If anyone interprets the 1% to mean making a salary of more than $200k, they are mistaken. $200k is nowhere near close to the 1%. It's so far from it that it's laughable, which I'm sure some people do.
The average worker (literal average, not the lowest paid employee) needs to work a month to make what their average CEO makes in 1 hour. Sure, of course people work hard for their money! But is the justification that the CEO works 380x harder than his average employee? Do you buy that? Can you? Business Insider also wrote about this 3 years ago in 2013, and if it's gotten much worse now, can you imagine what that must mean today?
When I first saw the video above in 2012, my initial reaction was that it was pretty consistent with every lecture, class, book, article, conference, etc. I've ever sat in on that discussed economics and business and how 1% of the world's population own HALF of the world's wealth--simply put, 1% own 1/2 of what the world's 7 billion people combined "are worth." What's sad to me is that this is still true today, in 2016, and actually even more so with the gap exponentially increasing--and guess who's leading the way? The U.S.
There's an obvious misunderstanding in what people think the 1% means. Perhaps this is why it's been so easy to wave off.
Furthermore, Pulitzer Prize winner, Professor of Business, Tax, & Property Law at Syracuse Law School, & Investigative Reporter David Cay Johnson from Al Jazeera did a nice summary on trying to explain what the .001% (yes, you read that right) looks like. The .001% is made of just 1,361 families, and even the 1% should be frustrated with the increasing gap between the already top 1% and this .001%. So even with the already immense income inequality when people are working as hard and as much as they can (we are all only given 24 hours in a day), if you take a peek at the top 1%, we are only just beginning to seek trying to understand this...even in the top 1%, there is immense income inequality. 1/1000 households of that top 1% got more than 1/5 of all of the increased income of the 1% you can see schematically in the separate video above. And that's growing as well. What this means is that the income of the 1% you see growing over time as the disparity increases among everyone else, from that GROWTH of income difference, 20% of it goes to 1,361 families. Think about this image again, look at where the 1% is and what it means, and mentally divide it into 5 parts. 1/5 of the 1% is just 1,361 families. So 20% of the increasing income in the 1% is even GREATER than anyone can fathom. Keep in mind we are a country made of over 320 million people.
Now look at the 1% and divide it into 5 parts. 1 of those 5 parts belongs to only 1,361 families. Keep in mind we are made of over 320 million people.
In 2010, it was already shocking that it only took 388 people to equal as much as 3.5 billion people combined, but as of 2015, now it only takes 80 people. And if you expand it from looking at the world's 1% (with the U.S. leading the way in this inequality) to looking at 20%, you have:
1% = 1/2 of the world
20% = 94.5% of the world
Think about that for a moment.
That's from the Wall Street Journal. This is also consistent with what I learned, beginning many years ago, but what's shocking to me is how easy this has become for people to sort of ignore or wave their hand at to pretend go away, and in doing so, we have all contributed to the growth of this inequality over the recent years. Political candidates aside, let's just talk about the facts.
Whether you make $200k or $20k or you're a student, if you have had the luxury of being sheltered from the boiling frustrations of those who want to talk about corruption, greed, and income inequality, all of the recent interests (no pun intended) in this topic may surprise you. Or maybe it doesn't. You might not even realize that you've been a spectator to everything but chose to mute it all because it was like an annoying 30-second commercial that you hoped would be over soon so that you could return to your planned, regular show. Regardless of how long it has taken to burst the sheltered bubble of silence surrounding this inequality, what matters is that we talk about it and try to understand what it means for the future of our world, because the impact to you is inevitable. At this point, talking about what's going on in the U.S. and the world (because, let's face it, we haven't lived in a closed system in a long time, which translates to: we live in an open system, we are all relevant to one another and all impact one another) is not to be confused with "class envy" or jealously. It's not about jealousy or wanting what others have for free. To dismiss what's a very real and growing problem in the world by waving it off as welfare or class envy contributes to it and will not make it go away. To dismiss what's going on as saying it's just class envy is part of the problem. Chances are, the people who are dismissing it don't even realize that even they are suffering from the wealth inequality. Or perhaps they do feel it, but the frustrations they rightly feel from working hard and getting less than someone in their position would have received 10 years ago is accidentally projected on those who make less than them--who they view as "lazy" or undeserving because it's easier to put others down to feel more secure about yourself? The hard part is that everyone thinks they are doing the right thing or want the right thing.Everyone thinks that they are working hard, smart, and trying to make a better life for themselves and those around them. No one goes about their daily life thinking, "Gee, how can I lose money today? What's a great opportunity for me to increase my burden?" Wealth inequality isn't about wanting what someone else has without putting the work or skill training in. It's about finding new ways to exploit people. Modern-day wealth inequality is about finding an updated way to make the feudal system work--to be in the position to reward someone proportionally to how much success they've contributed to your growth but instead finding yourself coming up with reasons not to and entitling yourself to the bulk of the grains they've sown since they should just be grateful they're getting something. We can easily sit in History class, study the past with 20/20 hindsight and say, "How did they not see this coming? How could they let it go on for that long? Wasn't it obvious that it was ridiculously unfair?" ...and yet we fail to see that it's History repeating itself right now. Just because we aren't in the feudal times anymore (or in the Industrial Revolution, or the building of the railroad, or the slave trade, or the Bracero program, or the way coal mining was done in the late 1800s to early 1900s) doesn't mean the system isn't repackaged and marketed to us in an updated, reincarnated form. Sorry for all of the multiple negatives. Let me rephrase that: we may be in a different era, but our exploitation of one another is just regurgitated history repackaged and sold with a tag that says, "Same great taste! Now just told you have more prestige." Do I believe raising the minimum wage to $15 in the U.S. is going to work? Is it an answer to our wealth inequality? No. Honestly, no. Sure, it's a good place to start to begin conversations about why all people who work deserve livable wages, but it's not the root of the problem. Just because you can begin to pay the work horses $15/hour doesn't mean the people sitting in the box observing you will allow themselves to take in less of what they are testing getting away with more and more. You may have assumed that raising the minimum wage to $15 might not work to solve our problems because the price of everything else will go up accordingly to offset the wage increase. You would be right. BUT, it's not that the cost of everything else will increase to make up for paying employees more--it's that the cost of everything else will increase in order to deceive the American general public into believing that it's to make up for the wage increase. In actuality, the disproportionality will never end unless people take a good look at WHY it's there to begin with and HOW it has significantly grown in the past few years--how is it that the general, hardworking public LOST so much in the recession while a few's assets actually bloomed seemingly overnight and is continuing to grow like crazy? What is a livable wage to begin with, and why is it so hard for every day human beings to get, in this day and age of "democracy?" Furthermore, what kind of corruption is going on and who keeps allowing it to happen? Just because something isn't brought to the attention of the public or isn't tried in court or screened in the current law books does not mean it is immune from corruption, judgment, or guilt. Do you think people will be studying our society yeaaaaars from now and saying: Howcould they not have seen that this was another version of indentured servitude or the feudal system? It will never be a living wage unless they go straight to the root of it all--to the people who keep disproportionately paying themselves more and more under the table and getting away with it. There was a quote I saw a while back, and it was about pitting people like you and me against each other--people fighting over who gets to make $15/hr and not realizing that we are spending all of our energy fighting over the crumbs and putting each other down while someone is off making away with the entire pie. But hey, at least we are ALL finally talking about income disparity on a national (and international) level! Just because we're the United States doesn't mean we are immune to what we would interpret as corruption in other countries. I love my country, but let's not confuse 1% with making $200k+. Let's figure out what's ACTUALLY going on. Let's figure out how we've ALL allowed it to progress to the point that it can't be hid anymore. You know it's bad when it gets so bad that now everyone notices it. You can't hide it anymore. The only thing guaranteed in this life is death. It is the great equalizer of us all. Please remember that before you assume things about someone based on how much you think they make or how much you think they "deserve" to be worth.
And remember that if you think you are doing so much better than someone "beneath" you...to the 1%, you all look the same.
So please be kind to each other.
You are free to make a choice, but you are not free from the consequences of that choice.