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 Arcus on October 28, 2011 at 9:05pm

@Sassan: I will not argue that Pax Americana has not been one of the most peaceful times throughout history. However, I do have to disagree that the US should get involved in non-strategic conflicts. I would not immediately peg you for a "bloody hearted" person, but however much rivers of blood gnaw on ones moral consciousness, I strongly feel that sovereign countries should be left to their own devices. For good or bad, I take deterrence and containment over direct intervention any day.

As for Syria, it will implode or the Ottomans Turks will intervene like they have traditionally done... They are merely reestablishing their sphere of influence, for reference see also Erdogan's visit to the colonies Egypt and recent muslim-world popularity contest Israel bashing.

Comment by Atheist Exile on October 28, 2011 at 11:24pm

@David Brown,

Their greed has destroyed so many lives and when they screw the global financial system up the government bails them out so they can continue to do it all over again. Unbelievable! The world is being raped by these pigs and still so many of you don't get it.

I agree.  The real problem, it seems to me, is what to we replace capitalism/free enterprise with?  What system will work as well?  I know of NONE.  So, until a better system is devised, the answer must involve protecting citizens against corporate excesses.

The 8 proposed demands of Occupy Wall Street is a good place to start.  A citizens' watchdog committee that identifies corporate violators, as well as research new forms of abuse not covered by law, can help ensure that corporate ambitions remain reasonable.  Perhaps most importantly, a flat tax that excludes folk below the poverty line and includes corporations and companies, is one way to provide financial fairness.  If corporations want to be legal entities, like people, then tax them the same as people.  But this would create a lot of unemployed accountants and lawyers. :-)


Comment by Atheist Exile on October 28, 2011 at 11:30pm

Another way to curb these kinds of problems is to hold public officials to a higher legal standard.  Any crimes they commit in office should receive twice the penalty they would in civilian life.

Comment by Atheist Exile on October 28, 2011 at 11:32pm

And white collar crimes should get the same treatment (a MANDATORY 2x the penalty).

Comment by Atheist Exile on October 28, 2011 at 11:46pm

I've been thinking about it . . .

. . . The profit motive (greed) is what runs capitalism and free enterprise.  Since there is no other system adequate enough to replace capitalism and free enterprise, we must protect ourselves against corporate greed (ala Occupy Wall Street).  The danger is that we will damage our own competitiveness in the process.

But not if we do it right.  If we truly attain fairness, our model -- democracy WITH fairness -- will inspire citizens around the world to emulate us.  And that will level the playing field, making competition more even internationally.

But I fear that China will not sign on to the idea of democracy with fairness.  If so, their products should be boycotted.

Comment by Dylan Sloboda on October 29, 2011 at 12:40am

Arcus, I'd like to point out something. What do you think happens to the salary of skilled labor when more people have the same qualifications? This can be observed with degrees in communication, sociology and other good-for-you degrees. Also, your chart does not indicate the number of jobs available. My point stands, there simple are not enough jobs that pay a liveable wage.

Comment by Dylan Sloboda on October 29, 2011 at 12:48am

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

Reading through, I'd like to also point out that you have no grasp of what communism is other than the misguided notions people tell you.

Comment by Atheist Exile on October 29, 2011 at 1:30am

Communism is not an advanced concept.

Comment by Dylan Sloboda on October 29, 2011 at 2:03am

Actually, there are a number of definitions floating around among communists. Of which, not a single one agrees with the definitions that the majority of non-communists use.

Comment by Atheist Exile on October 29, 2011 at 3:05am

I'd be looking for a new definition too if I were a communist.  Talk about Major Fail!


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