No 438 Posted by fw, March 17, 2012
“Occupy Wall Street is a leaderless resistance movement with people of many colors, genders and political persuasions. The one thing we all have in common is that We Are The 99% that will no longer tolerate the greed and corruption of the 1%.” —Occupy Wall Street
“We are the 99 percent. We are getting kicked out of our homes. We are forced to choose between groceries and rent. We are denied quality medical care. We are suffering from environmental pollution. We are working long hours for little pay and no rights, if we’re working at all. We are getting nothing while the other 1 percent is getting everything. We are the 99 percent.” —We are the 99 percent
“The one thing we all have in common is that We Are The 99% that will no longer tolerate the greed and corruption of the 1%.” This bold assertion, which appears on Occupy Wall Street’s home page, has been nagging me for some time because, as I explain below, the numbers simply do not hold up under scrutiny.
Sure, I can appreciate the catchy and symbolic significance of 99% and 1%. Nevertheless, – and maybe I’m not the first one to say this — I’m uneasy about associating a factually inaccurate motto with a potentially game-changing movement.
Here’s how I figure it.
First, asserting that 99 percent of Americans are “getting kicked out of our homes”, being “forced to choose between groceries and rent”, “denied quality medical care”, “suffering from environmental pollution”, working long hours for little pay and no rights, if we’re working at all”, and “are getting nothing while the other 1 percent is getting everything”, is, to say the least, a gross exaggeration.
In fact, according to 2009 U.S. census figures, out of a total population of those 20 years old and over of about 223,587,000 million, upwards of 30% of those (about 67, 076,100 million) are living in households with annual money incomes of $75,000 or greater. And almost 12% of these (about 8,049,132 million) are in households with annual incomes in the range of $100,000 to $149,999.
Therefore, would it not be more factually accurate to say “We are the 70 percent”? We are the 156,519,500 million living in households with an annual income of less than $75,000 who may be more likely to be among those being deprived in one way or another?
But then, I’m Canadian. Perhaps factual accuracy is less of a concern south of the border.
Second, it occurred to me that the population figures cited above have implications for Occupy’s movement building efforts. Consider this. Let’s say, for the sake of argument, that a really successful, nation-wide campaign rally held in Washington DC attracted 500,000 people. In fact, that large turnout would represent less than 1 percent of the population aged 20 and older – to be specific 0.22%. Once more for emphasis: it would appear that only a small fraction of the US adult population might show up for a really big demonstration.
Moreover, if we were to remove from our calculations the estimated 30% with household incomes $75,000 or greater (about 67,076,100 million out of the 223,587,000 million who were 20 or older), then the pool of people who might respond to a really big rally would probably be closer to 156,510,900 million. And even if Occupy were still able to attract 500,000 people from this reduced pool, it would still only represent 0.32% of the population.
Which raises the inevitable question – If only a tiny fraction of the American adult population would likely show up for a really big rally, how probable is it that Occupy will be able to grow the movement if it is drawing from such a small pool — less than 0.32% — of potential followers?
Or to put it more crudely, how do you get the bums out of their seats and onto the streets?
Or am I missing the point entirely?
BTW, math was not one of my best subjects so it would be prudent to verify my calculations. For that reason, here are the sources of my data —
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