We Are The 53% Just Doesn’t Add Up
Conservative blogger Erick Erickson‘s We Are the 53% Tumblr account has been exposed for sketchy math and outright lies just weeks into its existence.
The number refers to the 53% of Americans who pay federal income tax, as opposed to the 47% who essentially pay none due to low income or other considerations. The Internet meme features people holding notes (or just the notes) telling stories of personal hardship and resilience, accusing the Occupy Wall Street protestors and others of being lazy freeloaders.
Erickson began the movement to criticize the Occupy movement and their motto, “We Are The 99%,” referring to the bottom 99% of earners in the country.
One popular photo was exposed as a blatant forgery. It featured “Dgangu Mutambe,” a black man with a note saying that he had come to the USA “with nothing,” and gotten where he was “by hard work.” The note implored protestors to “suck it up.”
Internet sleuthing soon revealed that the note had been photoshopped in, and the whole picture had been posted under a false name. The man is actually Adewale T. Akande, a liberal Nigerian journalist living in Spain, and the original photo, without the note, was found.
Another “53%” note was thoroughly discredited by Buster Blonde at Persephone Magazine.
While it would be difficult to prove this (and many similar) anonymous anecdotes true or false, Blonde diligently calculates all of the note’s claims, and finds the story of a college student getting by on minimum wage and 90% scholarships (!!!) nearly impossible, even with the most basic of budgets:
Minimum wage in Washington State is $8.67 an hour, the highest in the country, so this will be a generous estimate for Sally. At thirty hours of work a week, which is what Sally claims she’s able to do while maintaining her course load, that’s $260.10 per week, I’d estimate $220.63 take home… that’s $11,472 for the year, $45,891 over four years.
Just over HALF what Sally would need to cover the bare bones costs set out above. And this is, again, at a “moderately priced, in-state public university.”
Finally, Erickson himself received harsh criticism for his inaugural post.
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.
Erickson has been criticized for seeking pity for his “3 jobs,” which include high paid gigs on CNN and radio, as well as being the editor of RedState.com, which has been discovered selling blog space (not advertisements) and other services to banks and corporate clients like Wal-Mart.
Furthermore, Erickson may be having trouble selling his home, but that didn’t stop him from (in his own words) benefiting “from the misery of others” and buying a second home during the economic downturn.
But bigger problems exist in the very message of “The 53%.” Most of the 47%, in fact, STILL PAY TAXES. Federal payroll and excise tax, state and local income tax, and sales tax: They all still take a cut.
Buster Blonde (at Persephone) also notes that the movement falls victim to some very basic human psychology. Basically, when I do poorly, I believe it’s because of my situation; but when you do poorly, I believe it’s because of your actions. So the 53%-ers think they’re just down on their luck but working hard, while they see everyone else as lazy hippies.
But reality usually isn’t so simple, or so gratifying. That attitude can make people blind to many advantages they’ve had in life, sometimes just by being in the United States; and it can breed resentment for people who just want those same opportunities.
What do you think? Is it “the 53%” vs. “the 99%,” or is there another way?