No matter how politically uninvolved you are, between Occupy This or That and the circus that is the Republican primaries, you’ve probably been hearing a lot about “The One Percent” lately. No, not outlaw motorcycle clubs. This One Percent refers to humans at the very top of the financial food chain.
While you might think that these folks subsist solely on a diet of Beluga caviar and gold, that’s not, strictly speaking, true. In fact, the One Percent is a diverse group that may include people you actually know. In the debut of Debriefing, we break it all down.
Where did this “One Percent” business come from?
In 2006, a doc by Johnson & Johnson heir Jamie Johnson premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival. The One Percent tracked the increasing income inequality in America, where the top one percent of earners control 42 percent of the wealth. Last year, Occupy Wall Street protesters took up the mantle of “The 99 Percent,” a term that surfaced on a flier announcing a general assembly at NYC’s Potato Famine Memorial, and called out the One Percent as greedy bastards who were ruining everything.
But as OWS has, at best, a middling appreciation of sociology, they failed to realize that most of the One Percent are not actually bankers, derivatives traders and reptilian overlords from the lower fourth dimension seeking to feast on the blood of baby Christians. A good chunk of One Percenters are just really well-paid work-a-day Joes.
Most of the One Percent are not reptilian overlords from the lower fourth dimension seeking to feast on the blood of baby Christians. A good chunk are just really well-paid work-a-day Joes.
So who is the One Percent, then?
The One Percent does include the aforementioned parasites that you would be fully justified in killing and eating. It also includes people you are pretty glad to have around. About 100,000 doctors are in the One Percent. Over 100,000 lawyers—who aren’t so bad when you wake up hung over in a jail cell with a faint recollection of assaulting Michael Cera—are in the One Percent. There are also some weird professions in the One Percent, including cashiers (about 20,000), hairdressers (a little under 5,000) and office supervisors (around 20,000).
How much does a person have to make to be a One Percenter?
$343,927—or a little less than what Mitt Romney makes to jaw about how he’s unemployed. (No joke. Between February 2010 and February 2011, Mittens pulled in $374,327.62 in speaking fees.)
Note: that figure is a national average. If you live in Clarksville, Tennessee, you can make a little more than half that and still crack the One Percent for your region. On the flipside, there are places like New York, Miami, Atlanta, Los Angeles and Seattle where making $340K a year doesn’t put you in the One Percent. In fact, in Palm Beach, Florida, that amount is less than the average household income.
Seriously? Cashiers make that much?
Apparently, 20,000 of them. Yes. Keep in mind that’s less than one half of one percent of the approximately 4.5 million cashiers in the United States today. And the numbers refer to household income, meaning that it could just be the case that the CEO of a Fortune 500 company married a cashier—who we’re sure wasn’t, like, 30 years younger and smokin’ hot—or is making their kid work a crap job for the summer.
So why is Occupy Wall Street so pissed at cashiers?
They’re not. They’re pissed at bankers, corporate big wigs, securities traders and other people they claim destroyed the American economy with an elaborate shell game. They should probably rebrand in a manner that points the finger at the top .1 percent, people making more than $750,000 per year, though to be fair, that isn’t really as catchy.
What’s their beef with success, anyway?
It’s not a beef with success, really. But while the overall wealth of the top 1, .1 and .01 percent has steadily increased, everyone else’s share of the pie has barely kept up with inflation. Contrary to what they might have taught you in middle school, America has the fourth worst income inequality on the planet and some of the worst class mobility in the industrialized world.
But I thought that I was just a temporarily impoverished millionaire who will soon join the One Percent through hard work and gumption?
Unless you happen to be 6’10” and have some sweet post moves, statistically speaking that’s incredibly unlikely. Sorry, dude.
Doesn’t the One Percent contribute a lot to our economy?
As stated above, doctors, dentists and cashiers are pretty awesome and we’re glad they’re here. But the richest people in the United States aren’t Fords, Dows and Rockefellers anymore. They generally don’t produce anything of tangible value. A good number built a pile of money through the magic of Wall Street, or inherited a pile of money and through the magic of Wall Street turned it into even more.
So should we hate these people or not?
You can if you like, but it probably won’t accomplish much.
I think I need a drink.
We’ll see you at the bar.