Most readers here know about the top .01%. They’re the richest of the rich, the top 1% of the top 1% in America. They number about 33,000. They control over 10% of the nation’s wealth and about 6% of our income. They are responsible for the lion’s share of contributions to both political parties. Call them the lucky .01%.
I’ve given a lot of thought to the lucky .01% in my work regarding the concentration of wealth in America.
For the past few days, thought, I’ve been thinking more about a different .01% of us: the 33,000 or so Americans who will lose their lives to gun violence next year if our gun policies and our “gun culture” does not change. They’re the unlucky .01%.
Of course, the two .01 percents are not mutually exclusive. theoretically, a person could belong to both groups. Indeed, if the unlucky .01% were chosen at random from the entire population, we would expect 3 or 4 members of the lucky .01% also to be members of the unlucky .01%.
What if we knew in advance that the lucky .01%, as a group, was destined to become next year’s unlucky .01%.
How would we do things? Would we change our gun laws? Would we do anything more than we are doing today to bring the number — 33,000 gun deaths per year — down in a hurry?
I’ll go out on a limb here and say “yes” we would make the reduction of gun deaths our absolute highest priority.
So, riddle me this: If “All Lives Matter”, as conservative scolds tell us repeatedly in response to “Black Lives Matter”, don’t all lives matter equally? Seems like they do.
If you’re with me so far, if we believe all lives matter equally, why should the steps we take to address gun deaths in America depend on who we believe the members of the unlucky 1% will turn out to be?
Don’t we have a moral obligation to take the same steps to save the lives of the unlucky .01% as we would if we knew the lucky .01% was about to become the unlucky .01%?
And if we fail, as we now have for over a decade, to collectively live up to that moral obligation, is it not time we stop referring to ourselves as “exceptional”?