Back in 1980, the average ratio in the U.S. between the CEO and the lowest paid worker of a company was 42:1.
By the year 2000, it had become 531:1.
Let me repeat that, so that you don't have to move your eyes up and read it again.
At 42:1, our ratio was still higher than the 10:1 and 11:1 ratios that currently exist in the wealthy, industrialized nations of Japan and Germany. But, at least, it was within reason. Today, our ratio dwarfs even the second place country on the list; Brazil at 57:1.
It is hard to argue in favor of this type of disparity.
Unless, of course, you think that CEO's in America today are that much more talented than every other CEO, past or present.
They're not, of course. Germany and Japan have corporations that are at least as successful as ours, as should be obvious to anyone who buys cars or televisions.
Or, I suppose, one could argue that America is an example of a free market and that this type of inequality is the reflection of a free market in action. Except, how do we know that? How do we know that Japan and Germany aren't better examples of the natural reactions of a free market and our system is, instead, reflective of a rigged and corrupted system.
Ultimately, though, it doesn't matter.
The goal should not be a free market or an efficient market or anything to do with the market. The goal should be a moral civilization and the market should simply be a device to obtain that. The enormous gaps between the rich and the poor that we see today are closer to pre-revolutionary France than they are to the ideal of the Republic for which we all stand.
So, the question becomes; how does a person who benefits from such gross inequality (or a person who doesn't yet, but aspires to) argue their case?
Quite simply, they don't.
Instead, they do what all people who have no legitimate argument do; they engage in one of the many logical fallacies. We can see all of this in the attacks against the Occupy Movement.
The corrupt and the corruptible, for instance, use guilt by association. A small minority of protestors behave badly and that is then used to discredit the entire movement.
Or, they use the straw man. They argue against something that is related, like Socialism, but ultimately irrelevant to the discussion.
By far, though, the most common logical fallacy currently being employed is to attack the character of the protestors themsevles. The infamous argumentum ad hominem.
Since the beginning, the occupiers have been labeled by their foes as bums, lazy, anti-American, looking for hand-outs, homeless rubble, trust-fund Marxists, even a "minority" (as if having an unpopular opinion was somehow a negative.)
Even the argument that the occupiers don't have a clear message is an ad hominem attack; an attempt to portray the protestors as an aimless, shiftless group.
The media help make this happen. Being almost entirely owned by large corporations, nearly all news agencies depict the Occupation Movement in a negative light. This is not immediately obvious because they will talk objectively about the protest but then they always manage to find the scummiest guy to interview or photograph for the front page of the paper.
In my own experience, as I decided to join the Occupation Movement for the day of the general strike, I, myself, recieved a direct dose of the ad hominem. Initially, I was presented with all the usual negative descriptions of those whom I would dare to join. When I refused to back down, it became my own character that was attacked.
I am certain that this type of dynamic is occurring nationwide. The message is clear to all those who might be on the fence about the movement; if you join their side, we will label you as we label them.
Which gives me even more respect for those camped down at Frank Ogawa Plaza and Liberty Square and Constitution Square. As the weather changes and winter comes, those brave patriots will need to tolerate not only the wet and the cold, but they will also have to endure the verbal attacks of their fellow countrymen.
I hope that, in doing so, they can take strength in the words from a poster that I saw down at the Plaza last Wednesday.
First they ignore you,
then they ridicule you,
then they fight you,
then you win.
- Mohandas Gandhi