How the Other Half Lives: The 1 Percent Against the World

Tuesday, January 17, 2012 Andrea Lo 0 Comments

'The privileged few, plus you-know-who
How the other half, how the other half lives'
From the musical Thoroughly Modern Millie

Occupy Wall Street, the protest movement which originated in New York City in September 2011 that had since sparked a number of similar demonstrations around the world, is often defined by its unifying slogan, 'We are the 99 percent'. The phrase loosely refers to the divide between extensive wealth accumulated by the top 1 percent of earners in America, compared to the other 99 percen— and has since been associated with the discontent felt by the advocates of the movement.

Needless to say, being among the 1 percent isn't exactly a popular position to be in at the moment, simply owing to the currently financial climate and regardless of whether the movement was in place or not. After research into the Occupy Movement, the overwhelming feeling I personally get is that a lot of protesters are simply jumping on the bandwagon, when really they could be out there getting a job, or at least having a shower. The protests do raise some interesting points though. First of all, The Wall Street Journal defines the top 1 percent income earner as someone who is making at least US$506,000 annually, whilst a recent article in New York Times evaluates that the location you are in as well as the specific figures of your earnings can easily alter whether or not you become a part of that elusive top 1 percent. The Washington Post points out that the gap between the 1 percent and the rest is indeed widening with time, with the top 1 percent of households '[taking] a bigger share of overall income in 2007 than they did at any time since 1928'.

With so much hostility against the top earners, which can be divided into the following categories — 'podiatrists and actuaries, executives and entrepreneurs, the self-made and the silver spoon set' — The New York Times provided an interested objective from and insight to members of the 1 percent elite. It is pointed out that a significant number of them work themselves to the top from humble beginnings, embracing the traditional 'American Dream' ideal. Many of the so-called 'one percenters' include professionals in fields such as medicine and law, which are traditionally careers which require years of academia until they achieve the success they have today. Rather than bloodsucking bankers and fat cats awarded with undeserved bonuses many seem to perceive them to be, many come across as honest and hard-working good people, who are only trying to provide the best for their families.

This is not a sentiment shared by many protesters of the Occupy Movement. The 99 percent are being left with smaller and smaller portions of wealth and income, 'while the 1 percent is getting everything'. Indeed, even the one percenters themselves have questioned the inequality and injustice of the system, highlighted by this large-scale conflict between rich and poor. Whether Occupy Wall Street will serve to eliminate these injustices remains to be seen.