Michael Shermer is founder of The Skeptics Society, and Editor in Chief of its magazine “Skeptic”. He is a BIG NAME in the freethought community and is well known for debunking pseudoscientific and supernatural claims. Shermer has been an advocate of Scientific skepticism – questioning the veracity of claims using the scientific method – except it seems for his own political views. Recently Shermer wrote a series of tweets praising an OpEd by David Brooks that complained about the Occupy movement. He (and Brooks) totally missed the point.
The first tweet shocked me because I really didn’t know that much about Shermer’s political views:
Great OpEd by David Brooks in today’s NYTs on how unrealistic the Occupy X movement is in dividing U.S. into 99% v 1%
Then in the next tweet:
“if you tax away 50 percent of the income of those making between $1 million and $10 million you only reduce the national debt by 1 percent”
Brooks: “If you confiscate all the income of those making more than $10 million, you reduce the debt by 2 percent” http://www.taxfoundation.org/news/show/27556.html
The problem is the Occupy movement has never been about reducing the national debt – that’s the mantra of the Oligarchy like David Brooks. Occupy is about fairness and economic justice such as wanting the bankers who screwed us over to be in jail. The Occupy movement isn’t anti-capitalism. It’s anti-criminal.
And when has David Brooks been right about anything?
Once again I need to bring out the words of Alan Grayson who encapsulated the aims of the Occupy movement during the Bill Maher show:
“Now let me tell you about what they’re talking about. They’re complaining that Wall Street wrecked the economy three years ago and nobody’s held responsible for that. Not a single person’s been indicted or convicted for destroying twenty percent of our national net worth accumulated over two centuries. They’re upset about the fact that Wall Street has iron control over the economic policies of this country, and that one party is a wholly owned subsidiary of Wall Street, and the other party caters to them as well….
Listen, if I am spokesman for all the people who think that we should not have 24 million people in this country who can’t find a full time job, that we should not have 50 million people in this country who can’t see a doctor when they’re sick, that we shouldn’t have 47 million people in this country who need government help to feed themselves, and we shouldn’t have 15 million families who owe more on their mortgage than the value of their home, okay, I’ll be that spokesman.”
Just a little more digging and gathering of evidence – like maybe talking to some real protesters – would confirm that Brooks is full of it.
Shermer’s praise of Brooks also flies into the face of his own “libertarian” beliefs. In an essay published on the Huffington Post he wrote (emphasis mine):
Of course, the devil is in the details of what constitutes “infringement,” but there are at least a dozen essentials to protecting from infringements our basic freedoms:
1. The rule of law.
2. Property rights.
3. Economic stability through a secure and trustworthy banking and monetary system.
4. A reliable infrastructure and the freedom to move about the country.
5. Freedom of speech and the press.
6. Freedom of association.
7. Mass education.
8. Protection of civil liberties.
9. A robust military for protection of our liberties from attacks by other states.
10. A potent police force for protection of our freedoms from attacks by other people within the state.
11. A viable legislative system for establishing fair and just laws.
12. An effective judicial system for the equitable enforcement of those fair and just laws.
Michael Shermer seems to support what the Occupy movement really stands for – fairness and economic justice. He should also support it because the opposite would be a danger to the liberty he feels so strongly about. As economist Paul Krugman wrote:
The budget office report tells us that essentially all of the upward redistribution of income away from the bottom 80 percent has gone to the highest-income 1 percent of Americans. That is, the protesters who portray themselves as representing the interests of the 99 percent have it basically right, and the pundits solemnly assuring them that it’s really about education, not the gains of a small elite, have it completely wrong.
But why does this growing concentration of income and wealth in a few hands matter? Part of the answer is that rising inequality has meant a nation in which most families don’t share fully in economic growth. Another part of the answer is that once you realize just how much richer the rich have become, the argument that higher taxes on high incomes should be part of any long-run budget deal becomes a lot more compelling.
The larger answer, however, is that extreme concentration of income is incompatible with real democracy. Can anyone seriously deny that our political system is being warped by the influence of big money, and that the warping is getting worse as the wealth of a few grows ever larger?
I am always disappointed when a person of science fails to use it to find the truth.
*Side Note* The OpEd Shermer praises as being in the New York Times “yesterday” (11/10/11) was actually published October 10th (10/10/11)
** In keeping with my policy I will not link directly to Huffington Post or quote from it. The link noted goes to another blog post which does link to the Huffpo article. If you wish to read the actual article follow the link I gave in the quote and use their link to the Huffington Post.