Wednesday, November 2nd, 2011...17:16

The Other 99% of Halloween Candy Distributors

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Here’s another 1% vs. 99% that I believe has been overlooked in the media; I posit each year 1% of the population gets to give out over 20% of the candy (and 10% of the population gets to give out more than 70% of the candy) on Halloween. In cities across America, there has been a growing trend where parents drive their children to a specific street on which to go trick-or-treating because a number of houses in that area will go all out in terms of decorations and “atmosphere” e.g. building haunted houses, ransacking the local Spirit store for the latest in animatronic ghouls, etc. Houses on these streets will give out hundreds, if not thousands of pieces of candy and the streets will be overrun with kids and parents alike. I do not live on one of those streets and just like last Halloween, our visitation rate this year was abysmal.

6:23p bee musketeer
6:56p butterfly and skeleton
7:11p airplane
7:30p spider girl?
7:35p fireman
7:40p 2 cowboys
7:41p 3 teenagers, no costumes
8:42p 3 teenagers (different ones), no costumes

I left our lit Halloween decorations along the 8ft path to our front door out until 10p and our porch light on until 11p. One can walk to 2 elementary, 1 middle and 1 high school within 0.7mi of my house; I don’t live on a busy street and there is a sidewalk. Many of the kids don’t even like to go to the mega-trick-or-treat zones; my wife works at an afterschool program and they complain it’s too crowded and easy to get separated from their friends; however, the parents feel it’s “the thing to do”. Our neighbors also seem to think the number of trick-or-treaters dropped from last year and I’m sure they have a bunch of excess candy just as we do. There’s a clear market inefficiency.For the first month+ of the Occupy Wall Street protests, I managed to turn a blind eye, blissfully occupying myself with baseball pennant chases, painting close to 1,000 sqft of outdoor fencing, Stanford’s Online Class – Introduction to Artificial Intelligence, etc. One evening, while walking back from the grocery store I expressed interest in seeing what one of these Occupy camps looked like and my wife mentioned if we walked down Martin Luther King Jr. Way (in Berkeley, CA) we’d pass by Occupy Berkeley. There wasn’t much activity, granted it was a Thursday night, just a handful of tents and some signs.

The next day I took a stroll by Occupy San Francisco along the Embarcadero, and it looked as if a number of homeless people decided to hang out together. I have nothing against homeless people, but I don’t think the many of the Occupy San Francisco population were ‘protesters’. Perhaps homelessness is a by-product of the state of affaires the Occupy Wall Street movement wants addressed; but I imagine most of the people I saw at Occupy San Francisco were homeless first and protestors second, if at all. I passed on visiting the Occupy Oakland camp due to the violence. Meanwhile the topic of “the other 99%” kept coming up more and more in conversation, such that I could no longer ignore it.

Based on the IRS Adjusted Gross Income Statistics my yearly income has put me in the top quintile (20%) ever since I graduated from college. This is not a result of me being especially brilliant or even lucky as if I were either of those I would probably have dropped out of college and joined the 1% during the dot-com bubble instead of catching the crash at the end. The two dominant factors are likely that I live in one of the most expensive areas of the country (San Francisco Bay Area) and work in an industry (computer software) which has higher than average salaries. In the last few years I’ve probably moved up into the top 10% and routinely interact with people who are currently in the top 1%, or have been in the past (you can check yourself for the current year via the Wall Street Journal’s “what percent are you?” calculator).

So in a sense, the current system works for me i.e. I can work within its constraints to do most of what I want to do. Note I do not aspire to have a Gulfstream 500 (I haven’t even ever flown first-class), houses in 5 different countries, or even retire early at this point. However, I realize the system has also failed many people, myself included to a degree as I am reluctantly a landlord due the the mortgage lending situation swinging wildly from giving loans to anyone who can breath to only giving loans to people with nearly perfect credit and a whole bunch of assets. Of course it could be much worse, I could not have a place to live or the ability to feed myself, but at the same time I’m contributing (proportionally) a great deal financially back into the system via taxes, charitable donations, etc. And I’m willing to contribute more because I know that not all work is valued appropriately and infrastructure is important to everyone’s well-being whether they use it directly or not.

It frustrates me the more I think about the Occupy* movement because while I agree with their general sentiment that what has happened with the economy recently sucks and should not have happened, I fail to see how they’re changing anything for the better. I suppose the current system of mass congregation to Halloween trick-or-treat zones works for the people on those streets who enjoy handing out disproportionate amounts of candy, but it doesn’t work for me. Maybe I should have tried occupying some of their front porches trying highlight the inequalities.

Instead, next year I will attempt to increase the demand in my area. I’m thinking about either stepping up to handing out full size (or perhaps king size?) candy bars and/or fancier Ghirardelli chocolate; perhaps word will spread that our street is worth visiting. Another thought I had was to put up neon orange signs, much like is done for a garage sale, advertising the bounty that awaits those willing to broaden their horizons. Perhaps our neighbors would be willing to join us in increasing the Halloween value of our block.

As silly as it sounds within the context of handing out Halloween candy, the general ideas i.e. increasing one’s value to society, making people aware of it and attempting to get others to join your cause seem like the only legitimate ways to change the situation. I wish the Occupy* movement would focus their efforts on something more productive than civil disobedience.

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