Rise of the 1 Percent

PUBLISHED: March 24, 2012

What are the odds that you're part of the 1 percent? No not that 1 percent -- folks who get so much attention because they earn more than $380,000 a year -- but the nation's numerous other, less publicized factions of 1 percenters.

For instance, while 99 percent of Americans do not work at Walmart, the other 1 percent does. Walmart employs roughly 1.4 million people in its U.S. operations, or 1 percent of the work force, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

All those warnings on snack packages are for the benefit of 1 percent of Americans who are allergic to peanuts.

Sometimes it seems we have an abundance of bureaucrats, but added together, they don't constitute more than 1 percent. The Census Bureau estimates there are 500,000 elected officials in the U.S., and even if you combine them with everyone alive who has ever held office, you still have, yes, about 1 percent.

Ninety-nine percent of Americans don't belong to a gang. However, the FBI now puts gang membership at 1.4 million, or about half of 1 percent of the total population. Gangs are one of the fastest growing segments of society, having increased by 40 percent in just the last three years -- something the 99 percent should really be concerned about.

While income is the principal metric among those who decry "class warfare," a more profound distinction involves those who serve in the military. Shortly after assuming his post, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta praised the "men and women who represent less than 1 percent of our nation, but who have shouldered the burden of protecting the American people."

We hear a lot about undocumented immigrants, many of them from Mexico, but what's the situation on the other side of the border? Well, 99 percent of Americans don't live in Mexico but, surprisingly, quite a few do. In fact, there one million American citizens living in Mexico.

The Census Bureau says there are now almost 2 million Americans older than age 90, making the super-aged a force to be reckoned with as they approach 1 percent of the population.

You're probably happy to have health insurance, or wish you had it, if you're among the 1 percenters who suffer from epilepsy, glaucoma, celiac's disease, or type 1 diabetes.

Roughly half of 1 percent of Americans are Muslims. That's about the same percentage of Americans who are Buddhist.

According to government estimates, 99 percent of Americans do not go out dancing once a week, but exactly 1 percent of the adult population does. Ninety-nine percent of us don't play a musical instrument each week, or go to the beach, or attend an adult education class. But in all cases there is roughly 1 percent that does.

One percent of adults are in the under-publicized group that tries to complete a Sodoku puzzle each week, and we can thank government research for making us aware of that.

One percent of U.S. households don't have a radio. One percent of Americans still access the Internet with an AOL dial-up connection. One percent of American adults will buy a car or truck from General Motors this year -- meaning, of course, that 99 percent will not.

It's us versus them, just like it's always been.

(c) Peter Funt. This column first appeared in The New York Times

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