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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Comment by Dogly on October 28, 2011 at 12:05pm

So, Arcus, you think that individual U.S.citizens should invest 75% of their money in foreign countries, and only 25% in our own country?  I am not a flag waving, jingoistic, patriot, but I find your recommendation contemptible, and unconscionable.  I'm horrified!

Comment by Dogly on October 28, 2011 at 12:28pm

Arcus, I just found out that you are not an American, but from the Czech Republic.  I take back that contemptible comment.  You can not be expected to concern yourself with the well-being of Americans.  You say that you are planning to move here.  I hope you care more about us after you have moved here.  You're attitude is very like that of Cuban exiles here, who are so afraid of communism that they oppose every effort we make to improve the fairness of our system of government. I have noticed that people from countries with few civil rights, do not appreciate our efforts to retain - unabridged - every single right enumerated in our Constitution's Bill of Rights.

Comment by Erin The Dub on October 28, 2011 at 2:32pm

"No one handed that to us."


Um. Hello.  You're white.  By mention of your wife, you appear to be heterosexual (or could at least pass for it).  You do realize this ensures that you will never be subject to unfair job discrimination, right?  In the jobs world, you have a more secure place than others with the same education as you but differing personal traits--it is an unfair system from which you (and I) directly benefit.  You *earned* your degree.  You were *handed* job security.


Maybe in 20 years, after you've worked your ass off your whole life only to find your pension, social security, and Medicare completely drained, you'll realize you backed the wrong pony when the corporate oligarchs you elect are being as condescending as you're being now, telling you to just stop whining and get another job to pay for your medicine and hip replacements, and that retirement is a privilege, not a handouts program.

Comment by Arcus on October 28, 2011 at 2:52pm

"you think that individual U.S.citizens should invest 75% of their money in foreign countries"

Yes. One thing is being patriotic, another thing is making stupid investment decisions. Your income is already highly sensitive to the US economy, why make your wealth sensitive to it in addition? It's about not putting all your eggs in one basket and has nothing to do with patriotism.

"I just found out that you are not an American, but from the Czech Republic."

I'm Norwegian, but I live in Prague.

"You can not be expected to concern yourself with the well-being of Americans."

Yet I do. :)

"You say that you are planning to move here."

One of many options. My current goal is to be transferred to our sister office in Curitiba or Bangkok. But I've lived in the US for almost 4 years and like a number of things about the country. The ability to become obscenely rich is one of the major draws. I'd rather be one of the 1% than protest them, but then again, we did not have a remote control in my family until 1992...

"so afraid of communism"

It's a fairly rational fear. I'm not only "afraid" of communism, I'm afraid of totalitarianism of any flavor.

"I have noticed that people from countries with few civil rights"

You mean like going out for a beer when you are 18 type civil right? Or having the right to receive a quality higher education for free? Or the right of free access? I've noticed that people from countries supposedly high in such having a fairly limited idea about what they are and what they entail... ;)

Comment by Dogly on October 28, 2011 at 3:51pm

Matt, I didn't realize the huge degree of influence I have on the world!  I thought people hate us because we keep attacking and occupying their countries, buying up their natural resources, and manipulating their elections.  Silly me!

Comment by Dogly on October 28, 2011 at 4:17pm

Matt, please explain your statement.  

Comment by Philip Jackson Armstrong on October 28, 2011 at 5:57pm

 I've worked in 2 companies where the workers are told "times are tough no raises" but at the same time senior management has their income doubled. It doesn't take an advanced degree to understand that if the millionaires club we call congress would not pass laws that benefits themselves and thus other millionaires and companies who are considered individuals then there would be more equality and less people on welfare. Anyway it is futile, to many idiots in this country are not smart enough to see how they are getting screwed by the system and believe the idiotic propaganda that these people are looking for handouts. Oh wait... 50 percent of the population have less than average IQs... That pretty much explains the 53% thing. 

Comment by Sassan K. on October 28, 2011 at 7:00pm

@Dogly, your worldview is completely messed up.We should be proud of the fact that we have assisted in the liberations of what is now three nations in the last decade alone. Now the people of Syria are pleading with the international community to implement a no-fly zone and to assist them militarily. We should be proud that we stand with those who are oppressed and terrorized. 

In addition, the world has never been more peaceful and safe than it is today, did you know that?? And might you wonder why?

Comment by Dustin on October 28, 2011 at 7:20pm

I would like to think that Religion is dying out in most of the world, Sassan - Not that the US is an interventionist world police station

Comment by Sassan K. on October 28, 2011 at 8:46pm

It is our responsibility as leaders of the free world to assist in the protection of human rights and human dignity and support democratic movements worldwide - especially through intervention when necessary. The world is a more peaceful and secure world because of our sacrifices. Just a couple of hours ago, protesters in Syria and the opposition group officially deemed it "No-Fly Zone Friday" and requested in the intervention of the international community in the assistance of the Syrian people as they had provided assistance in Libya. I hope that the international community will come together in supporting the Syrian people as they did in supporting the Libyan people.


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