The remarkable success of the Occupy movement masks the error that only one percent represent those who have unfairly raped the economy. In fact, making political headway requires understanding that more like 20 percent define the wealthy upper clas by Joel S. Hirschhorn
Sunday, October 23, 2011
Feeling angry about being betrayed by a corrupt government owned by rich and corporate elites has driven the Occupy Wall Street movement. Emphasizing how the top one percent has prospered incredibly while the bottom 99 percent have been screwed royally is supported by countless data. New data show this is a global phenomenon and that even in the worst of economic times the wealthiest make out like the bandits they are, and there are a lot more of them than one percent.
Globally, millionaires and billionaires now control 38.5 percent of the world’s wealth, according to the latest Global Wealth Report from Credit Suisse. Never have so few owned so much. There are 29.7 million people in the world with household net worth of $1 million or more; they represent less than 1 percent of the world’s population, actually just .4 percent of 7 billion people.
Their wealth share rose from 35.6 percent in 2010, because even during the global economic recession their wealth increased by about $20 trillion. In fact, their wealth grew 29 percent — about twice as fast as the wealth in the world as a whole. How many ordinary people saw their wealth increase from 2010 to 2011 by anything close to 29 percent?
For the Occupy Wall Street movement it is even more significant that the US has been the largest wealth generator over the past 18 months, a time when about 100 million Americans have suffered with unemployment, underemployment, home foreclosures, hunger, high living costs, no health insurance, loss of savings, and historic financial insecurity.
According to the new report, the US added $4.6 trillion to global wealth, with China ranked second with $4 trillion, followed by Japan ($3.8 trillion), Brazil ($1.87 trillion) and Australia ($1.85 trillion). Which Americans shared in that $4.6 trillion increase in wealth? Only those at the very top.
There are now 84,700 people in the world worth $50 million or more. And 42 percent of them, 35,400, live in the US. At the top of that global group are 29,000 people world-wide worth $100 million or more, and just 2,700 worth $500 million or more.
According to the latest Forbes list there are 1,210 billionaires in the world. And the total networth of America's wealthiest people was up $1.37 trillion in 2010, according to the latest Forbes 400 list, where it took a net worth of $1.05 billion to make the list of the richest Americans.
Here are some more data on current high net worth Americans: those with more than $100 million, 29,000 (about .1 percent of US population); $10 to $100 million, 987,300; $5 to $10 million, 1.96 million; $1 to $5 million, 26.7 million. You can see that the top one percent of Americans (about 3 million) have net worth above about $5 million and they get about 20 percent of annual national income and have about one third of national wealth.
The top 10 percent (about 30 million) have net worth above about $1 million and account for about 50 percent of all national consumer spending (which is amazing, think about it). They have enormous consumer power, adding to their political power. Those 30 million are a big chunk of the 99 percent, so don’t expect them to be thrilled with the Occupy movement. Rhetorically, pitting 99 against 1 percent works, but understanding that the blood suckers are really 10 percent is important but still not the whole story.
There are still more economic winners than either the top one or ten percent. When you take into account households with net worth of several hundred thousands of dollars, there are at least 60 million Americans or about 20 percent that should be considered wealthy (probably including most Tea Party activists and the Republican base) and unlikely to see the legitimacy of the Occupy movement. Message: The political battle is much harder than it first appears.
But, of course, there are some rich Americans that strongly support the Occupy movement, including a number from the entertainment world who clearly are part of the wealthy upper class. Like others, they understand that opposition to a grossly unfair capitalistic system designed primarily to benefit a few is not the same as rejection of capitalism that serves the interests of the many and the nation, allowing wealth to be shared (like it was from 1950 to 1980).
Also note that often people with moderate incomes, and not just retirees, still are very high net worth individuals, with most of their income being passive such as interest and dividends, rather than wages of any kind. Being wealthy, in other words, is best seen in terms of net worth rather than income data.
Last point, 50 percent of Americans make less than $26,000 a year. We have become a two-class society with very little upward mobility, especially when even those with a college education or decades of work experience cannot find a job. Rebellion is needed. Fighting economic injustice and greed is long overdue. Now you know: Delusional democracy breeds delusional prosperity. This is what the Occupy movement is all about. Help make it a success by supporting the petition at getmoneyout.com.
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Posted By: rwwheeler
Date: October 23, 2011 06:32:56 PM
Joel, you have done a scholarly job on the financial information about the rich elite. I would wager that many of that top 10% own
a bunch of senators and a school yard full of congresspeople. You are right about the struggle to redeem the USA is an up hill battle.
But with the lack of knowledge of history by those 40 and under, we will continue to see the same old mistakes made the same old
way, but they still expect different outcomes. Some say this is lunacy.
Posted By: Bill Gee
Date: October 24, 2011 07:15:55 AM
We can get a Constitutional Amendment passed within a year - Support Occupy Philadelphia's effort to hold a National Convention July 4th through October 2012! If there can be a delegation of at least 2/3 of the states and they can pass a final version of the Amendment, it can go to the states for ratification by 2013!
Posted By: Joel S. Hirschhorn
Date: October 24, 2011 10:02:44 AM
Response to Bill Gee:
As someone who has spent years studying and advocating for the Article V convention option, I want to emphasize that the wording in our Constitution is crystal clear: Congress must call the convention, any other path to holding a convention is simply unconstitutional and would have no legal weight, though it certainly might add to the pressure on Congress to call a legal convention.
Posted By: Bill Gee
Date: October 25, 2011 12:35:51 PM
Fair enough, but I would argue that since Congress is beholden to corporate interests, they will never agree to call a ConCon and are more likely to cast its supporters as traitors like the JBS has done so many times in the past. I would further argue that the failure of the Constitution to provide for term limits, balanced budgets, and equally vague wording on the electoral process (including the Electoral College) has made it nearly impossible for the people to propose changes even when the vast majority of people are in favor of such changes. In other words, I feel as though the first four Articles are structured in such a way as to take Power away from the People and the states in favor of a central government that is beholden to an Aristocracy. In the 19th Century, the Aristocracy consisted of mostly large land owners and merchants, in the 20th Century it was industry giants, and in the 21st Century it's the banks and multinational corporations.
The last time we had a government that was fundamentally flawed was under the Articles of Confederation, and rather than adapting Amendments to the Articles in 1787 as was the original intention, the entire document and structure of the government was changed. The Continental Congress was superceded by the new Constitution in what was essentially a bloodless coup. Therefore, if Congress continues to refuse to call an Article V Convention, I propose that we go ahead with one anyway and create a new Constitution altogether - soup to nuts. The new document may simply include parts of the old one - the parts that've worked over the years - but by starting from stratch it would allow the People to have more of a voice in how a new government will work to serve its interests.
Posted By: Joel S. Hirschhorn
Date: October 25, 2011 07:11:41 PM
To Bill Gee:
The views you express are exactly what scares the crap out of many people; so you are feeding right into the opposition by talking about a wholesale rewrite of the Constitution, which Article V absolutely does NOT support. Those of us very active in the Article V convention debate have been very sensitive to NOT taking positions that are counterproductive to getting badly needed amendments through the convention route.
Posted By: Bill Gee
Date: October 26, 2011 06:41:32 AM
Understood, but how long has it taken for the supporters of the Article V Convention to convince Congress to support it? 200+ years? Over 700 petitions? A Civil War? Numerous challenges and petitions to the Supreme Court that were flatly ignored? How many more years of banging your heads on a brick wall will it take before you realize that Congress has absolutely no intent of obeying its own Charter? When a Nation's government feels as though it is above its own Constitution, that it has lost its legitimacy. When a Nation puts the interests of its Aristocracy above its People, while at the same time places restrictions on Freedoms expressed in its own Charter, it has lost the Right to rule.
I realize that the Constitution is part of "American Scripture" and the mere threat of abolishing it is the same as threatening to burn a stack of Bibles in many people's eyes. Thomas Paine would disagree but what I am proposing is not a Revolution in the conventional sense. My argument is that the government and the current economic system is on the verge of collapse anyway. America is an Empire in collapse - the evidence is everywhere. When that happens, there will be a power vacuum that can either be filled with a military dictatorship under a President claiming Executive Authority or a new government can arise that will correct many of the fundamental flaws of the old one. I believe that this new emerging political awakening is evidence that the People of this country will not be content to bow to ideologues who will promise to fix everything while placing more and more restrictions on individual freedoms. With patience and luck, the transition can be a bloodless one.
I can't help it that what I say sometimes scares the crap out of people. The fact of the matter is that we live in a world in transition and Big Change scares the crap out of a lot of people. I'm simply calling the way I see it and it's going to happen a certain way no matter what I say about it.