Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Boycott the Bad Guys

I sympathize with the Occupy Wall Street movement. The fabulous growth in income over the past 30 years of the top 1% of earners while millions of Americans are without health insurance is a sign of a dysfunctional system. It's unfortunate that the actions of OWS participants seem focused on asking the government to intervene on their behalf, rather than doing what they can as private individuals to bring about change. One action that the 99% could undertake, without requiring any help from the government, is to boycott those products/companies owned by the worst actors of the 1%. I'd humbly suggest that we start with Brawny paper towels, owned by the Koch brothers (massive funders of right-wing causes, main force behind the efforts in several states to strip union rights from teachers and cops, tied for 4th-richest Americans. Read Bloomberg's article on their non-political corporate misbehavior).

Even with all the gains made by the 1% in the past 30 years, they only make about 20% of the total reported income. Unless you're Rolls Royce, your company depends on customers from the 99%. A customer base making purchasing decisions based on corporate behavior is a much bigger threat to the 1% than marching in the street begging politicians to help you.

With their power to obliterate brands and companies, motivated consumers can force changes in how the 1% treats the 99%. Koch Industries paid $21 billion a few years back for Georgia-Pacific, the company that makes Brawny paper towels, along with Dixie cups, Quilted Northern toilet paper, and many other products. The threat of zeroing out that investment would go a long way toward stopping the Kochs' campaign to blame all the ills of society on teachers making fifty grand a year.

Libertarians/conservatives argue against government regulations by advocating for the free market. This approach depends on informed consumers making rational decisions based on their personal values. We can depend on government to fulfill this role for us, but in the post-Citizens United world of one dollar/one vote, it's unwise to count on politicains to do this for us. Fortunately, we don't need them. We're powerful enough to do it ourselves. We are the 99%.

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