The top 1 percent of the world

Patrick Chisholm Writer/Editor, PolicyDynamics.Org
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I just found out that I’m in the top 1 percent of income earners. Wow — I never knew I was so rich! Is that cool news or what?

Getting envious now, reader? Huh, huh? Jealous much?

Actually maybe I shouldn’t be so vocal about my elite status. Those Occupy Wall Street people, you know — they can rough you up pretty badly.

Whew — at least I only drive a Civic. At Occupy D.C. (see link above), they weren’t letting people through who drive Lexuses and Beemers and cars like that. We rich have got to keep a low profile, you know.

Oh, I guess I’d better mention: I’m in the top 1 percent of all people in the world. Not the United States — the world. Crucial distinction, actually. In other words, if you divide all 7 billion of us into income groups, I’m in the top 1 percent of those 7 billion.

Let me let you in on another little secret. In order to reach that top 1 percent status, you need to earn around $47,500 per year. That’s about the average per capita income in the United States (depending on whose statistics you use). That means tens of millions of Americans are in the top 1 percent! You, reader, may even be in the top 1 percent too!

And the rest of us are right up there. If you only earn $25,000 per year, you’re in the top 10 percent. Even if you earn the official poverty line in the United States — $11,344 (for 2010) — you’re in the top 13 percent of all income earners, give or take a percentage point.

There’s a nifty little website called the Global Rich List where you can plug in how much you earn and see where you rank among all the people of the world, income-wise. Their data is a little dated (e.g., using a world population of 6 billion instead of 7 billion), plus income statistics can vary considerably depending on the source, but at least the website gives you a good idea of where you stand.

Yep, we in America have it pretty good. The average income of all the people in the world is around $7,000. And the average income of Burundi and other very-low-income countries is about $200.

And you know what else? Lots of the Occupy Wall Street crowd and their supporters aren’t actually in the 99 percent. They’re in the top 1 percent! Sure, they may be 99 percenters if you just count Americans. But that’s being narrow-minded and elitist. It’s as if you’re saying Americans are the only people that exist. A human life in America doesn’t have any more inherent value than a human life in any other country. And national boundaries are artificial human constructs. We’re all in this world together — not just Americans!

In fact, some on the left are now even saying a new Pledge of Allegiance — not to the United States of America, but to the world. Well, if you’re going to do that, bub, you definitely have to include all the people in the world when you talk about the top 1 percent. And then there’s a good chance that even you are in the top 1 percent. If you’re not, you’re still probably within the top 10 or 15 percent.

Even if you’re just in the top 15 percent among everyone alive, if you include all the people who’ve ever lived in your calculations, past and present — some 100 billion people — then you’re definitely in the top 1 percent. You even live better than kings and queens of old; they lived in highly primitive conditions, by our standards. (The absence of modern medicine, resulting in frequent death, was one such hardship.)

So do you think your average $200-a-year Burundian has much sympathy for a $30,000-a-year OWS protester who’s speaking out against the top 1 percent of Americans? That’s like us having sympathy for millionaires who are living the good life but who are outraged that billionaires are better off than them.

In other words, OWSers, you have it so good here in America that most of the world’s people probably have no sympathy for you. So quit getting so worked up over other people being richer than you, and start appreciating the good things that you do have here in America.

Patrick D. Chisholm is founder and creative director of Accentance, Inc. and blogs at PolicyDynamics.org.