Oct. 10, 2011 -- In the 5th week of the Occupy Wall St. movement, with protests now having spread now to 150 U.S. cities and even to Europe, the apparent objects of that protest—the richest 1 percent—are starting to push back.
The grumbling from the wealthy took off with a sign posted in the windows of the Chicago Board of Trade last week, in a place where street protesters easily could see it, which proclaimed: "We Are The 1%."
No one is sure who put up the sign, but plenty of folks in the building could be included in the 1 percent.
If a joke, it was one many protesters didn't get. "I thought [the sign] was extremely disrespectful," a special education teacher named Corey, 35, told TimeOut Chicago. Mike Polski, 53, from Joliet, disagreed, telling TimeOut, "These people wish they were the 1 percent! The 1 percent are billionaires."
He's wrong. According to IRS tax data, anybody earning $380,354 or more qualifies for membership in the top 1 percent. That would include some of the better-paid traders at the Board of Trade. (IRS data shows, too, that the top 1 percent holds 35.6 percent of the nation's wealth, not the 50 percent claimed by Occupiers.)
Whoever posted the sign, trader Eric Wilkinkson says he is in sympathy with it. The real parties responsible for the nation's economic ills are not the rich, in his view.
Says Wilkinson, "It's capitol hill and Obama that are the culprits. They're the ones not doing their jobs." The Occupy movement he calls misguided. Somebody rich, he says, "Should not be penalized for making headway in this society. They should pay their fair share of taxes, but they shouldn't be taxed more. They deserve their money."
Wilkinson under his nickname—the Wolfman—has gone out on the street to film a video giving his own take on the protest (see "twitter@wolfmansblog).
On Twitter, one anonymous person who claims to relate elevator gossip at tony investment bank Goldman Sachs -- which may have more 1 percenters than anywhere in America -- tweeted: "What are they complaining about? People seem a hell of a lot happier in TGI Fridays commercials than they ever do at Gramercy Tavern." Another tweet said: "A protester sees my Benz, and wants to rip me out of it. A real man sees my car, and wants to work hard so he can buy it one day."
Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain easily qualifies as a 1 percenter, since his financial disclosure forms show that in 2010 and 2011 he earned generous fees from sitting on a number of corporate boards, including that of Whirlpool, which alone paid him $359,008.
Cain says people who are not rich have only themselves to blame. "Don't blame Wall Street," he told protesters, in an interview with the Wall St. Journal. "Don't blame the big banks. If you don't have a job and you're not rich, blame yourself. It's not a person's fault because they succeeded. It is a person's fault if they failed. And so this is why I don't understand these demonstrations and what is it that they're looking for."
Billionaire New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said Friday doesn't think too much of Occupiers, either, saying in an interview with New York City's WOR Radio, "If the jobs they're trying to get rid of in the city—the people that work in finance, which is a big part of our economy—go away, we're not going to have any money to pay our municipal employees or clean the parks or anything else."
And another thing, he says: "None of this is good for tourism."