Who Are The 1%?

Followers of Occupy Wall Street and the larger Occupy movement claim to represent 99% of the people, justifying their claim with a false dichotomy between the richest 1% and the poorest 99%.

One percent of 300 million give us 3 million people. So somewhere, scattered throughout the US, there are 3 million people whose money and property the Occupiers want for themselves.

But in America there is considerable mobility between those groups.  We are not members of classes or groups, but individuals who happen temporarily to share income levels. Our “class interests” may coincide for a time, but it is patently foolish to push for laws that take from the rich and give to the poor while making mobility more difficult.

It is exceedingly easy to become part of a group of 3 million that is the 1% most of something. Let’s take a look.

  • There are on the order of 3 million farmers and people married to farmers in the United States. I suppose it would be possible to redistribute the land they currently hold, although it might not be possible without a certain amount of dislocation.
  • Approximately 3 million people graduated with some kind of post-secondary degree this year. Perhaps their educations should be redistributed, so that each of us could get a hundredth of an education every year. It seems to work for the public schools.
  • Together, two largest public sector unions, AFSCME (1.6 million) and SEIU (2.1 million), currently have enthralled 3.7 million members.  Are they the 1%?  If so, I dread joining their ranks, unable to distinguish myself from the herd.
  • The collar counties around Washington, DC now comprise the richest area of the country, having overtaken Silicon Valley in California this year. Charles (146,551) Montgomery (971,777), and Prince George’s (863,420) counties in Maryland and Fairfax (1,081,726) and Loudoun (312,311) counties in Virginia have a total population of 3,375,785.

All of these groups are the 1%, because each has benefits and a lifestyle not available to the rest of us. With the exception of public sector labor unions living in the DC area, there is not much overlap between the groups.

Welcome to America, where it doesn’t take much to become part of the 1%.