Whether $250,000 really constitutes "wealthy" in America is subject to debate but it's clear a majority of Americans support raising taxes on the wealthy. A new Bloomberg-Washington Post poll shows 68% of Americans, and a majority of self-described Republicans, support raising taxes on Americans making $250,000 a year or more.
On this point, at least, the majority is in synch with the Occupy Wall Street protesters; if the protesters agree on anything, it's that wealthy Americans should pay higher taxes.
But that is different that being anti-capitalism or wanting to punish success, says Forbes editor Randall Lane.
"A lot of the same people protesting are the same people burning a candle for Steve Jobs on Facebook," he says. "It's not about the money. There problem is the perception that Wall Street, and to a large degree it's correct, does not reward people who create jobs and make the world better."
Lane, author of The Zeroes, believes the Occupy Wall Street protests are a manifestation of the anger that's built up in the past decade, when most Americans saw their net worth stagnate while Wall Street amassed untold wealth.
The trend continues as Bank America recently announced plans to pay departing executives Joe Price and Sallie Krawcheck a collective $11 million in severance. The payouts are certainly legal and, as Lane notes, "relatively small" compared to some other packages paid to departing CEOs lately. (See: Another Corporate Outrage: 'Golden Parachutes' for Failed CEOs.)
But the optics of this move are terrible given the state of the economy. Furthermore, Bank of America has announced plans to close hundreds of branches and lay off thousands of its employees, while separately taking fire for instituting debit fees. (See: Under Pressure: Big Banks Slammed by Obama, Durbin)
"This is why they hate you," writes Josh Brown at The Reformed Broker blog. "This very type of thing, while just a single example, epitomizes the piggish mentality that has set you apart from everyone else. This is why they're marching against you and calling for boycotts and writing their politicians. And this is why your whole model and way of life is on its way to being dead. Forever."
"Dead…forever" might be overstating things and Lane fundamentally believes Wall Street can be a force for good by providing capital to new businesses that create jobs and new industries.
"I personally believe in capitalism….in theory it's a wonderful thing," he says. "But Wall Street is this little insulated place that doesn't always act capitalistically and for the greater good. There's not necessarily any angst at capitalism, but something about Wall Street that has not been reformed enough."
- Steve Jobs