Explaining Southern California's economy

Backtrack: What is Occupy L.A. really protesting?

Los Angeles Dismantles Occupy LA Encampment

Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

Occupy LA protesters demonstrate on the front lawn of Los Angeles City Hall after the midnight deadline set by city officials to shut down the encampment expired on November 28, 2011 in Los Angeles, California. The Occupy Movement is planning to start a "Spring offensive" on May 1.

The Occupy Movement is getting ready to fire itself back up for what some are calling — maybe tongue in cheek, maybe not — a "spring offensive." The plan is to reassemble tomorrow, and the timing is transparent: It's May Day, the day when the workers of the world traditionally unite. Although the political right doesn't call them "workers" — it calls them "communists."

It doesn't seem to me that the basis for what the movement is protesting has changed all that much since the winter. So I'm reposting from back then what I wrote about Occupy L.A., which took over the lawns around City Hall for weeks, gained a fair amount of local support, protested relatively peacefully compared with Occupy efforts in other cities, and was then evicted by the authorities with some arrests. What are these folks still mad about? Read on...

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Why is Occupy Wall Street protesting the ports?

Grant Slater/KPCC

Protesters blocking the Port of Long Beach

It's a good question. What's the relationship between protesting the ascent of a global financial elite and protesting regular old trade in and out of the nation's largest Pacific coast ports?

Evidently, there's a Goldman Sachs tie-in. The Vampire Squid owns 51-percent of SSA Marine, a global mega-shipper that has major operations at the Port of Long Beach. The general idea, according to Occupy the Ports, is that SSA is somehow contributing to America's rather substantial trade imbalance with China. Greaterlongeach.com summarizes:

[A] flyer [circulated to protesters] cites a variety of reasons for focusing protests on SSA Marine. These include two specific claims—that the company the company failed to alert workers about potentially hazardous cargo in Oakland, and that it was fined for building an illegal road to a project in Washington. They also point to wider policies that protest organizers say have depressed wages and benefits for truck drivers and de-industrialized the United States so that incoming shipping containers at the Ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles outnumber outgoing shipping containers 7-1.

Michael Novick, a retired schoolteacher who is part of the Occupy the Port movement, responded to a call from GreaterLongBeach.com and expanded on the implications of the imbalance of import-export traffic through the local ports.

“If there were as many containers going out as there are coming in there would be 10 times as many jobs,” said Novick, who said he expects Occupy the Ports to protest in front of SSA Marine this Monday from 6 a.m. to 8 a.m.

But coordinating a protest at SSA Marine isn’t easy. The company is so big that it has five locations within the Ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles: Pacific Container Terminal, Terminal A, Terminal c60, and Pier F, Berth 206 in Long Beach, and Outer Harbor 54/55 in San Pedro.

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Do the math: Find out if you're in the '1 percent'

Occupy LA

Eric Richardson / blogdowntown

Those participating in Occupy Los Angeles march toward City Hall.

Ah, the Wall Street Journal. It serves capitalism, but it's also a newspaper, so it wants to jump on trends. Add some nifty, number-crunching online technology to that and you get this calculator, which will swiftly tell you just where you fall in the U.S. income distribution

Give it a try! But don't get hung up on income! Remember that much of the top 1%'s wealth comes from capital gains, not wage income. So you might be looking pretty good as a household if you bring in $200,000 per year and rank in the 94th percentile. But remember that you're then taxed at the 28 percent IRS rate, while a true 1%er — which I define as a member of the U.S. financial elite, making money from money rather than from labor — is seeing their capital gains taxed at 15 percent.

There are plenty of people in the U.S. who think they're rich, but they aren't. And even if they're in the 1% as set by earnings ($506,000 annually), the gulf between you and a 1%er who makes the same off less heavily taxed investment and divident income is vast.

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Annals of the 1 percent: The agony of the bankers

Dow Jones Industrial Average Closes Slightly Down

Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Traders making money at the New York Stock Exchange. Just maybe not as much money as they used to.

Max Abelson (via Paul Krugman) writes at Bloomberg about bankers and their struggles to live on half a million a year, in the face of government regulations and more work than ever:

Michael Karp, 42, CEO of New York-based recruitment firm Options Group Inc., said Wall Street pay will fall 30 percent this year, and more for executives. It will be flat or down even in businesses doing relatively well, such as emerging markets and commodities, he said.

[...]

Karp said he met last month over tea at the Gramercy Park Hotel in New York with a trader who made $500,000 last year at one of the six largest U.S. banks.

The trader, a 27-year-old Ivy League graduate, complained that he has worked harder this year and will be paid less. The headhunter told him to stay put and collect his bonus.

“This is very demoralizing to people,” Karp said. “Especially young guys who have gone to college and wanted to come onto the Street, having dreams of becoming millionaires.”

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Public intellectuals adopt 'Occupy Wall Street' and 'Occupy LA'

In this three photo combo, Professor of

PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images

Paul Krugman supports Occupy Wall Street, but he has some ideas about its agenda.

The floodgates have officially opened. New York Times columnist and Nobel-winning economist Paul Krugman has thrown his weight behind Occupy Wall Street (and I'm assuming Occupy LA and Occupy Everywhere Else), endorsing the inchoate anger of the 99%.

Krugman doesn't mince words. The enemy is in his sights, he takes aim, and fires: "What can we say about the protests? First things first: The protesters’ indictment of Wall Street as a destructive force, economically and politically, is completely right."

Krugman is just the latest intellectual personality to lend support to the protesters. Last week, Krugman's fellow Nobel laureate in economics, Joseph Stiglitz, visited Zuccotti Park in lower Manhattan. Former Labor secretary Robert Reich also spoke up for the movement at a conference in Washington this week. 

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