Roger Marolt: Roger This
November 17, 2011
As long as we are contemplating stuffing the turkey, I might as well tell you why I find the Occupy Wall Street movement a little dry. It’s because it is 99 percent about getting me focused on the material treasures others have accumulated and 1 percent about generating any kind of meaningful help for those who could really use it.
The movement has divided us into two groups implying that only the other group of 1 percent lounging on the greener lawn has enough. Enough what? Enough money, of course. If you think it is about anything else please let me know, because I don’t see it.
So, yeah, excuse me if I have the materialistic willies about this revolt. I am revolted with the self-centeredness that it indignantly demands. At first glance it appears that being part of the 99 percent could be unifying. I so want, at least in this instance, to be a part of the suffering masses, to commiserate, to share, to enact reform for the unjust system that is increasingly separating a very small number of the sickeningly wealthy people from the rest of us in terms of accumulating stuff. The weird thing is that I find myself, here in Aspen, Colorado, identifying more with the few billionaires of this country than with the millions of people living in poverty. And, I don’t mean that flippantly. I see it as a statement of fact. The superrich and I each have the basic needs in life, and then some, covered.
Let’s face it: When we say that we are a part of the 99 percent, we are not bringing the poor up to our standard of living even idealistically; rather we are pretending that ours is somehow equivalent to theirs and thus we together form the dumped-on masses. This is as disingenuous as Bill Gates is rich.
What would it do to the Occupy Wall Street movement to take Thanksgiving to heart, focusing on what we have without comparison to what filthy-rich people have? After what I said above about the innate materialism that the 99/1 protest is centered on, I hate to use statistics about money to make a point, but since I don’t have access to personal-fun meter readings and spiritual satisfaction is complicated, I have to do it.
Let’s try this on for sizing your wad: Nationally speaking, how relatively well-off are you if your family earns $42,000 per year, or $19,000 if you’re single? You’re poor, right? Wrong. You are middle of the pack. So, what if your family brings home $100,000 per year, or if you are single making $45,000? That’s barely scraping by, huh? Not exactly. These income levels put you in the top 20 percent. All right, now let’s cut to the chase: Suppose you are making $200,000 per year in your family or $87,000 as an individual. Congratulations! You are in the top 5 percent of income earners nationwide and probably living only a few blocks away from the neighborhood of the evil top 1 percent.
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“Yeah, but Aspen is a really expensive place to live, and it’s tough to eke it out here even on above-average income numbers.” I’ll just say two things to that: First, people with above-average incomes can live in expensive places. And second, people who travel in private jets and own luxurious homes all over the world sometimes feel stretched, too. It’s called making the most of what you have, and, unfortunately, sometimes that leaves us a little short on cash flow.
Now, I am not making any statement as to whether the super-wealthy should pay more taxes or in some other way share more of what they have. Rather, I am against connecting with the plight of the truly needy 15 percent in the United States in order to get more of the stockpile for the remaining 84 percent of us who might be struggling lately, but are making it happen.
It also might be relevant for this discussion to consider the United States’ position in the world regarding wealth. For those of you keeping score at home, the U.S. represents less than 5 percent of the earth’s population, yet controls about 39 percent of the planet’s riches. Not to actually do the math since the World Bank has done it for us, but if your family makes more than about $50,000 per year, then you are quite easily in the global top 1 percent wealthy class. Does that change anyone’s thinking about the 99/1 movement? Just asking … you know, because of the waxing global economy and all.
Anyway, a thought for the upcoming week could be to give up giving a turkey feather about the rich getting richer. Instead take an inventory to see if you have everything you need; not just monetarily, but spiritually, emotionally and physically, too. If you do, give thanks and keep those who don’t as the focus of your blessing. Then, as always, pass the gravy!
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