Sally Kohn has penned a fantastic column on FoxNews’ website – it should be read by everyone because it sheds real light on the Occupy movement…. as much as a “breakthrough moment” might happen in your therapist’s office.
Her basic premise is that what is fueling the Occupy folks is the incredible disparity in income between the so-called top 1% and the so-called “99%”. Her point is that this is not “class-envy” per-se but a outcry that the very disparity in incomes is an “injustice” that needs to be rectified. She does complain about “crony capitalism” (without defining it) and in that sentiment, I agree with her and she would find great resonance with the TEA party folks…..but what was really revealing was her statement:
“Sure, bank executives may work a lot harder than you and me or a mother of three doing checkout at a grocery store. Maybe the bankers work ten times harder. Maybe even a hundred times harder. But they’re compensated a thousand times more. The question is not how Occupy Wall Street protesters can find that gross discrepancy immoral. The question is why every one of us isn’t protesting with them.“
I will try to answer her question.
In the interest of “full disclosure”, I will begin by saying that I applaud the Occupy folks protest against corporate interests writing our legislation and controlling our politicians to the betterment of their own financial position and at the expense of the public’s. I think in this “grievance”, the Occupy and TEA party folks are in total agreement.
What I find with Kohn’s statement is a deafening level of ignorance of what capitalism is all about. I will illustrate this with a joke.
There was once a manager of a power plant who had a large turbine generator which was experiencing excessive vibrations. He called a famous MIT dynamics professor to help him solve the vibration problem. The professor came in, listened to the vibration and then stroked his beard… he called his assistant over and said “please bring me a ladder and a piece of chalk. The assistent dutifully brought the items to the professor and the professor climed the ladder up to a single blade of this huge turbine generator. He drew an “X” with his chalk on the blade. The professor turned to the manager and said “weld a 5 pound piece of steel at the X”. The professor gently climbed down and went back to MIT. A week later, the manager of the power plant called the professor and exclaimed – “Professor, you are a genius…it worked!! Please send me a bill for your services!”. The bill arrived…it said “Consulting services $1,000,000.50″ The manager was shocked – he wrote back to the professor “Could you please itemize your bill for us?”… The professor sent a new bill: ” Chalk…..$0.50, Knowing where to draw the “X”: $1,000,000″
What Sally Kohn doesn’t understand is that people get paid money not for how “hard they work”…but because their work is valuable to the person paying the money. The people paying the money find that the large sums of money they are paying to these people is really a bargain – they are making even more money than it is costing them paying these large fees.
Granted, I am not going so far as to say that fees paid as bribes, graft and corruption should be tolerated – even though those bribes are “worth it” to those paying the bribes – bribes are bribes are bribes and should be rooted out at all levels…. but to cite a ratio of “highest-to-lowest” compensation as some kind of morality-metric is simply stupid.
What the Occupy folks should be asking themselves is ‘what can they do that is more valuable to the person paying them than the compensation they get for doing a particular job”. If what they are doing can be done by a person in India or China for 1/10th the salary – their job is in jeopardy of disappearing overseas.
The answer to that question is scary and the youth today should in fact be scared – but to sit on Wall Street and scream about and tearing down “the rich” because they do things that other people find valuable is not only unfair and imoral – it is self destructive…. for it is the “rich” who are paying the bulk of the taxes and give the bulk of the charity and employ the bulk of the population.