Who Are the 1%   October 26, 2011

I've been watching the protesters with some curiosity mainly because I did not know specifically what they were protesting until very recently. It turns out that they are representing the 99% who they believe are being exploited by the top 1%. They want to take from the 1% in order to help the other 99%. So who are the top 1% anyway? I did a little research to find out with the caveat that I am looking at the top 1% worldwide not just in the USA.

It turns out if you have an income of $47,000 per year or more you are in the top 1% (globalrichlist.com). If you are not but you are being supported by a spouse or parent with that income you are in the top 1% worldwide. If you are not one of these but you are enrolled in a college degree program that will eventually lead to that kind of income (and most four year degree programs will eventually get you there unless you are studying something like Ancient Persian Literature) then you are well on your way to being in the top 1%. If you aren't enrolled in a college degree program, why not? What is stopping you?

Even if you have an income of $21,400 per year or more you, or your parent has that kind of income, are still in the top 3% worldwide. That would include not just salary but any other kind of income or assistance received. Anyone in this country can earn that if they are willing to work hard, ask any immigrant. At minimum wage you can earn that on a 57 hour work week. That may seem harsh but outside of North America and Europe that is not an unusual work week. At $10 per hour you can earn that on a 41 hour work week.

I know that the wealth of the rich has increased a lot faster than the wealth of the middle class. And I am no fan of Wall Street. People there make too much compared to what they contribute and there is certainly corruption. But I'm not sure that we ought to judge a country based on how well the richest are doing. I think we ought to judge it on how the majority are doing. In every society, in every system, from the beginning of civilization until the end of time there will be some people who do exceptionally well. I think this is a fact of the human existence that will always be present. It is the nature of man, or at least many men, to use whatever system is in place to get all that they can, and every system that has been tried has shown that to be true.

Perhaps the most unfair aspect of life for me is the seeming randomness. One person is born into a wealthy family, another is born in a place where they will die of starvation or exposure before their first birthday and another is born into a family that will abuse them and scar them for life. While I don't believe that everyone should be guaranteed a good outcome-we have to be responsible for our own decisions and actions-I do believe that everyone deserves a chance. An awful lot of people both in the 3rd world and here at home are not afforded much of a chance. While I come across as an extreme conservative sometimes (I am on some issues) I am also an extreme liberal on other issues. There is a lot that we can do here to try to give every child the opportunity for a good education, to limit abuse, to provide role models.

Having said that, the median income worldwide is $1700 per year (Boston Globe). Over 80% of the world's population lives on less than $10 a day (globalissues.org). Approximately 4% of the world has a computer with internet including low speed dial up. If you have that you are in the top 4%. While more than half the homes in the USA have high speed internet (Newsweek, August 1, 2005, p. 42), 25% of the homes worldwide do not even have electricity. (Scientific American). 40% of people do not have proper indoor plumbing, 1 in 7 children have no health services at all, 1 in 5 children do not have safe water to drink, 1 in 3 children do not have safe shelter, 2.2 million children die each year because they are not immunized and 1.4 million children die each year from lack of access to safe drinking water (United Nations Human Development Report (2006)). 925 million people (14%) do not have enough food to eat (worldhunger.org).

In our country people with comfortable homes, cars, health care, jobs, TV's, IPOD's, and all kinds of other luxuries not even imagined in most of the world are upset because some other people have a mansion, a private jet and an Italian sports car. When the top 1% or 2% or even 3% are complaining that the top 0.01% have too much there is something wrong.

So the question that I have for all of the protesters out there who are looking out for the interests of the other 99%, but who it turns out are actually part of the top 1%, or at the very least the top 3% is this: what are you willing to give up to help the other 99% or 97%?

For $25 you can buy a couple dozen music downloads or you can immunize 42 children against Polio (UNICEF). For $30 could buy you an ER DVD box set OR a First Aid kit for a village in Haiti. For $73 could buy you a new mobile phone OR a new mobile health clinic to care for AIDS orphans in Uganda. For $200 you can buy an IPOD Touch or you can provide a year's worth of health insurance for someone in the Philippines. $2400 could buy you a second generation High Definition TV or schooling for an entire generation of school children in an Angolan village. (globalrichlist.com)

Are you willing to make a sacrifice? Yeah, I didn't think so. Redistribution of wealth only sounds like a good idea if you are on the receiving end.