Ongoing interest in the Occupy Wall Street (OWS) circus brings us back to this question. I should credit The National Review, Victor Davis Hansen, CNNMoney, and Sociological Images for part of my info. It’s not comprehensive but it might help clarify.
Much of the talk has been about “the few at the top … the one percent” who do all sorts of bad things. “They” apparently make all their money at the expense of the other 99 percent. So who are the one-percenters? Probably your doctor and mine—heaven knows all doctors are rich. What about my farmer friend, Dan, or the farmers I grew up with back in Oklahoma? They’ve all got land, so they must be flush. Was the late Steve Jobs a suspect billionaire? Should I be mad or glad that he made billions by permanently replacing our scissors, paste, and liquid paper of the 1970s? Did Leonardo DiCaprio really have to earn $77 million last year? Couldn’t he have settled for $2 million in salary in 2010, and thereby pass on a bit of that stash to his ticket-buying fans? What about George Soros? He nearly broke the Bank of England by shorting the British pound and was convicted in France of insider training. What kind of system would allow Oprah Winfrey to accumulate nearly $1 billion? Is filmmaker Michael Moore—reportedly worth $50 million—a one-percenter? Why does such an enemy of capitalism need so much capitalist largesse? Are the seven richest in the U.S. Senate—Senators John Kerry ($193 million), Jay Rockefeller ($81 mil), Mark Warner ($76 mil), Frank Lautenberg ($55 mil), Richard Blumenthal ($53 mil) and Dianne Feinstein ($45 mil)—all Democrats—and Sen. Bob Corker ($21 mil), a Republican, in that elite group? How about Warren Buffett and Bill Gates, together worth over $100 billion? They’re philanthropists, but their charities are predicated on two assumptions: They both apparently trust the private sector more than government to administer their money, and neither sees any problem in avoiding billions in inheritance taxes that would one day be due to a now-broke federal treasury. Do we really want to go down this them vs. us road? If it’s envy of, and animosity toward, the better-off, maybe we should back off. Most Americans depend on our medical care, retirement packages, food, gas and our computers from exactly these “few at the top” who seem to enrich rather than prey on society. Damning the wealthy is often a symptom of one’s longing or obsession for the perks and attention that wealth brings. Below is a table, taken from this website, http://thesocietypages.org/socimages/2011/10/12/occupy-wall-street-who-are-the-1/, which shows that those in the top one percent have a broad range of professions. You’ll note that only 14 percent come from the financial sector, and a scant 2 percent are classified as entrepreneurs.
|Executives, managers, supervisors (non-finance)||31.0%|
|Computers, engineering, technical||4.6%|
|Not working or deceased||4.3%|
|Blue collar / service||3.8%|
|Business operations (non-finance)||3.0%|
|Professors & scientists||1.8%|
|Arts, media, sports||1.6%|
|Government, teachers, social services||0.8%|
|Farmers & ranchers||0.5%|
This data doesn’t play into the story the “99 percenters” want to tell about the “top 1 percent.” The preferred narrative is that the top one percent come from the financial sector (e.g., their wealth is not earned in the same way an entrepreneur’s wealth is earned). What does this say about the validity of the Occupy Wall Street movement? Should they be focusing their efforts on challenging concentrated wealth regardless of whether it is in the financial sector or not? Or is Wall Street the perfect villain? Does it matter if the story of who constitutes the “top 1 percent” is more muddled if the objective is met? Do the means justify the ends? CNNMoney reports that in 2009, it took $343,927 to join this group, according to newly released statistics from the IRS. Just under 1.4 million households qualified for entry. They earned nearly 17% of the nation’s income and paid roughly 37% of its income tax. Collectively, their adjusted gross income was $1.3 trillion. And while $343,927 was the minimum AGI to be included, on average, top 1-percenters made $960,000. So there you have it. Study those numbers. These are the bad guys. Now, can we figure where this needs to go? Right now, the OWS folks don’t seem to have a clue … And it does matter.