The Occupy Wall Street movement, the 99%, argue that "our" money has been taken from us by the richest 1%; that the richest 400 people own the majority of our wealth. However, they have failed to do some rather simple math about what would happen to that money were it distributed.
According to a this article on Huffington Post, the richest 400 people in America have a total of around $1.37trillion; that’s $1,370,000,000,000. Wow! What a lot of money! Or is it? There are roughly 300 million people in the United States; that’s 300,000,000. What would happen if we were to divide that enormous fortune equally amongst all of us?
$1,370,000,000,000 / 300,000,000 = $4,566.67
Wait, what? That can’t be right. If we equally divided all of that money equally then we’d each only get a little over four and a half thousand dollars? But the 1% have stolen everything from us, haven’t they? If they don’t have our money then who does? The reality is that those 400 do have the majority of the wealth, but unfortunately even their vast fortune is not a lot of money. Almost half of our country’s value is owned by them but that isn’t the sad part. The real problem here is that our wealth is no longer held by anyone.
What happened to our wealth?
Take a look in the dumpster behind any restaurant. Think about every kitchen that was torn up and renovated just to add a few thousand dollars of value to a house. Fridge/freezers less than a year old ripped out and thrown into a landfill to make room for bigger, better ones. We buried our assets in landfills on the premise that our improvements were adding value to the houses we lived in. In reality that value never existed, the houses weren’t worth any more and the money spent on them was sitting in a landfill somewhere growing mold. Waste. We turned money into waste.
We’ve consumed and disposed over and over. Entitlement has taught us that we need the best of everything and that we need it right now. Unemployment checks spent on luxuries. Credit cards leveraged to the hilt, not to buy food or essentials, but to ensure that we had the latest LCD TVs, BluRay players, and surround sound speakers. “Old” items thrown away to get the latest and great.
I love to buy toys. My bright red Toyota truck, my wonderful cherry red iPad, and my shiny new MacBook Pro. They are fantastic in every way and I love them, but I didn’t get them right away. I first test drove a Tacoma truck in 2003. It took eight years of waiting, and saving, before I could finally get it. There have been many times when I would have loved to have bought all manner of items, but if you don’t have the cash you shouldn’t buy the item. This was one of the first rules I learned when I was young; you spend cash for toys, not credit, not loans, but cold hard cash from a savings account, and only when it won’t impact your budget in other ways.
It’s all about choice.
For over a decade I’ve rented an apartment instead of buying a house. I’d love for Meaghan and I to get a place of our own (and some day soon we will, I promise baby!), but only when we can do it responsibly. I was taught to pay my debts and that purchasing something without the ability to pay for it is not only irresponsible but also immoral. We’ve spent years paying off car loans, paying down student debts and putting money away in savings so that when the time is right we can find a modest house that’s within our budget and have a nice down payment. I’m not saying we haven’t made stupid choices in our time. I’ve paid off my fair share of credit card bills that were full of non-performing debt and frivolous purchases. The difference is that I’m willing to fess up to my own mistakes and learn from them. I spent the money, I failed to put it in savings, and now I have less money as a result. No-one broke into my house and took it while I slept. I swiped the card through the machine and punched in my PIN number. That’s where the money went. End of story.