Tag Archives: Occupy Wall Street

Plutocrats Author Running for Parliament in Canada

I happened to be reading through some of my old posts and noticed that I was going to write a post after I’d finished reading Plutocrats. I guess somewhere along the way it got removed from my to do list. I did write something that came to me while reading the book about looking down our noses, but nothing really about the book after that.

I think the author, Chrystia Freeland, did a really good job of bringing the issues to light and explaining them in ways that were accessible. It’s been more than a few months since I read it, a couple of the main points stuck with me.

1. It’s not just the wealthy that control the global economy, but the uber-wealthy.

Meaning, it’s not the 1% that are controlling the economy and affecting the 99% (as was the main message from Occupy Wall Street), but it’s the 0.1% who control the economy and affect the 99.9%. This may seem like splitting hairs, but Freeland offers compelling data that shows even the “wealthy” (i.e. the 1%) look like small potatoes next to the 0.1%.

2. The wealth gained by these folks wasn’t necessarily from unsightly means.

I don’t know remember if she says unethical, but some may consider it unethical. She makes the case that the uber-wealthy got that way — and continue to stay that way — because they’ve manipulated the market to funnel the wealth in their direction. She also does a little bit of debunking of the “trickle-down” economics perspective.

Overall, like I’ve said before, it’s a book that’s certainly worth reading.

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Something that I find fascinating — Freeland was (as of a few days ago) a Managing Director and Editor of Consumer News at Thomson Reuters. As you learn from the book, this position allowed her to cultivate the contacts with people in high places to make the book that much more compelling (with stories and anecdotes).  Anyway, like I said, she had this position. She recently left it. Why? She’s running for a seat in Parliament. The Canadian Parliament (she is Canadian).

One of the most storied politicians in Canada in recent history (Bob Rae) left his seat in Toronto Centre to become the chief negotiator for the James Bay area First Nations in negotiations with the provincial government. This vacated his seat and as a result, they’ll be a by-election in the Fall (date not set, yet). Freeland has met with some of the Liberal Party of Canada leaders and decided to seek the seat.

I don’t know if she’ll win the seat (she hasn’t even won the right to represent the Liberal Party just yet), but if she does, I wouldn’t be surprised to see her become part of the “brass” very quickly. In fact, if Justin Trudeau and the Liberals can win enough seats to form a minority or majority government, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Freeland become a Cabinet Minister or at the very least, a senior advisor. Of course, the Federal election isn’t until 2015, but it’s certainly something to think about.

Perception vs. Reality: Revisiting Wealth Inequality in America

This past summer, I wrote a post that shared some information about wealth inequality in the US. I was actually sharing information that had been published the summer before (in 2011). There was a telling graphic that followed as a result of the study (I’ve included it below): Average Income by Family, distributed by income group.

Keeping in mind that this study was published in 2011, so the three boxes may have shifted. If anything, I would imagine that the actual distribution (the top box) is more pronounced in its inequality and because of Occupy Wall Street and books like Chrystia Freeland‘s Plutocrats (which I’m currently reading and will probably have a post on in the near future), I would guess that people would be more aware of the wealth inequality, so the middle box would also be more pronounced in its inequality.

The reason that I decided to revisit this information is because there’s a video that’s being passed around that uses the information from this study (and this graphic) and presents it in a much more effective way. Before reading on, I’d urge you to watch it:

Now, can you see how much more effective that is in accentuating the differences between perception and reality? I especially appreciated the way the creator of the video used the an aggregate of 100 people to illustrate the differences between the percentiles. I’ve found that when numbers get really large, it can be hard for people to conceptualize the differences. For instances, if we look at the graphic above (in this post), the differences are plain to see, but there’s something about the limits of the rectangle. The representation of the quintiles don’t make for easy transferability from one quintile to the next. That is, it might be hard for to conceptualize that each of those colors is suppose to represent 20% of the population. In watching the video, though, the creator so eloquently differentiated between quintiles by taking an aggregate of 100 people and then actually showing the people from each group.

I think the video was really well done and I hope that it raises public awareness around this important issue. More than that, I hope that it motivates the public to actually want something to get done. If enough of the population pressures their legislators, we just might be able to make a change.