In response to the now-viral Tumblr post “We are the 99 Percent,” some conservatives have launched their own venture “We are the 53 percent”. The site, started by RedState.org contributor Erick Erickson and Josh Trevino of the conservative Texas Public Policy Foundation, features those who purport to represent the 53 percent of Americans who pay federal income taxes.
The inaugural post features Erickson holding a handwritten sign in the style of the more famous blog, that states:
I work 3 jobs. I have a house I can’t sell. My family insurance costs are outrageous. But I don’t blame Wall Street. Suck it up you whiners. I am the 53% subsidizing you so you can hang out on Wall Street and complain.
A number of publications including Slate and the Washington Post have already pointed out that the other 47 percent don’t pay taxes because they are simply too poor. Slate’s Suzy Khimm summarizes neatly:
About half of households within that 47 percent do not end up paying federal income tax because they qualify for enough breaks to cancel their tax obligations out. Of that group, 44 percent are claiming tax benefits for the elderly, like an exemption for Social Security payments. And 30.4 percent are claiming credits for “children and the working poor,” like the child-care tax credit... When combined, it’s all enough to cancel out their income tax requirements… The other half of households are just too poor to pay them.
But Think Progress takes their analysis a step further, looking into the claims of hardship made by Erickson:
The three jobs Erickson wants you to believe he scrapes by on include occasional paid opinion blogging at RedState.com, a lucrative television contract with CNN, and a radio gig that paid the previous host $165,183 a year…The house Erickson can’t sell? Bibb County, Georgia records reveal that Erickson just bought a new $374,900 house in February of this year, and owns another that, according to an estimate by the website Zillow, might be worth slightly less than the amount he paid for it in 2001. And it’s likely that Erickson’s CNN job alone provides him with a personal driver and covered travel expenses when he needs to appear on the show.
Interestingly, many of the claims made in the We Are the 53% blog echo those made in the We Are the 99 Percent blog: “got laid off”, “slept in my car because I couldn’t afford housing”, “after a mildly successful career, I lost everything in 2009”.
It’s not that the 53 percent people haven’t suffered, these pictures seem to say. It’s that having clawed their way out of crisis, they now see virtue in their suffering. One commenter on Think Progress site summarized the mindset:
Look at me. I ran through a field of bear traps and only had to gnaw off one limb. Builds character.
For their part, the 53 percenters seem to think that the posters on the 99 Percent site are a bunch of whiners. Posts admonish people to “take responsibility for yourself”, “get a job”, “if you want something you have to go out and get it” and “”get a life”.
The site makes a place for those who do not identify as Wall Street top earners, but also don’t feel aligned with the protesters in Zuccotti Park. One says “I am not one of the top 1%, but I am also not one of your 99%.”