The 53%: We are NOT Occupy Wall Street

The 53%: We are NOT Occupy Wall Street

@CNNMoney October 26, 2011: 9:50 AM ET

occupy wall street

Frank Decker has a message for those at Occupy Wall Street.

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- Occupy Wall Street protesters might say they represent 99% of the nation, but there's a growing number of Americans who are making it clear they are not part of the dissident crowd.

They call themselves the in the 53% of Americans who pay federal income taxes. And they are making their voices heard on Tumblr blogs, Twitter and Facebook pages devoted to stories of personal responsibility and work ethic.

The number originates in the estimate that roughly 47% of Americans don't pay federal income tax, according to the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center. The 53 percenters stress the fact that they are paying the taxes that support the government assistance the protesters say they want.

Kevin Eder was among the first to galvanize those who wanted to differentiate themselves from the thousands of people rallying across the nation to raise awareness of the growing economic gap between the rich and everyone else.

In early October, Eder created the Twitter hashtag #iamthe53, which has since been posted in hundreds of tweets as the backlash to Occupy Wall Street mounts.

"I would never identify myself with those occupying Wall Street," said Eder, 26, a business analyst in Washington D.C. "The frustration was born out of people claiming to speak for me who don't."

Meet the Occupy Wall Street protesters

Many of those tweeting share the belief that the protesters need to stop complaining about the government and financial institutions and start looking for work. Ken Gardner, an attorney in Dallas, joined the conversation because he opposes government handouts.

"We don't want to be the 53% who carries the 47% on our shoulders," said Gardner, who thinks more people should pay federal income taxes.

Eder's hashtag helped inspire Erick Erickson, editor-in-chief of the conservative website and a CNN contributor, to set up a Tumblr blog called "We are the 53%." It mimics Occupy Wall Street "We are the 99 percent" site.

The 53% site gives a voice to those who reject the contention that most Americans are victims of the system, said Josh Trevino, "quasi-official spokesman" for the blog.

"What the 99% is missing is the element of personal responsibility," said Trevino, who is also vice president at the conservative Texas Public Policy Foundation. "The 53% want to bring that into the conversation."

More than a thousand people have sent in entries to the 53% site, which generally features their photo next to a piece of paper that outlines their views, as well as their struggles and work histories.

"I am responsible for my own destiny," writes one 34-year-old father of three. "I will succeed or fail because of me and me alone."

"I took jobs I didn't want. Why don't you?" says one poster to the protesters. "Suck it up and become part of the 53%."

As Frank Decker read through the posts, he felt he could relate. A public school teacher in Vancouver, Wash., Decker and his wife lived below the poverty line until they decided to go back to school to become educators. He sent in a post because he wanted to share his story.

"We didn't go through all that struggle while raising three kids to support people who don't feel they need to work or people who feel they are entitled to something they haven't earned," said Decker, 44.

At this point, neither Keder nor Trevino plan to shift their 53% efforts from the online world to the physical one. But they are both surprised at how popular the backlash has become.

"It's lasted far longer than we thought and it's become much bigger than we thought," Trevino said. "It's not over yet." To top of page

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Tags: Occupy

Comment by Sebastian Bond on October 27, 2011 at 3:05am

the point, i believe, the protesters are making is that when the richest 1% own 95% of the money, something's wrong and needs to change.


you don't need a college degree to see that...

the 53%ers have missed the point spectacularly.

Comment by Sassan K. on October 27, 2011 at 5:53am

Again Kris...abstract ideas without a unifying central message..

Comment by Sassan K. on October 27, 2011 at 5:55am

It is also the richest 1% who employ the rest of the country..

Comment by Ben on October 27, 2011 at 9:18am
My favorite line from the site is "Opinions do not help our cause."
Comment by Adam Cyr on October 27, 2011 at 11:44am

Sassan K. ----> educate yourself better on the occupy wall street movement before you fill your blog with hate on the subject. You clearly have no idea what your talking about. Communist? Socialist? Come on go tune into FOX and get more brain-washed.

Comment by Trish E. Harmon on October 27, 2011 at 12:30pm

Sassan, you have no idea what you're talking about. They don't "employ the rest of the country." Yes, they employ a lot of people, but small business is what this country truly runs on. Let me see, I've worked for a local veterinarian, as a truancy officer for the KCMO school district, bartender, and now for a state funded alcohol/drug treatment outpatient clinic...nope, none of them are the 1%. And let me add, the 1% often gives employees just under full-time hours so they don't have to offer healthcare, vacations, etc. They like to pocket those extra savings and give themselves ridiculous bonuses. They also offer severance packages to those the end up firing, CEOs and such, often amounting to several million dollars. So, the person they hired can't get the job done, so in a year or two he's fired, and oh darn, he gets 3-5 million dollars as a parting gift! This has happened at Sprint and many other companies. I would LOVE to have that kind of deal. I'd just do a crappy job for a year and get the big payoff at the end.

Comment by Arcus on October 27, 2011 at 1:10pm

Ohh! A list of demands. Let's see what it does for the 99%:


It's a very good demand, and especially good for the 1%. This will mean stricter lending standards, which means that first time buyers looking for 100% loan financing have to rent. And who will have the money to buy up property with equity and rent it out to those who can't..? :)


Well, just because it seems criminal doesn't mean crimes as they are regulated by the legislation. Kinda shit out of luck on that demand, but mock-trials are always fun...


Probably a good idea, but just reversing it is merely reactionary, and I don't think lobbying started "for real" only after that case. Why not suggest something better?


Can't agree more and it should go hand in hand with the institution an annual TV license to support it.


Good idea.


The corp tax rate is already one of the highest in the world. Which loopholes, without specifying it's hard to measure the impact. Close them all or just some?


There's already such a prohibition, it's usually the paragraph dealing with fraud.


I think they are working on that, Frank-Dodd and all..


The best idea would be a ban on political advertising. The lobbyists could still give advise, but much less campaign money would need to be donated.

PASSING "Revolving Door Legislation"

That would be terribly unfair to those affected, since it would often completely remove the possibility to switch jobs. I think it's a bit harsh to call all regulators corruptible.


Now that's just the silliest thing ever. That means corporations can't enter into deal. It means that only corporations controlled by wealthy person could get loans, since they would have to use their natural personhood to get a loan. It wouldn't only be an end to big business, it would be a return to the mid nineteenth century style economics!


This seems to me what angry and spoiled 16 year olds would demand. Some of these have good merit, but the implications seems not to hit home, others are just completely off the rocker.

Comment by Adam Cyr on October 27, 2011 at 1:35pm

I can think of a video that sums up what your trying to do Arcus (its below). 


This list of demands you've condescendingly over simplyfied are your opinion and not backed by facts.




Now that's just the silliest thing ever. That means corporations can't enter into deal. It means that only corporations controlled by wealthy person could get loans, since they would have to use their natural personhood to get a loan. It wouldn't only be an end to big business, it would be a return to the mid nineteenth century style economics!"


What you just said is silly. The mid 19th century? You mean when economics kinda worked? There certainly not working now. Isn't the Americain dream based on the standard of living they had then, the same one that most people cant obtain today?

Why wouldnt they be able to "enter into deal"? What are you even talking about?

This demand is about the politics, making it so corporations cant contribute to political campaings and swing the election to put their puppets into power so they can do there bidding.

Your points are muddled and incoherent.

Comment by Doug Reardon on October 27, 2011 at 2:08pm

The conservative mantra: I've got mine, fuck you! 

What about the physically and mentally disabled, those who cannot do those low wage physically and mentally demanding jobs?  Just let them die?  

Comment by kris feenstra on October 27, 2011 at 2:16pm

Again Kris...abstract ideas without a unifying central message..


Some are.  Most aren't.


It is also the richest 1% who employ the rest of the country..


No, they employ some percentage of the country, but not all of the rest of it.  Small and mid-sized businesses employ people.  Co-operatives employ people.  People are self-employed.  Charitable organizations employ people.  Governments employ people.  Billionaires may help with job creation, but they aren't necessary.  None of these proposals are stopping billionaires from creating jobs anyway.  


At any rate, for those that are employed by the richest 1%, it's a reciprocal relationship.  Having those employees is what lets them generate wealth.  Having people work shit jobs that they don't want to do is what allows them to live.  I'm not saying that everyone has to be perfectly equal and all wealth must be evenly distributed, but I can't fault people for rallying for more balanced policies concerning wealth and the political power it can buy.  The so-called 99%, corporations and government all likely need to reform their behaviour and attitudes to fix the problems they face.  Same goes for my own country, and I'm certain many others.  I'm not going to fault people for rallying to boost that dialogue and trying to get people engaged.


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