Matt Taibbi calls attention to an article at Bloomberg.com in which the much-put-upon billionaires of America frown upon the “imbeciles” of the Occupy movement for hurling abuse their way:
Asked if he were willing to pay more taxes in a Nov. 30 interview with Bloomberg Television, Blackstone Group LP CEO Stephen Schwarzman spoke about lower-income U.S. families who pay no income tax.
“You have to have skin in the game,” said Schwarzman, 64. “I’m not saying how much people should do. But we should all be part of the system.”
But it seems to me that if you’re broke enough that you’re not paying any income tax, you’ve got nothing but skin in the game. You’ve got it all riding on how well America works.
You can’t afford private security: you need to depend on the police. You can’t afford private health care: Medicare is all you have. You get arrested, you’re not hiring Davis, Polk to get you out of jail: you rely on a public defender to negotiate a court system you’d better pray deals with everyone from the same deck. And you can’t hire landscapers to manicure your lawn and trim your trees: you need the garbage man to come on time and you need the city to patch the potholes in your street.
And in the bigger picture, of course, you need the state and the private sector both to be functioning well enough to provide you with regular work, and a safe place to raise your children, and clean water and clean air.
The entire ethos of modern Wall Street, on the other hand, is complete indifference to all of these matters. The very rich on today’s Wall Street are now so rich that they buy their own social infrastructure. They hire private security, they live on gated mansions on islands and other tax havens, and most notably, they buy their own justice and their own government. […]
People like […] Schwarzman […] who think the “imbeciles” on the streets are simply full of reasonless class anger, they don’t get it. Nobody hates them for being successful. And not that this needs repeating, but nobody even minds that they are rich.
What makes people furious is that they have stopped being citizens.
The rest here, and worth reading.
And this is precisely why government matters — good government, independent of the moneyed interests, insuring a fair playing field for all and making sure that America works well for the least fortunate as well as the wealthiest among us. It’s John Rawls’ notion of the “veil of ignorance,” of ordering society as if we didn’t know what position we occupied in it — a call for fairness that is very much in keeping with the demands of Occupy Wall Street. If that movement has accomplished anything, it’s in driving the national conversation towards this very necessary consideration of what principles constitute a just society. And it’s a conversation that needs to keep going.
Once again, Elizabeth Warren:
A caveat: I’ve just finished reading Animal Farm again, and can’t help being haunted by Orwell’s warning about the oppressed throwing off their shackles only to become mirror images of their oppressors (or as Jenny Holzer suggests, “Change is valuable when the oppressed become tyrants”). I don’t think that’s inevitable. With foresight, and self-doubt, and an unflagging commitment to hold our leaders — and ourselves — accountable, may we all have the wits (and the decency) to avoid that fate.