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 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 Arcus on October 27, 2011 at 2:17pm

"The mid 19th century? You mean when economics kinda worked?"

Really? A 1850 economy was the one best adapted to the lifestyle of 1850. We are now writing 2011, and the current "economics" is giving me a 2011 lifestyle. You can't "go back" in economic terms without having the same effects on the economy.

"Isn't the Americain dream based on the standard of living they had then, the same one that most people cant obtain today?"

What do you believe the standard of living was like in 1850 exactly?

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

Only legal persons can enter into enforceable contracts. Removing the personhood would also remove your ability to sue a company. It would be the same as suing a rock - it is not recognized as a legal personality.

"Your points are muddled and incoherent."

Better to have ones points as such than one's mind.

Comment by Arcus on October 27, 2011 at 2:33pm

@Kris: So make a pick'n'choose patchwork of laws to cover corporations? A patchwork which will most likely become punched holes through by lobbyists and corporate lawyers? Ending up in a worse situation than status quo..

The much larger issue is political advertising. If banned, then the politicians could prostitute themselves for votes instead of money. And why not add an anti-gerrymandering bill? Safest job in America is that of a Congressman... ;)

Comment by Dustin on October 27, 2011 at 2:56pm

@Kris, why would any percentage of them be unemployed?  Perhaps because they are too busy protesting than sending out applications and trying to find a job that will give them a paycheck?  


People lose their jobs.  It happens.  Go find a new one.  

Comment by Arcus on October 27, 2011 at 3:05pm

"reversal on poor policy decisions"

I think i have already stated what reversals means. It's reactionism since things weren't rosy before either. Have some creativity and suggest new/improved/better legislation.

"The current list of demands is just a rudimentary step"

Exactly. It has taken over a month to get something rudimentary done. It's usually a good thing to have the rudimentary down before one starts protesting.

"Attacking political advertising is insufficient to address the issue."

And dismissing it shows exactly why anger is misplaced.

American corporations pay quite a bit of taxes. Just not always in the US... If an American company sets up shop in Norway, their tax bill there will be 28%. Since the US and Norway have bilateral tax agreements, the corporation pays only the difference between US and Norwegian tax rate to the US government, which would be only 7%. It's giant loophole!

Comment by Dustin on October 27, 2011 at 3:09pm

No, I don't need to know how many of them are actually jobless.  I just need to have a pretty good idea that the ones without jobs are complaining and protesting instead of going out to get one.  


How is it not fair that some people are rich?  The 99% have been supporting the 1% for as long as anyone can tell.  We watch t.v. yes?  We watch sports yes?  We invest our money in banks, yes?  High profile Bankers, top atheletes and the highest rated tv stars such as Jon Stewart, Cobert, Letterman, etc are all millionaires.  


Some people make a lot of money , not because they deserve it , but because they are able to ask for almost whatever they want in compensation because the 99% are the ones who support them.  


I don't understand why it matters if a portion of the protesters are also employed - I'm not annoyed at the protest itself, I'm annoyed that unemployed people think they have better things to do than go out and look for a job that will give them a paycheck, however minimal it may be.  


Comment by Dale Headley on October 27, 2011 at 4:11pm

Mr. Decker is clearly not concerned that the income disparity in this country is not only the greatest it has EVER been in the last 100 years, and growing, it is the greatest of any industrialized society in the world.  Mr. Decker is proud of that; in fact, he wants that disparity to grow even greater, it appears.  He is thrilled that Wall Street execs can, any time they wish, gamble with the taxpayer's money, since they know Congress will indemnify them against any losses incurred, which is exactly what they did: They gambled and WE lost; and they FULLY intend to do it again if, with Mr. Decker's help, we let them.  And how DARE Americans complain publicly about that!?  Mr. Decker is okay with the fact that every time we lowered the taxes on the corporations and the wealthy they used much of the money to finance transferring their money and jobs overseas - just fine with Mr. Decker.  Mr. Decker evidently believes that CEO's deserve multi-million dollar salaries for screwing the taxpayers.  Heck, Mr. Decker is all for G.E. paying NO taxes; but he insists that the "47%" who struggle to feed their families MUST kick in what little they have so that ALL the corporations can, like G.E. pay NO taxes at all.  Mr. Decker believes that CEO's deserve bigger bonuses for cutting jobs, lowering wages, eliminating benefits, and destroying unions.  Mr. Decker thinks It's also fine that more and more Americans are forced to take jobs at Wal-Mart, McDonald's, and other minimum wage industries.  Mr. Decker is probably amused that millions of American families have been kicked out of their homes because the banks gambled with their mortgages.  Mr. Decker wants it to not only be that way but to STAY that way.  He seems to long for the "good old days" - the days before we had a middle class; the days when the robber barons were supreme and the workers were de facto slaves; the days of the soup lines (except that he would probably kick them out of the soup lines, as well).  THAT'S what Mr. Decker wants.  He believes that rich people aren't rich enough - that the Americans too poor to pay taxes under the present system should be forced to pay more taxes so that his rich friends don't have to pay ANY.  Mr. Decker obviously despises those people in the street - mothers, grandmothers, war vets, teachers, firefighters, police, social workers, and anyone else who would DARE demand a fair deal.  Mr. Decker claims (without a shred of evidence) that the Occupiers are all shirkers and leeches - people who don't have or want jobs, and are seeking handouts.  Of course, what Mr. Decker thinks are "handouts" are considered by the rest of us to be simple fair treatment and decent respect.  

   On the other hand, Mr. Decker is no doubt a champion of the tea party folks who are the ones who REALLY are lazy and unemployed; the ones who show up at rallies with assault rifles; the ones who are middle-aged, white, southern, former Ku Klux Klan members; the ones who would gladly lynch President Obama for daring to occupy the position that rightly belongs to a white man of wealth and privilege.  In fact, I suspect that Mr. Decker, when push comes to shove, is just another tea party troglodyte who hates the idea that black people and other minorities might move up and displace him in society.  He's just afraid to admit it.  The more I look at that picture of himself that he posted, the more I am sure of it.

I have a suggestion!  Why doesn't Mr. Decker set an example for the rest of us who he claims are choosing to be out of work?  Why doesn't he be the first to volunteer to pick the produce that is dying in the fields of Alabama and Georgia?  I'm sure he would gladly work as hard as the illegal immigrants did; be treated as they were treated; and be paid what they were paid.  I won't hold my breath, though. 


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