- Source: We Are The 99 Percent
Ever since the Occupy Wall Street movement began, one of the ways members have told their stories is through simple photos of themselves holding writings of their life experiences and what makes them part of the “99 percent” of Americans who have been ignored, mistreated, and misrepresented by their government. Some of their heartbreaking stories include tales of vast amounts of medical debt due to unforeseen chronic illness and no insurance coverage, overwhelming college debt coupled with joblessness or no job prospects, and a shortage of work combined with short unemployment assistance, among many others. To read their stories, see We Are The 99 percent
This week, founder of the right wing blog Red State
, Erik Erickson began a Tumblr account dubbed the “53 percent
.” The project attempts to be the conservative perception of Occupy Wall Street and solidarity occupations as a movement of whiners and layabouts who don’t want to pay their taxes and are looking for handouts.
First, the idea of the 53 percent is that a majority of US citizens pay more in federal income tax than they receive back in deductions or credits. Basically, the 53 percent are the people supporting the government and are complicit, even proud, to have the government operating in the manner it does.
The logic of the notion of 53 percent is skewed, as Alex Pareene at Salon points out
: “Pretty much every adult American pays taxes. Workers who are too poor to pay federal income taxes still pay payroll taxes, and property taxes if they own their home. Even the unemployed pay sales taxes. The poorest Americans — people who make an average of $12,500 a year — pay, on average, 16 percent of their paltry income in taxes
.” The idea to seperate federal income taxes from payroll taxes is semantically splitting hairs. We’re all still paying taxes, not only in the form of either of those, but also in things like sales tax. The argument is a false equivalency, like saying a renter doesn’t have the right to decide what happens in their neighborhood because they don’t pay property taxes. The landlord or management company pays those taxes, but does that give them more of a right to decide what happens on someone’s block, rather than a person who might have been renting for years in the same home?
Beyond the fallacy that millions of Americans don’t pay their taxes and want to whine lies the same bullshit Horatio Alger myths that have helped prop up a corrupt system for decades. The life stories between the 53 and 99 percent camps are similar, but the framework and rhetoric differ because the goal is different. One seeks to change the entire economic system for the better, the other seeks to prop the system up because some people bought into the Reaganesque idea that everyone who doesn’t succeed is lazy, uneducated, ignorant and outside factors don’t matter. Rather than examine the system, examine Wall Street, they would rather blame all of those welfare moms and drugged out dads who are siphoning their hard earned money because our Dear Liberal Leader wants to redistribute everyone’s wealth in a fascist way.
Marxist theory explains false consciousness as members of a subordinate class like workers suffer from false belief that their mental representations of the social relations around them systematically conceal or obscure the realities of subordination, exploitation, and domination those relations embody. Essentially, the self described 53 percent believe that they, the underclass, by their own claim, are succeeding in their capitalist dream because of their hard work and individualistic nature, not because of luck and assistance from others.
Everyone, all 99 percent, have the option of success: the big house, health insurance, the insurmountable debt that is implicit in the American dream because they worked hard. In spite of the system being stacked against them with government being run by corporate interests, by jobs being outsourced to increase company profits, they don’t believe they got lucky. They believe they earned it and complaining through social action like Occupy Wall Street and the 1000-plus Occupy movements nationwide, only proves how the lower class, the 99 percent, are shirking their own responsibility of being an American and rising above situations.
The issue is that the system is flawed.
Feminist author bell hooks writes “People who have not thought about or refuse to acknowledge this imbalance of power and privilege often want to talk about the racism of people of color. But then, that is one of the ways racism is able to continue to function. You look for someone to blame and you blame the victim, who will nine times out of ten accept the blame out of habit.”
Once again, we see the time honored tradition of the conservative right wing pitting the poor against each other in order to maintain the status quo. Rather than recognize the inherit flaws in the system which have directly contributed to the death of the American dream, they use the same people that system has fleeced against each other. The sad part is, the 53% are either unaware or proud to participate in their own economic demise.