The Washington Post

‘Occupy Wall Street’ protests cause world leaders to take notice

In the last 3 1/2 weeks, the “Occupy Wall Street” movement has gained momentum, prompting a host of similar protests across the nation and the world. It’s now gaining attention from global leaders, as the Associated Press reports :

Iran’s top leader said Wednesday that the wave of protests reflects a serious crisis that will ultimately topple capitalism in America. Ayatollah Ali Khamenei claimed the United States is now in a full-blown crisis because its “corrupt foundation has been exposed to the American people.”

The AP also said that the demonstrators were set to appear in some new locations Wednesday:

More activities were planned Wednesday. In Ohio, the group Occupy Cincinnati was staging a march.

Protesters in New York planned to gather at the headquarters of JP Morgan Chase, where they’ll continue to decry the expiration of the state’s 2 percent “millionaires’ tax” in December.

As the protests have burgeoned, some have argued that the “99 percenters” are still better off than the vast majority of the global population. As Suzy Khimm reports, these critics may have a point:

Some critics of the 99 percenters argue that they are still better off than 99 percent of the world’s population. “In America, you are the 99%, but in the rest of the world, you are still the 1%,” reads one image that’s been making the rounds, juxtaposing the protesters with starving African children. Occupy Wall Street’s logic, by extension, should mean that the entire United States should redistribute its wealth globally. But is the 99 percent in the United States so well off compared with the rest of the world?

As it turns out, the bottom 99 percent of the United States doesn’t make the top 1 percent of household incomes worldwide — but it comes surprisingly close. Branko Milanovic, lead economist for the World Bank research group, sent me this comparative analysis based on household income or consumption surveys worldwide, adjusted for purchasing power differences. Those at the 34th percentile of income in the United States are at the 90th percentile globally, and those at the 50th percentile in the United States are at the 93rd percentile globally. Even the very poorest Americans — those at the 2nd percentile of income in the United States — are at the 62nd percentile globally.

Technically speaking, only a small minority of Americans are in the top 1 percent globally: Just those at the 92nd percentile and above are part of the richest 1 percent on earth. But many others come pretty close. All Americans at the 82nd percentile and higher are in the top 2 percent globally, for instance. So although critics aren’t exactly right about the privileged 99 percent in this country, their general point seems to hold.

Some of the GOP presidential candidates discussed the demonstrations in Tuesday’s Bloomberg-Washington Post debate. A transcript of the event shows their remarks:

Mitt Romney said: “The reason you're seeing protests, as you indicated, on Wall Street and across the country is middle-income Americans are having a hard time making ends meet.”

Herman Cain said: I also said that they have basically targeted the wrong target.  It should be against the failed policies of this administration, not Wall Street, is where they should be protesting.

Newt Gingrich said:

I think the people who are protesting on Wall Street break into two groups: one is left-wing agitators who would be happy to show up next week on any other topic, and the other is sincere middle-class people who, frankly, are very close to the tea party people in actually caring. You can tell which group is which.

The people who are decent and responsible citizens pick up after themselves.  The people who are just out there as activists trash the place and walk off and are proud of having trashed it.  So let's draw that distinction.

More from The Washington Post

How the top 1 percent made its money

Cain says “blame yourselves” to Wall Street protesters

Protesters may be in D.C. for extended stay



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