continue to. That is what makes this moment into something more, into a movement. The content of "The 99%'s Guide" is written to this end. 

Let’s get educated. Let’s build a movement. Let’s make change.

We are the 99%. We will not be silent.

Your Subtitle text
Web Hosting Companies