Fairness for the 99%

How do liberals and conservatives see fairness?

The conservative definition of fairness is that you have wealth equal to the wealth you contribute to society: you get what you give. In the Free Market that Adam Smith defined, families are paid proportional to what they contribute, and what their parents passed on from their work. A fair day's pay for a fair day's work.
The liberal definition of fairness modifies that view: we are all part of one society. Does someone whose father gave their life to stop Hitler deserve an inferior education to Bill Gates Sr's kid? Did Bill Gates entirely earn his fortune solo, or should the scientists and teachers who didn't earn a fortune creating the technology and educating the workers that made him rich be part of the equation?

Never mind Socialism, never mind even the liberal definition of fairness. The point of a functioning free market economy, it's only possible justification, is a fair day's pay for a fair day's work. And we no longer have even that. Just like the Tea Party fury at the Bank Bailout should make sense to all Americans, the fury of Occupy is that ordinary people are not being given even the conservative definition of fairness.

What we have

What we have today is an economy where as workers become more productive, they are not paid more. The increased wealth they generate is absorbed completely by the stock market and managers. And the 1% (really just the top tenth of the 1%) spends its energy and makes its fortune off the increased productivity of working people, or by moving jobs overseas and leaving people unable to work.

When Walmart gets rich by moving jobs to China, or executives Goldman Sachs gets rich in so many ways by playing with mortgages or toying with millions of workers' retirement funds, real wealth moves from people willing to sweat or create into the hands of people who aren't doing either.

Even under capitalism -- especially under functioning capitalism -- this doesn't need to be so. Germany's economy is functioning well enough to rescue corrupt nations like Greece while providing a good living and vacation time to their workers.

American workers don't work less hard than German -- we're getting screwed. We should be in the streets. If a foreign nation did what Wall Street did, we would fight. Even if you don't believe in Socialism, or Liberalism, even if you just believe in Adam Smith's world where someone who's not that productive shouldn't get a helping hand, they should merely have the opportunity to have a job and be paid for what little productivity they have, even then, we're getting screwed, we should be in the streets.

Even many of the most successful, like the Gates, are left scratching their heads at how much the game is rigged in their direction.


Individuals can certainly move up and down the income levels. But overall, the US has gone through a giant shift in the last generation, as shown clearly by the chart on this article about the Great Compression in income, after breaking up the trusts at the turn of the last century. Of course while the crowds at Occupy include many people dreaming of something much farther left, the mass enthusiasm behind Occupy is not a desire for Socialism, but just restoring American economics to what many people call "the Greatest Generation." The US economy of World War II and the 50's and 60's was not wrecked by Socialism. It's the opposite: the parasitic economy where wealth is extracted in other ways than producing things of value is wrecking both equality and the overall economy.

Lots of economic articles trending towards graphs and footnotes.