Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The poorest 99 percent

Posted By on 10.12.11 at 01:46 PM

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From an Occupy Chicago press release this morning:

"Occupy Chicago is a social movement protesting against economic inequality and representing the poorest 99 percent of Americans, who are ignored by government."

The poorest 99 percent.

American taxpayers in the top one percent gross at least $380,000 a year. The cutoff for the top five percent is $160,000; for the top ten percent, $114,000.

These are individual, not family, incomes. Many households, of course, are far wealthier than these incomes suggest, because they have two of them—as well as a house, stocks, and retirement accounts. Households in the top one percent have a net worth of at least $1.2 million. So the "poorest 99 percent of Americans, who are ignored by government" include some of our struggling millionaire households.

I understand the desire to create a broad movement—but this is setting the bar at about an inch.

During the last few decades, I've written a lot about Chicagoans in or near the bottom 10 percent. I've eagerly awaited the welling up of public sympathy for these people, who are disproportionately African-American and Hispanic. Now instead we have a movement for the abject have-somes and have-plentys, and if the have-nots happen to benefit as well, lucky them.

The all-inclusive poverty definition of Occupy Chicago does suggest possibilities for other kinds of activist groups:

Yachtless America is a growing social movement representing the beleaguered 99 percent of American families that do not own yachts.

Car-challenged America represents the 99 percent of Americans who are bumping along in two luxury cars or fewer.

Small-screen America lobbies for the 99 percent of Americans who are getting by with no more than two giant flat-panel HD TVs.

Short America represents the shortest 99 percent of American males, constantly mistreated because they're 6-foot-5 or shorter.

Young America campaigns for the 99 percent youngest Americans who endure age discrimination because they're 95 or younger.

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