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Jon Talton

Analysis and commentary on economic news, trends and issues, with an emphasis on Seattle and the Northwest.

December 12, 2011 at 9:17 AM

Occupy the port, hurt the 99 percent

I’ve been writing about income inequality and the sociopathic behavior of corporate oligarchs for years, but here I am about to do something that will get me condemned as another tool in the mainstream media who Just Doesn’t Get It. The Occupy movement’s plans to attempt to shut down West Coast ports further muddies its stated goals and agenda. No wonder organized labor declined to support today’s planned protest at the Port of Seattle.

Occupy’s agenda for the port shutdown is here and you can read it for yourself. In part, it says:

The 1 percent are confident they can cut our health care, education, food aid, and social services because they think we won’t fight back. They are wrong. If they cut our safety net to pieces, we will cut their profits. The port is a major source of profits for the 1 percent, especially during the holiday season when they ship goods produced by Asian workers under horrible labor conditions to American malls where increasingly broke workers buy holiday presents on credit, worried about whether we will lose our jobs, food stamps, or health care. We are tired of worrying, so now we are fighting back. A port shutdown will hit the 1 percent directly in their wallets. Happy Holidays you scrooges.

It goes on to state, “The ports are Wall Street on the waterfront – without them running, Wall Street makes no profits. If they cut our livelihoods, we will cut their profits.” Well, no. The port is the 99 percent.

In Seattle, 21,600 direct jobs are generated by seaport activities, some 40 percent unionized. Another 7,800 jobs are indirectly supported. Most of these are well-paid. In addition to Boeing, the ports are the reason why the Puget Sound still has a real blue-collar middle class, as opposed to so many metropolitan areas. Add in the hundreds of thousands of jobs in Washington state connected to trade. I can’t think of one that is an investment banker. Yet the port estimates that a one-day Occupy shutdown would cost workers $8 million in personal income.

The ports are not Wall Street on the waterfront. The problem with the 30-year-plus evolution of Wall Street is its growing separation from, and in fact attack upon, productive economic activity. The problem with what is labeled “the 1 percent” is that it is drowning in money that previously would have been heavily taxed; it uses this not to fund real enterprises that create jobs, but to gamble in hedge funds, etc. that either profit from moving money around or make bets that result in job destruction. They also use it to successfully lobby the political system to maintain the status quo. They could care less about the Port of Seattle, a public entity, a part of the commons. Their holidays will be very happy with a chaotic opposition movement that doesn’t understand how they are damaging the nation and continuing to put it at risk.

As for holiday shopping, etc., Americans should know that every purchase they make carries economic and political ramifications. For example, if you value local businesses and real downtowns, shop there instead of Wal-Mart. If you choose “low prices” from a retailer whose widely copied business model has been seminal to the decline of the middle class — well, that’s not the fault of the swells on Wall Street.

And how much of this will be addressed by shutting down the ports? I know: I Just Don’t Get It.

And Don’t Miss: The real unemployment rate is 11 percent || Washington Post

Today’s Econ Haiku:

Down from the summit

Europe’s problems look the same

Reset, cut back, fail

Comments | More in Occupy, Occupy Seattle, Occupy Wall Street, Ports of Seattle and Tacoma


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