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 Prog Rock Girl on October 29, 2011 at 12:00am

I hate when people point to extraordinary examples of getting out of poverty and act like that means everyone can do the same. Those stories are exceptions. Along with hard work it also takes a specific kind of intelligence, and a whole lot of luck.

I don't know what he means about people wanting something they haven't earned, as there are senior citizens in the 99% that are protesting the proposed cuts to things they paid into. Other people are protesting about the lack of jobs, including people who did the same things the "53%" did but without the luck.

Comment by Daniel W on October 28, 2011 at 11:17pm

These numbers are confusing me.  The 99%, the 53%.  Im wondering if any of the 4400 are out there?


Rob is right about over simplification and valid arguments on both sides. 


I wish I could get an articulate argument about what the "occupy" movement stands for.  It's almost like having an "America and apple pie" movement - they are generally against excess corporate greed.  I get that.


On the other hand, these messages really resonate with me. I'm not sure they count as a "social movement",  but their sentiments are at least as valid as those of "occupy". 


I think "occupy" will fizzle out.  I don't think most of them have the ability to persist and follow through.  The 53% will fizzle out because they are too busy working and getting by.  We will all find something else to "occupy" our attention....  

•(♥).•*´¨`*•♥•(★) Ooooh Shiny! (★)•♥•*´¨`*•.(♥)•



Comment by Rob van Senten on October 28, 2011 at 3:08am

There's a lot of oversimplification going on on both sides of the argument, both the 99% and the 53% group are very vocal, but they're not making an awful lot of sense. There are valid arguments on both sides, but they are currently being drowned in a pile of BS the size of Mount Everest. 





Comment by Jason Spicer on October 28, 2011 at 3:00am

I find it appalling when anybody claims to be self-made, as though they appeared ex nihilo, with no parents, no friends, no societal infrastructure. Decker may have worked hard at it, but he utterly fails to realize that he had *a lot* of help getting to where he is. For starters, some college admissions administrator decided to let him into college to get his degree. That isn't something he did by himself. The list is, of course, much longer than that example, but it's disturbing that a public school teacher would be so incapable or unwilling to see the larger picture. It's also disturbing that anybody whose paycheck comes from taxes would hold such attitudes. For that matter, it's disturbing that a public school teacher would be so quick to assume that those asking for public assistance want "nothing but government handouts". Not much appreciation for nuance for an educator.


And if "The 53%" are so upset about government handouts and people not paying taxes, then they should absolutely stand with the 99% who are complaining about government handouts to megacorporations who don't pay taxes to support things like, oh I don't know, let's say public school teacher salaries. Fail. Supercalifragilisticexpialifail.

Comment by Jebediah Ben Jisrael on October 28, 2011 at 12:27am
Funny how the Republicans blame Obama for not creating jobs and then in then say to the OWS protestors "why don't you go get a job?"

The reason there aren't any jobs is because the Rep ublicans let corporations lie, cheat, steal and exploit at will. They lay off and outsource, they cuy workers pay and then increase executives pay, they dodge tax responsibilities through loop holes, they buy politicians, they pollute the planet.

Idiots like the guy in the picture above or too stupid to realize that and support the people and policies that have ruined this country. He must be a Herman Cain supporter who thinks it's your fault if your employer lays you off.
Comment by Doug Reardon on October 27, 2011 at 10:03pm
Everyone doesn't have the ability to work at labor intensive jobs, I couldn't I have too many physical problems, I can't stand for 8 hours, lifting heavy weights stresses my heart, I've done those in the past, but can't any more.  And what of those who are intellectually and emotionally disabled and can't work as anything more social than shepherding?  Know of any good sheep herd jobs out there?  The conservative motto seems to be: I got mine, fuck you!  If you can't support yourself by picking fruits and vegetables or digging ditches, then just die.
Comment by Tenken on October 27, 2011 at 3:50pm
Although I wasn't referring to you, but to those who claim to be "the 53%," you are a good example of unnecessary suffering.  Both the stress of needing to work "hours far beyond the "normal" 40 hours per week .. and often 2 or 3 jobs to support myself and pay tuition" and actually doing that needed work is, IMO, suffering a diminished quality of life.  You said yourself that you sympathize and empathize with the current Occupy movement, and I am representing their point of view, so I'm confused as to why you would defend "the 53%"?
Comment by Daniel W on October 27, 2011 at 11:03am
Who says that working for a living is suffering?  It's adult.  It gives meaning to life.  If means that the person who is working is not a parasite.  There's nothing wrong with working.
Comment by Tenken on October 27, 2011 at 10:35am
"We suffered, so you should too."
Comment by Daniel W on October 27, 2011 at 10:11am

I've  been self supporting since 17 years old.  Most of my life, I've worked hours far beyond the "normal" 40 hours per week.  In school I usually had at least one, and often 2 or 3 jobs to support myself and pay tuition.  Currently I work 60 to 80 hours per week.  It's a reasonably secure, well paying, but very high stress and demanding work environment.  I pay all of my taxes and do not have loopholes to get out of it, nor do I ask for loopholes.


Frankly, I find the tea partiers and others who want to get out of paying taxes, but at the same time want benefits of government, to be narcissistic hypocrites. They want their medicare, their roads, their national security, their police, their prisons.  Locally, they want free bridges across the river that divides suburban from urban, but they don't want to pay taxes or tolls to support the billion dollar bridges and they don't want light rail to reduce traffic load.


As for the occupy movement, I don't know enough about them to say much.  I sympathize.  I empathize.  Long ago, I had a period of homelessness, after making a bad choice about who to trust.  More recently, having lost a lot of my security in the corrupt banking/big business/government economic recession and contracture of the economy, I empathize with anyone who feels like no matter what they do, they lose.  In addition, there is no excuse for CEOs who make unimaginable fortunes and have 20million dollar houses, while not allowing adequate health care for their empoyees.  


Unfortunately, it's next to impossible to find objective, fact-based discussion about the "occupy" movement.  I know unemployment is horrendous.  Job opportunities are few.  Opportunity is limited.  The future looks rather grim.  It's strange to me that the movement appears very white, when unemployment and opportunity is much worse in minority communities.  To be honest, if one of the occupy folks wanted to clean my house or do landscaping for me, I might just hire them.  If I could trust them.  As someone who spent much of his youth and early adulthood cleaning toilets, digging/pruning/trimming/weeding, and other similar tasks, I have no sympathy for someone else who wont do that kind of work.  I also don't care if their name is Jesus or Justin - if someone is willing to work, and opportunity is there, I feel better about them working than not working.


I sympathize and empathize with the Occupy movement.  I also sympathize and empathize with the "53%", if there is such a movement.


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