2011-10-19

Co.Exist

$1 Bills Defaced With Occupy Wall Street Charts

By making the facts simple to understand--and putting them in a rather prominent, poignant place--the two creatives behind Occupy George offer their skills to fight wealth disparity.

As the Occupy Wall Street protests gain steam, their message is being broadcast to more people, via news stories, social media, and word of mouth. Yet it’s still been something of a slow process. But, as the protests occupy more and more physical space, two ad creatives have found a way to occupy a more metaphorical realm, and potentially spread the message of wealth disparity much farther: They’re occupying U.S. currency.

Occupy George is a series of five stamps that place an infographic about earnings disparities and how wealth is distributed in America directly on the most famous symbol of wealth itself. The project has been pulling all-nighters for about a week, printing on more $1 bills, and then exchanging them at Occupy Wall Street protests, getting more bills to modify each time.

"We feel like just the hard solid facts on the economic disparity in America speak for themselves so brilliantly," says "Ivan," one of the minds behind the project. "We feel like it would be really tough to not be moved to take action or support the movement if you were confronted with them."

"Ivan," created Occupy George with his partner "Andy." Both men who work in advertising but sometimes turn to creative projects that serve the public good as an antidote to spending all day toiling for corporate America. They’ve consulted legal experts and are sure that defacing bills is 100% legal (as long as you don’t mess with the serial numbers or the denominations of the bills themselves), but they still prefer to remain anonymous. They’ve worked on other culture jamming projects in the past, like the Deprofiler, a generic white-person mask that Arizona Hispanics could wear to protect themselves from the state’s law allowing the police to search
suspected illegal immigrants.

The infographics they’ve come up with to move people to action show various damning stats about how the 1% wealthiest Americans are hoarding wealth. The ones above illustrate how much money the richest 400 Americans have in comparison to the rest of us; how much of the income growth in the country is concentrated in the wealthiest 1%; and the difference between average worker pay and average CEO pay (it’s a lot). There are other bills on the site--five in total--as well as some bills stamped with the missive "Soon to belong to the 1%." You can also download the templates so that you can print the graphics on bills near you, or even buy the stamps. Consider George occupied.

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4 Comments

  • Sabelotodo

    What a shame that this kind of creativity couldn't be put to work on the REAL problem, which is the huge disparity in levels of financial literacy in this country. Some states are starting to mandate financial literacy in their curricula--it's been missing for a long time!

    You want income equality? Then let's take ALL the money away from that "upper 1%"--or 80%--or whatever your threshold for class envy happens to be! Let's spread it all around equally and feel good for a few moments, that we've made a difference. But unless we're willing to install a Cuban-style totalitarian system that severely monitors & regulates any creation of wealth--hardly a desirable proposition--then in 5 years the people at the top will have the money again, and those at the middle and bottom will be where they are now.

    Why is that? For lack of (A) a basic working knowledge of the dynamics of money, finance and how it's risk-taking entrepreneurs--not heavy handed governments--who create wealth; and

    (B) the discipline (yeah, that dirty-word among the ranks of the protest-crowd) to make the kinds of hard life choices thereby, that result in the GROWTH of individual & family wealth.

    Instead, in the name of free speech we tolerate this horrendously immature, "wish-the-world-were-the-way-I-want-it" protest movement, led by trust funders who are CLUELESS to the fact that the demands by their funds managers for constant growth in asset value, is chief among the reasons why today's CEO's are under tremendous pressure to show short-term growth of their stock value on Wall Street! ("Yes, Virginia, we ARE all connected--and therefore, we're ALL greedy when it comes to this business of wealth creation/distribution!") 

    The other big glaring fallacy is the total denial of income mobility--the misrepresentation that the top whatever-% and the bottom whatever-% are fixed, immutable conditions. A deeper look at stats in the very report that started this discussion, shows that only 16% of those in the bottom 20% of incomes in the US were at that place 10 years ago, and fully 18% of those at the bottom 10 years ago, are today in the top 20%!

    Show me any system, anywhere in the world, that allows that kind of income mobility! You smart folks can do the Math: The growth in income from any such person on the bottom, to such a place at the top, is much more that 275%! And aren't we all glad for them, and for this great country that allows for such income & social mobility! It's Thanksgiving after all . . .

    --Sabelotodo

  • Kathy


    Sabelotodo - As a Middle Class person with a middle class income I am so tired of being told by people who disdain Occupy efforts that if I just work harder I can still attain the "American Dream" and that everything is really ok and I just don't understnad. I have been working since the age of 13 - I have never, even in college, been without a job.  I have done every single thing that I was supposed to do. You know what - the cost of energy has increased, the cost of food has increased, the cost of housng has increased , the cost of health care has increased, the cost of having a bank account or credit account have increased and the money I had saved in retirement investments went down the tubes with your blessed financial wizards. My wages have stagnated even as I have risen in experience and seniority in my profession. Oil Companies have multi billion dollar profits, Insurance companies have multi billion dollar profits - I work in the public sector and the people who employ me, the taxpayers in my community, do not have those billion dollar profits to put into increasing my wages. So please stop telling me everything is just fine, your not the "middle class person choosing between energy & food and being one medical crisis, car crisis, or job loss away from serious financial ruin and trying to send two kids to college. Everything isn't ok and it isn't "what it used to be" and its not going to get better until the people participating in the vast majority of this economy have more control over the pie and more people in gov't who feel accountable to us and to how they are spending OUR tax dollars.

  • genica reyes

    this is a pretty awesome idea. its the perfect use of infographics. its easy to understand and gets straight to the point. it evokes so much emotion. i hope the bills circulate all the way to california. i want to see how far this thing will go and how many people it will affect.