Saturday, December 31, 2011

Who are the rich 1 percent that Occupy Wall Street hates so much?

The protests which began as and are identified as “Occupy Wall Street” are protests against social and economic inequality, high unemployment, and greed, as well as corruption, and the undue influence of corporations—particularly that of the financial services sector—on government.

The protesters' slogan We are the 99% is how they refer to what they perceive as a growing difference in wealth in the U.S. between the wealthiest 1% and the rest of the population.

Those patriots in the Occupy (insert location) movement have inspired a critical look at those whiney, rich fat cats on Wall Street and in corporate America that the protesters despise so.

Here are some examples of the excessive salaries these people are paid: Philippe P. Dauman, CEO of Viacom, made $84.5 million last year. Leslie Moonves, of the CBS Corporation, got $56.9 million; Michael White of DirecTV was paid $32.9 million; Brian L. Roberts of the Comcast Corporation and Robert A. Iger of the Walt Disney Company, $28 million; and Gregg W. Steinhafel of Target, $23.5 million.

Who needs that much money, anyway? All that those people do is run businesses, and all businesses do is take people’s money, right? They are the 1 percent that OWS so patriotically protests against.

It’s just so unfair that these corporate bigwigs rake in millions when the rest of us struggle along barely making ends meet. Contrast those astronomical salaries and the conspicuous consumption that they allow, and then contrast it with the plight of those poor athletes, entertainers and journalists who are in the 99 percent.

Leading all athletes in total compensation with $62,294,116, of which $60,000,000 is in endorsements, is golfer Tiger Woods. On the Sports Illustrated Fortunate 50, leading the list of salaried earnings is the Atlanta Falcon’s Matt Ryan with $32,250,000, while the lowest on the list is Chris Bosh of the Miami Heat, with piddling $14,500,000 in salary.

According to Vanity Fair magazine, the list of people working in the salt mines of Hollywood lists James Cameron as the richest man in that hellish ghetto in 2010 with total earnings of $257 million, mostly from the box office and DVD sales of his Oscar-winning movie.

“The Tourist” star Johnny Depp grabbed the second spot on the Top 40 list of top-earning stars, directors and producers. The list estimated Depp's haul for the year at $100 million, excluding other non-film–related income.

And what about those fabulous folks who sing for a living? has published a list of the highest earners in the music world over the last 12 months, and in that group are: U2 at $130 million; AC/DC - $114 million; Bruce Springsteen - $70 million; Britney Spears - $64 million; Jay-Z - $63 million and Lady Gaga - $62 million. Seventeen year-old teeny bopper heartthrob Justin Bieber banked a cool $53 million last year.

Katie Couric made around $15 million a year when she anchored “CBS Evening News,” leading television news people. Diane Sawyer is raking in $12 million a year for her anchor job at “Good Morning America.” NBC “Today” co-anchor Matt Lauer draws $12 million while his co-host Meredith Vieira and NBC’s Brian Williams make about $10 million a year each. However, MSNBC anchor Keith Olbermann is dissed with a measly $4 million.

And how much do those high-profile liberals make – other than the aforementioned news folk – who are so good at telling the rest of us how to live?

Actor Alec Baldwin has a net worth of $65 million, and makes $300,000 per episode of “30 Rock.” Morgan Freeman gets $5-10 million per picture and has net worth $150 - 200 million. Gadfly movie producer Michael Moore has a net worth of $50 million. Tom Hanks earned $35 million last year, “Saturday Night Live’s” Tina Fey, $13 million, while Joy Behar, the co-host of “The View” and host of “The Joy Behar Show,” has a net worth of $8 million.

Relative to political party affiliation, those greedy Republicans lead the way in net worth, right? Well, no, according to Forbes magazine’s Top 20 list. Seventeen of the top 20 are Democrats, including Bill Gates, 56 billion; Warren Buffett, $50.0 billion; Wal-Mart’s Jim Walton, 20.1 billion Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, $13.5 billion; Lawrence Ellison, Oracle co-founder, $39.5 billion; Googles’ Larry Page, $15 billion.

So, big salaries aren’t restricted to Wall Street and corporate fat cats; there are lots of other fat cats, too. And when you add up all the athletes, entertainers and others making big bucks, Wall Street and the corporate world come in a distant second. But maybe it’s just how they make their money that makes it obscene when they collect a huge salary.

But why is it a bad thing warranting scorn and hatred to run a large company that provides jobs to thousands of people, and provides income to thousands more who own stock outright or in a retirement program or other investment?

We can hold different opinions on which of these folks contributes the most to society: the person that runs a company that provides jobs to thousands of people; the actor that plays the lead in an Oscar-winning film; the rock and roll screamer who sells millions of records. Whichever we might think provides the greatest service, we need to recognize and admit that each of them does something that people willingly spend their money on, and that is how they got rich. They made a good movie, a good CD, or a useful and desirable product. They didn’t just wake up one day and find a pot of gold beside their bed.

Economist Dr. Walter Williams defends one of the liberals’ most hated American icons, Wal-Mart. “Look at how Wal-Mart Stores generated wealth for the Walton family of Christy ($25 billion), Jim ($21 billion), Alice ($21 billion) and Robson ($21 billion). The Walton family's wealth is not a result of ill-gotten gains, but the result of Wal-Mart's revenue, $422 billion in 2010. The blame for this unjust concentration of wealth rests with those hundreds of millions of shoppers worldwide who voluntarily enter Wal-Mart premises and leave dollars, pounds and pesos.” Wal-Mart and its owners were made rich voluntarily by the other 99 percent.

And, in closing, a question: If the GOP is the party that exists to serve its Wall Street masters, then why does Wall Street give most of its money to the Democrats?

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