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?Now, I wonder how many of the protestors would be eager to have their own incomes and property confiscated in order to "level" income disparities with the rest of the world? Think they'd like to live in the "equality" of, say, $3 per day incomes?
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....
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%.
Sunday, October 30, 2011
Yes, you read that correctly: Most of the Occupy Wall Street activists -- who scream indignantly about income inequality, and who want confiscatory taxes imposed on the "wealthiest one percent" -- are themselves among the world's wealthiest one percent: