Attention, Protestors: You're Probably Part of the 1%

About a year ago, The Wall Street Journal ran an article describing the plight of Americans struggling to rebuild after bankruptcy. The article highlighted Linda Frakes, who filed for bankruptcy after accumulating more than $300,000 in credit card debt.

"Ms. Frakes is now unemployed, living on $330 a week of unemployment benefits and odd jobs," the Journal wrote. Frakes "struggled to rent a home and buy a car after bankruptcy. A used-car dealer ultimately gave her financing on a Jaguar."

No one's hardship should be belittled. Becoming unemployed or losing a home aren't just financial problems. They're social and emotional problems that strike at people's sense of being.

But things always need to be kept in perspective. Only in America, I thought to myself after reading the article, can someone be driving a Jaguar and portrayed as living in an impoverished underclass. Context is crucial with these issues.

The recent Occupy Wall Street protests have aimed their message at the income disparity between the 1% richest Americans and the rest of the country. But what happens when you expand that and look at the 1% richest of the entire world? Some really interesting numbers emerge. If there were a global Occupy Wall Street protest, people as well off as Linda Frakes might actually be the target.

In America, the top 1% earn more than $380,000 per year. We are, however, among the richest nations on Earth. How much do you need to earn to be among the top 1% of the world?

$34,000.

That was the finding World Bank economist Branko Milanovic presented in his 2010 book The Haves and the Have-Nots. Going down the distribution ladder may be just as surprising. To be in the top half of the globe, you need to earn just $1,225 a year. For the top 20%, it's $5,000 per year. Enter the top 10% with $12,000 a year. To be included in the top 0.1% requires an annual income of $70,000.

Of course, goods and services cost different amounts in different countries. These numbers only apply to those living in the U.S. To adjust for purchasing power parity, those living in Western Europe should discount their dollar-denominated incomes by 10%-20%, Milanovic says. Those in China and Africa should increase their incomes by 2.5-fold. India, by threefold.

The global distribution figures may seem incomprehensibly low, but consider a couple of statistics you're likely familiar with: According to the U.N., "Nearly half the world's population, 2.8 billion people, earn less than $2 a day." According to the World Bank, 95% of those living in the developing world earn less than $10 a day.

Those numbers are so shocking that you might only think about them in the abstract. But when you consider them in the context of the entire globe, including yourself, the skewing effects they have on the distribution of income is simply massive. It means that Americans we consider poor are among some of the world's most well-off. As Milanovic notes, "the poorest [5%] of Americans are better off than more than two-thirds of the world population." Furthermore, "only about 3 percent of the Indian population have incomes higher than the bottom (the very poorest) U.S. percentile."

In short, most of those protesting in the Occupy Wall Street movement would be considered wealthy -- perhaps extraordinarily wealthy -- by much of the world. Many of those protesting the 1% are, ironically, the 1%.

This isn't to disparage the occupiers' message. Protestors are, I think, upset because so many of America's top 1% are perceived to have earned their income unjustifiably -- think bankers and bailouts. Most are not against inequality of wealth; they're against inequality of opportunity. As they should be.

But take a step back and put things in perspective. As Milanovic notes, "One's income ... crucially depends on citizenship, which in turn ... means place of birth. All people born in rich countries thus receive a location premium ... all those born in poor countries get a location penalty. It is easy to see that in such a world, most of one's lifetime income will be determined at birth." He continues, "it turns out that place of birth explains more than 60 percent of variability in global incomes." And there are few better places to be born than America -- even if you end up poor by American standards. If there is inequality in opportunity, those born in America are the ones with the unfair advantage.

As author Matt Ridley put it, "Today, of Americans officially designated as 'poor,' 99 percent have electricity, running water, flush toilets, and a refrigerator; 95 percent have a television, 88 percent a telephone, 71 percent a car and 70 percent air conditioning. Cornelius Vanderbilt had none of these." Nor does much of the world.

Food for thought.

Check back every Tuesday and Friday for Morgan Housel's columns on finance and economics.

Fool contributor Morgan Housel doesn't own shares in any of the companies mentioned in this article. Follow him on Twitter @TMFHousel. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.


Read/Post Comments (167) | Recommend This Article (325)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On October 28, 2011, at 12:07 PM, cattywampus wrote:

    One in four children in America under the age of 18 go to bed hungry. 17 million kids, at least that is what was reported recently.

  • Report this Comment On October 28, 2011, at 12:20 PM, TMFKopp wrote:

    Ahh, perspective, where have you been all my life?

    Great work Morgan!

  • Report this Comment On October 28, 2011, at 12:21 PM, setht23 wrote:

    ^

    I'd be curious how many of those kids parents spend money on cigarettes, alcohol or smartphones.

  • Report this Comment On October 28, 2011, at 12:34 PM, wolfman225 wrote:

    +1

    Just as an aside, what's the over/under on the number of comments coming that will call this article misleading and an unfair portrayal of the plight of the poor?

  • Report this Comment On October 28, 2011, at 3:58 PM, wolfman225 wrote:

    3 1/2 hrs later......

    .......well, I guess I was wrong. I can't believe one of Morgan's articles on what is usually such a hot-button topic hasn't seen more action. Comments on his articles usually number in the dozens.

    Great article, Mr. Housel. I'd rec it again, if I could.

  • Report this Comment On October 28, 2011, at 4:24 PM, devoish wrote:

    +1 rec. on the perspective.

    Doesn't mean anyone should sit quietly and get scammed by a financial industrys efforts at persuading government that providing options other than a financial industrys hidden cost borrowing is a good thing.

    It also doesn't mean that anyone should sit quietly and get screwed by a financial industrys collusion with ratings agencys to destroy their savings.

    Perspective is a good thing.

    Best wishes,

    Steven

  • Report this Comment On October 28, 2011, at 5:27 PM, TMFBrich wrote:

    <<As Milanovic notes, "One's income ... crucially depends on citizenship, which in turn ... means place of birth. All people born in rich countries thus receive a location premium ... all those born in poor countries get a location penalty. It is easy to see that in such a world, most of one's lifetime income will be determined at birth." He continues, "it turns out that place of birth explains more than 60 percent of variability in global incomes." And there are few better places to be born than America -- even if you end up poor by American standards. If there is inequality in opportunity, those born in America are the ones with the unfair advantage.>>

    Buffett calls it the "ovarian lottery."

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LiTkU9eIFPs

    "I'm in the luckiest 1% of the world right now."

  • Report this Comment On October 28, 2011, at 6:16 PM, JohnLeven wrote:

    I'm still not in the top 1%.

  • Report this Comment On October 28, 2011, at 7:09 PM, zymok wrote:

    Morgan,

    Thanks for an excellent article.

    Cattywampus

    That one-in-four number is so out of line with every other estimate of hunger in America that I've ever seen that I find it hard to take it seriously. Do you have a reference?

  • Report this Comment On October 28, 2011, at 8:34 PM, MotleyMK wrote:

    How unfortunate that politics are coming to Motley Fool. Other nations don't have the amenities we do, so CEOs should bankrupt their own companies and screw over stockholders to line their own pockets? Do you not understand the 1% protests, or are you saying they should sit down and shut up since they have clean water?

  • Report this Comment On October 28, 2011, at 8:37 PM, TMFHousel wrote:

    <<are you saying they should sit down and shut up since they have clean water?>>

    From the article:

    "This isn't to disparage the occupiers' message. Protestors are, I think, upset because so many of America's top 1% are perceived to have earned their income unjustifiably -- think bankers and bailouts. Most are not against inequality of wealth; they're against inequality of opportunity. As they should be."

    Adding perspective doesn't automatically means being against something. I think a lot of the protestors are upset for good reason and are fighting a worthy cause.

  • Report this Comment On October 28, 2011, at 8:37 PM, TMFHousel wrote:

    Furthermore, there is nothing political about this article.

  • Report this Comment On October 28, 2011, at 8:41 PM, TMFNewCow wrote:

    Great article

  • Report this Comment On October 28, 2011, at 9:52 PM, kiran1506 wrote:

    great article Mr. Housel

  • Report this Comment On October 28, 2011, at 10:00 PM, Bert31 wrote:

    Very nice article Morgan.

  • Report this Comment On October 28, 2011, at 10:05 PM, whereaminow wrote:

    Great article Morgan.

    David

  • Report this Comment On October 29, 2011, at 1:24 AM, cluckgochicken wrote:

    The fact that the world's population is so far below our standard of living makes it even more criminal for the 1% of the richest in the US> It must put the world"s wealth in an much smaller percentage of the population. However you look at it, the descrepancy between the ultra rich and the poor is despicable and unfortunatley growing.

    Win

  • Report this Comment On October 29, 2011, at 2:29 AM, trecer wrote:

    It's a mistake to reduce the Wall Street protests to a demand for a greater share of the U.S. economic pie. The protesters are seeking to bring attention to systemic political and economic problems that ultimately have more to do with the health of our democratic process than with merely expressing a share-the-national-wealth jealousy.

    The message of this article could be condensed to the following: "Everyone in this country is already so wealthy compared to the rest of the world that no one has a right to question how our society is structured economically and politically." Or, to paraphrase it another way: "Those Wall Street protesters are nothing but xenophobic narcissists." Meanwhile, as we cut social services for the poor and underemployed, as we impose ever greater debt on our middle class, as we continue to deny basic healthcare to much of our population, and as we continue to reward the grievous mistakes of the uber-wealthy finance class, far fewer of us believe that democracy really means anything. What kind of example for democracy does that deception set for the rest of the world? Are the problems of the world really only issues of economic disparity between the wealthy and the poorer countries? Isn't the lack of democracy a big part of why so many people around the world are living at subsistence levels? How will struggling nations build democratic societies if the example we set for them is failing?

  • Report this Comment On October 29, 2011, at 5:23 AM, cattywampus wrote:

    @ zymok www.childhungerendshere.com/Html/EnterCode.html Child Hunger Ends Here A Special Report hosted by Al Roker and Natalie Morales

    You said it was out of line with every other estimate of hunger in America that you had seen.

    Do you have sources or references?

  • Report this Comment On October 29, 2011, at 5:52 AM, cattywampus wrote:

    When I saw the name Linda Frake in the article I laughed. I googled it and looked at the WSJ article. A large part of her credit card debt was for an investment in a gym or weight loss business. She finally got a car dealership to sell her a 2005 used Jag station wagon @ 18% interest. I would have a hard time dealing with a person named Frake too. What the!

  • Report this Comment On October 29, 2011, at 6:16 AM, cattywampus wrote:
  • Report this Comment On October 29, 2011, at 10:18 AM, MKArch wrote:

    Good article Morgan. I'd like to point out though that opportunities in the U.S. did not just magically appear they are the result of a system that while certainly not perfect results in the worst off here being better off than the vast majority of the world.

    I'm in the construction industry which has been hammered by this recession and trust me I have more reason than most in the U.S. to be pessimistic about our economy. Certainly more so than the regular doom and gloom pundits who are probably profiting from the countries problems.

    When I look back on what we've just gone through and are currently going through I'm truly impressed by how resilient our economy really is. A near collapse of the global banking system, the construction industry literally shutting down, other businesses freaking out and slashing their workforce in a shoot first ask questions later panic and the result was going from 5% unemployment to 10% unemployment?

    Don't get me wrong I know 10% unemployment hurts as well as anyone. I'm personally on the brink of having to make some tough and painful decisions as my industry looks to be in another downturn. But I also know that as much as the steps I might have to take to deal with what seems like a never ending downturn hurt, I'll still be in the top 1% of the world and I can rebuild what I lost when the economy finally rebounds for good.

  • Report this Comment On October 29, 2011, at 11:11 AM, widdison wrote:

    Silly article and one that distracts from real issues. Yes, the lower tier of Americans have always been better off than the starving masses in Africa or the more oppressed peoples throughout the world. That doesn't change the fact that wealth has always been relative and people have always judged their circumstances by comparing themselves to their neighbors. It is ABSURD to suggest that young Americans with no prospects should quit comparing themselves to their wealthy care-free neighbors and start comparing themselves to the starving masses elsewhere. I sure don't see Fox analysts suggesting that America's wealthy do that when the specter of higher taxes is raised. A joke of an article.

  • Report this Comment On October 29, 2011, at 11:16 AM, zymok wrote:

    Cattywumpus

    Here's a USDA source:

    http://www.ers.usda.gov/Briefing/FoodSecurity/food_frequency...

    Note that the government does not use the term "hunger" in its measurements, and stopped doing so five years ago. Instead, the use the term "very low food security."

    Estimated daily prevalence of VLFS, i.e. hunger, is between 0.7% and 1.0% of households. Percentage of households experiencing hunger at any time during the year is about 5%.

  • Report this Comment On October 29, 2011, at 11:22 AM, TMFHousel wrote:

    <<It is ABSURD to suggest that young Americans with no prospects should quit comparing themselves to their wealthy care-free neighbors and start comparing themselves to the starving masses elsewhere.>>

    Nowhere in this article does it suggest people should quit complaining or stop standing up for what they believe in.

  • Report this Comment On October 29, 2011, at 11:35 AM, TMFMileHigh wrote:

    @widdison,

    "That doesn't change the fact that wealth has always been relative and people have always judged their circumstances by comparing themselves to their neighbors."

    My sense -- and mine alone -- is that this truth may be part of the problem for rich and poor alike.

    Systematic, well-constructed reform that includes rather than excludes is a good idea. Lusting after a share of an ephemeral promise (in this case, the American dream) on the belief that I should have what my neighbor has? Perhaps not so much.

    FWIW and Foolish best,

    Tim (TMFMileHigh and @milehighfool on Twitter)

  • Report this Comment On October 29, 2011, at 11:36 AM, ybckorea wrote:

    The majority of those who are in favor of OWS seem to be of the opinion that socialism is good and redistribution of wealth should be worldwide. There is no accountability for responsibility in that kind of thinking. Communism tried this and failed miserably. Capitalism may not be a perfect answer but sure beats the other two. Since this is a financial site, I cannot understand socialism being a good thing. America got to be where she is by hard work and willing workers who hoped for a better future. Everywhere in the world wants the same and that's why they all want to come to America.

    Why would you destroy a system that works for one that doesn't?

  • Report this Comment On October 29, 2011, at 12:44 PM, blishna wrote:

    $34,000 will buy you a lot in the poorer countries but not in the U.S., so I don't see how logically one could argue that those protesting Wall Street lack "perspective," unless it is implied that the poorest in this country ought to move to a cheaper one.

  • Report this Comment On October 29, 2011, at 12:54 PM, allancrack wrote:

    As you mentioned, 99% of Americans benefit from things like running water and electricity that much of the rest of the world struggles for. Part of the point of OWS is that the government's investment in people and infrastructure that gave Americans such a high standard of living is currently under attack in favor of subsidizing banks and other corporations. Without constant development and investment in basic infrastructure, the standard of living we're used to is going to start falling apart for everyone not in the top 1%.

  • Report this Comment On October 29, 2011, at 1:06 PM, TMFHousel wrote:

    @blishna,

    The distribution is adjusted for purchasing power parity, so incomes are comparable throughout all countries (the U.S. is used as a the base, so there's no need to adjust anything if you live here.) From the article:

    "Of course, goods and services cost different amounts in different countries. These numbers only apply to those living in the U.S. To adjust for purchasing power parity, those living in Western Europe should discount their dollar-denominated incomes by 10%-20%, Milanovic says. Those in China and Africa should increase their incomes by 2.5-fold. India, by threefold."

  • Report this Comment On October 29, 2011, at 1:23 PM, eddietheinvestor wrote:

    Great article, Morgan.

    I agree that from a global perspective, the protesters--and most Americans--are more fortunate than people in other countries.

    I've also read that the protester cooks are refusing to feed the poor people in Zucotti Park who are joining them. The poor are only being given--and given reluctantly--brown rice. So there is a rigid hierarchy even among the 99%.

    I agree to some extent with the protesters' complaint about little opportunity, but the message is confusing when some protesters say that they have quit their jobs to join the protests and complain about the lack of opportunities.

    Nice job, Morgan!

  • Report this Comment On October 29, 2011, at 1:34 PM, lazytype wrote:

    According to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Personal_income_in_the_United_S...

    41% of americans earn more than 34k, it is already way more than 1.5% of world pupulation, where's asia, eu, australia, and many more countries?

    Yeah. this article gets my personal BS stamp :)

  • Report this Comment On October 29, 2011, at 1:39 PM, cattywampus wrote:

    Zymok

    The daily prevalence rate probably is biased considerably downward due to the ommision of the homeless people from the survey, which is based on household addresses, see 60 Minutes link above. This is the last sentence in your USDA reference. I considered using the USDA site as my reference, great site I might add. I first saw the phrase 1 in 4 kids go to bed hungry in a news report so I thought I should refer to it. The emotional content was no doubt used to increase donations for the campaign. Writing with the intent to appeal to people's emotions about sensitive subjects that most block out, Darfur, Rwanda, genocides, hungry and homeless children in America is a fertile breeding ground for contention. I recommended Morgan's article too, he is a very good writer.

  • Report this Comment On October 29, 2011, at 1:43 PM, TMFHousel wrote:

    lazytype,

    That's only for "individuals with income who were older than 25 years of age."

    Milanovic is a chief economist at the World Bank. He didn't make the figures up.

  • Report this Comment On October 29, 2011, at 1:47 PM, TMFHousel wrote:

    ^Actually, looks like the chart you refer to is of ages 15+. There are, however, different ways to calculate income, ie, including unemployment benefits, welfare, etc.

  • Report this Comment On October 29, 2011, at 2:05 PM, Berberecho wrote:

    It's worth noting the timing of the Occupy movement. It didn't coincide with the destructive malpractice of financial institutions or with the massive job loss. It happened after it became obvious that our political and market systems were unable to rectify the situation. No one was held accountable. No productive action was being taken to grow the economy. This is simply a movement attempting to inject fairness into our system. The so called "context" of this article has zero to do with that. There's no news here - we all know that the U.S. is a wealthy country built around great principles. Some of those principles are being compromised. Some of the system is breaking down. The parts of our system that help make us great (free speech) are trying to help fix it.

  • Report this Comment On October 29, 2011, at 2:35 PM, cattywampus wrote:

    There is nothing wrong with America that cannot be cured by what is right with America ~ W.J.C.

  • Report this Comment On October 29, 2011, at 2:38 PM, lazytype wrote:

    Well, it that case it's purposely misleading, 34k salary in western economies would be really shameful for a working adult.

    Because it's an average including newborn babies, prisoners and mentally handicapped. Theres's nothing to be proud about 34k salary ... It's definitely not in the 1% working class.

    But it should have been stated in the article. As they say me and my dog have 3 legs on average.

    Also used Jaguar is nothing to be proud of, < 8 year old Jaguar can be bought for as little as 5k. But is a huge mistake to buy one since they're very faulty. Same age/size toyota's or honda's would cost more.

    But yeah if I wanted to make a false impression a used Jag would be top of my list..

    Ok' I'm changing my BS stamp for a rookie Propagandist annotation..

  • Report this Comment On October 29, 2011, at 2:53 PM, DrHockeystick wrote:

    Great article, an interesting perspective

  • Report this Comment On October 29, 2011, at 2:55 PM, NotJesseL wrote:

    "Godliness with contentment is great gain". If you see the rest of the world around you, then this argument of being in the top 1% holds water. Most people can't see that far away. It really takes a lot of imagination and insight to see what it might be like to live in a place where you have to walk miles each day to get water. So being told one is in the top 1% of the whole world is not really the way to become content. The OWS people have some grievances with the overall distribution in the US financial system, not with where they live. So, really, the article is not responsive to OWS protests (as fuzzy as they are).

    Its always good to be thankful for what you have, but that doesn't eliminate a responsibility to try to fight injustice if that's the source of this income inequality.

  • Report this Comment On October 29, 2011, at 8:07 PM, Akboogie wrote:

    Morgan,

    Wonderful article! Since you prepared and cooked the food up for thought, I guess I will happily do the dishes!

    Peace,

  • Report this Comment On October 29, 2011, at 11:19 PM, DonkeyJunk wrote:

    "Well, it that case it's purposely misleading, 34k salary in western economies would be really shameful for a working adult..."

    "Theres's [sic] nothing to be proud about 34k salary ..."

    Unless you have absolutely no understanding of the value of necessities, are a complete budgeting oaf, or insist on an obscene amount of non-essential niceties, there's little reason 34k should not be satisfactory.

    However, since your smug judgment seems founded in complete ignorance, I'm willing to let it slide.

  • Report this Comment On October 30, 2011, at 2:56 AM, riffin1 wrote:

    That's a perspective. The United States is a lot like Haiti. Tsarist Russia or Batista's Cuba were good things. The richest 1% of Americans compare to what worldwide?

  • Report this Comment On October 30, 2011, at 3:31 AM, Tiingall wrote:

    I believe the problem that many protesting groups around the world - inspired by the initiative of the OWS groups in the USA - are complaining about is injustice, a failure of the capitalist system (after four years of waiting) to correct it's banking problems and a loss of faith in the institutions we've been told we should trust with our hard earned savings; the bank and finance industry.

    How can we trust any longer the professionalism of the highest level finance and banking experts - who we already reward with big salaries and great perks - when they were very happy to rip us off by using our savings and pension funds we entrusted to them, to underwrite scam loans pushed to people who they knew had almost not chance to repay them. Just so they could take more of our savings and pension funds as bonuses, commissions, free trips, parties and other excesses.

    And just how financially competent are these best-of-the-best who have survived the rigors of the greatest business and finance schools in America when they plan a totally unsustainable business strategy that has the very predictable finite end which can only be bankruptcy and the collapse of the national and international financial systems. Is that what we are expected to accept as smart and the highest standards of financial and business competence?

    And how can we any longer trust these people to be in such important positions of power when they seem to lack the human qualities that would allow them to feel guilt and remorse about their deliberately deceitful actions to sink the banking and financial system for their personal greed. How many of them have taken personal accountability for their actions by resigning their positions, paying back our money they contrived to take to create their hidden overseas bank accounts, mansions, yachts etc, so our savings and pension funds are back in their vaults. None that I know of.

    If the rest of us borrow depositors' savings to invest in a business proposition and it fails, the bank takes our homes, cars etc to replace those savings in the vault. But it seems this is not the case with the bankers and finance experts. They can take our savings from the vault and blow it any which way they choose - causing massive financial collapse and human suffering around the world - but they are not accountable. The capitalist system works for us - because we are accountable - but it seems they are beyond the reach of the checks and balances of the capitalist system we are all supposed to rely upon.

    And when it comes to the consequences around the world, a French study in 2008 identified some tens of thousands of additional child deaths every week because governments and aid agencies have less money as a direct result of the bankers' induced world financial collapse. These are kill rates that the Bosnian Serbs, Gadafi's son and Al-Queda can only dream about. We normally send in a Seal Team, cruise missiles, F-18s, or a few hundred thousand troops to write such wrongs. Or despatch such people to the Hague for Crimes Against Humanity. But the bankers and finance experts seem to escape that too. No accountability again.

    They can lie, cheat, deceive, exploit and create immense human suffering and death; without any consequences.

    Such inequality causes people to lose faith in the institutions we are supposed to be able to trust. That's why people around the world are in the streets. And it's why many bank stocks look to be such a steal; who wants to invest in businesses which have proven themselves so immoral, corrupt and financially incompetent.

  • Report this Comment On October 30, 2011, at 5:12 AM, cattywampus wrote:

    At least somebody on Wall Street is going to jail, the protesters. Heard that on a news program too.

  • Report this Comment On October 30, 2011, at 9:02 AM, Prospero13 wrote:

    I work in downtown Manhattan, just a couple blocks from Zuccotti Park. What I see is an unorganized assembly that lacks focus. This could be no better illustrated than by some of the signs I've seen the protesters holding: "It's f**ked up and sh*t," "Wall Street is filled with morans (sic)" are good examples. I'm not saying Wall Street isn't rife with corruption and nothing should be done about it, but most of these protesters seem to be there just to party and throw temper tantrums. How is anyone supposed to take them seriously when they can't even spell "morons?" A couple of my colleagues ran into a guy holding a sign on the train that said, "Down with capitalism, up with communism." He wore new designer clothes from brands like Gucci. One of my colleagues asked, "Do you know who your congressman is?" The blank expression on the protester's face was all the answer that was needed. Hey, if they want communism so badly they don't have to live here and leech off the rest of us who actually get off our asses in the morning and head to work everyday. I've seen them in McDonald's and other establishments in the area supporting the very system they condemn. They need food, clothing, and tents. Where would they get these things if companies and the people who work for them didn't manufacture these goods? I don't know, but if they're going to condemn capitalism they could stay out of McD's so I can eat in peace without having to smell them.

  • Report this Comment On October 30, 2011, at 12:35 PM, SammyP1 wrote:

    This might quite possibly be the stupidest article I have ever read. American middle class wages and incomes have been stagnant for 3 decades while the top 1% have seen their incomes nearly triple over the same time frame. But apparently the protestors should be satisfied that they don't live in Somalia and have a toilet that flushes.

  • Report this Comment On October 30, 2011, at 12:44 PM, SammyP1 wrote:

    Sure, the people who are entirely responsible for this financial catastrophe got bailed out with the protestors money, have not been held to account in any way, continue to work in their same jobs while getting paid record bonuses, and continue to foreclose on these protestors homes - many times without appropriate documentation and sometimes with forged documentation - but at least the protestors live in a country that has roads and a person can lease a used car. How can they possibly be protesting? What a joke of an article.

  • Report this Comment On October 30, 2011, at 12:48 PM, TMFHousel wrote:

    ^ They should be protesting, as the article notes. I support OWS. I just think a little perspective helps any debate.

  • Report this Comment On October 30, 2011, at 1:53 PM, cattywampus wrote:

    I'm a short time fool but in my experience on the site I've read two very persuasive writers, Morgan Housel and Tiingall. Thanks to both of you for your contributions. I enjoy your excellent writing no matter which side of the debate you reside on.

  • Report this Comment On October 30, 2011, at 7:44 PM, melee2 wrote:

    The thesis of this article is true but it has little to do with the frustration of the occupiers who are protesting the income redistribution that occured largely as the result of fraud committed by the financial industry (wells fargo etc), the organizations that rate and insure them (S&P etc), and the government that was supposed to provide consumer protection(elephants and donkeys). People were unable to make informed choices as we are so often advised to do on this website because the people who were advising laymen were in on the scam (mortgage brokers, real estate agents,etc). Deregulation is a failed social/financial experiment. Corporations will not behave responsibly in the absence of oversight. They will move jobs overseas regardless. And now due to flawed campaign finance laws these same robber barons are now wielding disproportionate power in the halls of congress and the judicial system by paying off our elected officials with the same money stolen from our retirement funds. This has nothing to do with wealth relative to other nations. It has to do with the future health and wealth of our democracy.

  • Report this Comment On October 31, 2011, at 4:12 AM, yogi3333 wrote:

    For 3 decades, sociologists spoke of a living standard shift; that the western world would migrate to the mean. That started before the advanced technology of computers and the internet accelerated the flat economy and migration of not just low-skilled labor and factory jobs but knowledge-based work to the best, low cost provider - anywhere in the world. Wall Street in its pursuit of EBITDA gladly exported jobs to maximize shareholder profit and management compensation. Then they realized that staying offshore could lower their tax burden as well. So, investors and senior management racked up huge gains, while the average American worker at almost all strata saw and continue to see the erosion of their personal economic situations further stressed by the inability of governments to meet their obligations whether in services or payments to creditors. The only real way out of the morass is oddly for centralization of government powers and a federal claiming of massive shale finds. The US needs to go into the energy business and become a for profit provider of energy to US businesses and homes, and an exporter. This ameliorates the unemployment situation, generates revenues and allows the US to tackle its massive debt obligations, as well as address social security and medical promises made to its citizens. While this is anathema to many who prefer to see the work go to US corporations, for the foreseeable future, the US should maintain control of the assets and right its own financial ship instead of making a few people rich.

  • Report this Comment On October 31, 2011, at 4:48 AM, Alphadonkey wrote:

    You've gotta love the new campaign on food insecurity. It is presented as if 1 in 8 go hungry. In actuality, it means that 1 in 8 could conceivably miss a single meal in the next year. It doesn't mean that anyone is actually hungry.

    We need to stop pretending that half of the 2 in 10 morbidly obese people in the U.S. are at risk of starving to death.

    It is completely absurd to behave this way, when there are real people going hungry for real in other parts of the world.

  • Report this Comment On October 31, 2011, at 8:05 AM, Tiingall wrote:

    I'm certain there are some or perhaps many of the OWS protesters who lack the ability to accurately articulate the reasons they feel so distressed and alienated by the problems they see or experience. Perhaps they lack experience, education or both. But there is no doubting they are ringing the alarm bells.

    People we have elected or selected to positions of power and authority to help protect our best interests need to listen; quickly.

    There is a consistent and repeating theme in American history; that society - or those entrusted to hold critical decision making positons on our behalf - fail to recognise a growing problem before it comes around and bites very hard on the backside, usually with substantial unpleasant and destructive consequences. For example WW2; it took the disaster of Peal Harbour to waken the sleeping giant. People put on their blinkers and just hoped the problem in Europe and Japan would go away. And a lot of Americans had to die before the civil rights issue was addressed. So to the Vietnam War.

    Of course the capitalist system works, but only when people can be trusted to play their part responsibly and with respect for others. The bankers and financial experts did not act responsibly or professionally. They certainly did not show any respect or regard for the people who trusted them with their savings and pensions, nor for the investors who gave them capital to expand their businesses.

    The banking and finance industry is a critical element of the capitalist system. The present problem is this section of the capitalist cycle which should transfer our savings and business profits into new and developing enterprises - by prudently giving them loans and seeding money to create new products, technologies and services - has failed us; catastrophically. The people we entrusted to handle this very important role in the capitalist system betrayed us. While we worked hard to create the savings and pass it to them to do their job to re-cycle our wealth into new advances, they instead syphoned our savings and business profits off into their own pockets, or "invested" criminally, or lived extravigant lifestyles, so they vaporised the wealth we had laboured to create.

    The result was/is no savings coming back around to re-invest in productive enterprises and people. With that life-blood of accumulated capital syphoned from the circular cycle, the capitalist system grinds to a halt. We see massive unemployment, businesses suffering and failing, profits down and the value of our shares in Foolishly responsible companies in free fall.

    The banking and finance sector of our capitalist system went way off the rails. They created all manner of convoluted and deliberately deceitful financial products as a means to divert our savings into their offshore accounts, private yachts, extravagent lifestyles etc.

    They chose to ignore that we are all interdependent. Now they too are losing jobs and their families are suffering, because they failed to provide customer oriented products and services that satisfied the needs of their clients; us depositors.

    The capitalist system is working to correct itself by tossing out these cancerous elements that failed to provide products people want to buy. But it's very slow and a lot of people are suffering in the meantime. That's why people are in the streets.

    If only those very smart and highly paid people in our banks and financial institutions had used their great intellect and expensive education to benefit their customers, they'd still have a job, and us shareholders would still have shares in a functioning business, and the customers' savings would still be intact, working to create more jobs and businesses for an expanding economy. And millions of people around the world would not need to suffer more; each in their own way.

    If the corrupt bankers and financial wizzards are not smart enough to look beyond those easily criticised elements of the OWS movement to comprehend the underlying reasons, they and their immoral businesses will be swept away. They failed to do their part in the capitalist system. The capitalist system will destroy them eventually if they cannot change their ways, but the people might do it faster, and more violently. Please be astute enought to read the writing on the wall and understand the fundamental concerns of the OWS movement.

    Pull out your old vynel or CD recordings - or search on U-Tube - for a few classic Bob Dylan songs from a previous era of social struggle in America, such as "The Times They are A Changing" and "When the Ship Comes In". Read the poetry.

    Make the changes yourself before someone does it for you - forcefully and violently - and we all lose a lot more money.

  • Report this Comment On October 31, 2011, at 12:11 PM, wasmick wrote:

    "Sure, the people who are entirely responsible for this financial catastrophe got bailed out with the protestors money, have not been held to account in any way, continue to work in their same jobs while getting paid record bonuses, and continue to foreclose on these protestors homes - many times without appropriate documentation and sometimes with forged documentation - but at least the protestors live in a country that has roads and a person can lease a used car. How can they possibly be protesting? What a joke of an article."

    If these are the thoughts of your critics, you've done a great job adding perspective, Morgan. Unfortunately this is america where ears do not guarantee the ability to hear, eyes not the ability to see and heads not the ability to think.

  • Report this Comment On October 31, 2011, at 1:59 PM, cattywampus wrote:

    Once upon a time, you threw the, Wow was drifting off into a day dream. We need a good super-villian to take the fall so all the people who feel guilty about their part in the collapse can have a cathartic cleansing and feel good about themselves again. Bernie Madoff doesn't count he was just an indicator of the rampant corruption in the system.

  • Report this Comment On October 31, 2011, at 2:50 PM, sheckeygreen wrote:

    The problem with this line of thinking is that the 'Occupyers' are really not claiming that the income disparities btwn the 1%ers & 99%ers is measured "in the world"- it's fun to read your detailed analysis of where that would legitimately put even a low wage earner like someone who earns 34k. It's really a cheap shot frankly to pretend like the 'Occupyers' are missing some demographic problem, and that they actually are part of the problem- we all know the deal when it comes to what's actually happening with rampant corruption, political enabling, and across the board complicity with various financial markets. The repeal of Glass-Steagle started it all- and the bad debt and profiteering off of it is the finest example of what is truly capable from avarice and greed. Remember- "credit" is latin for "trust".

  • Report this Comment On October 31, 2011, at 3:23 PM, Melaschasm wrote:

    One in four obese children in America go to bed hungry!!!!

  • Report this Comment On October 31, 2011, at 3:44 PM, cattywampus wrote:

    Trick-or Treat for UNICEF an opportunity for children in the U.S. to raise funds for children around the world www.unicef.org

  • Report this Comment On October 31, 2011, at 3:49 PM, DJDynamicNC wrote:

    I am always fascinated by the perception that since some children may "only" go to bed hungry once or twice a year, and children elsewhere go to bed hungry more, and also some people are overweight, that we've done all we need to do to address hunger in this nation and people should just suck it up.

    It's a curious resignation to the notion that we simply can't achieve any more improvements in the national environment and, indeed, shouldn't even try.

    I suppose I just have more faith in humanity and in America. I think we can do better.

  • Report this Comment On October 31, 2011, at 4:11 PM, DJDynamicNC wrote:

    Additionally, I think it's important to point out that because of the way we structure our food subsidiy and distribution system, obesity is at least as likely to result from poverty as hunger or starvation - sometimes the two will even coexist. I eat much better now that I can afford to buy proper, healthy, organic foods - I grew up living off of processed crap because that's what we could afford to buy. It is NOT healthy. Food that you can actually live off of is expensive.

    Not to derail the topic, but these misperceptions drive me crazy. I find it unconscionable that we can put a man on the moon in under a decade but can't - or won't - feed our citizens.

  • Report this Comment On October 31, 2011, at 4:32 PM, DivingDan wrote:

    Wwell, if you want to play that numbers game instead of the message, you should adjust the numbers. Therefore it should be the 99.99% vs .01%

  • Report this Comment On October 31, 2011, at 5:59 PM, wasmick wrote:

    Does the 1% refer solely to income or does it refer to wealth?

    The top 1% in this country control nearly 50% of

    the wealth.

    The top 1% is taxable income control their households and not much else.

    Do we really believe the Phillies backup second baseman is the problem? Is he the one controlling all the wealth and the political process?

    Change is necessary. A clear message is needed before change can begin.

    The truly wealthy ensure that they do not

  • Report this Comment On October 31, 2011, at 5:59 PM, wasmick wrote:

    end up in the top1% of taxable income....

  • Report this Comment On October 31, 2011, at 6:09 PM, cattywampus wrote:

    Good point DivingDan. Doesn't roll off the tongue but is more accurate, 1000 to 1. I wonder with a recalculation what the annual income would be?

    Although I doubt if a numerical technicality will derail the movement, weather will slow it down in the northern states. Maybe we can just call them the 99ers, Ferdinand Lundberg wrote a good book, 'The Rich and the Super-Rich' describing the American oligarchy.

  • Report this Comment On October 31, 2011, at 8:27 PM, bosouder wrote:

    The article is really well-written, clear and very balanced, in my opinion. I find it remarkable how each of us take our own political biases (baggage) into the reading of the article and draw our own "logical" conclusions.

    The perspective suggested in this article does not negate the underlying concerns of the OWS crowd any more than it should encourage anyone to suggest that they "quit their whining", "pull themselves up by their collective bootstraps" and "get a job", etc. Perspective is just that. Perspective. Context. It is necessary because it helps you not only identify potential corrective actions (if any), but also how significant those corrective actions need to be.

    We're in a bad place economically, but my grandparents who suffered through the Great Depression had it worse. I suspect that this is true for anyone in America who had grandparents in the Great Depression. That's both a fact and a bit of perspective. Does that mean we should ignore the economic situation? Of course not. We do need to correct the distortion of our markets and the disproportionate political power that corporations have on our decision-makers. But perspective also means that we don't need WWII(I?) (or some other such event) to help spur our economy out of this situation and we certainly don't need to pretend that we're a starving country teetering on the edge of the social and economic abyss, either.

    Well over 90% of the world's population really is teetering on the edge of a social and economic abyss. They have been doing so for decades. Every day.

    Perspective.

  • Report this Comment On October 31, 2011, at 8:29 PM, bosouder wrote:

    Oh. And on the "90%", I pulled that out my butt. I'm sure there's a more precise number depending on how you want to define "social and economic abyss". Sorry.

    There are lies, damned lies, and statistics.

    More perspective.

  • Report this Comment On October 31, 2011, at 10:28 PM, dinosaurworld wrote:

    The problem with this article is that the goal of US domestic and foreign policy is not to lift the living standards of everyone in the world, but of all Americans. That's why you'll never hear the president close the State of the Union by saying, "God bless the world."

    What the protesters are fighting against is the corruption in government and big business that has given us banks that are too big to fail and a host of custom-made legislation in the form of subsidies and tax cuts exclusively for big business. In short, the cards have been increasingly stacked against the 99% - those who do not have a lobbying firm wining and dining congressmen on their behalf or the means to plunder their campaign coffers.

    It's no surprise that the protesters are focused on these issues. That's what our government controls, and that's what they have the ability to influence, as opposed to the plight of the developing world, which they have little to no ability to affect. Pointing out that the protesters are richer than much of the world is a needless distraction, and not at all part of this debate.

    Income inequality in this country has grown to record heights in the last 30 years as a direct result of government policies that favor the rich over the middle class - Reagan-era deregulation, halving of the capital gains tax, Bush tax cuts, etc. Let's have an honest discussion about that instead of the endless distractions and attempts to discredit and belittle the protesters.

  • Report this Comment On October 31, 2011, at 11:50 PM, TimmehG wrote:

    Someone on another forum pointed out an easy and irrefutable way to debunk this claim.

    1) There's 7 billion people in the world. (See recent news)

    2) 1% of 7 billion is 70 million.

    3) The population of the United States is 307 million.

    Ergo, it is mathematically impossible for a majority of Americans to be in the top 1%. At most, less than 23% of Americans could be in the top 1%, even if all one percenters were Americans, which they aren't.

  • Report this Comment On November 01, 2011, at 1:25 AM, ayaghsizian wrote:

    Great Article.

    I believe that most of us (myself included) focus too much on what other people have, instead of focusing on what I can do for myself to make my life better.

  • Report this Comment On November 01, 2011, at 1:37 AM, ayaghsizian wrote:

    TimmehG, Technically you are of course correct.

    However if $34,000 ($93 a day) puts you in the top 1% and you can't make 93 bucks a day in America, you're probably just lazy. Some people may have legitimate excuses for not making more money, but most excuses boil down to laziness. The point of the article is that most Americans have it good. Relative to the world.

  • Report this Comment On November 01, 2011, at 10:40 AM, DJDynamicNC wrote:

    "However if $34,000 ($93 a day) puts you in the top 1% and you can't make 93 bucks a day in America, you're probably just lazy. Some people may have legitimate excuses for not making more money, but most excuses boil down to laziness. "

    Let's parse this:

    A) People who don't make $93 or more each day are lazy;

    B) Except for some of them, who have excuses you have arbitrarily decided are legitimate.

    You can see where I question the logic behind that statement.

    Don't take it personally; I find that the biggest impediment to efficient economic understanding is the perfectly natural desire people have to turn economic questions into moral judgments on the value of other people, so I call it out where I see it. I'm sure I've been guilty of it in the past myself.

  • Report this Comment On November 01, 2011, at 1:32 PM, overley wrote:

    Good article. If you haven't travelled to a third world country, you can't appreciate how poor the rest of the world lives. Truly heartbreaking.

    Wish the occupy Wall St. crowd would move to Washington where the root cause of this problem is at. These behaviors have been going on forever, and all the government does is give them a relatively small fine and tell them to behave better to no effect. Wall St. can only get away with what the government lets them get away with.

    If Congress was serious, they would put the theives in jail and issue some serious fines, but they won't as long as Wall St. help fund their re-election campaigns.

  • Report this Comment On November 01, 2011, at 2:35 PM, DJDynamicNC wrote:

    ^^^ You're exactly right with the second half of your comment - the issue is that Wall Street has bought Washington - but that's why the protesters are on Wall Street, not in DC. They are pointing the fingers where the blame really rests, which is shifting the narrative and getting people to notice that the real culprits here are unregulated financial bandits who never quite get punished.

  • Report this Comment On November 01, 2011, at 4:59 PM, wstaple2 wrote:

    What a load of manure....

    lost my career to $2 an hour labor in foreign countries so the companies stock price and bonus checks can keep rising... Lost my home so the bank can keeps its profits rolling.... An I need to feel lucky that I'm part of the worldwide 1% ? What an the hell is the color of the sky in your world?? I'm considered rich if I smoke cigarettes, or drink beer/wine/liqour or god forbide own a cellphone??? Are you kidding me??? This isn't india, china, north korea.... this is the united states of america. The day is coming when the scales will tip beyond the balance point folks.... better have your gun loaded.

  • Report this Comment On November 01, 2011, at 6:56 PM, jvuren wrote:

    I agree, we should all gauge ourselves by the standards of third-world countries. People making $34,000 / year in the USA are actually filthy, stinking rich and have no right to complain. Never mind that the cost of living is so much higher in the USA, that's completely irrelevant. This is a great article for regaining one's perspective, or at least the perspective of the rich in this country.

  • Report this Comment On November 01, 2011, at 7:46 PM, TMFHousel wrote:

    <<Never mind that the cost of living is so much higher in the USA, that's completely irrelevant.>>

    From the article:

    "Of course, goods and services cost different amounts in different countries. These numbers only apply to those living in the U.S. To adjust for purchasing power parity, those living in Western Europe should discount their dollar-denominated incomes by 10%-20%, Milanovic says. Those in China and Africa should increase their incomes by 2.5-fold. India, by threefold.

  • Report this Comment On November 01, 2011, at 7:58 PM, ShrikeTheFoolish wrote:

    Morgan,

    It's amazing how many lowercase fools will comment negatively on your articles without actually reading them in their entirety. If I had a dollar for everytime I've seen you reply with:

    "From the article..."

    then I wouldn't have to worry about investing for retirement.

    Thanks again for your time.

  • Report this Comment On November 01, 2011, at 8:00 PM, TMFHousel wrote:

    ^ Thank you :)

  • Report this Comment On November 01, 2011, at 8:28 PM, Sunny7039 wrote:

    Yes, it's true. The effects of the financial crisis, and of capitalism in general, certainly go far beyond our shores to poison the rest of the planet. We know that.

    Of course that comment was tongue-in-cheek. Sort-of.

    I will just suggest an alternate website with tremendous content: Nouriel Roubini's Economonitor. Anything by Simon Johnson is good, too. Remember that these are mainstream economists -- from NYU and MIT, respectively.

    The Fool is great for its stock gossip, and for feeling the pulse of the small investor community. As for the articles, I can't believe anyone gets paid to write this. Maybe they don't.

    Of course, if they do, that would explain a lot. I agree, they sure do make an easy buck, globally speaking.

  • Report this Comment On November 01, 2011, at 8:53 PM, Sunny7039 wrote:

    ayaghsizian:

    I don't "focus on what other people have" at all. I don't care.

    Where do you get this tripe? It's a typical red herring. The real question isn't what you have, but how you got it. By putting enough capital together to buy the laws that favor an even greater accumulation of capital by you and your cronies? What part of that sounds like "work" to you? What does it have to do with creating anything of real value? It has had a lot to do with destroying value, however -- which isn't part of anybody's job description . . . so, uh, how exactly does anyone manage to get a seven-figure bonus for doing it?

    I'm very happy with what I have, by the way, and have always been aware that my life is good compared to nearly all of the rest of humanity. I don't aspire to do more than maintain what I have materially, and to always improve what I do with it. The latter is up to me. The former, however, has very little to do with me or my own decisions. Material security is what has been stolen from nearly all of us in the developed world.

  • Report this Comment On November 01, 2011, at 11:58 PM, ShaunConnell wrote:

    Bravo.

  • Report this Comment On November 02, 2011, at 1:53 AM, ColdZ wrote:

    @TMFHousel, you say that you're apolitical in this discussion "...there is nothing political about this article." Yet your actions show otherwise. The only comments you have "corrected" are those with a liberal slant. I counted six against the liberal thoughts. There have been no corrections to the multiple conservative thoughts being batted around. 6-0, is sort of one sided... I would like to see "well I can see your point (conservative poster) but that's not what I was getting at... Here is my true meaning."

    The article definitely has a slant to it. What is the central idea or thesis? The title of the article gives us a clue. Basically the occupiers that protest against the 1% are protesting against themselves. Ironic huh? I can paraphrase for you, “Quit Your Crying, You’re Rich Too (from a Global Perspective)”. The secondary point is that they simply lack "perspective". Not exactly “on message” for OWS. Before I am accused of not reading the article, I have, twice.

    The “context” and “perspective” that you are painting is that we are all well off. I guess the pneumonia patients have it better than the tuberculosis patients, but that doesn’t nullify pneumonia sufferers’ right to be healthy. I agree that we are lucky to be Americans, but that does not discount the fact that genuine suffering and inequality still happens here.

    The one example that you cite, Ms. Frakes, is anecdotal at best. Sure I could dig up a person or two who is incongruously classified as “impoverished underclass”. However if you conduct further research you will note that these are the outliers or in layman’s terms the exceptions to the rule. I’m sure that I can provide you plenty of names from just from my area of people who cannot afford even basic nutrition, and they do not drive jaguars. I’m not sure how insulated you are from the working class but I see the effects of the poor economic conditions all around me as layoffs continue.

    I feel that you have part of the occupiers’ message down, but there is a major tenet that you may have overlooked. Yes, they believe that Wall Street and Bankers have sold the American public a bill of goods with the bailouts and deregulation that has happened. It is the socialization of risk and privatization of profit. It has created a moral risk in our system. However in this time of layoffs and limited opportunities it is unseemly that the income of the top 1% continues to climb. It’s not the just the income disparity but the fact that it increases as the workforce is told that they can’t receive raises, they must take a cut in their hours, or they must be let go.

    I acknowledge the two nods that you gave to OWS, but to be honest they came across as examples that you could point as “balance” or “fairness” in the article i.e. not exactly sincere. If we are to write an article disparaging the very beliefs underlying the movement we should just be up front about it.

  • Report this Comment On November 02, 2011, at 2:17 AM, Mehen1 wrote:

    Occupy = democracy in action

    Wall Street = capitalism in action

    Capitalists can exist in a democracy, but their can be no democracy in capitalism.

  • Report this Comment On November 02, 2011, at 2:18 AM, Mehen1 wrote:

    Sorry, I misspelled 'their', should have been 'there'.

  • Report this Comment On November 02, 2011, at 2:34 AM, porkfriedrayrice wrote:

    pathetic, the protestors are not comparing themselves to the rest of the world you idiot, WE ARE IN AMERICA!!! They are protesting for AMERICA!! not the rest of the world, China is communist run so comparing classes in the U.S to other countries who's Class systems are totally undemocratic and idealistically differnt is plain retarded! haha anyone who likes this article is part of the problem. I got it! lets just turn Communist so all of us make the same! THATS NOT AMERICA, comparing the rest of the world to the 1% is like pistol whipping a blind kid.

  • Report this Comment On November 02, 2011, at 3:16 AM, ShaunConnell wrote:

    Mehen1, capitalism is economic freedom. Democracy is political freedom. They're one and the same.

  • Report this Comment On November 02, 2011, at 3:47 AM, DrHockeystick wrote:

    There is nothing intrinsically wrong with captalism.

    Nationalize all the banks and run it like a utlitlies company.

  • Report this Comment On November 02, 2011, at 4:52 AM, AfoolwondersNot wrote:

    What's right is right. What's wrong is wrong. So what if there is some truth to the title: "...You're Probably Part of the 1%"?

    There are some extremely serious problems that need to be addressed.

    The protesters are sick and tired, and want to bring attention to the issues so possibly some change may come about.

    That is way more important than the point of your article.

  • Report this Comment On November 02, 2011, at 10:30 AM, ColdZ wrote:

    One other thing, the poverty levels in this country are at a 16 year high (as a percentage). Here are some highlights from the U.S. Census Bureau's report on 2010

    http://www.census.gov/hhes/www/poverty/data/incpovhlth/2010/...

    •The official poverty rate in 2010 was 15.1 percent — up from 14.3 percent in 2009. This was the third consecutive annual increase in the poverty rate. Since 2007, the poverty rate has increased by 2.6 percentage points, from 12.5 percent to 15.1 percent.

    •In 2010, 46.2 million people were in poverty, up from 43.6 million in 2009—the fourth consecutive annual increase in the number of people in poverty.

    •The number of people in poverty in 2010 (46.2 million) is the largest number in the 52 years for which poverty estimates have been published

    As a number we have more people in poverty than any year since the Census has been tracking it (52 years). The only way you can find a worse number is if you take the poor as a percentage of current population, then you have to go back 17 years to find an equivalent percentile. These people do not meet your $34,000 threshold and unfortunately their ranks increase daily. As their numbers grow I believe we will see more and more unrest in this country and increased protests like Occupy Wall Street. Food for thought...

  • Report this Comment On November 02, 2011, at 12:03 PM, af85 wrote:

    You can flip this line of reasoning around and argue for punitive tax rates on the rich, given how much better off they'd still be than anyone in the world. Can't complain about welfare policies in a capitalist economy when there are outright socialist dictatorships and Islamic theocracies in the world!

    Just because there are bigger problems elsewhere doesn't mean the problems facing you shouldn't be addressed. If one of your kids is bullying their siblings, you fix that even if your neighbor can't keep his kids from fighting.

  • Report this Comment On November 02, 2011, at 12:28 PM, TMFHousel wrote:

    <<Just because there are bigger problems elsewhere doesn't mean the problems facing you shouldn't be addressed.>>

    From the article:

    "This isn't to disparage the occupiers' message. Protestors are, I think, upset because so many of America's top 1% are perceived to have earned their income unjustifiably -- think bankers and bailouts. Most are not against inequality of wealth; they're against inequality of opportunity. As they should be."

    Nowhere in the article does it suggest that our problems shouldn't be addressed.

  • Report this Comment On November 02, 2011, at 12:46 PM, efffingreat wrote:

    So.... what you are saying is that because the rest of the world has less money that we should be ok with policies that could make us like that eventually?

    Wake up. If things don't change we WILL be like those other countries.

  • Report this Comment On November 02, 2011, at 12:59 PM, DJDynamicNC wrote:

    @Effingreat "So.... what you are saying is that because the rest of the world has less money that we should be ok with policies that could make us like that eventually?"

    Morgan has made it explicitly clear both in the article and in numerous responses to comments just like yours that that is NOT what he is saying. On such response is directly above your comment.

    I strongly, STRONGLY support the Occupy movement and I still was able to take the article for what it is - an interesting reminder that there is some perspective worth keeping in mind. That's all.

  • Report this Comment On November 02, 2011, at 1:02 PM, DJDynamicNC wrote:

    @Shaun: "capitalism is economic freedom. Democracy is political freedom. They're one and the same."

    Demonstrably false. Capitalism is a system for allocating resources, nothing more. If you measure freedom by "lack of restraint on ones actions" - a fair measure of freedom, I feel, but correct me if you disagree - then you'll find that a more accurate formula is "wealth = freedom" - and as capitalism tends to concentrate wealth to whatever extent it is not prevented by regulation from doing so, it looks quite clear that capitalism restricts freedom for the vast majority of us.

    Which, indeed, is precisely what you're finding - and precisely why there is an Occupation in the works.

  • Report this Comment On November 02, 2011, at 1:37 PM, cattywampus wrote:

    Wow! this article has got legs, I thought it would have slowed to a crawl by now. @ ColdZ your passion is blazing, thanks for the census info, you can't get much better for the cold hard facts. In Morgan's defense, he is probably limited in what he can write for the fool and has a target audience, who knows what this mild mannered reporter does when he goes out alone at night. If he does reside in the other camp we'll just have to count him as a worthy adversary and if not we could use the help. Look up in the clouds the signal. @ yogi3333 you idea about the oil reserves is interesting. Maybe we could develop a national ballot system like the state of California to bypass (currently on life support) the congress.

  • Report this Comment On November 02, 2011, at 1:38 PM, jsamans wrote:

    In an academic context, this article has merit. Its point from the global perspective is both indisputably true and relevant to a broader discussion.

    But make no mistake: the comparatively comfortable lives of Americans in general do not in any way excuse or justify the plutocrats who pay themselves tens or hundreds of millions of dollars as back-patting for self-proclaimed jobs well done, or collect when they are fired tens or hundreds of millions in severance under terms of contracts their cronies approved.

    If Americans in general are in the top 1% of the world -- and that seems unlikely, seeing as how there are 300 million Americans and 7 billion people, making Americans about 4.3% of the total world population -- that still leaves the plutocrats still more out of touch with human reality.

  • Report this Comment On November 02, 2011, at 1:44 PM, michlav1 wrote:

    If it's perspective that is needed than I believe the 1% of the 1% are the ones who need it. What's their average income? How much more do they have over everybody else?

  • Report this Comment On November 02, 2011, at 1:48 PM, DJDynamicNC wrote:

    I wonder how long it will take for the people who ran MF Global into the ground to find new jobs on Wall Street.

    The job market works differently once you're part of the (American) 1%.

  • Report this Comment On November 02, 2011, at 1:49 PM, peterozumurray wrote:

    Thanks, Morgan. You make an excellent suggestion for a new OWS slogan:

    "We Are The 99.9999%"

    Or whatever the precise number is, once we exclude the top 1% of American incomes that have risen so precipitously, as you point out, not only relative to the bottom 99% of American earners, but to the incomes of the rest of the world, as well.

    By the way, could you provide the precise percentage of people in the world whose incomes are higher than $380,000 per year (adjusted for PPP, of course), so that OWS knows just how large the group is that they fall into?

  • Report this Comment On November 02, 2011, at 3:11 PM, prost1 wrote:

    I've traveled through many countries around the world and can confidently state all Americans (poor included) have a great living standard by comparison. The author is correct, Context means everything. A lawyer friend works for an organization that inspects 3rd world manufacturing plants to make sure they are not abusing worker rights. Its part of a certification program to assure apparel companies are using high ethical standards. Ironically, the local workers hate the program because it limits their working hours. The certification program requires the workers to limit their hours of employment. So what happens is the workers work the maximum they can at one job and then go to their second job to evade the program's labor hour limit. These third world workers are a much more admirable type of folk than the OWS folks. If the OWS crowd would stop occupying and pick up an actual job occupation they would likely find more happiness and security.

  • Report this Comment On November 02, 2011, at 3:18 PM, TheeMadCatte wrote:

    The article mentions, "But things always need to be kept in perspective. Only in America, I thought to myself after reading the article, can someone be driving a Jaguar and portrayed as living in an impoverished underclass. Context is crucial with these issues."

    Yes, things always need to be kept in perspective.

    Like you should have had the perspective to notice that you were reading an article written by a minion of Rupert Murdoch. You should have noticed that this garbage that you mention is a pathetic attempt at discrediting the safety net that any respectable country provides to their citizens.

    You should also keep in perspective that you are a crappy freelance author who gets paid piddley crap for this garbage you write. And that sucking up to the 1% does not make you one of them.

    Indeed the only perspective that needs to be clarified is that you, Morgan Housel, are most definately NOT one of the 1%

  • Report this Comment On November 02, 2011, at 3:21 PM, TMFHousel wrote:

    ^ Curious, how much do I make?

  • Report this Comment On November 02, 2011, at 3:34 PM, hbofbyu wrote:

    To those that occupy Wall Street:

    You cannot strengthen the weak by weakening the strong

    You cannot help the poor man by destroying the rich.

    You cannot further the brotherhood of man by inciting class hatred.

    You cannot help small men by tearing down big men.

    You cannot lift the wage earner by pulling down the wage payer.

    You cannot keep out of trouble by spending more than your income.

    You cannot establish security on borrowed money.

    You cannot help men permanently by doing for them what they will not do for themselves.

    --- William J. H. Boetcker

  • Report this Comment On November 02, 2011, at 3:50 PM, mhonarvar wrote:

    we all know what/who the 1% represents...

    stretching the stats out like this to change the topic from a national issue to a global comparison just supports the status quo.

  • Report this Comment On November 02, 2011, at 4:20 PM, hbofbyu wrote:

    And to finish my point to the protestors:

    Blaming Wall Street is like blaming a man who finds a $5 bill on the sidewalk and he picks it up instead of leaving it there for someone less fortunate to come along.

    Businesses and Banks and Corporations do not and cannot survive on virtue.

    If you want your voice heard, if you want to affect change, go where the problem lies, Washington DC.

    I have yet to understand why you are on Wall Street when the problem is with policy and regulation. Blame the self serving politicians you've elected over the past 20 years.

  • Report this Comment On November 02, 2011, at 4:21 PM, BlahBlahBlahhhh wrote:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Household_income_in_the_United_...

    It would seem that the majority of Americans are "getting by" on an income less than $34,000/yr. Effectively still placing them in the 99% according to this author's calculations.

    The wealth desparity between America's top1% and the majority of American's and the world's population as a whole only serves to strengthen the argument that our global economic system based on a principal of scarcity REQUIRES a certain amount of slave labor in order to function. If we take all the emotion and moral judgment out of our evaluation of market economies, that is the grim fact. Billionaires only are able to have those billions if children are dying of starvation somewhere.

    My argument is that the spice must flow. Market economies, if they are to prevent an implosion, must redistribute some (not necessarily all) wealth to maintain a large middle class as a buffer to prevent revolt of the social system. This argument is as old as acient Greece, so to call it common sense should be redundant, but unfortunately, it isn't.

    I would argue for a cap on lifetime earnings. At a certain point, you are required to give something back through charity, or if necessary, enforced giving through taxes. That cap could be calculated as what one person living, even luxouriously, could reasonably spend in two lifetimes (Second lifetime is for the children. If those kids waste their windfall, screw the grandkids.)

    Unless it could be determined that your economic or social accomplishments could impact many future generations (i.e. on par with curing cancer), in which case, perhaps 3 or 4 lifetimes could be in order. But being a hegefund manager or making a couple interesting movies or sitting in Washington screwing with people's lives as though you were on Mount Olypmus DOES NOT warrant that kind of scratch in your bank account.

  • Report this Comment On November 02, 2011, at 4:26 PM, ageofknowledge wrote:

    Nice try Motley, but we're no fools.

  • Report this Comment On November 02, 2011, at 4:27 PM, whereaminow wrote:

    "Billionaires only are able to have those billions if children are dying of starvation somewhere. "

    ROFL, yeah no emotion in that statement whatsoever.

    Children in countries that are suffering from absolute poverty are the victims of a lack of capital accumulation, most likely due to conditions of corruption or lack of property rights that makes both local and foreign investment unattractive. Many countries solved the problem of starvation before. They weren't orignally starving because of greedy billionaires (because there were none.) They were starving because there was no accumulation of capital goods (these are things that make things). Once you accrue enough capital goods, you can feed a nation. Unfortuanely, that requires saving and property rights, which is not widely understood.

    Morgan,

    What a riot of a thead! I really wish I could I have participated!

    David

  • Report this Comment On November 02, 2011, at 4:27 PM, Bert31 wrote:

    Morgan I feel for you. I see now that you really do take it from both sides. I never saw that before. In my book, that means you must be doing something right. Keep up the good work.

  • Report this Comment On November 02, 2011, at 4:30 PM, TMFHousel wrote:

    ^ No need. People are entitled to be outraged at other's opinions. I don't take it personally.

  • Report this Comment On November 02, 2011, at 4:34 PM, Bert31 wrote:

    Cool I will remember that next time I am outraged by one of your articles!

  • Report this Comment On November 02, 2011, at 5:32 PM, af85 wrote:

    On November 02, 2011, at 12:28 PM, TMFHousel wrote:

    "Nowhere in the article does it suggest that our problems shouldn't be addressed."

    The paragraph you cite was an aside. Everything leading up to it was arguing the side of the debate that I am criticizing, and the paragraph after it goes right back to the main point. That one paragraph was clearly there to moderate the piece, which is a fairly common way for any author to strengthen his credibility in the minds of readers.

    Yes, I get it, you're providing perspective. But that perspective itself should be the aside in this debate. What are the protesters supposed to do in response to such perspective? Quiet their voices and be modest in their criticisms? Convenient arrangement for those on the other side.

    The "other people have it worse" argument is patronizing by nature, too often used to shame outspoken people into shutting up and falling in line. Even if that's not your aim, it remains an unproductive avenue of discussion to do things like rattle off a list of now-standard household appliances disgruntled Americans should count themselves blessed to have.

    I do agree that there are a lot of spoiled brats among the Occupy Wall Street crowd, but there are lot more honest people who didn't play along with the easy money hysteria yet were thrown around by the market's volatility just the same, before ultimately having the rug yanked out from under them. And then they had to bail out one side of the easy credit party on top of all that.

    So be it if it takes a bunch of upper-middle class college graduates angry about their debt load to get the ball rolling on reform... by and large, you're not going to have regular folk properly represented at any protest anywhere, given that most of them have obligations to family and career. Obligations that many of these protesters feel they've been set back in attaining due to the corrupting marriage of government power and business interests. And that, far more than anything else, is what all this is about.

  • Report this Comment On November 02, 2011, at 6:42 PM, Sunny7039 wrote:

    Gee, I have an idea. Suppose your wife dies in childbirth of gross medical malpractice, and your child is seriously brain damaged. Should you complain? Of course not. Just think of all the Third World women who had no prenatal care at all, and whose life expectancy is less than your late wife's age when she died.

    Keep a perspective.

    Consider what you can do better now.

    Think about what you did to cause this situation (say, why DID you ignore that anonymous Internet post by someone named Elvis69 that said the obstetrician was "an insain dosh bag?").

    Write in your Gratitude Journal.

    There. That's better.

    On the other hand, if the point of this article is that many Americans have been complicit in this despoiling of the world, and have materially benefitted from it . . . hmm. You may have a point there. It is time we did something about that.

  • Report this Comment On November 02, 2011, at 6:45 PM, Sunny7039 wrote:

    BTW, does anyone know how the Marine veteran who was injured by police in Oakland is doing now?

    Does anyone even remember him? No? That's what I call ingratitude.

  • Report this Comment On November 02, 2011, at 6:51 PM, TMFHousel wrote:

    <<Should you complain? Of course not.>>

    Again, please show where in the article it says people shouldn't complain. Once completed, I'll happily show you the part where it says they should.

  • Report this Comment On November 02, 2011, at 7:10 PM, Sunny7039 wrote:

    Who said the article said people shouldn't complain? Please show me where I said the article said that.

    I'm the one who is saying people shouldn't complain, and should keep an Gratitude Journal. As well as of course, Blaming Themselves If They're Not Rich(er).

    Now, about that injured Marine . . . got any info? That's something I really am interested in.

    Thanks.

  • Report this Comment On November 02, 2011, at 7:20 PM, whereaminow wrote:

    I can give you an update. He thought that going thousands of miles away to invade a nation that never attafcked America would "protect our freedoms." Now he has found out the hard way that war always results in the loss of freedoms.

    David

  • Report this Comment On November 02, 2011, at 7:29 PM, 5thand7th wrote:

    Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's house, wife, possessions .....10th Commandment.

    They are called Commandments, not suggestions. Yes, I do break some of them on a daily basis, but they offer a pathway for living our lives.

    I don't have time to rail against Wall Street. If someone did something against the law to accumulate their wealth, then they should be prosecuted. End of story.

    The OWS people should go home and try to improve their lives and the lives of those around them. Envy does no one any good. I guess I could go on and on. But I'll spare the readers. I thought it was a good article and but for the grace of God, we were born here in the USA. How lucky we ALL are.

  • Report this Comment On November 02, 2011, at 7:30 PM, WikiCPA wrote:

    Ingratitude? The american people for years get a free checking account while the bank pays the overhead cost (~$300/year). When they try to charge $5/month, $60/year, the American people get up and complain? That's ingratitude.

    When Monsanto was starting up and needed financing by Goldman Sachs to produce innovative ingredients to end world hunger, people were not cheering. But now they are destroying GS. That's ingratitude.

    When an educated student can't find a job (this is rare as 4.3% of college graduates have a job as of 9/30/11), and go Occupy Wall Street to voice their strong opinions, only to let a bunch of deadbeats, homeless, and followers come trash and smoke marijuana at the front stage of this protest, that is ingratitude of your own beliefs.

    I wonder how many kids at OWS have parents that struggled to 'build capital' to put a down payment in order to buy a house to raise that kid. I've seen studies that raising a child in a single-family home is much more beneficial than an apt/condo (or maybe i just heard but cmon, can you argue with that?) That's ingratitude.

    And about that Marine Veteran, do you agree with the fact that if you switched groups (Marine Veteran + protestors with the group of police), you don't think the protestors would immediately gas and subdue the police members? If you don't, you need to get out some more.

    I'm only 22, and my parents came here to birth me 22 years ago. I've listened and opened my ears to the 1% and they all told me it takes hard work. Why would I antagonize the system that I was raised in? What kind of kid would I be if I demanded a 6-figure salary when I haven't even proved my abilities?

  • Report this Comment On November 02, 2011, at 7:59 PM, Bugle4 wrote:

    Is this the same individual named "Morgan Housel" who wrote a laughable piece a few days ago citing selective statistics in claiming that "most of what the US purchases isn't made in China, but made in the US" -- followed by canned 'thumbs up' responses by paid posters.

    Hey, Morgan: I'm one of those 'fly-by' readers who isn't taken in by your propaganda. Sorry.

  • Report this Comment On November 02, 2011, at 8:18 PM, hbofbyu wrote:

    Find the real reasons people are suffering and you will see that the evils of Wall Street are just a piece of the pie.

    We are in the midst of finding equilibrium in an economy that continues to be disrupted by globalization, outsourcing, increased efficiencies and a housing bubble that masked our overspent wealth in real terms.

    People are a resource. When people work (properly allocated) wealth is created.

    When you hear ridiculously impossible comments like "put a cap on lifetime earnings" it makes you wonder if there is much intelligence in the occupy Wall St. movement.

  • Report this Comment On November 02, 2011, at 8:28 PM, Sunny7039 wrote:

    Let's not argue vainly. Let's redo the math. 1% of one billion is ten million. (Everyone should know this automatically.) Thus, 1% of 7 billion is 70 million. Even assuming all 70 million of the top 1% globally are American (a preposterous assumption), that still means you would have to be pretty well in the top quartile here to qualify. In fact, if we dispense with the preposterous assumption, it's starting to look like you may have to be in the top 10% here to qualify. In any case, it is NOT "probably" the case the the OWS protesters are in the top 1% globally. Q.E.D.

  • Report this Comment On November 03, 2011, at 11:41 AM, DJDynamicNC wrote:

    @Sunny - Scott Olsen, the marine injured in Oakland, has been recovering well and is now listed in "fair" condition. He is a personal hero to tens of thousands of OWS protesters and you'll see his name and face on thousands of signs. We do not forget our own. We are grateful to him and to all who serve to protect us from enemies - foreign AND domestic.

  • Report this Comment On November 03, 2011, at 11:46 AM, DJDynamicNC wrote:

    @WikiCPA - that's a lot of unsubstantiated claims. For example: "I've seen studies that raising a child in a single-family home is much more beneficial than an apt/condo (or maybe i just heard but cmon, can you argue with that?) "

    You're right, I can't argue with that, because there isn't any substance to argue with you. It's a totally unsubstantiated claim.

    Or this: "do you agree with the fact that if you switched groups (Marine Veteran + protestors with the group of police), you don't think the protestors would immediately gas and subdue the police members? "

    Completely unsubstantiated.

    You'll have to do better than that, my friend.

  • Report this Comment On November 03, 2011, at 12:08 PM, DJDynamicNC wrote:

    @hbofbyu: You cannot strengthen the weak by refusing to listen.

    You cannot help the poor man by bailing out the rich.

    You cannot further the brotherhood of man by perpetuating class pillaging.

    You cannot help small men by cowering behind brutal men.

    You cannot be a wage payer without the labour of a wage earner.

    You cannot keep out of trouble by overleveraging your accounts and socializing losses on the backs of the poor.

    You cannot establish security on toxic loans.

    You cannot help men permanently by doing to them what they would never do to themselves.

  • Report this Comment On November 03, 2011, at 12:12 PM, DJDynamicNC wrote:

    @bugle4: "followed by canned 'thumbs up' responses by paid posters."

    Now there's a sound investment - I put in my two cents and get dollars in return.

    Morgan, I'll be expecting my check promptly.

  • Report this Comment On November 03, 2011, at 1:22 PM, WikiCPA wrote:

    DJDynamicNC,

    I forgot that I'm expected to do all the work. Common sense would've made one google 'child in house or home study' and find the first link helpful: http://healthland.time.com/2010/12/13/study-99-of-children-l...

    Isn't it common sense that children aren't as free to ride bikes, play around safely in their backyard, etc in an apartment home than a house? You're just making up excuses to not refute my claims. What about all the other points? It seems like you just attacked my comments because they upset you....

    And i didn't make a point about the marine and police, i asked a commentor what they would have done if the shoe were on the other foot. and to continue my point of ingratitude, I found out today that a volunteer chef and OWS protestor was arrested and ostracized by fellow protestors for sexually assaulting two fellow protestors. How do these people let that kind of thing go on when there are hundreds of tents around? If it weren't for the 'bad' policemen, who knows what else could have happen.

    You're gonna have to work harder than that my friend.

  • Report this Comment On November 03, 2011, at 5:46 PM, maninatl wrote:

    It is very misleading to mention the average salary of a person in the US. To give you an example that is roughly comparable to the general US population, consider the income of a group of 10 persons.

    7 persons in the group earn $10,000 each.

    2 persons in the group earn $100,000 each.

    1 person in the group earn $1,000,000.

    Now if you compute the average salary of the 10 persons, it will be $127,000! Does this "Average" figure even remotely come close to the $10,000 earned by each person in the majority?

    In the same way telling that the average income of a person in the US is $34,000 is misleading, since that figure has come up by counting the wealth of comparatively few ultra-rich billionaires and millionaires. The majority might have much less than the $34,000 figure.

  • Report this Comment On November 03, 2011, at 6:11 PM, skypilot2005 wrote:

    +rec

  • Report this Comment On November 03, 2011, at 6:15 PM, TMFHousel wrote:

    maninatl,

    When average incomes are typically discussed, it's median, not mean, that is used.

  • Report this Comment On November 03, 2011, at 6:15 PM, Darwood11 wrote:

    @maninatl

    It's important to use family income, not individual income. My kids, below 16 made $0 per year, taxable income. Yet they lived and thrived in one of the most affluent communities in the US!

    According to the US Census Bureau, in 2009 the median household income was $49,777. So, half the families in the US made more than that, and half made less.

    And yet, according to the US Census Bureau, 72.3% of all households in the US had incomes greater than $34,999, and 82.2% had incomes greater than $24,999.

  • Report this Comment On November 03, 2011, at 6:26 PM, DJDynamicNC wrote:

    @WikiCPA - You're right, sorry to make you do the work. I googled "Study child in apartment" to see what came up and got the same study you did about second hand smoke.

    For three pages.

    There wasn't a single other study about children in apartment dwellings. Your "common sense" assertion that children can play in the backyard in a home ignores a variety of countervailing factors (apartments have yards, parks are accessible and often safer for the pedestrian traffic, etc). And biking in a city, with bike lanes and plenty of bike traffic, is far safer than biking on dark country roads. Either one of us could be right here, but there isn't an objective way to find out and we're both going to wind up relying on "common sense" - which is just another phrase for "things that agree with our existing biases."

    At no point did I suggest the police are "bad." They have screwed up a number of times, but I expect that in stressful situations. We want them to focus on crimes that matter - maybe arrest a Wall Street executive here and there instead of pepper spraying protesters who are sitting still - but nobody is advocating an end to police forces or anarchy (well, most of us aren't - certainly a few are). Police officers are public servants. We just want them to focus their direction in the right place.

  • Report this Comment On November 03, 2011, at 9:02 PM, Sunny7039 wrote:

    "WikiCPA's" post contained so much illogical and nonsensical rambling that it is hard to know where to start. Are a bank's customers supposed to be "grateful" for having a place to deposit their money, so "grateful" that they don't close their accounts and go straight to the nearest credit union when the fees become absurd? Since when are a bank's customers NOT market participants, just as entitled to quit one service provider and find a better one as anyone else? Seriously. These are institutions WE BAILED OUT that we're talking about, and bonuses that were nevertheless paid (for what? good performance? Ha!) and frequently sent to offshore tax shelters. What part of this sounds like fair play to you?

    As for police, and other first responders, and veterans . . . who do you think is being asked to work more for less money, and accept fewer benefits than they were promised for their service? It's not going to take long for them to figure it out, either. The "shoe on the other foot" observation was incoherent. If you want to argue that way, you have to be clear.

    I can't believe this person is really an accountant. And if he is, I have three words for him: MARK TO MARKET.

    As for the original article -- a dollar is a rubber yardstick. That is something you can't use as a point of comparison. It makes no more sense to ignore place than it does to ignore time. I mean, seriously, $20,000 was a decent starting salary for any college grad, back in 1970. So?

    TMF never answered my math -- that 1% of 7 billion is 70 million. This shows that it is highly unlikely that "most" of the protesters are in the top 1% globally -- in fact, it's unlikely even if every single one of those 70 million were Americans, an assumption we already know to be false.

    You just don't expect to see such sloppy reasoning on a financial website. These are not articles, they are various sales pitches being floated as a test, to see what response they get.

  • Report this Comment On November 04, 2011, at 8:36 AM, maninatl wrote:

    On November 02, 2011, at 7:30 PM, WikiCPA wrote:

    "The american people for years get a free checking account while the bank pays the overhead cost (~$300/year). "

    That is very correct. Right on the mark! Sunny7039, you should not argue with WikiCPA's numbers.

    Just think for a second... You deposit money into a bank account. But there must be people to maintain and safeguard your money. Not just that... The bank bosses and their buddies do make a loooot of money. They also get rewarded multimillion dollar bonuses. They get paid even if the bank has all those non-performing toxic loans on its balance sheet. There are huge overhead costs to running a bank if you count just those bonuses alone!

  • Report this Comment On November 04, 2011, at 12:46 PM, nautiluschamber wrote:

    I'll grant this article an ounce of credit if we can all agree that comparing what was the finest country and economy in the world to standards of 3rd world populations the world over is somehow a smarter perspective. Sure, I earn more than my dog. I'm like, a bazillionaire in her mind. That's not clear thinking guys.

    Maybe crazy, but hear me out. I think if we looked less for a common denominator to make ourselves feel better and more for real solution to have a wealthy, healthy, productive society, we'd all agree being an American is a privilege again. Imagine that

  • Report this Comment On November 04, 2011, at 12:50 PM, TMFHousel wrote:

    <<I'll grant this article an ounce of credit if we can all agree that comparing what was the finest country and economy in the world to standards of 3rd world populations the world over is somehow a smarter perspective. Sure, I earn more than my dog. I'm like, a bazillionaire in her mind. That's not clear thinking guys.>>

    The thing is, for the same reason that you don't want to compare yourself to someone in India, the hedge fund manager or Goldman Sachs banker doesn't want to compare themselves to an unemployed person in Detroit. Both groups thinks it's an apples to oranges comparison. It's all about your perspectives.

  • Report this Comment On November 04, 2011, at 1:40 PM, colddrink73 wrote:

    @Morgan House

    Great article.

    @maninatl

    "On November 02, 2011, at 7:30 PM, WikiCPA wrote:

    "The american people for years get a free checking account while the bank pays the overhead cost (~$300/year). "

    That is very correct. Right on the mark! Sunny7039, you should not argue with WikiCPA's numbers."

    You have to realize that the reason most banks had a "free checking" was so they could get more customers and therefore more debit accounts to access their money at retailers. The Banks could then charge the retailers a nice fee to obtain that money from the banks. New legislation has come into effect that no longer allows the banks to charge these fees to the retailer. Some banks have started charging fees to use checking accounts without direct deposit, some banks have started charging fees if you do not have a minimum balance of around $5000. This is all still in flux right now as most of these changes are very recent.

    The article written by Morgan may be a little slanted to the right but I believe that is to be expected. I feel his article was well written and well received by those who READ the article. Many people did not read the article and made comments that had nothing to do with the content of the article.

    Here are some things off topic:

    I think that childhood hunger and obesity are both issues that should be addressed but to what end. We as a nation which supplements farms not to produce in order to keep market levels at a reasonable amount should never have anyone going hungry. However, we should also not have children who are morbidly obese. Should we have CPS remove obese children from their homes because it should be considered a form of child abuse? Should the government farm land and give the produce to the hungry. Should the government take all of our money away and redistribute it evenly so some people have more while some have less. Should churches be exempt from paying taxes on land even though the Catholic Church is the single largest land holder in the world? Should a mother on welfare who gets a job see her benefits decreased by an amount which is more than she makes? Should the government stop illegal immigration and deport all those here illegally back to the violent countries they came from so US citizens can work jobs currently being worked by the 40 million “undocumented workers”?

    Can any one solution fix all of these problems??? Of course not!!! The great thing about America is that you can vote to change the laws, vote to change the politicians who are bought by special interest groups, vote to change the President who appoints the Supreme Court, vote to elect the Sherriff who enforces or does not enforce the laws. You can protest in the streets to raise awareness for injustice. All of these things you can do in our country. This great country of ours has A LOT of problems. This country is not perfect. But this is the country I love.

    g

  • Report this Comment On November 04, 2011, at 1:50 PM, DJDynamicNC wrote:

    @Colddrink - good response. I'm pleased you mentioned taxing churches. It's shocking to me that we don't tax them. It's not the middle ages.

  • Report this Comment On November 04, 2011, at 3:14 PM, infopackrat wrote:

    This article talks about "buying power," but not cost of living. There's a reason 99% of the American population has running water. I'll give you a hint: One Texas family, after losing their home and making a new one out of their storage facility with electricity, shower, and toilet had their six kids taken away by CPS for not providing "adequete" living conditions. Look at all the fees (liscense for the car that gets you to work, insurance for said car, etc.) that simply don't exist for a people who trot off into the woods to get supper and never see a car-friendly road. There's no point in teaching a man to fish if he can't afford the liscense to put his line into any river. But that's America, and that's why so many people depend on government handouts

  • Report this Comment On November 04, 2011, at 6:21 PM, Fool406 wrote:

    Morgan Housel's article was thought provoking (Thank You) but seemed to stimulate a lot of talk and some thinking. It would be interesting if someone could use this talk and thinking to compile two lists for us to further consider.

    1.) What do the OWS people want? (A list organized by number)

    2.) What are some practical steps to meet those wants? (Each step identified by the "Want" or "Wants" to which it applies)

    Then we could vote on the suggestions and find some useful ideas to promote.

  • Report this Comment On November 04, 2011, at 6:51 PM, Chance11 wrote:

    Not exactly. Not even close. I think you're missing a point.

    I owe hundreds in taxes from recent workers' comp I just filed this summer when I totaled my personal automobile driving on a work-related job. That's not deductible. And the car? All new payments. Hurray. All mine. That's hundreds more I'm out, every single month. So I can work. That's not tax deductible, either. I'm OK with that. That's life. I'm a grown-up.

    Wait, I'm making a point.

    How much in taxes did the lienholder of my new car pay last year? Eh? How much were they given in bailouts? How much was the carmaker I bought the car from paid in bail-out money? How much did that company pay in taxes? How much in taxes did the mega dealership I bought it from pay?

    I pay more in taxes in one year than many of those gargantuan corporations pay in one year.

    I live nearly debt-free. My credit score is in the top 90 percent in the nation.

    I am not part of the 1%. You do not speak for me.

    I graduated from a 4-year college in 4 years. I worked 3-4 jobs. I paid my way. I had small Pell grants and very small scholarships (for about three semesters, $500 each semester). I owed only $2,000 when I graduated ONLY because I charged my last semester's books so I could take 20 hours of classes. Otherwise, I wouldn't have been able to afford it. I graduated as one of the top students in my entire state in j-school/liberal arts.

    I AM A PROFESSIONAL. I AM A COLLEGE GRADUATE. I PAY MY OWN WAY. I AM RESPONSIBLE.

    PLUS! I'm a registered Republican, to boot.

    I AM THE 99 PERCENT.

    Thank you for listening (well, reading).

  • Report this Comment On November 04, 2011, at 7:23 PM, Rborlick wrote:

    This article is ridiculous. Yes, compared to Uganda, someone making $34,000 is "rich." So what?

    We are living in the USA and the obscene bonuses and other inequities that are reported every day by the media cannot be excused by the poor in other countries. The protests we against Wall Street and corporate greed are long overdue.

    The working and middle classes need to take back their country. And the first step is to kick those Republican conservatives out of office that are pandering to the rich and powerful. Let's close the tax loopholes, sunset Bush's tax cuts, reinstate the "death tax" (a misnomer) and make the rich pay their fair share! I will gladly pay more in taxes if the top 1 percent to too.

  • Report this Comment On November 04, 2011, at 7:27 PM, TMFHousel wrote:

    <<This article is ridiculous. Yes, compared to Uganda, someone making $34,000 is "rich." So what?>>

    Yes, compared with an unemployed plummer, a Goldman Sachs banker is rich. So what?

  • Report this Comment On November 04, 2011, at 9:06 PM, Sunny7039 wrote:

    STILL no answer to my math. Emotional appeals galore, just like during the Cold War. ("America is the best country, rah rah" -- like you've ever lived anywhere else.)

    No one comments on the fact that the mathematics of this article is simply wrong.

    I think it can be obnoxious to repeat oneself, copy-and-paste, etc., but (UNFORTUNATELY), this time it is deserved:

    "As for the original article -- a dollar is a rubber yardstick. That is something you can't use as a point of comparison. It makes no more sense to ignore place than it does to ignore time. I mean, seriously, $20,000 was a decent starting salary for any college grad, back in 1970. So?

    TMF never answered my math -- that 1% of 7 billion is 70 million. This shows that it is highly unlikely that "most" of the protesters are in the top 1% globally -- in fact, it would be unlikely even if every single one of those 70 million were Americans, an assumption we already know to be false."

    I frankly don't think there is any excuse for bad logic and bad math on an investment website. The math isn't a matter of opinion.

  • Report this Comment On November 04, 2011, at 9:36 PM, ChrisBern wrote:

    Great article Morgan...I've been thinking the same thing ever since the Occupy movement started--poor Americans are vastly better off than most of the rest of the world, not only in resources, but also in OPPORTUNITY! Most people in the world are not able to get free education up through 12th grade and then take out loans (not to mention scholarships/grants) for anything up to a PhD. My America needs to quit whining and start competing.

  • Report this Comment On November 05, 2011, at 4:15 AM, wwwenger wrote:

    When you think about the fact that 99% of the world's population is earning less than $34,000 per year, and that 95% of those in developing countries earn less than $10 per day, it makes you realize how much bigger and more satisfactory a market the world could have if income disparities were not so great. If world efforts were aimed at raising the incomes of the poor instead of at raising the incomes of the wealthy, we'd all be able to buy more, and what would that do to world prosperity? The one percent would probably still be the one percent, but we'd all be better off.

  • Report this Comment On November 06, 2011, at 10:40 AM, bigfrog6 wrote:

    This is so true. After travelling to India several times and seeing true poverty (people who have literally nothing but the clothes they are wearing) I have come to the conclusion that American really does not have a true poor class. Even the poor here have cars, flat screen TVs, computers, cell phones and live a lifestyle equivalent to what other countries might call their middle class.

  • Report this Comment On November 06, 2011, at 12:05 PM, wasmick wrote:

    "TMF never answered my math -- that 1% of 7 billion is 70 million. This shows that it is highly unlikely that "most" of the protesters are in the top 1% globally -- in fact, it would be unlikely even if every single one of those 70 million were Americans, an assumption we already know to be false. I frankly don't think there is any excuse for bad logic and bad math on an investment website. The math isn't a matter of opinion."

    They haven't answered because you don't work for TMF so they're probably not holding you accountable for it.

  • Report this Comment On November 07, 2011, at 2:11 PM, SunTzu1 wrote:

    To those questioning the math in this article... where does it say "most" of the protesters are in the world's 1%? He says "MANY of those protesting the 1% are, ironically, the 1%." This is likely a true statement, since, according to the study by the World Bank economist, you only need to earn $34,000 to be among the top 1% of the world.

    The .01 times 7 billion calculation is a great catch and I for one am glad it was mentioned. But to be fair the article did not say "most" of the protesters, it said "many". I'd say many of the OWS protesters earn more than $34,000, and if they don't because they're in school, their parents paying their tuition certainly earn more than $34,000.

  • Report this Comment On November 07, 2011, at 3:28 PM, wasmick wrote:

    @SunTzu1 - be quiet,

    Sunny has been trying to make the same silly point for weeks now and since no one else has seen fit to point out to her that her logic is highly flawed, I don't see why you feel the need to be such a party pooper.

  • Report this Comment On November 07, 2011, at 5:28 PM, pehenia wrote:

    I think part of the problem with this article is that it treats America and Americans as one monolithic whole. Yes, America as a whole is much richer other countries, but that doesn't mean the average American is. Most of the wealth is concentrated in the top 1%, which is exactly what is being protested.

    http://sociology.ucsc.edu/whorulesamerica/power/wealth.html

    According to this article, the bottom 40% of Americans contain only 0.3% of the wealth of America. At 48.5 trilltion for the wealth of the US (according to Wikipedia), that means 1.455 trillion for 120 million people, which is $12,125 per person. So according to TMF Housel, that would be the same as having $4,850 in total accumulated wealth, including housing, retirement, material possessions, etc., if you lived in Africa or China.

    I suppose he's trying to make the point that if your yearly income is say... $3,000, and had a wealth of $4,850 you'd be sitting pretty in Africa or China. However there is another problem with this. In either of these places you're more likely to be able to afford food and medications than if you're poor and living in the US. Ironically, our poor have TVs and refridgerators but cannot feed their children or pay for health care. Just looking at Best Buy's website right now, I can get a Whirlpool fridge for $359.99 and it will probably last a few years. I could get one cheaper on Craigslist. The food to put in that fridge, for a family of four, could easily, and I mean EASILY be just as much money for one month. Even subsistence farmers in China can feed their families.

    How poor or rich a person is isn't measured in money - after all money is just a means to an end. It is measured in quality of life, and in that a very large part of America - a part most Fools probably drive over or around on the freeway and never give much of a though to - is on-par or behind much of the rest of the world.

  • Report this Comment On November 08, 2011, at 12:51 PM, elumragus wrote:

    if you want more "analysis" like this article just watch Fox News

    --btw I hear Fox say this exact thing a month ago -- but great minds think alike -- I'm not

    implying he used one of their talking points but you decide for yourself

  • Report this Comment On November 08, 2011, at 12:52 PM, elumragus wrote:

    any one agree that Fool.com does not need political articles like this one?

  • Report this Comment On November 08, 2011, at 12:53 PM, elumragus wrote:

    so no political articles here on either side?

  • Report this Comment On November 08, 2011, at 1:02 PM, TMFHousel wrote:

    ^ What part of this article did you find political?

  • Report this Comment On November 08, 2011, at 1:16 PM, EDJMCPS wrote:

    When the Grapes of Wrath came out in the 20th Century, Russia banned it because they did not want there people to know the poor in America were driving a car thru the dust bowl to find work.

    Nothing has changed just the stats and how there presented. If you don't work you get what you get.

    You will always have the good & the bad It's what you do in life that counts.

  • Report this Comment On November 08, 2011, at 1:56 PM, wasmick wrote:

    "any one agree that Fool.com does not need political articles like this one?"

    I do!

    I assume you are referring to your replies, right?

    Because the only politics in the article are politics inferred by you filtered through your own political agenda. But you knew that already...

  • Report this Comment On November 08, 2011, at 3:23 PM, kyleleeh wrote:

    << I can get a Whirlpool fridge for $359.99 and it will probably last a few years. I could get one cheaper on Craigslist. The food to put in that fridge, for a family of four, could easily, and I mean EASILY be just as much money for one month. Even subsistence farmers in China can feed their families.>>

    The last time I was at the local supermarket $40 could buy enough brown rice to feed a family of 4 for a month. Which is what most of world does, and always has lived on. The fact that you're nutritional standards and expectations are so much higher than that is evidence that we DO have a very high standard of living in this country.

    Did you see the videos of the New Orleans evacuations? The news talked about them being some of the poorest people in the nation, and yet almost half of them looked obese. Try explaining to someone in sub-saharan Africa that in America you can be poor...and fat at the same time.

  • Report this Comment On November 10, 2011, at 3:56 PM, fikemj wrote:

    I think keeping things in perspective is always a good thing. One of the points, in my opinion, the author is trying to make is that the protesting has merit and addresses some important issues with the economy (relating to government as well as the financial industry).

    The whole 99% thing is just a little sensational when put in context. Maybe they just should have chosen a better slogan...

  • Report this Comment On November 12, 2011, at 5:26 PM, Sunny7039 wrote:

    Ah, sorry, no. My math is correct. The top 1% is 70 million people. The article is categorically wrong, and not just in the title but in the premise. The premise is based purely on a rubber yardstick. Trying to justify it with weasel words and out-of-context quotes should be beneath you, but isn't.

    As for the logic displayed here, let's get a little bit closer to home. $34K per year buys a better life in France, for example, than it does in the U.S. In fact (and I really like facts), it even correlates with a longer average lifespan in France than in the U.S. The same statement can be made of most EU countries.

    This is the problem with rubber yardsticks.

    As for whether the protestors are better off than Somalian refugees, or the average person in Libya or Afghanistan or China today, well, we already knew that.

    So?

    Let's see you write an article about how well a person in the EU can live on only an average American salary. I'm not holding my breath to see it. Nor am I implying that it would prove all that much (although it would be rather more illuminating than comparisons to the Third World, since we would be comparing comparable cultures, economies, and traditions). The real point is that you chose this theme for a reason, and will never choose the theme I'm proposing. That is no accident.

    Plato exposed this style of argument 2400 years ago.

  • Report this Comment On November 14, 2011, at 11:17 AM, wasmick wrote:

    ^

    ^

    ^

    ^

    LOL!

  • Report this Comment On November 14, 2011, at 3:58 PM, mjmine wrote:

    yes, that is an interesting article. Comparing middle class americans to populations in third world is disingenuous at best. Children do go hungry in this country you don't really need a study to know that , just a moral center. Why would it be acceptable for any child to go hungry or want for any basic needs in the richest country in the world. Not addressing income inequality and and how it directly affects a democracy or just how those third world countries lost the rights to their resources hmm. Everything is political even god up above. if you want to say I don't care about living in a civilized society that is one thing but a civilized society takes care of it's vulnerable period.

  • Report this Comment On November 15, 2011, at 10:38 AM, andreeaglavan wrote:

    I think is the one article out there that sums up my view on the occupy movement. To me its yet another reason for people to get together. I think I, as a student in UK, know more about what the movement means than people in front of St. Paul's cathedral who saw this as an opportunity that resembles an innovative form of a 'festival' (?!). If any of you want to see a follow up of this article, written in a PR and Ethics blog and express an opinion on it, please do so on http://proethical.wordpress.com/2011/11/13/flower-power-in-t.... Inspiring and well written. Also, the amount of research instigated by this - awesome.

  • Report this Comment On June 19, 2012, at 2:39 AM, Derevien wrote:

    Maybe you should also compare humans to animals? Even the poorest people don't face the threat of their race getting extinct due to lack of land to live on. Comparing America to the rest of the underdeveloped world in relation to Occupy Wallstreet is ridiculous. It's like comparing apples to oranges. Yes, both are round and both are fruit, but it is not the same thing. Even though I admit that putting myself into worldwide economic perspective made me feel just a little bit better, having 1% of population earning 50% of all the money just isn't right, especially if most of that money was indeed earned unjustifiably.

  • Report this Comment On June 14, 2013, at 2:58 PM, Burzghash wrote:

    Even in the richest country in the world, someone will still find a way to justify why children going hungry at night, while 1% of the population controls nearly 50% of the wealth, is somehow OK.

    Hint: "Well you're better off than most!" has never been a counter-argument to injustice and inequality. Period.

  • Report this Comment On May 05, 2014, at 6:56 PM, gonecrazytoo wrote:

    as to the 'ovarian lottery'.

    That's all fine and good, however, America isn't the 'richest' country in the world without reason.

    Founded on God's Laws. Blessed by God's Grace. The 5000 year miracle that happened in less than 200 years.

Add your comment.

Sponsored Links

Leaked: Apple's Next Smart Device
(Warning, it may shock you)
The secret is out... experts are predicting 458 million of these types of devices will be sold per year. 1 hyper-growth company stands to rake in maximum profit - and it's NOT Apple. Show me Apple's new smart gizmo!

DocumentId: 1579089, ~/Articles/ArticleHandler.aspx, 11/28/2014 4:05:03 PM

Report This Comment

Use this area to report a comment that you believe is in violation of the community guidelines. Our team will review the entry and take any appropriate action.

Sending report...


Advertisement