Sometimes, people who claim to speak for "the other 99 percent" aren't actually among them.
As the leaderless, left-leaning "Occupy" movement gathered this week for demonstrations across the United States, claiming inspiration from and solidarity with the Arab Spring, some self-described "99-percenters" faced a hard truth: They were, in fact, among the richest 1 percent of humans.
In 2003, the World Bank estimated that anyone who earned at least $47,500 annually was in the world's richest percentile. According to 2004 Census figures, that was a bit higher than the median income for an American over 25 with earnings and a bachelor's degree.
In other words: on a global scale, much of the American middle class are 1-percenters.
As about 5,000 demonstrators, as estimated by the Portland Mercury, gathered Thursday just down the block from Global Envision's headquarters, we headed into the crowds to ask a few participants whether the world's richest can safely speak for its poorest.
The answer we heard: Why not?
"The 1 percent still exists," said Steve Wessing, 50, an unemployed music professional selling souvenir buttons to demonstrators for $1 apiece. "I can't identify with the 1 percent while the 99 percent are still suffering."
Both Wessig and Lauren Ho, a naturopathic medical student holding a sign that read "People Before Profit," hesitated to identify with this year's successful demonstrations in Cairo's Tahrir Square.
"I don't feel educated enough," said Ho, 27. But Ho said she had come to support "a right to health care, housing" and an end to the destruction of the environment. "You have to start somewhere to make a change," she said.
Heather Perry, 30, attended with her boyfriend and their respective children. She said Thursday's rally was the "coming together" of communes predicted by Karl Marx in the 19th century.
Neither Perry, Ho or Wessig seemed to question that globalization has driven huge increases in wealth around the world, even as it may have eroded the American middle class. Perry, in fact, said this might be for the best.
"If people have money, that should be redistributed to people that don't," she said.
To Charles Newlin, a semi-retired landscaper from Corvallis, Ore., protesting inequality within the United States made perfect sense.
"Our income disparity is third-world," said Newlin, 66, who showed up in a Pacific Green Party T-shirt that matched his 18-year-old grandson's. "It's larger than a lot of third-world countries'."
As a result, even prosperous American cities are suffering, he said.
"The paint is peeling off the overpasses on I-5," Newlin said. "It's starting to look like Mexico."
As the crowd began to chant, Newlin said he was excited to see so many Americans taking action for greater equality. The key, he said, was widespread underemployment among young people.
"I think they've made a tremendous mistake," Newlin said, referring to the richest 1 percent. "They gave young people skin in the game."