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 Dustin on October 27, 2011 at 10:59pm

"To bring this home a little more vividly, take a look at the row labeled "41-60." That's the dead middle of the income distribution. If all income groups had grown at the same rate over the past 30 years, that median household would today be making about $10,000 more than they are. That's the price we pay for our growing plutocracy."


Well, it's an interesting statistic but working harder and doing a pristine job for your current employer , while reducing the amount of children and debt you have by buying more economical cars or purchasing a few tens of thousands of dollars less in a house mortgage - perhaps a one story house instead of 2 , or a toyota corolla instead of a camry - all those tidbits add up.  I still feel Americans are trying to live as if they WERE making an extra 10,000 a year , which would definitely make it seem like they are suffering more than they need to be than if they lived more frugally.  


Or didn't tithe so much.  



Comment by Jim Minion on October 27, 2011 at 11:17pm

If you look at trade agreements (NFTA as an example) good paying jobs have left the country. It has gotten to the point were the wages are starting to get low enough that Germany is talking about sending jobs to the US because the wages are too high in Germany.

Since 1979 the top 1% has seen 279% increase in income while the rest of us have seen an 18% over the same period of time.

16 trillion dollars have gone unaccounted for since 2008 and not one wall street banker or hedge fund operator have been even charged with any type of crimes.

Since Regan took office and we have started this trickle down crap the US worker has seen a steady drop in real income when you factor taxes and interest.

The banks have so much money that they don't want more deposits (don't pay any interests on accounts) they are talking about charging you more to hold your money for you..

Record profits for oil companies but the price at the pump isn't going down.

Taco Bell is hiring at $8.00 an hour so get off your ass and go to work, hell get two of those jobs so you can feed your family.

Can I tell Sassan  tell he is an a** cause he is.




Comment by Dustin on October 27, 2011 at 11:21pm

here is an interesting article.  It's true too.  If you work 2 jobs, one full time at a fast food joint and another part time job somewhere else - working 80 hours a week, you can be in the top 50%.  


But from THERE, you can easily move up with only one job.  I was moving up faster than anyone else had ever before in the Taco Bell franchise I worked at for about a year.  Within 3 months, I was training to be a shift leader and then I started training to be an assistant manager.  They make about 30 - 35k a year plus bonuses - The managers above them easily make 50k a year to about 70k a year plus bonuses.  In about 3 years or so, anyone with a quality attitude and determination to learn business and people management can do it as well.  


You just have to get over yourselves and the whole 'Oh, I'm better than THAT job ... ' - Well, the regional managers at fast food make quite a lot of money - it's a very safe career because people need to eat - and they get treated well in the higher management.  


I'm not saying the 1% are NOT making 'too much' in comparison , but I think again, as I mentioned before, the 99% truly are the ones supporting the 1% with our fickle need for high technology , entertainment / sports, etc.  


Those people protesting will most likely still enjoy watching their favorite teams compete - If everyone stopped watching sports and stopped watching the high end tv stars or buying the albums of top music stars, their would be no demand for it and thus those millionaires wouldn't be making so much.  We should start focusing on ourselves, our own education, throw away our tv's, invest our time in bettering ourselves at our own jobs instead of complaining that others are making more than us.  

Comment by Dustin on October 27, 2011 at 11:22pm
Comment by John Luikart on October 27, 2011 at 11:32pm

I think some people are missing their point.  It's not about jobs it's about wealth inequality.  Honestly I'm torn between the 2 sides.  Some jobs are valuable to society, but don't pay that much compared to their importance, like teachers, scientists, soldiers,some nurses, etc.  Some people do what what they do because they like it or maybe they have an aptitude for it.  Some scientists have to take out 10s of thousands in loans to make 50k a year does that mean they are less valuable to society than someone who makes millions by investing money into corporations? 


On the other hand.

There are people like steve jobs that I think desserve the right to be insanely wealthy because they have done something great.  Everywhere he went he blazed a trail of success.  He is a 1% er in so many ways. 


Frankly I don't think either side is completely right.  I think a population is much stronger as a whole if there is at least some governed trickle down of wealth.  But you have to be careful not to make that the norm, or people become satisfied with being mediocre. 


Comment by Atheist Exile on October 27, 2011 at 11:48pm

I am, politically, a moderate most comfortable in the political center.  I am dubious of the political extremes on both the left and the right.  As presented at, there are currently 8 official proposed demands (subject to change) from Occupy Wall Street -- and I agree with all of them.

However, there is much on that webpage that give me pause.  The Original List of Proposed Demands includes much that has no direct bearing on labor or finance.  The war on drugs (#6), repeal of capital punishment (#8), International Human Rights Law (#11), precedence for the rights of victims (#12) . . . these are unrelated issues that make the movement seem destined to expand into a liberal-left takeover of our democracy that could well damage U.S. competitiveness in the world economy.

This concern about the ultimate intentions of the movement is further exacerbated by the Unofficial Proposed Demands.  They include demands for: Environment Responsibility Reform (#14); Martial Law procedures (#15); and official governmental pursuit of 9/11 conspiracy theories (#17).

While many of the unrelated demands are worthy in their own right, the movement (in my opinion) should stick with core issues directly related to labor and finance.  We need focus; NOT a shotgun approach.

Comment by Dustin on October 27, 2011 at 11:59pm

well, legalizing drugs would in fact create a lot of jobs and clear up the prisons a bit ... 

Comment by Atheist Exile on October 28, 2011 at 1:13am

Yes, Dustin, I'm all for legalizing non-addictive drugs.  Addictive drugs should remain illegal and enforcement should pursue the dealers -- not the addicts.

Comment by Atheist Exile on October 28, 2011 at 2:30am

I do believe that personal responsibility is of utmost importance; especially for adults.  I believe in helping hands but not handouts.  Our government should provide a safety net for those who are physically or mentally unable to care for themselves.

It's an unfortunate fact of life that far too many people are just plain lazy.  This has always been the case and probably always will be.  If able-bodied, mentally sound, people refuse to get off their asses, they deserve all the poverty they get.  Society does not owe them a goddamn thing.  Every effort should be made to prevent apathetic people from becoming a drain on the rest of us.

But what about the hard-working people living in poverty?  Labor laws should ensure that minimum wages for full-time employment are adequate enough to pay for life's essentials and HUD should ensure there's adequate housing for the working poor.  Employee rights need to be enshrined in law and employers should be held strictly accountable for any violations.

There will always be materially successful, as well as unsuccessful, people.  The stratification of society is inevitable in free countries.  You want everybody to be materially equal?  Go to Cuba.  It's not perfect but it's as close as you'll get to material equality.

I believe in free enterprise BUT WITH STRICT GOVERNMENTAL CONTROLS AGAINST EXCESSES such as monopolies, price or wage fixing, union busting, employer abuses, windfall profits, etc.  I doubt every excess can be legislated against but new laws can be enacted to prevent abusive practices as they come to light.

It's a struggle.  There's no denying that the profit motive engenders greed.  But until a better system comes along  that will meet the needs of our 320 million citizens (not to mention the 7 billion humans on this planet), capitalist free enterprise -- flawed as it is -- is still the best system currently available.  As far as I know, it's the only system capable of keeping this world of ours going.

Comment by Jesus_Was_A_Man_Or_Myth_Or_Both on October 28, 2011 at 2:54am

About that 47 Percent

You'll recall the other day that I had a post about the new right-wing meme about the 47% of Americans who have "representation without taxation" because they pay no federal income tax. That's the post where I threatened to move to Sussex.

Well, the NYT's David Leonhardt smartly debunks this nonsense in his column today. First of all:

Given that taxes are likely to be one of the big political issues of the next few years — and maybe the biggest one — it's worth understanding who really pays what in taxes. Once you do, you can get a sense for our country's fiscal options. How, in other words, will we be able to close the huge looming gap between the taxes we are scheduled to pay and the services we are scheduled to receive?

The answer is that tax rates almost certainly have to rise more on the affluent than on other groups. Over the last 30 years, rates have fallen more for the wealthy, and especially the very wealthy, than for any other group. At the same time, their incomes have soared, and the incomes of most workers have grown only moderately faster than inflation.

Ah. Now that's some context, no? There has been a massive redistribution of wealth in this country. It's been to the top 1%. It is what the numbers say. As much as it infuriates people (just watch the comment thread), it is true.


The 47 percent number is not wrong. The stimulus programs of the last two years — the first one signed by President George W. Bush, the second and larger one by President Obama — have increased the number of households that receive enough of a tax credit to wipe out their federal income tax liability.

But the modifiers here — federal and income — are important. Income taxes aren't the only kind of federal taxes that people pay. There are also payroll taxes and capital gains taxes, among others. And, of course, people pay state and local taxes, too.

Even if the discussion is restricted to federal taxes (for which the statistics are better), a vast majority of households end up paying federal taxes. Congressional Budget Office data suggests that, at most, about 10 percent of all households pay no net federal taxes. The number 10 is obviously a lot smaller than 47.

Oh. Well, that is a little different, innit?

Conservative lying is certainly inventive. Endlessly so. But when a crackerjack columnist like Leonhardt has to devote a column to debunking utterly spurious nonsense from some other solar system, in a way they've already won.


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