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Elizabeth Weill-Greenberg

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A Letter to Kim Kardashian: Why We Occupy

Posted: 10/11/11 01:34 PM ET

Dear Ms. Kardashian (or is it Humphries now?),

Your wedding special aired on E! this week -- congrats on your marriage!

I'm not sure if you're aware of this -- I know you have so much going on -- but I thought you might want to know about Occupy Wall Street. Basically, thousands of people are protesting across the country because... well, there's no delicate way to say this, but... because of you, Kim.

You reportedly earned millions for your televised wedding. On one episode of Keeping Up With the Kardashians you began crying because you thought you lost an earring worth $75,000.

You and your sisters have been endorsing, selling, reality TV-ing, and it's all added up to reportedly earning $65 million in 2010. One of your ventures was a new perfume -- Mazel Tov! -- that's sold at Target. A Target chief executive's pay package for 2010 was $23.9 million while a retail worker at Target may earn only $8/hour. In other words, the worker's yearly salary is about 22 percent of your earrings -- if that "flexible" worker is able to work 40 hours a week (a big "if").

Your mom reportedly said, "It's annoying when I hear, 'What do your girls do?' Well, first of all, all of my daughters have jobs. They are fashion stylists and designers; they own a chain of stores. They had the stores before they had the show. And my kids worked from the time they were 13 years old. So to me, that's a huge misconception that the girls don't work. They work 25 hours a day."

I'm sure you and your sisters are working hard. But others are working hard too and are either unable to find full-time employment, or working at a job that does not pay a true living wage. That Target employee, working full-time, would earn less than $16,000 a year. And $8 is 75 cents more than the federal minimum wage. These numbers are illustrative of our society, of the 99% and the 1%. Economist Jeffrey Sachs explained:

The rich have enjoyed an unprecedented boom in their incomes in recent decades...The (pre-tax) average household income of the top 1% has skyrocketed from $386,900 in 1980 to $1,203,600 in 2008 (using the 2008 price index in both cases). The (pre-tax) average income of the bottom 50% of households, by contrast, has declined slightly from $16,100 in 1980 to $15,400 in 2008, and that decline occurred despite the rise of two-earner households struggling to make ends meet.

I don't mean to pick on you. I'm a fan. No, I am. I love television. I love reality television. This isn't some kind of guilty pleasure confession -- that implies there's something shameful about it. I have no shame.

So, I'll move away from your earrings. This letter could be addressed to any of your cohorts -- Angelina Jolie (earnings as of August 2011, $30 million), Tyler Perry ($130 million), Tina Fey ($13 million), Beyonce ($35 million), Leonardo Dicaprio ($77 million), Jerry Bruckheimer ($113 million)...

Lady Gaga's earnings, as of August 2011, was 90 million dollars. This could pay my student loans 1410 times. I won't be able to pay off my student loans until 2027, nearly a quarter century after I finished graduate school. I will be 48 years old.

There are too many stories of the just-getting-by in our very rich country (well, very rich for very few). You see, Kim, we don't want to live in a country where the 99% is supposed to wish and pray that they'll win a lottery ticket to the 1%. Our politicians are telling us that we -- the 99% -- need to cut back, need to accept lower wages, fewer benefits, less government services. They tell us we can't have a country where each person is guaranteed certain human rights -- education, health care, a home, a career. They tell us the money isn't there. But it is, Kim, it is. You're wearing it on your ears.

Our government has been asking less and less of you and other wealthy Americans, while your income has soared. As Sachs wrote:


The economy thrived in the 1950s and 1960s when top marginal tax rates were over 90% in the 1950s and 70% in the 1960s. The steep cuts in the top marginal tax rates that began in 1981 did not deliver on the supply-sider promise of high employment and rapid economic growth. Instead, the thirty years of low top tax rates have contributed to large budget deficits and the exceptionally high inequality of income.

So what can you do, Kim? You can help us create a more egalitarian, more just society by supporting efforts to increase the taxes paid by the wealthiest. You can answer Sachs' call: "This is the time for the rich to step forward and assume their responsibility."

What do you say, Kim?