Personal Confession Re: “Occupy” Movement


History will tell if the Occupy Movement spurs any sort of actual change in America. I line up on some the issues of societal justice that the movement desires. I also disagree with some things. Here is something I do believe:

The wealthy have a unique responsibility.

The wealthiest of the wealthy – the top 1% – even more so.

My friend Wess Stafford says this:

“The opposite of poverty isn’t wealth. The opposite of poverty is enough.”

He’s probably right. I don’t have any problem with wealthy people enjoying life, spending their money and having some fun. I just think that the world is much better when rich people are radically generous. I couldn’t imagine someone waking up everyday knowing that they were part of the 1% of the wealthiest people in the world and not doing something for the other 99%.  And yet so many do.

The web is full of peaceful protestors posting photos as part of the 99%, like this one.


Here’s a quote from the original Occupy Wall Street tumbler site:

“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.”

I get what they are saying. It simply isn’t fair that the extremely rich – the one guy out of every 100 – holds almost all the wealth. Especially when so many of the 99% are legitimately hungry, homeless and oppressed. I know it can get politically complicated in the details, but I get the sentiment. Again, I am not against the cause. It’s just hard for me to be completely behind it because…

Here’s my big confession. I say this with a little embarrassment and a lot of humility.

I am part of the 1%.

I am one of those guys. I am ridiculously wealthy. This may surprise some of you who don’t know my story very well – where I have come from, my family heritage, etc. I hide my wealth very well. It makes me uncomfortable to flaunt it. It is hard to write about it now.

So you can see why the Occupy Movement creates mixed emotions in me. Unlike most everyone else alive on the planet, I have a unique responsibility to be especially generous. And, to be frank, I don’t think I am doing exceptionally well. (Full disclosure: In 2010, I only gave away about 14% of my income to charity. That just doesn’t seem like enough for someone as blessed as me. I have simply gotten used to living on the 86%. It is hard to give more away.)

Maybe you have figured out my angle by now. If not, I’ll let you off the hook.

The Occupy Movement is made up of people from the 99% of Americans frustrated that 1% of their fellow Americans hold most of the nation’s wealth. It is true that I am not part of that 1%.

But I am part of the 1% worldwide.

According to an article on CNNMoney yesterday, to be in the top 1% of the world’s worth, your annual income (after taxes) must exceed:


That’s it.

Half of the world’s wealthiest 1% live in America.

From 1-04-12

I am part of the 1%

Are you?

What in the world are we going to do about it?

My friend Wess, whom I mentioned above, can help you be more generous if you want. He helped me.

He is the president of this company. He takes money from rich people like me and gives it to the poor.

This post isn’t really about trying to get money for Wess’ company per se, but I would like to challenge you to consider doing something similar in 2012. Especially if you are as rich as me. Maybe even post a public photo admission like this one telling the rest of the world that you are part of the 1%…and what you are going to do about it.

Here’s my photo admission.

Taken from my iPhone.

Written on my iPad.

joe boyd

@JoeBoyd blogs daily at

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  • This post articulates well how I feel about Occupy Wall Street, and wealth and poverty in the world. My husband and I barely skate in above the $34 thousand dollar line, and we struggle. We live paycheck to paycheck and possess a lot of student loan debt. But still, we are RICH. Our responsibility to give is a beautiful and pressing privilege. We can’t afford to be stingy. Because if we’re struggling in the 1%, how much more are the 99%?

  • Jill Heroux

    I am part of the worldwide 1%, not the US 1%. The issue is not about giving money away, it is about lifestyle and choices and how one goes about making ethical decisions that are for the good of othersand not just one’s self. As a Christian, the I believe that I am bound to make decisions that include the questions that ask how my choices will affect-both benefit and hurt- not only me or those whom I call friends and family, but the people who Jesus loves, ie everyone. The United MethodistChurch pension fund just chose to divest itself from any investment in private prison corporations. They have ethical reasons for doing so. If our decisions whether as the 1% of the nation or the world is only about how much money can I part with and live okay on, then not a whole lot is going to change. That is first order change solutions for second order change problems ie systemic problems. The Occupy Movement, which I have supported since mid-October 2010, challenges the status quo, the systemic issues of social justice, the choices that those with money are making that are benefitting only the few rather than looking at a larger picture. For me it is what decisions am I making to make a larger impact on how things work. Jesus challenged the status quo, and told his disciples there was a better way – to love God first and others as much as yourself. That is the law that is the standard to make all decisions. That is how I understand my call to serve Christ in this world. By the way, your 14% is greater than many of the 1% of the world give as a percentage of income given.

  • Irish Cookie

    But, the Occupy Movement is about the top 1% in America, not the world. It is about America keeping itself from becoming a third world country. America has always been a generous country. We have to protect ourselves to continue that. Right now we are owned, by such as China.
    Our military must be supported. Our country must be supported. Yes, taxes is a big chunk of our family income, but it should also be a big chunk from the 1%’s income as well, even a bigger chunk simply because they have more to give. I get that America is richer when compared to the whole world, but does that figure not take into account America’s top 1%. Yes, it does, which makes it a skewed figure. Again, it is the top selfish people who really are the cause for those gross figures above.
    We, well 50% of Americans, gave the top 1% huge tax breaks in the middle of a flippin war. Really???? How does that make sense? How does it makes sense to point out the poor of the world to simply avoid facing the fact the the rich in America are not paying their fair share? The top 1% should not be called Americans because they do not contribute like the rest of us contribute. Believe me, if America falls into being a third world nation, the filthy rich will not be affected. Their money will make it so they are not harmed.
    About fifty percent of the ninety-nine are pretty stupid to vote in the great deals for the 1% like they do. I don’t think the Occupy Movement will have much impact because we will still have nearly half of our country voting to shoot their own foot (paycheck/livelihood/standard of living).

  • Jill and Irish,

    Like I said in my post, this article wasn’t meant to be anti-occupy. My big hope is just that everyone in the 1% worldwide stops to consider what that might mean regardless of how they see the Occupy movement. Maybe I fear a little bit of the Animal Farm syndrome. If Occupy “works” and moves toward changing the system, my hope is that those in America who find themselves in a slightly better place would not forget the 99% of the world living on average of $1200/year. And I know all of this is about way more than giving a few bucks away to charity and trying to feel better about yourself, but the $38/month my family found to send to Compassion has actually somehow meant something to our story that I can’t quite put into words. I guess, it’s something to do while you figure out the rest of it. We are active locally helping the poor and disenfranchised through our church, but this feels different – not better, just different. Baby steps to Kingdom come.

  • Joe, Excellent blog! I was trying to get at this point in “#7” in my piece on Patheos, “10 Things Christians Should Know and do about the Occupy Movement.” You’ve truly amplified that point and then some! Bravo! … and the question remains… “What are we going to do about it?”“occupy”-protests/

    • Thanks Roger. I will check out your piece…