I am the 99 percent (and so are you)
Oct. 15, 2011, was a day of protesting. And for once, it was the world standing in solidarity with a group of Americans. In major cities all over the globe, outraged citizens joined the Occupy movement.
It has been a month since the Occupy Wall Street protests first began in Zuccotti Park but only a couple weeks since they’ve gotten major media coverage. And in this toxic political climate, I’m sure you can imagine the types of hyperbolic reactions of people from all across the conservative–liberal spectrum.
One of the criticisms leveled against the protesters has been their lack of a main message (though I would argue that is part of the point — it’s a people’s movement). But there has been at least one point that has emerged from OWS, and that is ‘We are the 99 percent.’
And now all of a sudden there’s this ‘We are the 53 percent’ rebuttal traveling the Internet. The 53 percent is a reference to the amount of Americans who pay more in income taxes than they receive in tax deductions, a ridiculously simplistic idea many of the most conservative Republicans continue perpetuating.
Right-wing blogger Erick Erickson kicked off the response by announcing that he works three jobs — by which he means a television pundit, a radio pundit and an Internet pundit — and is part of the 53 percent of Americans who are “subsidizing (protesters) so (they) can hang out on Wall Street and complain.”
The cognitive dissonance and the contempt for fellow Americans displayed in many of these posts is, quite frankly, appalling.
Now, I want to get something perfectly straight here. Every American adult pays taxes. Those who are too poor to pay income taxes still pay payroll taxes and property taxes if they own their own home. And everyone who participates in our economy, even the unemployed, pays sales taxes.
According to Citizens for Tax Justice, a non-profit research and advocacy group, the poorest Americans — those who make less than $12,500 per year — on average pay about 16 percent of their income in taxes. While that is less than all other tax brackets, it certainly feels like a heckuva lot more than 30 percent of a millionaire’s income. Which is the point of having a progressive tax system.
The truly astounding thing about these ‘53 percenters,’ however, is that many of them are actually the 99 percent they so vehemently detest. The man who can barely afford rent with his two jobs tells everyone else to suck it up and stop whining. The woman who has never had insurance — a common phrase on the site — doesn’t write it as a sign of a broken system. These things seem to be matters of pride for these people.
Basic things — some might even go so far as to call them human rights — that are common in almost all other industrialized countries, such as paid time off, a living wage and access to health insurance, are seen here as unreasonable demands of a parasitic class.
All of this leaves aside the probability that these people, if they can barely afford rent or have recently been laid off, are likely not the 53 percent. Unless, in some strange loophole unknown to me, they somehow pay income tax on their income of nothing. By all of which I mean to say that many of these people are actually the 47 percent. They apparently just don’t know it. It would be heartbreaking if so many of them didn’t seem like uncompromising jerks.
So I suggest that we start a new movement called ‘You are the 74 percent’ for those Americans who claim to have never received government benefits but who have actually directly benefited from government social programs. I’m sure it’ll take off like a rocket.
Carolyn Tiry is a senior print journalism major and Managing Editor at The Spectator.