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paul wheaton
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Last night I heard a summary of a talk where the 1% was mentioned repeatedly.

First a couple of bass lines: my understanding is that in the United States to be in the 1% means that you earn $200,000 per year or more. Globally, you would earn $24,000 per year or more.

So, there have been years in my past where I was part of the 1%. And I really don't like the things that people have said about me. During that time I was working two full time jobs in an attempt to be able to buy land for what I called my cows and chickens plan.

At the same time, I have seen people on television like Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert. I am certain that they are part of the 1%. And I think that they have also not earned the awful things that are being said about the 1%.

What about Michael Pollan? I don't know his exact finances, but I feel very confident that he is in the 1%.

I bet Joel Salatin and sepp holzer are in the 1%.

I think there are a lot of people doing lovely things that are currently earning, or have earned more than $200,000 in a year.

The only point I'm trying to make here is that when people rail against the 1%, I think they are throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

I remember being 18 years old, extremely broke, and very hungry. I remember the imbalance, some people had so much more than I did. And that is part of what inspired me to work harder and smarter.

I might be the only one who thinks that going after the 1% is a poor choice. I wish to see all of that effort being spent to go after the bad guys. People who are broken laws or are corrupt or are doing horrible things.
 
Chadwick Holmes
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I agree that going after the 1% is the wrong attack, but I misunderstood, I assumed these people were mad at the system that creates 99/1 not the actual 1%?!?

Maybe I am just naive!
 
paul wheaton
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I always thought that people were angry at the people who had millions or billions of dollars that they got through wickedness.
 
Ann Torrence
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The phrase is so catchy, so much easier to shout at rallies, than the .3% or .01% or whatever. Most people don't bother with (or can't do) the math. The doctor making $200K might be sitting on $150K of med school debt. That isn't living the dream.

In a different thread today, I posted a link to this article that states how much money most people (don't) have. The table is worth summarizing:

$0 in savings 28%
no account 21%
$ min balance 9%
<$1000 13%

(this adds up, according to the headline to 62% with <$1000 in savings, although there must a rounding error in the chart because these numbers add to 61%)

$1K-$4,999 10%
$5k_$9,999 5%
≥$10k 14%

I think about what the long-tail of that 14% must look like. It's a long long way from a GP or a local entrepreneur running a couple Subway franchises to get to people like the Koch Brothers, the dot.com billionaires, but they are all lumped together in that 1%. But if you don't have $1k to fix your car, someone with $10K in the bank looks rich. Kind of like our parents did when we were kids and saw bills in their wallets when the allowances were getting doled out.

What I really don't get is this: to win an election in the US, you need to get 50% + 1 vote. That's it. What is the appeal to those in the 62% bracket looking at the political landscape today to side with the ones who represent the top .01%? That side needs to peel off about 1 in 5 of those voters. Maybe the 62% don't vote proportionally, but they still have to get some of them. Or maybe both sides really represent the top .01% and we are being snookered.
 
Fred Tyler
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While I do think all of the people you mentioned are indeed lovely people, I don't think you or they would qualify for the 1%. This is what Google says: "The latest numbers from the IRS—based on just-released data from 2013 tax returns—show what it takes to be among the top 1% of income earners: At least $428,713 of adjusted gross income." That is after many deductions, I'm sure, so their actual income could be much higher.
 
Tyler Ludens
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http://inequality.org/income-inequality/

 
Casie Becker
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paul wheaton wrote: People who are broken laws or are corrupt or are doing horrible things.


This almost manages to say what I think people are actually upset about, Broken laws doing horrible things.

I have to wonder if this is another area where people are being paid to control the message. As long as people keep saying "the one percent" instead of "a tenth of a percent" it continues to divide people that are in the same boat. Money is power, and both the m oney and the power has clearly come out of the hands of the common 99.9% If .9% (plus all of use who respect the hard work it takes to make it that far in life) can be turned against the remaining 99% in these arguments, then we've been successfully distracted away from the actual issues.

I know people who do work at least 100 times harder than the laziest person I know. You would have a hard time convincing me that anyone is working 10,000 times harder than even the laziest person. Combine that with lobbying, legal rules that can't differentiate between people and businesses and a political system where people cannot gain power unless they accept massive donations of money and we've got a government that has little voice for the poor, or just average.

Still not entirely happy with this post, don't know if I should be saying more or less. I don't think I said anything I didn't mean to, so I'm going to stop at this point.
 
paul wheaton
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How about Elon musk?

I think being angry at the 1% isn't going to work. Mostly because it is not a 100% issue. I'm poking holes in it, and this is an area I don't really know very much about.

I think the real problem is people that are breaking laws. Or even worse people that are pushing for evil laws: laws that give them a competitive advantage. And the lawmakers that are corrupt enough to facilitate it. Rather than directing anger to something so vague as the 1%, I think it would do a thousand times more good to laser focus on even just one bad guy doing these bad things.

As for somebody who is doing 10000 times more work then the laziest person. I would say that such a person might possibly be doing 100 times more work than the laziest person, and a hundred times smarter than the laziest person. I've seen people work 100 hours a week and accomplish almost nothing.

I do agree that there should be some kind of change. But I think that the request for change should be rather specific.

I I did not see very many of the Colbert shows - but I did see something where he took on super PACs very directly. He created a super PAC, then took in a whole lot of money. Was able to do crazy things with it that seemed utterly inappropriate, and then after the election he showed how you could take all the money and put it in his own pocket. This seemed very direct and it exposed a very serious problem. And made it very easy to understand how the problem worked.

I think it might be fair to say that this is a tool of the 1% that the people are concerned about.

I guess my concern is that going after the 1% is a bit of a red herring. People will expel a lot of energy and that energy ends up doing nothing. But if that same energy can be focused on real problems, then there can be real change.
 
Casie Becker
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First let me clarify that I have a long, clinically tested pattern of viewing things from a slightly different angle than most people (yes, usually than 99%) so I can't even begin to argue that most people involved in these issues are feeling angry. I feel more that we have pinpointed a problem. Our system is set up in a way that allows .1% of our population to exert massively disproportionate influence over the laws and lives of the other 99.9%. I'm not running around feeling they need to be punished, I just feel we need a system overhaul to prevent this kind of bottle neck.

And yes, this anger directed to a nameless percent is counterproductive. That's part of why I suspect it has been induced by exactly the people who making it problem. We woudn't even notice the bottle neck if they abuses weren't piling up.

I stopped following politics because when I did follow it, it was so completely full of obvious corruption, abuse, and frequently just stupidity that watching it was actually making me ill. I've italized a list below that are specific problems off the top of my head. You can probably save some stress by just skipping it.

Yes, super PAC's are one of the problems. So is the religious right making their religious doctrine law (in effect if not actual wording). So is a system that gives tax refunds to corporations, while they make record profits, remove jobs from the local communities and cause massive environmental catastrophe. So is the dumbing down of the education system, with a white washed history (Texas printed a whole lot of text books, that are being used, that refer to slavery as "forced immigration" just recently). So is overriding a citizen elected government to gain control of a city's assets. So is trying to make it illegal to document police abuse. So is having a system of litigation that is nearly impossible to provide recompense to victims while making it very easy to be abused by frivolous lawsuits (I have personally witnessed someone get a massive settlement which I know they had no grounds for) So is a criminal system that is run for profit.

I don't have all day, but I could go on all day if I did. I think there are too many problems to take on one at a time. I'm honestly afraid that I'm going to see a violent revolt in my lifetime. Things sometimes feel like they're falling down around me, and I'm seeing more and more violent responses to it. I still tackle the little bits that I can work on, and just try not to lose my mind angsting over the rest. I can only hope that it will turn out like I expect carbon sequestration to; by the time the our government actually tries a meaningful response, thousands of individuals will have already implemented their own effective solutions.
 
paul wheaton
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Even if we narrow it down to the 0.1%, now the evil entities are Oprah and JK Rowling. Granted, JK Rowling is not in the United States, but I think my point still valid. The subject line for the full thread could be changed from 1% to 0.1%.

Rather than the 1%, maybe we need a new label for the bad guys within the 1%. Or, probably more accurately, the bad guys within the 0.1%.
 
Casie Becker
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We don't need a label at all. I'm actually pretty sure we agree here. Debating about labeling is exactly the kind thing that diverts attention away from looking for solutions.

I'm fairly sure that almost all of our problems actually boil down to, we need safeguards against power accumulating in the hands of just a few people, regardless of who they are. I even think elections were supposed act as that kind of safeguard. Someone starts abusing power, don't give it to them. Doesn't work as well when money and power are synonymous.
 
Casie Becker
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Before I edit that last post... again. I'm not even saying that people shouldn't get as much money as they can, provided they're not exploiting people or common resources. I'm saying them having a lot of money shouldn't mean they can make personal decisions about my life. We've got a lot of laws (especially if you're female) that dig way too far into our personal business.
 
Chadwick Holmes
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For me personally, I don't care what percentile you fall in, You can become a person whom I wanna punch in the teeth while being poorly paid.....

( I really don't wanna punch people in the teeth very much, but " I don't wanna be your friend" doesn't carry the same wieght)

The most evil thing for me is the corporate uncaring, treating people like numbers and non thinking profit banks, employees as replaceable scum.

The next most evil thing is the millions of non thinking profit banks, and replaceable employees, that prove them right everyday by showing up to buy trash and showing up for a job that is not what they believe in, and have no passion for.

 
John Saltveit
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I think one of the biggest problems is striving to become the 1%. People who work 80 hours a week doing something they hate, making the world a much worse place, helping a corporation do harm. There are literally millions of them. Do they want to work "only" 40 hours a week, doing work that helps the planet/society, spend time with their family, grow some food, join some fun exercise/adventure group and read a book? No, they want to work 90 or 100 hours a week trying to make $200, 000, then $300, 000. It is not good for them, for us, their families, or the planet. They need to take expensive anti-depressants which don't work to justify their horrible lives. Our culture (USA) is trying to trick people into thinking this is a good way to live. It is not. It helps no one. Then their children grow up to have even more problems than they do. And we all suffer for it. Now we are trying to infect the planet with this problem. In older healthier cultures, they aren't subject to this disease because their culture is a more established, more important part of their lives.
John S
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evan l pierce
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I think the "everyone in the 1%, (0.1%, 0.01%) is evil" claim is a strawman.

Furthermore, I think a focus on income inequality, per se, also misses the point. One can hold wealth attained from ill-gotten gains, and as long as that wealth isn't currently increasing, a focus on income doesn't necessarily address the injustice.

A more precise term might be economic inequality, but even the degree to which that is so severe is just a symptom of a deeper problem.

The root problem, of which widespread and severe economic inequality is but a branch, is the inequality of authority.

And by saying this I do not mean to imply that I am advocating mere legal equality, or equality under the law, whereby the rich as well as the poor are forbidden from sleeping under bridges, or that women as well as men be subject to the injustice of conscription to fight wars of aggression. A deeper and more meaningful equality would be equality with the lawmakers.

The inequality in authority of legislators, judges, policemen, and presidents over individuals who do not hold such offices is the more profound problem. That some individuals are perceived as having the right to subject other individuals to their wills by threat of force is the more radical problem.

It is through this inequality of authority that indigenous peoples and peasant farmers are forced from their land and rendered dependent wage laborers in sweatshops and factories. It is through this inequality of authority that the holders of patents and other intellectual property monopolies are able to forcibly exclude competitors from utilizing their own tools and knowledge to produce goods that would benefit humankind.

Inequality of authority is what enables a privileged few to externalize their costs onto society while privatizing the profits from their unsustainable actions.
 
nancy sutton
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I think the Occupy Wall Street effort did a priceless job of getting the "1% vs 99%" meme into the general population. It's not the minute accuracy that counts (except in programming ;)...it's the 'picture' of the actual reality that a very few people control an obscene amount of power (through all the various means accurately detailed in this thread).

That reality has been very deliberately obscured by a corporate media, rightwing thinktank propaganda (see the 'Lewis Powell Memo'), highlighting the few 'bad apples' in the 'clean barrel' not! ;), etc, even the twisted distorting of faux Christianity. When competition and amoral profit (i.e., more cancer equals higher GDP) drive the economy, versus cooperation and social welfare (see Gross National Happiness, etc.), we have a society that worships, truly worships, Mammon (thank heavens for Pope Francis ;)

Re: the nice zillionaires, even a sizable number of the 0.01 % (Nick Hanauer, Tom Steyer, et al - see Naders' 'Only the Super Rich Can Save Us' for more) campaign for a change in the 'System' that plutocracy has created out of 'our democracy'. But, zeroing on individual 'nasties' is a great way to distract from the 'system' ... the corrupt, fraudulent, rigged System.

I recommend respected economist Piketty's 'Capital in the 21st Century' for a detailed historic presentation, from around 1700, when modern capitalism was 'born', on how the the typical 0.01% has achieved such control, with inevitable eradication, of democracy. The facts don't lie (but Margaret Thatcher's TINA slogan did... There Is An Alternative!, in fact, many of them, including Permaculture, with it's sharing principle.)

Thom Hartmann interviewed folks in Denmark for his radio show once, and asked one of it's richest men if he resented the high taxes...his reply was, 'No, because I don't want to be a rich man in a poor country." Says it all for me ;) (but Nordic countries don't have the US scar of racism on their psyches.)

Which makes me wonder...does anyone else think there is the possibility that the plutocracy (thinking of the 0.01%, now) contains a higher-than-average % of sociopaths, because they have an advantage with their total inability to feel empathy ?
 
John Saltveit
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I think there have actually been studies on personality disorders of the extremely wealthy. Autism, asperger's, Sociopathic tendencies, etc. I can't cite them though. I went to high school with a high proportion of wealthy people and they have just as many problems as anyone else. Many are much lazier than poor people, because they can be. There is more cocaine addiction, for example. Chris Rock said that if poor people had any idea how rich the very rich are, they would start rioting in the streets immediately, and Chris Rock is one of the very rich.

Evan hit it pretty well with the power differential. In the US, they can do so much more than anyone else. It's like they get 100 votes for one of our votes. Some of the very rich are positive, but even the ones that are trying to do good, like Bono in Africa steering people toward glyphosate and GMO's and BIll Gates forcing schools to do EVEN MORE TESTING! They end up doing the wrong thing because they frankly have no idea what regular people's lives are about. There are probably 10 of them donating to make sure that there are marble and granite offices in their alma mater, or that there can be no limits on campaign contributions a la Citizen's United Supreme Court decision, for every one that actually does some good.
John S
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nancy sutton
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Here is a whole list of studies that support the 'difference' of the wealthy...
http://www.dailykos.com/story/2014/1/16/1269980/-The-rich-really-are-different

BUT it's not the wealthy, nor those who live to get rich, nor the sociopaths, that are the problem, I don't think. It is that our political/economic/financial SYSTEM has been manipulated (even designed, going back to the Bank of England's establishment in 1694) to give them every advantage...at the expense of everyone else. I happen to think that any candidate who stands up and repeatedly says this out loud is a rare gift ;)
 
Joe Braxton
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I'm not sure the 1/.1/.001/10% can control you unless you let them. There are many who have worked out how to control themselves, either through earning enough to drop out or earning so little that dropping out was a natural result. One way uses the system as built, the other ignores the system entirely. The trick is not to get caught in the middle. Many people cannot imagine anything other than working for their entire life.
 
John Saltveit
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Well, let's suppose that you eat food. I am going to suppose this about you. Let's suppose that you have a family and a job, because you weren't born rich. Let's suppose you don't have acreage, and that your parents (like mine) knew absolutely nothing about gardening. You have to figure out which cans have BPA in them. You have to figure out if you should eat fish that have mercury in them. You need to decide if you're going to eat CAFO feed lot meat. If you're not rich, pastured meat is very expensive and so is organic produce, if you haven't figured out CSA's and how to drive out to one and get back with your kids in tow and how to cook all sorts of bizarre vegetables that you will get. You have to make it reasonably appetizing so your family will learn to eat it. Most people don't hardly cook at all. In other words, probably 98% of the people haven't achieved that yet, even if they are aiming to, and most aren't, they don't even know about it. To say, that they won't control you unless you let them is a very theoretical construct that doesn't apply to the vast majority of actual people. I don't live in a theoretical world. I live in a real one with real people.
John S
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Richard Gorny
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A group of people that would fit into a single bus (top 63 richest people of the World) own as much as 3 billion of the poorest. The real issue is not that they own so much, but that they influence everything on this planet. This needs to be addressed.
 
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