"You're either one of the 99 percent of one of the 1 percent," reads a sticker on a lamppost near my house. The implication being that if you're not one of the 1 percent, you should be packing your class warfare kit of cardboard signs, camping gear and iPods loaded with a copy of Paranoid Android and head on over to Wall Street.
Elizabeth Warren explained that the rich are people who build factories but aren't grateful enough to pay their fair share. Whatever that fair share might be. Warren has good reason to be outraged by business owners who just aren't paying enough. She's the one they're paying the money to.
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau refused a Freedom of Information Act request to release her salary, but we do have the salary ranges for two assistant directors of sub-offices at the CFPB.
The Assistant Director at the Office of Financial Empowerment, whose job is "developing and implementing policy and programs that empower low and moderate income and underserved consumers to make better informed financial decisions" has a salary range of 185,000 to 247,000 dollars.
The Assistant Director at the, Office of Older Americans, (apparently senior citizens is now politically incorrect) also has a salary range of 160,000 to 235,000 dollars (apparently senior citizens also matter 25,000 to 12,000 dollars less than "underserved consumers") and his or her job involves "Working with the Associate Director and Deputy Associate Director of Consumer Education and Engagement, as well as senior leaders from across CFPB." (That's senior leaders who make a lot of money, nor leaders who are seniors.)
Just how many senior leaders, directors, associate directors and deputy associate directors are there at a single consumer agency? When you find out let me know. But the CFPB has offices in four major cities, pays relocation costs and promises "a highly competitive compensation and benefits package".
Does the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau really exist to protect consumers or to provide six figure jobs to reliable political allies like Liz Warren?
Here's a hint, the Dodd-Frank bill didn't just establish the CFPB, it also created the Office of Financial Research with a neat little caveat exempting them from pay schedule limitations
"COMPENSATION- The Director, in consultation with the Chairperson, shall fix, adjust, and administer the pay for all employees of the Office, without regard to chapter 51 or subchapter III of chapter 53 of title 5, United States Code, relating to classification of positions and General Schedule pay rates."
In case you happened to miss that, it was only somewhere around the 1000th page under Section 152 D (2 ) right behind the case reading, "Beware of the Barney". It's an ironic note in a bill that fusses a bit about executive compensation when they're private sector executives, but creates an organization with open ended salaries for government employees.
Oh and if you're still worried whether Elizabeth Warren has enough to eat, her Harvard salary was around 632,000 dollars. Her workload? Teaching a class on contract law twice a week. It's not exactly shoveling coal in a coal mine. Class warfare it turns out is a game for the rich.
If Warren becomes a Senator, her measly salary would be a mere 174,000. It's hard to imagine how she'll even live on so little.Out near Wall Street, a whole bunch of bright young things are listening to Bob Marley and eagerly looking forward to the chance to be able to make a difference for people with a 174,000 salary too. If those damn greedy Republocrats don't ruin it for them.
The 2 and 3 percents expect us to join a war against the 1 percent for their profit, not for ours. At least the revolting soldiers in the Russian and French revolutions got to burst into some cellars and gorge themselves on expensive wines. We can look forward to living on government cheese so we can pay for all the directorates and the 19 or so percent of the country that sees the government dole as its birthright.
But the 2 and 3 percenters are not an organic movement, they're a political class whose advancement is promoted by elements of that 1 percent. As are the 99 percent protests. Can it really be class warfare if the people waging it are in the same class as the people they're waging it against? It's not a new question. The French Revolution was packed with the upper class. Lenin was the son of a nobleman. Castro's father ran a plantation.Obama is the grandson is a bank president.
Peer through the cardboard signs and it starts looking more like a fight among the 1 percent of millionaires and billionaires who want to run the country their way and need populist support or the illusion of it. Most revolutions begin within an oligarchy and most empires are torn down from within.
Say what you will about Obama he has created plenty of jobs. Government jobs. And subtracted a whole lot private sector jobs. This doesn't make much sense if you think of him as leading an economic recovery, rather than serving as a figurehead in an effort to put the country and the economy under the control of particular interests within that 1 percent.
Interests like some of those nice billionaires who fund activist groups out of the goodness of their hearts because they love this country so damn much. Like noted patriot George Soros or the Sandlers, those lovely people with their creative subprime mortgage loans who are just so darn concerned about the poor. Or Warren Buffett who is just so fired up about the rich paying their fair share of taxes-- so long as it results in a tax code which still leaves him with the same loopholes while letting him go on profiting from the bailouts.
Is that class warfare? More like a structural civil war between those who see themselves benefiting most from a tightly regulated economy under their control against those who want a deregulated system. Or a less regulated system anyway.
On one side are the public sector unions and the dole crowd, the professional activists, consultants and bearded marxists who need something to do with their free time. Not to mention the twenty and thirty somethings working in the private sector who are too stupid to realize that they're being used by the same billionaires that they're protesting against to destroy their own job market.
Power to the people is a slogan that's half-right. Revolutions are rarely about the people, but they're always about power. And they do give that power to people. Some people. Like Harvard professors and billionaires who fund populist movements and the Obama Administration which has lost all hope of being able to run for office on the Arab Spring or on dead Al-Qaeda leaders and hopes to run on the American Autumn instead.
While spring is a metaphor for renewal, autumn is a metaphor for decline. Whether the progressives using the slogan American Autumn understand what they're saying or not is an open question, but it is an accurate description. Their American Autumn is very much a symbol of national decline, not because it's an attack on Wall Street, but because it's a power grab by the government money faction of the 1 percent disguised as soak the rich populism.
Free enterprise created the mercantile middle-class, while government bureaucracy created a rival middle-class. In the long run only of them can remain a viable economic entity. Either the path to advancement will be through the free market or through civil service exams. We will either have a middle-class of free men and women, or of government employees voting to find new ways to squeeze money from the citizenry to pay their own salaries.