"I have sworn upon the altar of God, eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man."

Thomas Jefferson
Sept. 23, 1800

Monday, January 9, 2012

We Are..... the 1%

Well, reading the fine print, not quite, but definitely the 2% and moving up. I'm talking world-wide, which, if you think about it, is better for the ego. I mean, wouldn't you rather be at the top of the world than the top of just one country? Hooray for us!

This bit of ego boosting comes courtesy of the Huffington Post, whose article on the subject for some reason does not find this to be a reason to celebrate. Here is their description of the news from an economist's book:

According to calculations by World Bank economist Branko Milanovic in his book The Haves and the Have-Nots, about half of the world's richest one percent live in the United States, about 29 million of them, to be exact.
But the qualifications to make the cut may surprise some people who've never considered themselves part of the world's financial elite.
According to CNN Money, who reported on Milanovic's findings, an individual with an after-tax salary of just $34,000 per year ranks among the richest one percent in the world. A family of four, Milanovic says, would have to make $136,000 in order to qualify.

So it's after-tax income, and our household's needs to be divided by three rather than just two, but still, we are very much knocking on the door to Lifestyles of the Worlds' Rich and Famous. I gave this news to my wife this morning and she reported back that she didn't feel rich. That's the point, I think. Rich, well-to-do, elite, these are all very subjective terms and depend entirely on perspective. My wife works 40 hours a week as a municipal clerk, she's married to a middle manager in a route sales company, she lives in what to her seems a medium sized house in a middle-class neighborhood. We own one small SUV, bought used. We watch our money so we can take some trips and eat out when we want. Nothing extravagant. At least not in our terms, American terms.

Certainly the kids of the Occupy movement don't consider themselves rich or elite. They express disdain and even loathing for the rich elites. They believe the 1% should be giving up more of what they have to share with the other 99% who weren't born into a world of luxury and privilege. But these kids have clothes and food and tents and laptops and cell phones and backpacks and eyeglasses and blankets and frisbees and drums. They are literate and healthy and have an abundance of free time. To 99% of the world, the Occupiers ARE the 1%.

I could go on and on about the Occupy movement and it's hypocrisy and stupidity, but that's for another post. My point isn't that the Occupiers, or my wife, are ungrateful and greedy and should be sending half of what they make to sub-saharan African. That wouldn't work, as the reason sub-saharan Africa isn't home to it's share of the 1% is that it doesn't share the values and freedoms and laws and political culture of the United States or Germany or Japan. Much of the world is like a bucket with a hole in it, you can fill it with water, but it will always run out in a very short time until you plug the hole.

We don't owe the rest of the world our wealth, though we do have a moral and ethical obligation to keep as many people as comfortable and free as we reasonably can. We do have an obligation to support in other places the things that made the wealth of America possible. Economic freedom, individual rights, property rights, the rule of law and a moral underpinning based on the Golden Rule will do more than any amount of money to raise the standards of living for the "other 99%." Sadly, it's these things that the Occupiers seem to be railing most loudly against.

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