The Reign of the One Percenters
By Christopher Ketcham, writing in Orion Magazine Sept/Oct 2011.
Christopher is a native New Yorker with great anger towards the bankers.
I want Léa to understand what New York, my birthplace and home, once beloved to me, is really about. Because I’m convinced that the beating heart of the city today is not its art galleries, its boutiques, its restaurants or bars, its theaters, its museums, nor its miserable remnants in manufacturing, nor its creative types—its writers, dancers, artists, sculptors, thinkers, musicians, or, god forbid, its journalists.
“Here,” I tell her, standing in the canyons of world finance, “is what New York is about. Sociopaths getting really rich while everyone else just sits on their asses and lets it happen.”
This is the rage of impotence. Quotes Mark Twain
“The human race is a race of cowards; and I am not only marching in that procession but carrying a banner.”
New York’s income inequality is 15th from the bottom (on a list of 134 countries), with the top 1% taking 44% of all income, and average income of 3.7 million. In terms of population, the top 1 percent is 34K households, or 90,000 people. Almost all of them work in finance.
The author recalls the extremes and the crashes of 1873 and 1884, which lead Pres. Cleveland to observe that “the wealth and luxury of our cities [is] largely built upon undue exactions from the masses of our people.” This lead to the first ever Labor Day parade, and the candidacy of Mayor Henry George: “Political liberty requires economic liberty.” Yet it took until the crash of 1929 to finally unseat the rentier class.
And today, the drive for money above all else is destroying creativity in NY. The creative types leave, they cannot afford the rent to stay, they make no money.
The model is from advertising: find what people want to hear, then echo it in the news so that they will be attracted to hear more of it. “If you want to know what’s really going on in a society or ideology, follow the money,” writes author Jaron Lanier. “If money is flowing to advertising instead of musicians, journalists, and artists, then a society is more concerned with manipulation than truth or beauty. If content is worthless, then people will start to become empty-headed and contentless… Culture is to become precisely nothing but advertising.”