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Who are the top 1%?

Protesters with the 'Occupy Wall Street' movement demonstrate before walking up 5th Avenue to rally in front of the residence of NewsCorp CEO Rupert Murdoch on Oct. 11, 2011 in New York City.

Jeremy Hobson: Seven weeks into the original Occupy Wall Street protest at Zucotti park in Manhattan, tensions are rising.

The Rupert Murdoch-owned New York Post ran a front page editorial yesterday calling on Mayor Michael Bloomberg to evict the protesters. And a Marist poll finds half of New York state voters oppose the protesters.

The demonstrator's mantra "We are the 99 percent,"
raises the question: who exactly are the 1 percent?

For answers let's bring in Marketplace Economics Correspondent Chris Farrell. Good morning.

Chris Farrell: Good morning Jeremy.

Hobson: So who are the top 1 percent?

Farrell: Well the top 1 percent, they make more than $368,000, nearing $400,000 a year. Tend to be middle-aged and older. They're married. Well-educated. Nearly all white; I was surprised, not very many immigrants in there. And then they're concentrated in certain occupations: You have your CEOs and senior executives; finance, obviously that's a big area; doctors; lawyers; and I would also say media, entertainment, sports.

Hobson: And is that group the same group that you would have found in the top 1 percent several decades ago, for instance?

Farrell: No I don't think that's the case. I think there's been a big change. If we go into the past, and particularly when we start breaking down the top 1 percent and you go toward the really wealthy, in the past it was the rentier class. Let's think about Edith Wharton novels. Today, it's much more the working rich; people who have founded a company, say, in the information technology business -- or more likely, run a hedge fund.

Hobson: Now one of the arguments that we keep hearing out of Republicans, especially, in Washington, is that it's not a problem that we have these people at the top, that as long as more and more people are getting richer and richer, that's great, that's the way it should be.

Farrell: Well the problem is two-fold. One is the rich keep getting richer, and you know, the top 1 percent -- the top 1 percent measured by income, they captured slightly more than half of overall economic growth from the period of 1993 to 2008. So it feeds the sense that this economy is increasingly unfair.

But the real point is about equality of opportunity. As the rich get richer, that means there's less opportunity for those who don't belong to that class. And I said, you know, that we had the change toward the working rich? We may be creating a society where the rich are simply people that clip coupons, pocket their dividend payments.

Hobson: Marketplace economics correspondent Chris Farrell. Chris, thanks so much.

Farrell: Thanks a lot.

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Chris, I wished you would have taken the examination a little further. Is it appropriate to call these top earners "job creators"?

As for your comment Rob, it's simple math. When an average worker at a company is rewarded with a 1%-3% pay raise while the senior management are given 8-10% pay raises, I'd suggest that one is taking from the other, given that they're both drawing from the same pot of profits.

While technically true, Farrell's assertion that the 1% make more than $368,000. is a classic catechresis and egregiously misleading. The STARTING point for the top 1% is $1 million. The population of the US in 2011 is estimated at 311 million people. According to the annual World Wealth Report from Merill Lynch and Capgemini, the U.S. had 3.1 million millionaires in 2010, and that number is growing. You do the math.

C'mon Chris?! Got to agree with Tom Kaz here. "As the rich get richer, that means there's less opportunity for those who don't belong to that class." It's not a zero sum game. This statement has no basis in economic reality. One group does not take income from another group in our society.

"As the rich get richer, that means there's less opportunity for those who don't belong to that class."

There's absolutely no evidence to support this statement by Chris Farrell, but it's common folklore of the Left - something you would expect to hear on public radio.

"not very many immigrants in there." (in the top 1%) That is because most immigrants come here with no skills or education to sponge off of our country or as the politically correct say "looking for opportunities" Yes the poor are getting poorer because we are importing poverty,taking in people we then need to support through food stamps, health insurance and education that the American tax payer has to pay for. Since last mid century our population has tripled due to immigration. And the majority of those immigrants are poor and unskilled. It is not rocket science that we are getting poorer.

Which is it? "You have your CEOs and senior executives; finance, obviously that's a big area; doctors; lawyers; and I would also say media, entertainment, sports." Or "We may be creating a society where the rich are simply people that clip coupons, pocket their dividend payments."
Which is it? Working rich or coupon clippers?

The “working” rich? Coupon clipping hedge fund managers? Right. I can just see them on their yachts—a Blue Tooth connecting them to a lobbyist as they weed through their junk mail with an envelope and a pair of scissors. The only difference between today and the Gilded Age is a more sophisticated telecommunications system with which to deliver widespread propaganda.

"They're married. Well-educated. Nearly all white; I was surprised, not very many immigrants in there."

It's rare that I'm offended by something I hear on NPR, but inferring that the only non-white Americans are immigrants took me aback. Whether it was an oversight, unintentional or subconscious, it was still very offensive to me.

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