Former New York Times economics reporter turned editorial board member Eduardo Porter is the latest Times staffer to declare that the leftists of Occupy Wall Street have it figured out: 'Wall Street Protesters Hit the Bull's-Eye.'
Occupiers of Zuccotti Park and other sites around the country have been criticized for the fuzziness of their goals. Their complaint that the privileged few in the top 1 percent are getting a disproportionate share of the nation's prosperity, however, is spot on. And Wall Streeters are taking a bigger and bigger chunk of that income.
Although the people who comprise Porter's hated subset "the rich" are constantly changing, he seems to have imbibed the liberal idea of the top 1% earners as an unchanging lump of largesse. Note Porter's word choice; there's little sense of the rich having earned their wealth; money is simply something that passively, unfairly flows upward to them.
Who exactly are the people at the top? They are 1.4 million families that made on average $1 million in 2009, the latest data available. They took a hit from the 2008 financial crisis, but no doubt are regaining lost ground. The rich always do: a report published last week by the Congressional Budget Office shows that the share of national income going to the top percentage of households skyrocketed over the last three decades, even as it fell for the vast majority of American families.
The top 1 percent's share of the nation's total adjusted gross income was 17 percent in 2009, down from 23 percent two years before. But those people are still earning more than the entire bottom half of the population.
The first chart shows the share of national income that goes to families at different points of the income distribution. Since the mid-1980s the top 10 percent of Americans have increased their share at the expense of everybody else. But the lion's share of these gains accrued to the richest 1 percent; and half of those gains went to the top 0.1 percent.
Porter passed along a tip on going after those greedy bankers.
The protesters' grievances may be aimed at Wall Street as a metaphor for broader economic forces. But there is nothing metaphorical about who is taking home the wealth. The protesters might even aim a bit higher: the real income growth is happening in the top 0.1 percent. There are lots of bankers there, too.
One of Porter's previous attacks on 'the rich' from August 2007 backfired. He described Mexican media mogul Carlos Slim as a "thief" and "robber baron" in a signed editorial. Yet in 2009, that same robber baron gave the NYT Co. a $250 million loan, and became in the eyes of publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr. "a very shrewd businessman with an appreciation for great brands."