You Are The 53, All Right

« October 2011 »


Whatever it's called - Occupy Wall Street, OWS, The Occupy Movement, the 99-Percent Movement, whatever, I support it 99%. Any movement has its assholes, after all, and I'd say the OWS movement is, tops, one-percent asshole.

Which is weird, because you'd think, using math, that the 53% movement would be 47% asshole. But it turns out, surprise, surprise, it's 100% asshole. How can this be? Well, we have to leave math behind and talk sociology.

The "53 Percent" take their name from the statistic that 47% of Americans don't pay any federal income taxes. This is due to the fact that a combination of increased income inequality, tax cuts, and the recession - all, by the way, products of that dumbfuck wunderkind, George W. Bush - has left 47% of the population below the income threshold at which you start paying federal income taxes.

Now, conservatives don't need an excuse to resent and hate poor people for doing anything more than putting conservatives' large fries on the tray and eating Hamburger Helper without the hamburger in their hovels. But conservatives DO need an excuse to do it publicly while not looking like completely insensitive pricks. They need cover. They need plausible deniability. And that's why you see stories like that one from the Heritage Foundation that pointed out almost every poor American has a refrigerator.

By defining necessary components of modern living, many of which are standard in even the shittiest project apartment in the country, as some kind of luxury, you make poor people seem unsympathetic. Like being poor is their own fault for splurging on a box to keep their food from rotting. They do the same thing with cellphones, even though a basic cellphone costs about as much as, and frequently replaces, a land line. And a phone number is, again, a necessary part of participating in modern society.

That's why the 47% number is relatively powerful, from a rhetorical point of view. The target audience for it pays some federal income taxes, so they can resent people who don't, even though every single one of the 53% could make changes to their lives that would let them join the 47% really easily. But what's even better is, all they need to do is forget to say "federal income", and all of a sudden, these lucky duckies aren't paying any taxes at all! Freeloaders! Lazy! Welfare queens! Dirty hippies!

See, it turns out that federal income taxes are less than one quarter of the taxes collected in America. The 47% pay the same sales taxes the 53% do. They pay the same Social Security taxes. The same Medicare taxes. Many of them pay the same state income taxes, because states don't have the Earned Income Tax Credit that helps the working poor. Excise taxes on booze and cigarettes. Poor people pay shitloads of taxes. They generally pay a higher percentage of their total income in taxes than rich people. That's the whole fucking point of the 99% movement, so yelling really loudly about the one remaining progressive part of the tax system is kind of a dick move.

Which, of course, is why it was Erick Fucking Erickson who made it.

Yes, Erick Erickson, he of, he of the late-lamented Red State Strike Force, which briefly got a few morons to send rubber balls to congressman or something and therefore represents the peak of Erickson's effectiveness. Now he's collecting a semi-regular paycheck from CNN because I don't know the fuck why either, which apparently leaves him enough spare time to start parody Tumblrs that instantly devolve into self-parody.

See, "I Am The 99%" was a Tumblr consisting of photos of people holding up handwritten accounts of their sympathetic life story. "I Am The 53%" is a Tumblr consisting of photos of people holding up handwritten accounts of how unsympathetic they are.

There's a blog that does a very good job of pointing out the stupidity of I Am The 53% in great detail, but I'd like to point out that the very top post on the site at the time of writing is someone who was in the Navy. AKA a former government employee. The second one worked for the Air Force and is licensed by the FCC and says "the government owes me nothing".

The third one typed it out, presumably to take advantage of spellcheck, and loves his wife, implying, I guess, that people too poor to pay federal income taxes don't love their wives. But my absolute favorite - another typed one, by the way. A lot of these are typed, which I guess means they're one of the 53% who can afford inkjet printer cartridges. Anyway, this one says everything you need to know about the 53% movement:

"I am not one of the top 1%, but I am also not one of your 99%."

In other words, you're an asshole whose deep-seated ignorance and innumeracy means you have no idea how badly you're being fucked, so you're going to hate on the people who actually figured it out.

Who are Erick Erickson's 53%? Two types of people. People who think their lower-class misery is the norm, and everyone who dares fight for a fairer society should shut up and let them be dragged down, and people with selective memories and ideological blinders that worked hard, found a modicum of success, and assume that the first is the only necessary and sufficient condition for the second.

Which, yeah, is just a long-form way of saying "assholes".